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Monday, January 16, 2017

Harley King — Seeds of Hope




We live in difficult and challenging times.  Some have begun to despair that the world is coming to a violent end. I remember another moment in the late 1960's when I felt the world would end. What I have learned over the years is that the world continues.  There are always moments of hope to be found. We must choose to plant seeds of hope.

I believe that everything we do is a choice we make. We have little control over what happens to us. We have little control over the hostile world in which we live. The only thing we control is our response to what is happening. So my choice is to plant seeds of hope with my words and deeds. I choose to celebrate the spirit of love.

We also need to understand that even though we plant seeds of hope, we will not eliminate the hatred and hostility in the world.  So do not give into the false hope of changing the world overnight.  

If we choose to plant to seeds of hope, we will touch the lives of a few people. Every farmer knows, there are different types of soil and not all of it is fertile. I know that sometimes the seeds that I plant fall on stoney ground and the seeds fail to take root. I have learned that I can’t give hope to people if they are not ready to receive it. Sometimes it may take years for that seed to grow. And sometimes the seed is eaten by birds and squirrels. Have faith that some of the seeds you plant will grow and bloom.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Harley King — Gift of Memory




Without memory, we lose all sense of self. We lose the threads and tangles that tell our stories. We lose our history from where we came. We lose our connection to the past. Memory gives our lives meaning and explains who we are and from where we came.

Yet, memory is fragmented, distorted and unconnected. Distorted memories can create false selves and cause us unhappiness. We must reshape our memories into a cohesive story that allows us to enjoy the person whom we have become. We must dig through the ashes of forgetfulness and find the keys to who we are.

Cradle your memories in your arms.  Give them the love and attention that they need.  Memory restores us to the world in which we live.  Choose to cherish your memories.

And as creative leaders, you are fortunate to have the skills and talents necessary to craft memory into a powerful story that touches the hearts and souls of others. Through the retelling of memory life is restored.



Monday, January 2, 2017

Harley King — Best Books 2016



In 2016, I read 72 books, an increase of 17 (31%) over the 55 I read in 2015 and a 50% increase over the number of books I read in 2014.  My overall reading average was 6 books a month. From January through June, I averaged 7 books a month.  From July through December, I averaged 5 books a month.

Seventy percent of the books were fiction, 24% were non-fiction and 6% were poetry. Of the novels, 42% were fantasy, 18% were science fiction and 10% were mysteries.  Of the non-fiction books, 65% were biographies and memoirs.  Sixty-three percent of the books I read were e-books and 15% were audio books.

Here are the 16 best books that I read in 2016:

Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-196916. Going Home to Glory: A Memoir of Life with Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1961-1969 by David Eisenhower & Julie Nixon Eisenhower


An excellent memoir by the grandson of General Dwight D. Eisenhower and his wife about the last years of President Eisenhower's life and his relationship with his grandson. I found it interesting that Lyndon Johnson relied for Eisenhower for support and council and that he spent considerable time visiting Eisenhower in the hospital in 1968 and 1969. The books is based on David's memories and the interviews with many people who knew his grandfather. This is the first book that I have read about the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower and I found it a valuable introduction.

15. Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton
Living History
My wife and I listened to this book on our 2,000 mile trip to the east coast. My guess is that Hillary Clinton is a introvert and Bill is an extrovert. Bill is energized by people and Hillary is drained. For me, this is also an explanation as to why so many people hate her. She has learned to overcome some of her shyness, but people don't seem to warm up to her easily. After listening to this book, I find Hillary to be a warm, caring individual committed to helping others. 

Hillary tells the story of her mother and father and how her mother was raised by her grandmother. Her father was raised in Scranton, PA but escaped to Chicago as fast as he could. Hillary came of age when women had more opportunities to go to college. She tells the stories of her college years, meeting Bill and her time in Little Rock, AK. Much of the book is her experiences in the White House and her campaign to be the New York senator.

