Friday, 11 September 2020

Lessons from a Bouncing Ball

I often play catch the ball with my young daughter on the staircase. One of us is usually at the top of the stairs and the other at the bottom.  We use several balls throwing them back and forth between us sometimes simultaneously, and at other times we take turns throwing them to each other. While playing with her today I made a few observations that I thought were interesting and which in my mind hold valuable life lessons.  I’ve shared them below.


   1)        Different Strokes for Different Folks

     I noticed that she was using both hands to throw the ball.  When she held the ball in her right hand she produced an overhead throw but when she held it in her left hand, she tossed it into the air and used the same hand to bat it towards me. I observed this over a period and the actions were always the same.

What I learnt from that was: there are different paths to get to a destination and the fact that each person embarks on a different route does not invalidate the path taken.  We’re all unique individuals so we have different points of view, way of thinking, way of life, creed and raison d'etre.  

Too often we try to emulate the actions of others, copying their story which can never be ours.  We should never be afraid to be ourselves - only I can be me.  It is because of the willingness to be different why today we can enjoy so many inventions and innovations.  It’s because someone dared to be different.  It can be uncomfortable when we are perceived as different but we must bear in mind that growth doesn’t take place in comfort.  There are moments when we have to be willing to swim against the tide if we are to achieve an exceptional outcome. It is not everyone who is willing to do this, but those of us who wish to fit in should never condemn those who are willing to take the risks involved in standing out.

 

2)        Direct Action is more Impactful than a Deviated Path.

When my little girl produced a direct throw, the ball was harder to catch.  On the other hand, a ball that was tossed into the air and then batted was easier to catch.  When she tossed the ball into the air the ball lost momentum and as a result created less of an impact. If this were a competitive game, her opponent would score every time she produced one of these returns.

What that says to me was that we should not waste time with unnecessary deviations - we should aim instead for the target.  It means that we should focus on our goals and be resolute in our endeavour to achieve our objectives.

Too many of us meander through life.  We procrastinate and we give ourselves excuses as to why we can’t do it now.  We talk ourselves out of taking action and so we lose momentum and consequently miss opportunities. Hesitation often ends in failure. However, failure doesn’t have to be the end in itself; for we can recover if we adopt a changed attitude and make up for lost ground.  When we take decisive action we are more likely to go further faster and our chances of success are enhanced.

 

3)          Heavyweight Beats Lightweight

We were playing with two different balls - one was a lightweight plastic ball and the other was a heavier sponge ball. She used her left hand to throw the lighter ball into the air and then batted it to me while she used her right hand to throw the heavier sponge ball to me directly.  I could only imagine that she felt that she could manipulate the lighter ball more easily and so she could afford to toss it around. 

What that says to me is that people treat you how they perceive you.  If they feel that you are lightweight and easily manipulated they will toss you around, play with your emotions, tell you untruths and in effect disregard you.  However, if they feel that you have some weight they will treat you with respect. 

What constitutes weight?  In my view it includes skills, common sense, connections, finance, experience and other virtues and attributes to which people are attracted.  If you are lightweight and there is nothing special about you; say, for example, you are easily replaceable, full of air and has nothing to offer, you will be less appealing.  It is important that we build value in ourselves, develop skills, gain knowledge and learn from other people’s experiences and know-how.  It means we need to listen, read, study, update our education and be present.  Each of us is endowed with talents, abilities and gifts that we are commissioned to deliver to the world.  In order to do that, we need to amass some weight.

 

4)        A Soft Answer Turns Away Wrath

When she had the softer sponge ball she held on to it for a while before throwing it.  It appeared as if she was massaging the ball.  On the other hand the firmer plastic ball enjoyed no such love - it was quickly tossed upwards and batted away.

What that means to me is that if people feel good around you they will accommodate you, they will enjoy being in your presence and they will open doors for you.   It means that they will go out of their way to help you if necessary because they like your attitude and your general aura.  If you are able to appeal to people, if you are charming and respectful, you will get more accomplished.  On the other hand, if you present with a rough attitude it will mar your chances and may even close important doors. 

