We use language in interesting ways. We use it to gloss over problems, overstate impacts, diminish responsibility. We use language to promote and sell, to obstruct and impede.
Language is everywhere, used and abused, contained and unrestrained and it colours our whole world in shades of grey, black, purple and orange. Our language, our history, our future, they are intertwined all across the world. For instance, I’ve heard stories of indigenous tribes that have no word for ‘surrender’. Surely living in a context where surrender is literally not an option impacts the way that you see the world. If you live somewhere without a word for ‘thank you’ is it because you are an ingrate? Or that you live in an environment where it is a foregone conclusion that what is for one, is for everyone. A society of unparalleled sharing and appreciation of one another.
I can’t help but notice every day, the language that we use informs the way we treat each other, and I thought, what if we could change the language. Even the internal language among ourselves.
What if we changed the way we speak about people in need, from being language around their problems to being language around our responsibilities.
People are no longer ‘homeless’, as in, being without a home.
They are In Harm’s Way.
We are no longer talking about victims of domestic violence.
We are talking about people who are In Harm’s Way.
When we are talking about people who are uneducated, unemployable and of poor mental health. We are talking about people that have been left In Harm’s Way.
Leaving people in harm’s way. Shifting the language from what disadvantaged haven’t got, or haven’t done, to what we haven’t done, or what we do by leaving them unassisted might start to humanise the problems, to change the understanding and empathy of others.
We are not simply ignoring ‘illegal immigrants’, we are leaving them In Harm’s Way.
Think to your family, think of yourself. Think of people you know and people you don’t. Do you see any reason to leave people in harm’s way? It’s not about handouts, queue jumping, dole bludging, it’s about recognising a basic need for us to recognise harm and remove people from its influence
Over the coming weeks, every time you see an article or hear someone refer to a ‘refugee’, ‘asylum seeker’, ‘homeless person’, ‘drug addict’ consider not only their problems, or the cause of their problems, but their situation as it is right now.
Regardless of fault, before we consider whether or not we are bestowing outrageous and gratuitous privilege on people, before we get upset on the impact of the most disadvantaged people on the rest of the world, we need to first ask ourselves;
Are we leaving them in harm’s way?
Changing attitudes is a long path, battling against a long history of language that speaks down to people in need, but by changing the language of responsibility and taking some of it on board for ourselves, surely we can start the slow journey to a real equality of opportunity.
Take the time to change your inner monologue, take the time to change the words you use to the people you know, and as always, just be nice.
Age is an interesting thing. When we are young, many of us dream of the day that we get to be grown ups! The age old rite of the coming of age, getting new privileges, being able to drive, drink, live independently and all the other cool things that happen when you become an adult. The enthusiasm for ageing is short lived for some people, with old age acting as some strange spectre of decay in the lives of many, perhaps a strange phenomenon seeing as every second that passes we are each getting older.
Anne Karpf writes on the topic, looking into the whys and what’s of the cultural significance of aging. I must admit, it is not something to which I give lots of thought personally, I am not prone to worrying about getting older, but having turned 30 last year, I know plenty of people that do have worries about the effects of ageing.
How To Age is quite interesting, but I feel like it is a great conversation starter rather than being a brilliant read cover to cover. It makes sense that this would be the case, as it is part of the School of Life series of books. Designed to encourage discussion of the big issues of life and living, the School of Life was started by philosopher Alain De Botton to provide a forum for this kind of investigation.
Short chapters, multiple view points and some historical context help Karpf make some interesting points. She brings up the fact that age is a strange kind of discrimination that we have against others, but also against ourselves (or rather our older selves). Looking upon our own ageing process with disdain only increases the anxiety that we might feel about getting older.
Looking at ageing as merely a process of decay, rather than celebrating the gains in wisdom, serenity and satisfaction causes a very negative view of age and older people. So rather than simply looking at age as something which needs to be hidden, delayed and defeated, we need to look at it for what it really is, a process that we begin the day we are born.