If more people had read this book, we may have had a different outcome in the presidential election. Unfortunately, too many lies have been told about Hillary. For some people, it is easier to believe the lie than search for the truth.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage14.  Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Jeffrey Frank

This is a fascinating book about two men who worked together for eight years and maintained a relationship for another decade. Ike tried in 1952 and 1956 to dump Nixon from the Republican ticket but ultimately failed. Ike often assigned Dick to do his dirty work and when Ike was ill Nixon along with the cabinet held the fort down. 
Like any marriage, the pair had their good times and bad times. Each felt injured or hurt by the other. Nixon used Eisenhower as his sounding board during his political campaigns and often sought his opinion. The two families were forever entwined with the marriage of Nixon's daughter, Julia, to Eisenhower's grandson, David. 

I am surprised that other authors have not explored the relationship between Presidents and their VPs. I recommend the book to those who love history and biographies.

Pat and Dick13.  Pat and Dick by Will Swift

This book tells the fascinating love story of Richard and Pat Nixon and how their relationship survived the tumultuous world of politics. Without the emotional support, guidance and love of Pat, Nixon would never have become President. She was the force that kept pushing him. When people tried to force him to resign as the Republican Vice-Presidential candidate in 1952, Pat was the one who kept him going. She said:

"You can't think of resigning. If you do, Eisenhower will lose. You will carry the scar
 for the rest of your life. If you do not fight back but simply crawl away, you will destroy yourself."

Whenever Nixon was depressed and wanting to quit because of the pressure of the outside world, Pat was always there supporting him.

Winning Pat's heart was not easy. She initially had little interest in Richard but he persisted and eventually won her heart.

I highly recommend this book because it tells the love story and the heartbreak of an American Presidential couple.


Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family12.  Extraordinary, Ordinary People: A Memoir of Family by Condoleezza Rice

This book is Condoleezza Rice's love poem to her mother and father. She tells the story of a very supportive mother and father who sacrificed to give her opportunities she had. Condi grew up in a family of teachers and preachers in Birmingham, AL, during segregated 50's and 60's. One of her friends was killed in the 1963 church bombing. Both of her parents were college educated and strong believers in education.

Her father, John Wesley Rice, was a Republican because the Democrats in Alabama refused to register him to vote, but a Republican did.

This memoir, written after her experience as Secretary of State under George W. Bush, tells her childhood story through her college years, her acceptance as a professor at Stanford, her mother's death, and her years as Provost at Stanford University. The book closes with the death of her father and Condi moving to Washington D.C. in 2001 as the National Security Advisor to George W. Bush.

I highly recommend the book because of the powerful love story between parents and a child that it tells. The warmth and humanity of the book touched my heart.


Dark Currents (The Emperor's Edge, #2)11.  Dark Currents (The Emperor's Edge #2) by Lindsay Buroker

Dark Currents is a fast-paced, action-filled steampunk fantasy populated with characters whose company I enjoy. This second book in the series kept me on my toes waiting and watching for what was to happen next. I would recommend the series to anyone who enjoys fantasy and action with a dose of mystery thrown in for good measure. I read the second and third books in the series in 2016.



10. Escaping Peril (Wings of Fire #8) by Tui T. Sutherland
Escaping Peril (Wings of Fire, #8)
Escaping Peril is the eight book in the series. My daughter and I have read all nine books in the series together and have enjoyed discussing them. She waited for several months for the new book about Peril to arrive. Peril was a character in the first book in the series and my daughter has been fascinated by her ever since. She could hardly wait until book 8 came out. And we were not disappointed. Like the other books, this one took several unexpected twists and turns. If you enjoyed the other books in the series, you will enjoy this one. I would not recommend reading this one until you have read at least the first five. While the book can stand alone, there are so many nuances that will be missed if you have not read the others in the series.

Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life9.  Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life by Tom Robbins

I read three of Tom Robbins novels back in the 1970's and 80's so I found this memoir humorous and engaging. Robbins is a master of the metaphor and the language. I laughed my way through this book and am glad that Robbins wrote it. I listened to it and believe the humor was even stronger because I heard the words spoken. I recommend it to those who love to laugh and who love the work of Tom Robbins.



8.  Being Nixon: The Fears and Hopes of an American President by Evan Thomas

Being Nixon: The Fears and Hopes of an American PresidentWhen Richard Nixon lost the 1960 Presidential election to John F. Kennedy, I was eleven years old and barely aware of politics. When Nixon won the 1968 election, I was in Jamaica as a college student and read very little news about the election campaign. Nine months earlier I had been knee deep in politics campaigning for Eugene McCarthy in Wisconsin. I even went Clean for Gene by shaving my beard. 1968 was a troubled year. Martin Luther King was shot in Memphis, TN and Bobby Kennedy was shot in LA. Mayor Richard Daley had his thugs beat up the hippies at the Democratic convention in Chicago. When Nixon resigned from office in August of 1974, I was married and studying for my Master's degree in theatre.