In life we get different treatments from people based on their perception of us.  It is not always fair but often perception is reality.  We have to build our communication and interpersonal skills.  We must learn that we can't always say how we feel; we have to respect cultural differences and tame our tongue, however difficult that may prove to be.  “A soft answer turns away wrath”, and sometimes that’s what we need to do.

 

5)        When Two Balls Collide they Head South

Another observation I made was that when two balls met in mid-air they both headed downwards.  In other words, the ball that is on its way upwards is intercepted and inevitably is knocked down by the ball which is going in the opposite direction.  Whether that's because of gravity or because of the collision doesn't make a difference, it is interesting that the balls never ascend, they always descend.  There is one exception however, and this is it:  If the ball being thrown from the bottom of the stairs is heavier and thrown at a faster pace so that it is nearer the top of the stairs when the balls collide, it is able to withstand the impact and continue its upward trajectory.  However, it never takes the downward ball up with it.

What that says to me is that if you're on your way up and you meet someone who insists on pushing you down you really do need to have a lot more going for you than the person who is trying to push you down.

If you are climbing you must ensure that you have some weight (not baggage!) because you will meet those who, whether consciously or not, will create barriers to your growth and if you are lightweight you will miss out. It means that you must be prepared in terms of the skills you need, your emotional intelligence must be intact and you need a strong network and connections behind you.  These are people who can provide a safety net because when two heads... rather, two balls collide, you don’t want to head south.

 

6)        Opportunity has a Cost

When we threw the balls to each other, the aim was to catch the ball and return it. However, from time to time the balls went astray and we had to ’field’ in order to retrieve them.  This required extra energy; it became tiring and made the game boring. As I did not have control of the ball being thrown to me I could not control whether it went astray or not.

What this means to me is that any time we go off track it costs us.  We spend time and energy which could be used for other worthwhile activity.  It also means that we cannot control other people’s actions, only our own. Stray balls can frustrate your partner.  If you are working in a team a frustrated partner is not a desirable goal.

It calls for diligence, strategy and focus in order to reduce or possibly eliminate waste.  As I could not control my opponent’s quality of play I was at her mercy.  However I reduced the effect on me by ensuring that I was fit and able to reach for, and stop those stray balls before they sent me scrambling.  It meant that I needed to ensure that I was prepared for the challenge.  In life we have to prepare ourselves for challenges that we encounter.  While we cannot stop every ball that is thrown at us, we can prepare to the best of our ability to counteract and manage the effects of a stray ball because missed opportunities do have a cost.

 

7)        Keep your Eye on the Ball

During our game I was distracted by someone who was calling my name and so I was not as attentive as I should have been.  I was quickly brought back in line when a ball whacked me in the head, totally disregarding my distraction.

What I learnt from this is that if I lose focus the world will not stop to cater for me.  The show goes on with or without me, ready or not.  It is my responsibility to be attentive at all times.

When we lose sight of the ball we are aiming for in life, we get punished for our lack of attention.  We miss opportunities and end up with regrets of what could have been.  There are moments when we need to call time out and those are legitimate but they must be planned if possible, and communicated to others.  For example, if I am not in the mood to speak to anyone today I should not expect people to change their agenda in order to accommodate my mood swings. A Jekyll and Hyde personality is unattractive to caring people who just want to be friends.

 

8)        It’s Not Over until Everybody Wins

When we both paid attention to our game and worked in sync we reduced the number of collisions and stray balls.  The game ran smoothly, it was more enjoyable and we managed a greater number of rallies.

What this means to me is that we must be willing to collaborate.  It is not always about competition, sometimes we need to work together in order to achieve more. Working in a team enables us to harness the strength of each participant and increases the chances of success. 

