On The Road

I've been a travelling man this last month and the schedule won't slow down until November. Detroit, Assisi, Rome, San Francisco, New York City, and coming up, Detroit and San Jose. I'll be back at my blog next month for sure. To my loyal readers, sorry for the gap. I have lots to share!

Posted on October 11, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Story of Jonah

When the Old Testament prophet, Jonah, was directed by God to preach repentance to his enemies, the Assyrians, he refused.


Not only did he refuse, he took the first boat he could find travelling in the opposite direction of the Assyrian City of Ninevah, his intended assignment.


At the time, Ninevah was messed up and the people there were pretty bad. Something like St. Louis, but worse. Jonah mistrusted God and decided flight was preferable to a fight with the enemies of Israel.


He hopped a boat bound for Tarshish seemingly oblivious to the fact that he was not invisible and that the God of the Old Testament was, on certain issues, an angry God.


Perhaps because he was a minor prophet, Jonah also did not foresee that God might be upset by this act of disobedience. God was not amused and sent a storm.


Jonah’s shipmates were a shrewd bunch, though a little weak-hearted. They figured out pretty fast that they would be collateral damage in the storm that was sent to punish Jonah. So, they drew lots to determine who would toss him over-board. To this day nobody knows the name of the crewman who threw Jonah into the Mediterranean, just that the job got done, and the storm stopped.


Jonah was swallowed by a whale. It is said that he spent three days and nights in the belly of that whale and, unlike Geppetto who packed a candle, was in total darkness. There, Jonah asked for salvation.


On the third day, Jonah was the beneficiary of the whale’s indigestion and was vomited onto shore. He was a mess but got with the program and made his way to Ninevah.


Obviously good at setting limits and boundaries with consequences, God directed Jonah to deliver a warning of impending destruction. The City of Ninevah was given forty days to turn things around.


The Assyrians were unexpectedly receptive. They took Jonah’s warning seriously perhaps because Jonah showed some signs of suffering consequences himself. His hair and skin had been bleached the color of bone by the whale’s gastric acids, although his aroma may have been warning enough.


The Assyrians donned sackcloth and ashes in repentance. God spared Ninevah.


The Jonah Lessons


The story of Jonah teaches those of us who have been plunged into darkness –into the belly of the whale– that we have work to do.


Raging at our plight is a knee-jerk response. It may bring momentary relief but the darkness is not dispelled by emotional outbursts. We can complain all we want but in the end, it gets us no closer to locating the light switch.


Being in the belly of the whale teaches us five key lessons. Through these lessons we come to see that the darkness is not a place that we are sent for punishment for our sins. It is a place where we are arrested, like Jonah, for transformation. Our task is to connect to a higher vision for our lives.


1. Thou shalt stop


Sudden change can produce shock and shock can induce the experience of overwhelm, helplessness and lack of will. The remedy for rapid dominance is not frantic activity.


Darkness requires us to stop doing what we did that produced the crisis in the first place. Many of us are so invested in a point of view, a course of action, or a pattern of behavior that we cannot stop because it is all that we know.


When darkness overcomes us, attempting to move in any direction is reckless. We are in the grips of a transformative process that we do not command. All we can do in the belly of the whale is give up any notion of control, let go of our agenda, and surrender.


That surrender can take three days, three weeks, or three years. It is up to us. Our fears dictate the length of our stay.


When we do surrender to the transformative forces, we gain access to stillness. Stillness is the place within us that is available once we have let go of stress, anxiety, anger, resentment, ambitions and other drivers that keep us locked in to a pattern of action and disconnected from our own guidance. “Within you there is a stillness and a sanctuary,” wrote Herman Hesse, “to which you can retreat at any time and be yourself.”


The darkness provides us sanctuary and once we have entered it we know that we can return there anytime, return to ourselves. Without outer distractions, we learn to see what is most important to our lives.


2. Thou shalt quell thy fears


Jonah was running scared and making bad decisions. His fears were undermining his own wisdom and guidance– represented here by the God of the Old Testament– and those fears were carrying him in the opposite direction of his highest purpose.


The lesson here is we must never make life choices when we are afraid.