What I did not know until I read this book was that Nixon's actions helped to destroy the economy of the Midwest in the 1970's and 1980's. Nixon was a consummate politician who knew very little of economics. He proceeded to sever the dollar's connection to the gold standard, knowing it would bring about inflation. He also irritated the Arabs with his support of Israel during the 1973 war. This led to retaliation by OPEC and the oil embargo which helped to increase inflation as well.

Evan Thomas, in this excellent biography, is focused on emotional and psychological nature of Nixon. I learned that Nixon was very shy and uncomfortable around people. He avoided confrontation and held grudges against those who had done him wrong. He had an inferiority complex and had a love-hate relationship with those he perceived to be a part of the East Coast establishment, especially the Kennedy clan. Nixon was not very self-aware. He did not like to focus on the past. He preferred to look to the future.

Nixon was very loving and kind with his immediate family — his wife and daughters. He seemed to compartmentalize his life, behaving one way with his family and another in the world of politics. He was driven to succeed at all costs. Like many of us, Nixon had multiple facets to his personality. One minute he could be kind and supportive and the next yelling and cursing. His closest aides learned not to take him seriously when he went on a rampage. They often ignored his commands. Yet, he was very supportive of the underdog. When the Democratic Vice-President candidate, Thomas Eagleton, was forced out the presidential race in 1972 because of his treatment for depression, Nixon wrote a very kind letter to Eagleton's son.

I decided to read this book when I read where Bill Gates recommended it because it was one of the more balanced biographies of Nixon. And while I have not read any other biographies of Nixon, I would highly recommend this one to anyone interested in Nixon and the time period of the 1950's through 1970's. Evan Thomas tells us both the negative and the positive about the life of Nixon.


Eisenhower in War and Peace7.  Eisenhower in War and Peace by Jean Edward Smith

Dwight D. Eisenhower was elected President when I was 3 years old and left office when I was 11. I have read little about Eisenhower until this year. This is the 3rd book that I have read about him this year and is the first full biography.

Eisenhower was born on October 14, 1890 in Denison, Texas, the 3rd of 7 sons born to David and Ida Eisenhower. His father had moved the family from Kansas in 1888 to find work. The Eisenhowers only lived in Texas for 4 years before they moved back to Kansas. Dwight's ancestors originally arrived from Germany in 1741. David's father was a preacher with the River Brethren, an offshoot of the Mennonites. Like the Mennonites, the River Brethren did not believe in fighting in wars.

Religion was a major part of the fabric of Eisenhower family. David would begin the day by reading the Bible to the family. They said prayers before meals and the boys read the scriptures at night. Dwight had read the entire Bible twice before entering West Point.

Dwight's father was a very strict and stern man who did not play with his sons nor take them fishing or hunting. Ike's brother, Edgar, said about their father: "He was an inflexible man with a stern code. Life to him was a very serious proposition and that's the way he lived it, soberly and with due reflection."

Dwight's mother, Ida, had the greatest influence on the boys. She was present in their lives and usually found the humor in most situations. In spite of his pacifist upbringing, Dwight sought and received an appointment to West Point where he was admitted in June of 1911. Eisenhower graduated 61st in a class of 164 and was assigned to San Antonio where he met his future wife, Mary Geneva Doud. They were married on July 1, 1916.

Eisenhower did not have the opportunity to see any action on the battle field during World War I. Between the two wars he held administrative posts in various places. In December of 1926 Dwight was assigned to the American Battle Monuments Commission under John J. Pershing. In December, 1927 he moved to Paris to continue the work under the Monuments Commission where he explored first hand the terrain of France. This experience helped prepare him for the invasion of Europe.

In October 1935, Eisenhower sailed to the Philippines to serve under Douglas MacArthur. MacArthur delegated the day to day operations to Eisenhower and James Ord. MacArthur only came into the office about an hour a day.