At this time in our history when countries are forming economic blocs, companies are coming together to form large corporations and when partnering is on the increase it is easy to see why collaboration is desired.  Bigger is not always better but when the competition is a heavyweight it makes sense to build mutually beneficial coalitions that will position us to paddle our boats in the increasingly treacherous waters.  When we work together we can weather the storms that life throws our way, we can focus on our strengths, and we can have quality time to spend with the people or on the activities we most enjoy.  As we play our part in this game called life let us remember that it’s not about winning at all costs, for it is not over until everybody wins.

 

And so...

The simple game that my daughter and I played during the time of lockdown really brought to life some key life lessons:

  •  People treat you the way they perceive you to be and often that treatment   depends on your attitude your general attitude;
  •  It is important to make timely decisions and take decisive actions, to be   intentional and not to hesitate unduly.  when you're hesitate you give people a   chance to pre-empt your movement and if they are so inclined they can stop   you in your tracks;
  •  Focus on improving your repertoire - build yourself holistically so that you     will have enough weight to manoeuvre the storms of life that inevitably will   come your way;
  •  Collaboration has its place in this increasingly competitive arena and if you   are able to harness and leverage the skills of others you will develop mutually   beneficial partnerships that will propel you to your next level.

 

I hope some of the lessons I learnt while playing with my little girl on our staircase resonate with you so that you too can think about how the little things, those unremarkable moments that you experience, can provide food for thought.  Let’s use the simple things to learn the big lessons of life, for the big achievements are made up of the little, often unseen efforts.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Walk is better than sit

Last week I attended a religious event after umpteen invitations by a friend. The session was very enlightening and I met many interesting people.   At the end of the event I had the opportunity to introduce the Pocket Learner – our educational programme which empowers parents and carers of children with cognitive disabilities. To my surprise 90% of those in attendance expressed an interest in the project – whether as end users or as distributors.   For several months I had found excuses to avoid attending the meeting – it’s too cold, too far, it lasts too long, finishes too late, the list goes on. Now that I had taken the time to attend I realised the value in making the effort, even when I could not see the benefit.
As I focused on this experience I realised that there was a similarity with the attitude to life that many of us sustain. We all have gifts and talents which we fail to explore or enrich, effectively sitting down on them. Talents exist to be nurtured and grown; we should add value to them and use them to our benefit and that of others with whom we encounter. In many cases our inaction is driven by fear; we dread the possibility of catastrophic failure or the fact that we could be ridiculed by others. We are scared of slipping and falling so we sit down in our comfort zones, or cower in corners and watch from the side-lines. We fail to realise that we do not grow when in a relaxed mode, we need to step outside our comfort zones if we are going to make an impact. Jamaicans say: “Mongoose says that a man who can’t take risks is not a man”, i.e. taking risks is a life skill.

If we want change we have to propel that change

It is not unusual for those who venture out to lose their way but generally they rediscover their path and are stronger for the experience. Indeed every person who is successful has experienced failure. Falling is acceptable provided we pick ourselves up and finish our race. In life’s amusement park it is those who dare to venture who enjoy the best rides. If we settle in perpetual comfort we will not grow; there are mountains to climb if we want to see the other side and often that climb is extremely tiring. Recently there was a fire in London and as I watched in awe I thought about the loss of life of so many young people who will never get a chance to continue their race. Life is for living now; tomorrow is not promised!  There is an English proverb: “Procrastination is the thief of time”.  We should therefore choose to start our walk today, not sit and “wait and see what happens”. If we want change we have to manufacture that change, become a catalyst, a stimulus for that change. 
Last Christmas I made a conscious effort to visit neighbours and friends who are housebound. On every occasion my life was enriched. In some cases I received physical gifts and in others I benefited from the wealth of knowledge shared by my more elderly hosts. I still recall and relish moments I spent with them; it really was better to walk than to sit. When we give of ourselves to others we also receive. Giving, whether tangible or intangible – a listening ear, a short visit, a kind word, encouragement, funding… enable us not only to reach out to others but also to reach within ourselves. Being a blessing to others brings joy and other intrinsic outcomes that money cannot buy. There is no greater feeling than the opportunity to observe personal and professional growth engendered by our efforts. Sometimes that small gift is all an individual needs in order to propel them to the next level. Jamaicans explain it in this way: “If you back monkey it will fight tiger” i.e. support and encouragement boost people’s confidence enabling them to embrace bigger, more rewarding challenges. Do your bit for mankind!