When we allow our fears to overcome us, we are carried far off course and are unable to discern what is in our own best interest, the best interest of the people we care about, and the best interest of our mission in the world.


Fear never helps us when we are in the dark. As long as we allow it to control us, the work of surrender and reflection cannot be accomplished. Our energy is diverted to feeding fear instead of searching our hearts for guidance.


As mentioned, the length of time that we remain in the dark is dependent upon how long it takes for us to quell our fears. Bertrand Russell reminds us, “To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”


3. Thou shalt trust


The remedy to fear is trust. Jonah mistrusted his mission and his ability to carry it out. He fled rather than trust that he could accomplish what he had been directed to do.


Darkness challenges us to remain true to ourselves even when we are confused, disoriented or uncertain about the way forward.


Although we are not in control of the transformative process, we do have responsibilities. The most important of these is to have faith in our destiny and ourselves.


We are asked to trust that, even though our situation may be difficult, we have what it takes to find clarity. We must also trust that we have the inner resources to carry out what must do, to find a pathway to greater happiness and to peace of mind.


Trust delivers us from self-abandonment, the destination that our fear would set for us. Through trust we begin to see a direction home to what has heart and meaning in our lives. Even when we can’t see this clearly, we must trust that we have the capacity to find the inner compass.


4. Thou shalt listen


There is no record of what Jonah thought about being swallowed by a whale, although he did repent. We can speculate that shock and awe may have described the experience.


Overwhelm, helplessness and lack of will are symptoms of paralysis of the mind. The mind– and especially the ego– provides unreliable guidance at times of turbulence or sudden change.


When we cannot figure things out, we are forced to seek guidance from a source other than the ego, or remain stuck and disoriented. This requires us to listen.


Listen to what?


Beneath the chatter of our fears and the mistaken agenda of the ego is another voice. This is the wisdom voice of the heart. In stillness and through reflection, it’s guidance can be heard, directing us to what’s most important to our lives, who and what we love, what work is worth doing, and how to be happy no matter what our circumstances might be.


Of course, the refusal to listen was Jonah’s undoing. He failed to listen and obey a power greater than his own ego. The calamity that befell him as a result is a reminder that there are always consequences for our choices.


In his book, The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell suggests that Jonah’s mistake is a common one:


“The world is full of people who have stopped listening to themselves or have listened only to what their neighbors say to learn what they ought to do, how they ought to behave, and what the values are they ought to be living for.”


Darkness provides an opportunity to listen to something other than the siren song of the times. Returned to the seat of the self, we can hear what is most important and what we must do differently to align with the heart’s direction. That time, however long it takes, is time well spent.


5. Thou shalt change


Ultimately, the lesson of Jonah is about change. Those of us who have been plunged into darkness by our own hand, or the winds of a turbulent world, have a choice. We can remain in the belly of the whale, held there by the confusions of ego or our desires, or we can choose to align ourselves with the wisdom of the heart.


With that choice a fundamental transformation comes about. We are no longer governed by the material values of the world around us. We are no longer subject to the willful struggle to uphold the ego’s agenda.


We begin to hear the faint sounds of the heart, of what we love. The more we attend to the voice of the heart, the stronger its direction becomes.


That surrender accomplished, our salvation begins. We are deposited on new shore, with fluency that is rooted in our heart’s truth. That truth is only available to us from the depths of our being. Freed from the turbulence of the mind and the world, we gain the ability to revision our life.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on September 15, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Roger Fisher RIP

The co-author of "Getting To Yes" has died.


Roger Fisher, a Havard law professor, made a major contribution to peace-making with this ground breaking book and the changes it generated in conflict resolution practices.


Professor Fisher's impact on public affairs, both in the United States and abroad, was significant. "Peace is not a piece of paper," he told his classes, "but a way of dealing with conflict when it arises."


In my mind, his biggest contribution was the notion that mutual gain could be found and that it was the only basis for a sustainable peace.


The New York Times obituary contains a paragraph that speaks volumes about the man:


"It did not matter to Professor Fisher whether the warring parties reached out to him or not; he would assume they needed his help. 'Most of the time he was not invited. He would invite himself," Elliot Fisher (son) said.