How To Age offers a few insights into the things that can help with the process. Making an effort to have communities where people of all ages mix helps make the prospect of aging less terrifying, as young people spend time with older people, while simultaneously keeping the older ones feeling younger and more connected as they get to spend time with people who help them ‘feel younger’.
The kind of ‘age apartheid’ that we have in many western society, certainly contributes to the negative connotations associated with ageing. Separating older people off into separate villages, aged care facilities and nursing homes means that it is possible in the future that some people will never meet an older person until they themselves are of age. I had never considered the apartheid nature of the way that we segregate older people into separate communities. It occurs to me after reading this book that we run the risk of losing a lot of valuable information, connection and love as we isolate people solely based on their age.
In a time where being physically less strong is probably as unimportant as it’s ever been thanks to the evolution of technology, the physical decay of the ageing process should matter less and less. We should look to the ageing population for all the wonderful things that they can contribute, so that we may each look forward to ageing ourselves as well.
Interesting points and a quick read make this one a reasonable beach read, it never hurts to take the time to understand the pressures and concerns of any strata of society, especially one that you are going to be a part of. The School Of Life series is a great bunch of books if you enjoy thinking about the things you are reading. I’m sure I’ll read a few more this year. If you see it around grab it and check it out, if you are anxious about ageing or experiencing some ageism touch base, I’d be happy to chat about it with anyone who is interested!
Keep reading, look after your elders and as always Just Be Nice.
- Josh Reid Jones
Today was a sad day in my opinion. It was the day Barack Obama made his final speech as the President of the United States. Without commenting too much on what the future holds or what it might look like under the incoming administration, I can’t help but feel that the world is going to be down one wonderful leader as of today.
Barack to me has always embodied so many things that I respect in a leader and a man. Intelligent, well presented, well rounded, active, funny, self-depreciating but confident, a family man, kind and understanding, a great mixture of real world experience and brains. The divides that run through the United States run deep, but there is no doubt in my mind that Barack is one of the rare, special kinds of leaders. It is a shame that in the field of ‘world leading’ (as in leading the world), we don’t have dozens of heads of state to look up to, but apparently it is difficult to be the person you want to be the whole way to the top without pandering to party lines, popularity contests and special interests.
Facing a hostile congress for 8 years, watching Barack stay strong on his message and do everything in his power to improve the equality of opportunity for Americans was inspiring, and I certainly hope that one day I will have the opportunity to tell him so to his face.
I can’t speak to how hard that must have been, being the most powerful man in the world but being hamstrung at every turn by people who seem to defy science and logic. Trying to improve the lives of others but being slammed by people with overt special external interests, and conflicting ideologies of what it means to help people. I have often wondered aloud what it must have been like, getting into bed at night with Michelle, and talking about what crazy counter-argument was brought into congress during the day to knock down a bill.
Which brings me to one of the real standouts about the life of Barack Obama.
The way he looks at Michelle.
Michelle Obama, in her own right, is an amazing woman. Smart, composed, stately, friendly with an air of accessibility and no airs of superiority about her at all. Clearly a beautiful woman Barack has joked that she appears to have not aged a day in the last two terms, while his hair has changed from the full black hair of a young president to the salt and pepper bristle of the older statesman.
For 8 years, the world has watched the most powerful man in the world, and his unwavering loving gaze toward his wife.
I’m not insane, I am sure that they have disagreements and all the fun things that go along with relationships of any kind. I do, however, know one thing. That if you are looking at someone the way Barack looks at Michelle, and Michelle looks at Barack, you need to understand that you are in the middle of something very special.
I can’t think of too many more stressful situations than all the lifestyle demands that are put on the President and First Lady, and yet to handle themselves so well together is inspiring.
Now in this case, I am not even going to pretend to know how this happens! I don’t know what the steps to this kind of relationship are, I don’t know what goes into keeping a love like that so visible… I mean, it is possible that they were hamming it up for the cameras, but really, I don’t believe that to be the case.
To see a couple who are so gracious, generous in their support for one another and so adoring of each other is a wonderful thing to see anywhere. Let alone the President of the United States and the First Lady.