If you walk today, chances are you'll run tomorrow 

The act of giving does not mean that we encourage dependency; it simply means that we should be good neighbours and in the process impact positively on the life others. Too often we choose to be judgmental, focusing on other people’s circumstances. If you find yourself judging the other person it is better not to give, for that giving would not have come from the heart. 
Opportunities are lurking in every corner, if only we would stop focusing on the negativity around. Don’t dwell on the past mistakes of yourself or others – what’s done is done. See today as a good day and get up and walk! If you walk today, chances are tomorrow you could run. You will fall sometimes; that’s acceptable. Get up, learn your lessons, recognise your humanity and try again.

Businesses too, need to walk and not just sit

As business owners we too have to recognise the importance of walking and not merely sitting. Those who perpetually operate at the same level - continuously sitting and not walking - will not grow. We have to introduce new ways of working and encourage the creativity of our colleagues and employees. We cannot afford do adopt a “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” attitude. If we invite and encourage complacency we’ll be overtaken and soon enough taken away by the undertaker. Ten years ago many of us did not do business online; nowadays we have to consider and explore how we can add value via this medium. There is a Spanish proverb: Camarón que se duerme se lo lleva la corriente The shrimp that falls asleep is swept away by the current i.e: You snooze, you lose.
How many of our small organisations sustain a corporate social responsibility budget? More important still how many actively seek to support vulnerable people or contribute to charitable causes? The same principles of giving as an individual obtain in the case of organisations, large and small. It is not accidental that Bill Gates is one of the richest men in the world. Here’s a quote from him: “Money has no utility to me beyond a certain point. Its utility is entirely in building an organisation and getting the resources out to the poorest in the world.”
Have a heart
It is not good enough to say the company's profit margins are slim so there isn’t enough available to give. Small contributions will have very little impact on your organisation but may bring significant benefit to others. My organisation sends items to disabled children and their families in different developing countries every year; it is such a joy to see the difference it makes to recipients. We have now developed The Pocket Learner and we are keen to find partners and well-wishers to enable us to distribute the resource to vulnerable and disabled children living in deprived areas or disadvantaged situations.
Let us make a commitment to start walking while we still can. Let us, in our walk, remember those who are most vulnerable and open our hands and hearts. Clenched fists can’t give and certainly they cannot receive.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

One Fool Makes Many

Today I dropped my little girl at school and on exiting the compound I saw a group of parents at the gate which appeared locked. On approaching the area one of the individuals told me that the gate was locked and that they were waiting for someone from the school office to release it. I approached the gate and saw that the padlock was indeed locked but not holding the gate. I pushed the gate and voilà, it opened! The others were surprised; we laughed as we all went our separate ways.
The above scenario made me think - Why didn’t one of them try to open the gate? Who had set the pace?  What would have been the breaking point and when would it have come? Although this was a simple scenario, I saw it as herd mentality showing how people are influenced by others and therefore adopting different behaviours.

Be your own man!