Fisher had his hand in a lot of difficult negotiations, including the hostage crisis at the Japanese Embassy in Lima, Peru; the U.S./Soviet Summit between Reagan and Gorbachev; the peace agreement signed at Camp David between Egypt and Israel; and the end of apartheid in South Africa.


Thank you Roger Fisher for your timeless contribution to civil society. Rest in peace.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on August 28, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Synergy of Personal and Collective Work

Lately, I have been hearing talk from people who should know better about the lack of necessity of personal development work.


These pundits claim that enabling neighborhoods and communities is the answer to our social problems.


I think community development is a half-answer at best.


Personal excellence, that comes from a commitment to grow, learn and improve, is a critical component of community development. It is a place where individual efforts have a collective impact.


Consider for a moment the plight of an Olympic relay squad where one member decides not to train.


Only three quarters of the race would be run by those who have prepared well and trained hard for the event.


The fourth member, confident that the performance of the others will carry the day, is easily left behind by the field.


You can imagine the reception that runner will recieve at the finish line from angry teammates!


What enables collectives to create breakthrough results is a shared commitment to both personal and collective growth and development.


The synergy that arises from that approach cannot be underestimated.


To those who maintain that personal work is a waste of time, or that it is only important for others, I have only one word: Silencio!.


Your laziness or self-satisfaction is sabotaging that which you profess to help.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on August 23, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Stay In Your Lane

Some coaches and consultants cannot turn off the advice machine.


Unsolicited feedback and advice from people in helping professions is a major turn-off and a power/domination pattern.


You certainly don't see psychotherapists operating this way. They have a code of ethics and limits and boundaries that they observe.


Why do so many coaches and consultants think they are providing value by processing others without permission?


Recently, I observed one such operator working a room.


She could not seem to relate to anyone as a peer, needing to demonstrate her enlightenment by coaching everyone she came into contact with. It was impossible to engage her in a personal conversation. There appeared to be nobody home.


Miss "know–it– all" was all dime-store psychology and T-group technique. Yuck!


Coaches and consultants need to remember that unsolicited feedback and advice is crossing the line into someone else's business. It's a good way to get your head handed to you.


Stay in your own lane, coach. You'll avoid collisions.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on August 20, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Mystery of Relationships

This coming weekend, Angeles Arrien and I will be offering The Mystery of Relationships in Sausalito, California.


This is the second time we are offering the program. It was such a success last year, and the demand was so high, we decided to run it again over four weekends.


Many of last year's participants are returning. There are also a whole bunch of new folks. There is so much to learn about right-right relationship with self, other and community.


What I love about this work is that every offering is made new by the participants –and what they teach.


Of course, Angeles and I will be leading the workshops but every person in the room is a wisdom-carrier. Our job is to create an environment where that wisdom can surface.


There is still room to join us if learning about the healthy feminine and the healthy masculine is something that draws you at this time.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

For more information, contact Angeles Arriens office: 415-331-5050.


Posted on August 7, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Rigorous Work

I don't know about you, but one of my pet peeves about social media is the deluge of advice that comes my way from people I don't know or barely know.


You know, those one-line quotes that appear with a cosmic picture depicting something I'm supposed to be or do?


Lord knows I have my faults and need advice. Unsolicited spiritual advice, mass-marketed, drives me a bit kookoo. I know what you're thinking–short drive.


Nonetheless, the people who are sending this stuff out are, no doubt, well-intentioned. My question is are they well-trained? And do they walk their talk?


Some people are well-trained and are honestly trying to make a difference. Others are marketing themselves.


All of this reminded me of Evelyn Underhill. She wrote a classic book called Mysticism in 1911. Underhill spotted the problem a long time ago and was far more eloquent in assessing the potential damage done than I am.


Here, she lays out some thoughts that we would all do well to remember before we hit the send button on our next missive. I certainly will.