Barack has shown that it is possible to remain human and full of heart while juggling the most stressful and demanding job on the planet, which surely can give hope to all of us who are ‘too busy’ to find someone like that in their own lives. Rather than take anything away, the two of them are greater than the sum of their parts, and I think that is something that remains inspiring long after the dust settles on his tenure.
As much as Barack has inspired me as man, Michelle has inspired so many women to see that with the right person, supporting your partners goals is not a passive activity that requires you to give up your own potential. By allowing each other to become the best versions of themselves, the Obamas have been the ultimate celebrity couple, for all the reasons that we usually ignore.
So cheers to Barack, cheers to Michelle, and cheers to one of the good guys getting ahead. Here’s to the good examples, the ones who stick to their guns, the men big enough to accept the love and give it back, the women amazing enough to keep kicking ass and getting amongst it even when their husbands are the President. Here is to the strong women, the family men, the good mothers, fathers, husbands and wives. Because if the Obamas can do it, surely there is some hope for the rest of us!
Really this blog was just to say that if I am ever fortunate enough to be looking at someone like that, someone let me know that I’m on a winner. I don’t know how that comes to pass, but I feel like we spend too much time pouring over divorces and celebrity disasters and not enough time celebrating those who do it for each other. Because it’s just bloody nice.
-Josh Reid Jones
Fundamental Techniques in Handling People
Six Ways To Make People Like You.
How To Win People To Your Way Of Thinking
Be A Leader: How To Change People Without Giving Offence Or Arousing Resentment.
Each section is concluded with a great conclusion of the key points called “In A Nutshell”. These are just dot points of each of the detailed and practical series of advice.
I gave this book to a friend to read also, who had concerns that perhaps the book encourages people to be disingenuous. So I think that it is important to note that simply following instructions about going through the motions of caring is not something that works in the long term. Pretending to care is one of the great blockers to long term success, so either don’t care and take that path, or work on developing real empathy and understanding of others.
For me the book isn’t simply a collection of steps that you can pantomime on your way to success, influence and getting people to like you, but more of an insight into human nature so that you can best give people what they want, in the way that means the most to them.
I may be guilty of the occasional ‘rant’ from time to time, and I can get carried away with passion when I talk about things that are important to me. Likewise, I have always had a hard time with patience when it comes to explaining things to people more than two times at work, so it’s a good reminder to be patient and see things from the perspective of the other party.
I don’t want to give the book away, and it is the kind of resource that is good to go back to and re-read from time to time, mine looks pretty worn by now. I will give my favourite “In a nutshell” tips from each chapter;
FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES IN HANDLING PEOPLE.
My favourite tip: Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.
Ok, so I said its my favourite tip, and not something I do all the time! We are all prone to criticizing, condemning and complaining, but I certainly enjoy the reminder to reduce the amount of time we spend doing any of these.
SIX WAYS TO MAKE PEOPLE LIKE YOU.
My Favourite tip: Become genuinely interested in other people.
Oh how I believe this one so! Not just interested for personal gain, but genuine interest in other people. Period. Imagine a world where everyone was genuinely interested in other people, people who don’t all look like you, live where you live, do what you do etc. The world would become a much better place, when misunderstanding, or a lack of understanding underpins so much fear and anger in the world, I believe that the more people that make this change the better the world would be.
HOW TO WIN PEOPLE TO YOUR WAY OF THINKING.
There are 12 tips in this one, so picking one was hard. Especially since this one is packed with stuff I have to use ALL THE TIME! So;
My Favourite Tip: Try Honestly to see things from the others point of view.
I have always said that it is important to try to speak the language of the person who’s mind you are hoping to change, to do this you really need to see things from their point of view to start with!
BE A LEADER: HOW TO CHANGE PEOPLE WITHOUT GIVING OFFENCE OR AROUSING RESENTMENT.