In life we often allow others to order our steps instead of charting our own paths. It is more comfortable to behave “normally” rather than run the risk of ruffling feathers or being laughed at. But what is normal? My definition of normal changed when my little girl was born with a disability and I realised that “normal” is, like “beauty” – in the eyes of the beholder. (Being able to appreciate her beauty instead of her shortcomings led to the development of the Pocket Learner which beautifies the lives of others as they raise aspirations by learning to read.) It may be normal for me to walk two miles to work whereas someone else may view that as crazy! Yet, for another person it is normal to walk 5 miles or more on a daily basis. We should not allow ourselves to be bullied by those who “shout the loudest”. We should not allow others to describe our “Normal”!
When I had pushed the gate, I was taking a risk of being ridiculed. That was a chance I was willing to take for I am not bothered by the potential actions of others. By letting other people determine our steps we ignore opportunities to exploit our talents and creativity. We miss out on our potential for success because we are too afraid to trust our instincts. There is a French proverb that says - “A vaincre sans péril, on triomphe sans gloire” (To win without risk is a triumph without glory). By pushing the gate I was swimming against the tide at the risk of being judged by people I would see every day.  "You can't make an omelette without breaking a few eggs" is another proverb that is relevant. If we remain behind the gates we will never know what could have been… which floodgates we could have opened, whose life we could impact, how we could change the world. We should not worry about other people’s concerns, for our dreams are not theirs to see; it is for us to realise.
What’s the worst that can happen? One fails. But that’s not the end of the world so we must get up and get going again. We remain focused but not so focused that we fail to live and to love along the way. Life has a way of humbling one, if one is not humble. What is important is how we recover from failure, the lessons we learn, whom we teach, the laughter, the tears – in effect the full repertoire of a life well lived. Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the USA said: “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years”. How true! 

Take the padlock off you!

Sometimes the padlock on the gate seems locked but in reality it’s the padlock in our minds and hearts that needs unlocking. It’s your innate creativity that is waiting to be released into the stratosphere propelling you to the next level. “The only thing we have to fear is...fear itself…” (Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President, USA).  It is the goodness in our hearts that craves to be unleased on the world but nothing will happen until you do something. The more uncomfortable it is, the more interesting the ride and the more life-changing it can be. There is a Spanish proverb that puts it like this: A mas honor, mas dolor (The more the danger, the greater the honour).  Running around on the ground with chickens, scratching here and there eking out a living can never produce the joy of soaring to higher heights like eagles. They don’t settle on lowly pastures, rather, they rise above the storm riding on its winds; at rest while those below are tossed about. 
Those of us who take our chances despite the fear we feel often face criticisms and abandonment from those who fail to understand our actions. Whether they act out of love, fear, envy or hatred, the impact is the same – frustration of our efforts. Many of those who love us, out of their own fears and inhibitions seek to protect us from the daggers in society, perceived or real. I heard a prominent African pastor relate how his parents both died when he was a teenager and their death, though it brought pain in the short term, turned out to be the stimulus which propelled him into the stratosphere. He was able to take risks which he could never have taken had his mother been alive. Today he is a very successful man with a mega church; he founded a university, sits on various boards and travels the world preaching and teaching. Had he focused on and internalised popular ideas about black people being unable to achieve, the perceived lack of opportunity, his poverty-stricken environment, and the bankruptcy mentality of many in his milieu he would have padlocked himself into a box, thus creating a barrier to the extensive personal and professional growth he achieved. We should never entertain the idea of inferiority for no one is better than the other - we all have the same needs and we all do the same things to survive.

It can be a lonely road

We all want the same things in life but only a few of us are willing to take the necessary steps to achieve them. While embarking on actions to bring about change we often find that we are alone, with no one willing to show their hand but once we achieve our goal we find many partakers, indeed some who claim to have shared our struggle. That shouldn’t stop us from pursuing our goals and breaking moulds. Life is not a popularity contest; those who succeed are those who, despite the challenges, loneliness and pain continue to strive, falling over but getting up and getting going again. We are all partakers of the success of efforts of those who have gone before; many of whom never lived to see the fruits of their labour. It is our responsibility to build on their work so that future generations can benefit from our efforts too. To whom much is given, much is expected (St. Luke 12). It is our duty to keep going, even when it’s a lonely road.
Words alone don’t change anything, unless you are God 
There are many people from all walks of life who have ideas that could carpet the world several times over. Some are very good ideas, some need work. Yet they have never lifted a finger to come into their purpose, they fail to build character and create impact. Indeed many good ideas lay in the burial ground never to be explored and we the people are no richer for it. There is a thin line between planting and burying; we have to ensure we chose the correct one. We should bury the past and plant the future.
For those of us who have faith we should also realise that prayer alone does not bring change.  “Faith without works is dead” (The Bible: James 2) so there is no point praying and hoping that someone else will “be the change you want to see in the world” - Mahatma Gandhi. If we want to experience change in our lives it has to start with us. It takes a paradigm shift in the mind with the acknowledgement that we are responsible for our own destiny, irrespective of any external or environmental factor. We can’t keep blaming others or the system or other phenomenon for our lack of growth. We have to look into our lives and see the opportunities available or the ones we can create. When I looked at my little girl with her disability and saw how enthusiastic she was to learn it was clear to me that this was an opportunity to impact many lives, so with her help we created The Pocket Learner, an innovative educational tool that opens the door for many who struggle to learn. Life without learning is not living; we must continue to learn and put our learning into action. Words alone do not change anything.