In June of 1942, Eisenhower was given the command of the invasion of Europe. His first task was to establish a command structure. Eisenhower initially made some serious mistakes as the army tried to retake northern Africa before entering France. He had never commanded troops in combat and did not do well as a field commander. He was better at overall organization and in public relations. He was skilled in managing the top brass. Eisenhower was name Supreme Commander where he could devote his time to the political and inter-allied problems. Others were given direct field command of the soldiers. Dwight was promoted to a four star general. The invasion of Europe began in June, 1944. Eisenhower made the final decision when to start the attack. Victory in Europe made Eisenhower an international hero.

In 1952, Ike Eisenhower won the Republican nomination for President against Adlai Stevenson, the Democratic nominee. The 1952 campaign has been called one of nastiest on record at the time. There were bogus claims about a Communist conspiracy in the Truman administration and the GOP launched a negative campaign questioning the sexual orientation of Governor Stevenson. More than 61 million Americans voted and Ike won 55% of the popular vote. He won 442 electoral votes to Stevenson's 89.

Eisenhower served as President during eight years of peace and prosperity. When he left office in 1961, his popularity ratings were as high as when he was inaugurated.

This is an excellent biography by Jean Edward Smith. The book gains momentum with the discussion of Eisenhower's activities during World War II and his accomplishments and failures during his Presidency. I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in learning more about the life of Dwight D. Eisenhower.


Dragon Seed: The Story of China at War6.  Dragon Seed: The Story of China at War by Pearl S. Buck

This is a brilliant anti-war novel seen through the eyes of a Chinese family of farmers. Buck writes of the invasion of China in 1937 by the Japanese. This is a novel that everyone should read.







Slaughterhouse-Five: The Childrens Crusade, a Duty Dance with Death5.  Slaughterhouse-Five: The Childrens Crusade, a Duty Dance with Death by Kurt Vonnegut

I have been a fan of the work of Kurt Vonnegut for over 40 years. My favorite book of his is Cat's Cradle. I also heard Vonnegut speak in the 1980s while I was living in the Indianapolis area. I read Slaughterhouse-Five while in college shortly after it came out. I don't remember that the book impressed me that much at the time. And now I understand why: the book is not a linear narrative. It jumps back and forth in time as well as place. It involves space travel, war and eye glasses. While I loved science fiction, this did not seem like science fiction. 

So, all these years later, I decided to listen to Slaughterhouse-Five and loved it. The voice of Ethan Hawke set the tone for the book and allowed me to better appreciate the non-linear narrative. I highly recommend this book to everyone. Sometimes listening to a story is even better than reading it.


4.  Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
Shoeless Joe
I read the Iowa Baseball Confederacy by Kinsella back in the 1980s, but never read Shoeless Joe. I have, though, watched Field of Dreams on multiple occasions. I usually don't like to read books after I have seen the movie, but decided to give this one a try. I found myself initially visualizing the characters in the image of the actors in the movie, but it was not a hindrance since I love the movie. All the major movie scenes are in the book, but a couple of characters in the book were cut from the movie — Ray's twin brother and Eddie Sessions, the farmer who sold the farm to Ray. Also the movie changed the character of J.D. Salinger to Terrence Mann.

The book at its core is about the nature of obsession and how people pursue their dreams against all odds. The book and movie are both motivational and inspiring.

I discovered after reading the book that W.P. Kinsella was Canadian. He did earn a Masters from the Iowa Writers Workshop. I recommend the book to all lovers of dreams and baseball.


3.  Middle Age: A Romance by Joyce Carol Oates
Middle Age: A Romance
Joyce Carol Oates, a master novelist, is one of the most prolific writers of her generation. This is the second of her novels that I have read. Both novels start with an event — in this case the death of a neighbor and friend — and follow the impact on various people. The event triggers in each character an opportunity to re-evaluate his or her life. Some are more successful at this then others. This is a book worth reading by one of the great American novelists. Don't let the insipid title get in the way of picking up this book. There is more nuance and depth to this book then the title will lead you to believe.