“Transcendental genius, then obeys the laws which govern all forms of genius… and indeed cannot develop its full genius without an educative processes of some kind. This strange art of contemplation… demands of the self which undertakes it the same hard dull work, the same slow training of the will, which lies behind all supreme achievement and is the price of all true liberty. It is the want of such training – such “supersensual drill” – which is responsible for the mass of vague, ineffectual, and sometimes harmful mysticism which has always existed: the dilute cosmic emotion and limp spirituality which hang, as it were, on the skirts of the true seekers of the Absolute, and bring discredit upon their science.”


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on July 20, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Personal Responsibility

Here is some material that helps clarify the behaviors associated with personal responsibility. It's vital to know when we are being responsible–or at cause in our own lives–and when we have drifted into irresponsibility.


I am not sure of the source of this. Obviously, some genius somewhere. Hope this helps in your quest to claim your best self and create a visionary life:


"What is accepting personal responsibility? Accepting personal responsibility includes:


* Acknowledging that you are solely responsible for the choices in your life.


* Accepting that you are responsible for what you choose to feel or think.


* Accepting that you choose the direction for your life.


* Accepting that you cannot blame others for the choices you have made.


* Tearing down the mask of defense or rationale for why others are responsible for who you are, what has happened to you and what you are bound to become.


* The rational belief that you are responsible for determining who your are, and how your choices affect your life.


* Pointing the finger of responsibility back to yourself and away from others when you are discussing the consequences of your actions.


*Realizing that you determine your feelings about any events or actions addressed to you, no matter how negative they seem.


* Recognizing that you are your best cheerleader; it is not reasonable or healthy for you to depend on others to make you feel good about yourself.


* Recognizing that as you enter adulthood and maturity, you determine how your self-esteem will develop.


* Not feeling sorry for the "bum deal" you have been handed but taking hold of your life and giving it direction and reason.


* Letting go of your sense of over responsibility for others.


* Protecting and nurturing your health and emotional well being.


* Taking preventive health oriented steps of structuring your life with time management, stress management, confronting fears and burnout prevention.


* Taking an honest inventory of your strengths, abilities, talents, virtues and positive points.


* Developing positive, self-affirming, self-talk scripts to enhance your personal development and growth.


* Letting go of blame and anger toward those in your past who did the best they could, given the limitations of their knowledge, background and awareness.


* Working out anger, hostility, pessimism and depression over past hurts, pains, abuse, mistreatment and misdirection."


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on July 13, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Werner Heisenberg Was Wrong!

The discovery of the Higgs boson, a sub-atomic particle that is responsible for mass, is being trumpeted as a breakthrough. It certainly seems to be a monumental accomplishment by the scientists at CERN labratory in Geneva.


British physicist Peter Higgs must feel vindicated. Thirty-four years ago he posed his theory of an invisible field, "strewn across space," that was a binding agent for particles that resulted in form. According to The Daily Telegraph, Higgs' "eureka" moment was inspired while walking in the mountains in Scotland.


He was ridiculed by the scientific community at the time.


The Telegraph also recounts German physicist Werner Herzenberg's assessment of the Higgs boson. Heisenberg, one of the most famous scientists of the modern era, cliamed that Higgs and his colleagues, "did not understand the rules of physics." Higgs and his colleagues were advised by others "to abandon their research or risk professional suicide."


Thankfully, they didn't. Now, a missing piece of the puzzle of the Standard Model of physics has been found .


The Telegraph, quoting Joe Incandala who announced the discovery, wrote:


"The discovery is so fundamental to the laws of nature, it could spawn new era of technology and development just as Newton's laws of gravity led to basic equations of mechanics that made the industrial revolution possible."


The lesson here is obvious. Even the experts can be wrong.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on July 6, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Worst Insipid Marigold Hotel

Okay, there are some good actors in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (TBEMC). But that's as good as this review gets.


This film, which seems to have a found an audience, is one of the most feeble-minded depictions of aging I have ever seen.


There are only two kinds of elders on display here: the over-lonely and the over-sexed. Surely to God the elderly have enough problems without being reduced to cartoons?


The Indians don't fare much better. They are caricatures at best, with Dev Patel leading the way as a stereotypic Indian hotelier-ne'er do well. Racist? Maybe not.. but borderline.