My Favourite Tip: Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
If you show belief in people and set the ‘belief bar’ high often they will do better than if you set those same expectations lower. There is a saying that its more dangerous to set small goals and achieve them, than to set big ones and not quite get there. I don’t know if that’s 100% true, but I know from having been an apprentice, and having had apprentices, that when you instil a belief in them to do a task, they certainly ask less questions and usually do a better job afterwards.
All in all, for one of the enduring ‘self help’ type books, this one is a classic, and really shows that no matter how innovative or revolutionary someone claims to be, the basic principles of adding value and paying attention to people around you in order to be successful in business, leadership and other ventures hasn’t really changed in nearly 100 years (even longer as we read through ancient texts).
This book retails for not much in most good book shops, and I’m sure there is an audiobook of it somewhere. I think this is one that benefits particularly from hard copy, especially seeing as it is recommended that you make notes and highlight passages that matter to you as you go.
As a side note, my friend who borrowed this prior to some difficult work conversations did an awesome job after reading this and resolved multiple issues without any conflict with her employees, so in practice it is as good as in theory!
Enjoy your reading, enjoy the first fortnight of 2017, pay attention to those around you, and as always, Just Be Nice.
A very dear friend of mine is a widow. Despite our best efforts, so far we have not found a better word for this antiquated description of a woman whose husband has passed away (we are looking though). To me, and to others the title comes with a kind of preconceived notion of an older woman, and yet my friend is only young, as was her husband when he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly, leaving a widow and two children behind.
Having been through this experience, many others in similar tragic circumstances have reached out or been connected to her for advice, and advice for people helping others going through the death of a loved one.
The best advice that I have heard, from my friend, and from others?
Don’t ask. Just help.
Nothing to do with the scale of the help, just take into account what your friend/family member/person in need requires, and just fill the gap. Take over a few meals, so they don’t have to prepare them when they are grieving. Go over and just wash some clothes, take the kids for a few hours, and give them some space.
It is important, in conversations about mental health, to encourage people to open up. To talk about their feelings, to ask for help. It’s so important to create environments where people feel that they can open up, but sometimes feelings of being overwhelmed, sad or out of sorts is so foreign that it becomes very difficult to articulate these feelings.
I myself have been one of these people.
Several years ago, I was going through a tough time. But like many others, when anyone asked me how I was going, “I’m going ok” was my answer. “I just need to….”, “Soon everything will be alright”, “I’m just sorting it all out, but in a little while it will all be ok”.
At that time, after a long period of success, I met some very serious challenges. Financially, personally, emotionally I was going through a rough patch. Even physically! My stomach was permanently upset from the stress. I’m an entrepreneur, and have been my whole adult life. I believed that there was no time to waste on fixing the problems that I was facing, and so there was no point talking like times were tough. I was still here, I still had a roof over my head…. So I was ok. I had also spent my whole life hellbent on independence, building a life where I was free from financial, and the bulk of emotional stress…until that point.
One day during this period I got an email from my sister who was living in the UK at the time. We didn’t speak all the time, so it was a little unusual to hear from her, and I hadn’t spoken to her for some time. The email wasn’t particularly long and the gist was, word on the street is you’re having a rough patch, I hope this helps.
It was 10pm at night, and I was still in the office. The email had a $100 woolies gift card attached.
I burst into tears.
It wasn’t because it was from my sister, it wasn’t anything to do with the value of the voucher, It wasn’t even because it was a really nice act. It was because, for the second time in my life at that point, I needed it.
I just needed it.
When people need help, sometimes they don’t know what they need. When someone passes away suddenly, unprepared families seldom know what they need, it’s all foreign. When stubborn, driven people need help, they often can’t recognise it in themselves, let alone ask for help. Sometimes people see those who complain about small, insignificant problems, and they think that their problems are barely more significant, why complain, when you have a roof over your head, a job, some people who care…. Being down without realising it can be a lonely place to be, because if you don’t think your feelings or problems are worth mentioning, how do you bring it up?
In these cases, and in many others, it is better to just do something to help, without asking.
Observe, pay attention, and if someone is doing it tough, jump in and just help. Don’t wait to be asked.
“How are you doing?”