Becoming agents of change

As managers/owners of organisations we should consider:
-         Are we swimming against the tide and allowing our people to chart their own paths?
-         Do we foster a culture of creativity or do we install padlocks in our workplaces? 
-         Do we encourage a herd mentality - the dreaded “groupthink” in order to achieve a “comfortable” existence?
-         Are we afraid of challenge and so stifle novel ideas before they emerge?
-         What is the legacy of our businesses – are we in it for the money only or are we impacting lives.
-         Do we have a corporate social responsibility budget and what do we use that budget for? 
We cannot allow others to push us into a position where we are concerned only about our competitiveness and neglect our duty of care for stakeholders and the wider society. We must operate ethically and protect our integrity. We have to be aware of the tide but not be unduly influenced by the tide. It is said that everybody is somebody’s fool but we would do well to avoid the company of negative people because one fool makes many

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Don't judge a book by its cover

This week I paid a visit to Ms D, an elderly lady who has cerebral palsy.  With the exception of the occasional visit to church she is basically confined to her home.   I endeavour to visit her as often as possible to help with chores and complete the odd task.  As her eyesight is failing she often asks me to read her mail and prepare documentation.  I am not related or obligated to Ms D but it is a joy to be able to carry out this labour of love for someone who needs it. Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth (Muhammad Ali).
During a recent visit Ms D told me about a love affair she had when she was in her 50s.  The gentleman concerned was married and a member of the church.  She spoke with passion about the relationship which lasted several years until his death some 20 years ago. While I enjoyed our chat I was secretly bemused by the fact that Ms D, as disabled and pious as she was, had participated in such a liaison.  I found it difficult to conceive that this lady who has always struggled to walk, lift her arm, comb her hair; with almost incomprehensible speech and other disabilities could attract the attention of an able-bodied man to the point where he had considered divorcing his wife and marrying her. 
I’ve been thinking about our encounter and on reflecting on my behaviour, I realised that I was displaying the same attitudes I endeavour to challenge in society – unfairness and disrespect towards vulnerable and disabled people.  In effect I saw Ms D as someone unable to love and be loved by a man, simply because of her extreme physical disability, totally disregarding the fact that her cognitive capacity is unaffected.  What I failed to realise is that l’habit ne fait pas le moine – French proverb meaning the vestment does not make the monk (don’t judge a book by its cover). Had she been an able-bodied person I would not have found it funny even taking into account the fact that she is a devout Christian.  I think my attitude displayed narrow-mindedness and prejudice.  I disregarded the reality that at the end of the day we all crave the same things - the fact that someone looks different does not mean that they have different needs.  There is an African proverb – hunger is felt by a slave and hunger is felt by a king.  After fulfilling our basic needs everyone wants to be loved and we all have the capacity to love.  Although I did not utter a word or in any way reveal my surprise, my covert reaction to the fact that Ms D had engaged in this relationship was judgemental, mistaken and dishonourable.   Why wouldn’t she be a candidate for an affair?  She’s a woman first and foremost! 
In life we run the risk of wrongly judging our fellow men.  We all have shortcomings, behaviours of which we are not proud lurking in our closets. We see people through spectacles coloured by our own biases birthed from our upbringing, socialisation, and acquired behaviours.  We are influenced by societal norms, expectations and pressures and these, coupled with our personal choices and preferences, make us take actions not because we want to, but because we are afraid of the consequences of our inaction.  We try to fit in, often at the expense of others; becoming involved in bullying and general warped behaviour which in time become our norm.  