The story follows a group of British people, mostly down on their luck, who respond to an advertisement for a retirement hotel in India. It is depicted in the travel literature as a Shangri-la for the elderly. Upon arrival the retirees find a ramshackle hotel that is barely functioning. Hilarity ensues.


Tom Wilkinson, pretty much the only actor worth watching in this mawkish mess, departs the picture early. I should have too.


Why can't a thoughtful film be made that depicts one of the most difficult transitions–eldership– in a culture that worships youth?


Why must a group of reputable and accomplished actors –Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith– be subjected to a script so shallow and sentimental that it takes superhuman effort to deliver their lines without laughing?


Instead, we get cliched nonsense. Anyone that tells you that this film is intelligent and delightful should be avoided at all costs.


I'm warning ya...run while you still can!




© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on June 18, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Essential Thing

About twenty-five years ago I made a commitment to myself: I would devote myself to personal transformation. I felt that doing so was my best hope for making a difference in the world. I had hoped to leave it to my children better than I found it.


I have kept my commitment over the years–to mixed results. I suppose that is to be expected. Transformation and egoism are mutually exclusive.


A while back, I came across a quote from Neitzsche that I believe expresses the fundamental reality of those of us who are on a journey of life-long learning:


"The essential thing in heaven and earth is...that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living."


To all of you that I pass on that "long obedience in the same direction," salut!


May the wind be at your back.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on June 14, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Yesterday at TED

TEDX Burlington went very well, yesterday.


There were six speakers on the program and several videos from other TED events. Overall the audience in the Burlington Performing Arts Centre seemed receptive and enthusiastic.


I led off the event, talking about our Teachers of Compassion, our Teachers of the Heart. I introduced Angeles Arrien's archetype of the Four-Chambered Heart–the Full, Open, Clear and Strong Heart– from indigenous cultures.


I also told the story of John Albrecht, a man who changed my life for the better by teaching me to challenge my assumptions. I met John on the sidewalk in downtown Toronto. He sold me a postcard that he had painted. That began a four-year friendship that only ended when John died of a massive stroke.


John was a panhandler and a schizophrenic, ate raw garlic and wore shorts all year round. I learned how to see past superficial appearances and learn to love someone as different from me as night is from day.


John was a genius of relationship despite his circumstances. I'll never forget the lessons I learned from this man.


Highlights of TEDX included Arthur Fleishmann's talk on The Power of the Unspoken, about learning that his autistic daughter was a deep and complex personality although she could not talk. It was a very moving story.


Michael Jones, a friend, talked about an extraordinary conversation that changed his life. A stranger approached him when he was playing the piano and encouraged him to leave his job as a management consultant and become a full-time artist. Today, Michael is a Juno award winner.


Dr. Jean Chamberlain Froese gave a moving talk about her work on the importance of Mothers and Women's Reproductive Rights in Uganda. Scott Graham talked about Bullying and his work in Toronto schools. And Trish Barbato presented on Everday Courage.


My thanks to the Organizing Committee of Spencer Campbell, Cathy Allen, Frances Hillier, Debra Pickfield of ThinkSpot, and Dave Zylich and Ryan Jaques.


I'll post the link when it is available.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on May 28, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Tedx Burlington

I am preparing for my first Ted Talk, in Burlington, Ontario, May 27th.


It's a real honor to be asked to participate. The theme of the Conference is "Passion For Compassion."


I am going to address The Teachers of the Heart.


Who has taught you the most about love and compassion? What have they taught you and how has it changed the way you think, feel and act?


I'll be sharing The Four-Chambered Heart, an indigenous archetype first introduced to me by cultural anthropologist, Angeles Arrien.


The Full, Open, Clear and Strong Heart provide a classroom for the development of love and compassion.


My thesis at Ted is that we have spent so much money on the development of our minds and far less on the education of the heart.


But what if our global problems could only be solved by better hearts?


A statistic that startled me as I was preparing for the talk is this: last year the global military expenditure was U.S.$2.1 trillion!


That's a ton of money to spend on fear, aggression and defensiveness.


What if we channneled $2.1 trillion dollars into kindness and compassion?