Because most likely the response will be: “I’m Ok”
Sometimes it’s true, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes ask a few more questions, sometimes just observe a little bit more. These times can be when it matters the most that someone cares. Not every cry for help comes before the help. My crying happened afterwards, before, I didn’t even know I needed it. As a result, finding my vulnerability, hitting that point as an adult, feeling those feelings and learning to cry again, helped me to go on to bigger and better things, and I cannot thank my sister enough for that. The tears of kindness might have been the most powerful tears I have cried, and this was after me going through a decade of deciding that crying wasn’t for me, and that I didn’t have time for it.
“A friend in need, is a friend indeed”
Be the friend. You don’t need to solve the problems, you don’t need to define the problems, you don’t need to do any more than you can do. But do something, help. Help simply, help with love, and be there in action, not just in thought, spirit or sympathy to those closest to you. You might just be the answer in the end.
Pay attention, look after each other, and as always, Just Be Nice.
In 2017 I have set myself a task of reading a certain number of books, and by reading, I mean finishing a number of books.
I have also tasked myself with improving my writing, writing more, and writing more regularly… So what better way to tick a few boxes than to combine reading and writing and jot down some thoughts once I finish the books I’ve read!?
Today I finished a different kind of book. Do Humankind’s Best Days Lie Ahead is predominantly a transcript of a debate, conducted by the Munk Debates in Canada. It is a debate arguing the pro and con side of the question, “Do humankind’s best days lie ahead?.
On the pro side (Yes, humankind’s best days lie ahead) are scientist Steven Pinkler, and author and member of the House of Lords Matt Ridley.
On the con side (humankind’s best days do not lie ahead) philosopher/author Alain De Botton, and author Malcolm Gladwell.
It is set out with an introduction and pre/post debate interviews with each of the debators. It is mediated by Munk debate facilitator Rudyard Griffiths, who also conducts these interviews.
As I write this it occurs to me that it is the exact opposite of a podcast or audiobook (which I first wrote as ‘book on tape’ initially #GettingOlder). It is really the long form. A text version of a spoken and filmed event. As a result, it was a quick read of just over 100 pages, and yes, you can find it here.
So… Are we doomed? Or is there hope for us yet!? WHAT DID THEY TALK ABOUT!?
I felt as though the two sides of the debate were not really speaking the same language which made it difficult for them to argue this topic.
Predictably the ‘pro’ side focused on a variety of metrics that have improved over time, reduced epidemics, reduced famine, less civil war, lower infant mortality rates globally etc. Arguing that even if people aren’t all super happy, it’s better to be
The ‘con’ side focus on two things predominantly. That the interconnectedness of the world, and improved technology also increases risk of catastrophe (i.e. the internet connects everyone but exposes people to mass identity theft, or cyber warefare and nuclear power brings a threat of nuclear war). The second argument is that no combination of these metrics actually guarantee happiness or contented humans. Alain makes the point that as a Swiss national, with Switzerland being one of the gold standard countries by nearly every measure there are still people who are unhappy, that the best days of the humankind of Switzerland are not reliant on ticking a bunch of metrics.
Personally, I feel as though the pro team probably glossed over what may or may not define humankinds best days, I don’t believe that we can just say that because of technical advancements that we are going to all be definitively better off. It is important to reduce things like disease and famine, but it is equally important to improve opportunities for people to advance beyond being just not-sick and not-starving. Just because people cross an arbitrary line from ‘extreme poverty’ to ‘poverty’, does not necessarily mean an exponential increase in the chances for their best years ahead. Metrics are necessary but not the be all and end all of the best years for humans.
I don’t want to go through the whole book/debate, go and read it or watch it, it’s an interesting and very relevant topic especially in this day and age.
It raised some interesting points for me, if anything further validating my belief that it is opportunity that creates the best, most productive environment for humankind’s best days, and happiness. I will address that topic further, seeing as I will be writing and filming much more this year too.
Happy New Year. Happy Reading, and as always, Just Be Nice.
Josh Reid Jones - Founder of The Just Be Nice Project and Odin Sports