I remember watching a documentary on TV which explored people’s attitudes to black men wearing hoods.  It emerged that a black man wearing a hood on a quiet street was perceived as more dangerous than a white man wearing the same garment.  In fact the level of danger, if there is any, is exactly the same.  No one is saying that we should be naive but we should be careful not to stereotype people.  We are well aware of how it feels when the shoe is on the other foot - when we are subjected to jeering, rejection, oppression, sarcasm.  When I was completing my MBA I elected to undertake temporary employment and was assigned to a well-reputed higher education institution in London with responsibility for developing and implementing the staff development programme.  One day I was working late and as I turned a corner to enter my office I was met with the words “Have you brought our coffee?”  Bear in mind that I was dressed in corporate attire and had documents in hand.  A secretary had been expecting refreshments to service a meeting in the office located next to mine.  I did not respond but continued to my office and opened the door with my key.  She was very apologetic when she realised what she had done.  On this occasion she had requested coffee but it could easily have been: “Have you brought the mop?” I had no intention of applying for a permanent job at that institution and after that incident I couldn’t wait to complete my degree and leave.  This happened some 20 years ago but I have not forgotten it - there is a Jamaican saying “it’s not the person who poops in the pathway who remembers it, rather it’s the person who steps into it”. The secretary might not have intended to offend; she was simply unaccustomed to seeing black people fulfilling such roles at the Institute.  Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.  (Hanlon’s razor). This was her norm and she was a victim of her own bigotry.
Last week I went to the local market where I saw some sweet potato that were comparatively expensive but looked much better than the others.  I bought some to make a pudding.  When I started to peel them I was shocked to find that the inside layer of every potato was 70% decayed.  It was disappointing;  I couldn’t imagine that those beautiful potatoes were so unfit for purpose.  Needless to say, I had to abandon my desire for sweet potato pudding and make a coconut cake instead.  Some of us are like those potatoes, beautiful on the outside but ugly on the inside - buy meat you get bone, buy land you get stone (Jamaican proverb); there’s really no perfection in life.
As business people, we have to be careful of judging people based on our personal values and expectations.  We should not deny people opportunities because on the exterior they do not portray the image we perceive as ideal. We have to be careful of giving preferential treatment to those who resemble us most.  Consider, are you fair in your treatment of people or are you swayed by their physical attributes? 
We have to develop behaviours that empower and cultivate attitudes that enable us to take the high road and avoid the temptation to be biased.  Failing that we risk extending that bias into areas such as race, sexual orientation, religion, disability, etc.  If we are to excel in contemporary business our organisations need people from a broad cross-section of society, not just from our inner circles of like-minded people.  Organisations that promote closed-minded cultures will not withstand the test of time in cosmopolitan, multiethnic cities.  There is no surprise that the Institute I referred to above was struggling with recruiting people from non-white communities; they held several meetings to generate ideas for diversifying the profile of their student body.  We are all richer when we embrace and learn from one another because apart from the few individuals who wish to destroy humanity, at the end of the day we all want the same things.  Man sleeps in a fowl’s nest but fowl nest is not his bed (Jamaican proverb which reminds us that people find solutions to their problems but that does not mean that they do not have higher aspirations.
 I am developing the Pocket Learner educational system which supports individuals who struggle with learning.  Sometimes we look at people and we judge them based on what we think we see, not recognising that each person has aspirations and needs similar to ours.  As clued up as I am, I still found myself judging Ms D based on her disabilities. I am not sure if this can be attributed to normal human behaviour but it is ugly, very ugly.  We should not judge people by their peak of excellence; but by the distance they have travelled from the point where they started. (Henry Ward Beecher).
Judging says more about us than about those being judged.  Never judge a book by its cover!