The world would look very different.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on May 15, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Transformational Learning

“Do your work for six years; but in the seventh, go into solitude or among strangers, so that the memory of your friends does not hinder you from being what you have become.” –Leo Szilard

Posted on May 4, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Elder Abuse

By now, I am sure you must think of me as an uber Catholic, what with my blog on the persecution of Women Religious by the Vatican; and my newsletter on the Archbishop of Dublin, Diarmuid Martin.


Despite the fact that I work for two religious denominations, I am not what you would call a practicing Christian.


I have my spiritual practices but sitting in a church pew isn't one of them. Unless I'm taking my 98 year old Aunt to Mass. I just do that to be near a real holy person. And so that she won't try to walk alone to church again.


After spending the past few days in a convent working with some of the finest women anywhere I find myself increasingly outraged by the Vatican crackdown on the Nuns.


Where are these guys heads?


They're talking about investigating a community of senior citizens for being too "liberal." That's elder abuse if you ask me.


I think Women Religious across North America–and those who support and are the beneficiary of the good work that they do for society– should march.


The sight of these elders linking arms in self-defense against the male hierarchy of their own church would and should shock society.


The Nuns have enough to worry about without this bunch of knuckleheads searching for evidence that they are soft on gays, abortion and women priests.


They're trying to help the poor, sick, and dispossessed. At the same time they're running schools, literacy centers and hospitals.


Try that when you're in your seventies and beyond!


The Church has got more pressing problems than this nonsense. I say march. Show the world who the Catholic Church is so afraid of.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on May 1, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Crackdown on Women Religious

Agence France-Presse reports that the Vatican is at it again, adding to a long list of missteps by attacking U.S. women religious for their "liberal views."



Citing "serious doctrinal problems" the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith has appointed an Archbishop –a man– to investigate and oversee The Leadership Conference of Women Religious (LCWR), which represents 45,000 U.S. nuns.


If the Church is looking to send a message and set a tone, this appointment certainly has.


Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of a Catholic lobby group is quoted in response to the Vatican crackdown: "It's painfully obvious that the leadership of the Church is not used to having educated women form thoughtful opinions and engage in dialogue. We haven't violated any teachings."


As a volunteer consultant to the Dominican Sisters, I can tell you that what I have seen is a community devoted to service to the Church, the poor, and society at large. It is a community whose average age is 75. Most entered religious life in the 1960's, during the Renaissance of Vatican Two.


That's a lifetime of service to the Church.


Like anywhere, you find a diversity of views, both left and right. I have heard some vigorous conversation about the role of the Church, and women religious, in today's world. What I have never seen or heard is anything remotely akin to the "corporate dissent" or "radical feminist views" that LCWR is charged with.


I see and hear women who are deply concerned about injustice, poverty, education, literacy and health care issues. I also see and hear women searching for ways to make a difference in the world as their community ages and declines.


The Church, from my vantage point, is made better by it's women religious. They are a treasure to be acknowledged and supported. Instead, they are being investigated.


At least the Vatican is consistent. They fumbled the child abuse file. They are fumbling the ball again on this crackdown.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on April 20, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

Bubba Watson

Like millions of others, I watched Bubba Watson break down after sinking his putt on the tenth at Augusta to win the Masters. It was a great victory.


Watson has never taken a golf lesson in his life. He is one-of-a-kind. He cried as he hugged his caddy, his Mom, and as he acknowledged the crowd.


He acknowledged his father's recent passing, the adoption of a new baby, and realizing a life dream. It all made him cry.


There's no lack of passion for what he's doing!


Shortly after his victory, the critics emerged. There were those who applauded his show of emotion and those who derided it. Psychologists opined about "healthy responses." Others suggested that "manly men" don't cry.


It reminded me of a recent newspaper article. The National Post's Christie Blatchford wrote a column called "Toronto: City of Sissies."


From the title you can imagine how that went over.


Billing herself "the toughest guy in the room," Blatchford held forth about 10 year old boys greeting each other with a hug and the feminization of men:


"I am wearying of men who are so frequently in touch with their feminine side they, not to mention me, have lost sight of the masculine one. I’m just plain sick of hugs, giving and getting, from just about anyone, but particularly man-to-man hugs."


I am sure Blatchford would also disapprove of Bubba Watson.


I think Bubba's victory at the Masters was cool. And so was his willingness to share what he was feeling about achieving a life dream.


Real men cry. When they're happy, sad, frustrated, angry and afraid. It's a normal human response and good modeling.


It's also the ultimate expression of strength– the willingness to be vulnerable.


Thanks, Bubba Watson. It was a double victory.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on April 10, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Innovation Crisis 2

if we are to be more innovative as a nation, one step forward is to recognize that we have fallen prey to "branch plant mentality."


Many businesses in Canada are multinationals. They are owned abroad–the U.S., France, Germany, Switzerland, Israel–and are operated as a part of a larger system. This can lead to dependance on the parent company to do the innovative work. The Canadian branch is directed to execute global strategy in the domestic market.


In many cases, the domestic organization is a marketing and sales force. Where there is domestic manufacturing usually the operations group reports to a regional or international supply chain organization and deals with it's own national headquarters as a client.


This can lead to a tactical focus only. Strategy, the home of innovation, becomes more about tweaking global initiatives to local markets. Productivity and profitability becomes the goal. Nothing wrong with a goal like that, except that after a period time, strategic thinking is no longer a competency.


It is muted and thwarted by complex organizational structures and bureaucracy that is difficult to navigate at the best of times. Innovative ideas, new products, services or processes often die within a bureacratic maze.


Eventually, people give up thinking outside the box because they can't get out of out of it to begin with. Frustrated, and with little incentive to keep going, many Canadian managers "stick to their knitting.


Those who cannot stand it eventually leave for smaller organizations that provide a more creative environment or they become entrepreneurs and start their own businesses. Good solutions but not without their difficulties. Approximately 70-80% of new businesses in Canada fail.


What to do?


Innovation needs to be a value that is encouraged by domestic and global companies. Smaller countries, like Canada, can be excellent test markets because of a diverse population and international awareness.


Many companies use Canada to season it's most promising executives for global leadership assignments. It can also be used to season it's most promising thinkers and ideas and become an innovation hub.


As well, Canadian entrepreneurs need support from financial institutions, angel investors and the government. Currently, our risk averse business culture keeps innovation muted. When creative people cannot gain the support they need dometsically, they leave the country for more hospitable jurisdictions.


Finally, the brain drain needs to be seen for what it is– a competitive threat.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 26, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

The Innovation Crisis

The news is full of stories about Canada's innovation gap. The Public Policy Forum has published a report that blames Canada's weak innovation and productivity growth on our relative inability to "connect the dots."


An editorial in the Globe and Mail citing the PPF's report, states "...(this) is not so much a matter of any supposed lack of inventiveness, or of deficient economic policies, as of a characteristically Canadian difficulty in making contacts and establishing practical collaborations among innovators and investors."


Last night on The National, CBC's flagship news program, host Amanda Lang called innovation "a missing component in Canada's economic recovery."


A panelist on the program, Professor Roger Martin described innovation as "something missing that the customer would love to have."


Another panelist, Kunal Gupta, Chief Executive Officer of Polar Mobile, defined innovation as "taking a solution to market and having customers adopt it."


I think both definitions– probably limited by the sound-bite timing of tv talk show– miss the basic driving force of innovation which is not relationship-oriented: the adventure of creating something from nothing!


But wait a minute! Aren't we the people that invented:


• canola • the walkie-talkie • the television camera • java programming language • the BlackBerry • the telephone • the hydrofoil • the electric streetcar • the Canadarm • the snowmobile • bixi • sonar • basketball • hockey • lacrosse • the goalie mask • insulin • the elctron microscope • the garbage bag • the alkaline battery • the electric oven • kerosene • poutine • butter tarts • nanaimo bars • peanut butter • Marquis wheat • Canada Dry


And that's just a few.


Okay. That's a hell of a lot of innovation.


If there's something wrong, as the pundits and media suggest, maybe the answer is less about lacking creativity and more to do with the culture that we have created as a branch plant economy?


More thoughts on this coming up.


© Patrick O’Neill 2012. All rights reserved.

Posted on March 14, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.

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Posted on March 5, 2012 and filed under Uncategorized.