2.  The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk
The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is a brilliant novel by Kelli Estes. Set simultaneously in the 1880s and present day, Estes tells the tragic historical story of how the Chinese were driven out of northwest Washington by white men. The heart of the novel is the story of Mei Lien and her family who are forced out of their home in Seattle onto a ship that is bound for China back in the 1880's. Mei Lien discovers that the Chinese are not being taken to China, but that the plan is to throw them overboard when the ship is far enough from shore. When she tells her father, he makes the decision that she needs to jump overboard while there is still opportunity for her to swim to shore. Mei Lien is rescued by a white man who ultimately becomes her husband. Mei Lien's tale is the story of racism and the anti-Chinese hysteria that ran through the villages and towns on the west coast of Washington before it became a state.

Wrapped around Mei Lien's story is the story of present day Inara who discovers an embroidered sleeve and attempts to find out its historical importance.

The message of the story is very relevant today amidst the current immigration and anti-Muslim hysteria that has overtaken many people in this country. This is book is a must read for everyone who cares about people.

This novel is Kelli Estes' first published novel and has been fourteen years in the making. Estes writes: "In the fourteen years between quitting that job and selling this novel, I wrote six manuscripts, attended countless writing workshops and conferences, and raised two boys who are now in school all day, which allows me to focus on writing."

I highly recommend that everyone read this novel for a better understanding of a tragic time in American history and the pain that racism causes. Racism touches everyone and is not just about blacks and whites, but is also about Asians, Hispanics and anyone who does not fit the perceived norm.



The Sacrifice: A Novel1.  The Sacrifice: A Novel by Joyce Carol Oates  Another fantastic novel by Joyce Carol Oates. She has the ability to create a realistic fictional world that feels right out of the pages of life. I would highly recommend that you listen to the reading of this story by multiple actors. This book provides a serious look at racism in America through fiction. Everyone should read this book.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Gloria Steinem — Dreaming



Most of us underestimate the power and importance of dreaming — whether we are talking about day dreaming or sleep dreaming. Sleep dreaming is one of my favorite times, especially in the twilight world between being awake or being asleep. Dreams can feel so real and meaningful. 

Years ago I kept a dream journal where I would record my dreams. I have documented proof that I dreamed of marrying my wife a month before I met her. So I do believe that dreams can predict the future. I have experienced the excitement of possibilities. Dreams are small windows into our souls.

Day dreaming is a way to explore your options and to find the right path. Day dreaming helps creative leaders make decisions and take action. As Steinem says, day dreaming is a form of planning, a way of preparing for what is to come. Our minds are very powerful and we can see things with our mind's eye before they happen.

Have you ever gone to sleep thinking of some problem and woke up with the answer? You need to learn to harness the power of your dreams to help you creatively solve problems. You need to increase your involvement with dreams. 

My wife at a very young age discovered that she had the ability to consciously change her dreams. If she did not like where her dreams were going she would change them while dreaming. Today we call it lucid dreaming.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Irving Stone — Hunger



Many people treat the creative spirit as a luxury, something that is not needed to live life. And they are quite wrong. Creativity is a crucial part of living. If I did not have an outlet for my creativity, I would either go crazy or die. Creativity is at the very core of who I am. 

If I go too long without writing, without putting words on paper, I begin to feel a hunger growing inside me. I have a strong need to create, to produce something either through writing or drawing. It is as important to my life as water, air, food, shelter and companionship. Without it my spirit would shrivel and die. 

We all need food for the body and food for the spirit. Creativity provides the food for the spirit. Is your spirit growling with the need for creativity?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Francis Bacon — Mystery



Life is mysterious and full of questions with few answers. The job of the creative leader is not to provide the answers but to help his audience to explore the questions at even deeper levels. 

Life at its core is spiritual in nature. The artist connects the spiritual with the mysterious and fills the heart with joy. Our challenge as writers, artists and creative leaders is to reach deep within our spirits and share the magical mystery of the heart.

What spiritual questions are you exploring in your art? Your writing? Your acting? Your dancing? What is the mysterious hidden within your creation? What is the song sung from your heart?

Monday, November 28, 2016

Theodore Roethke — Being, not doing




I must confess that being is very difficult for me. For years I have been caught up in the culture of doing — setting goals and working to achieve those goals. I find it very difficult to sit and just be. I must at the very least doodle. If I go on vacation, it often takes me a week to relax and forget my day job. But I still feel I must be doing something. Write. Draw. Read. Produce something of value. Rarely can I just be.  I simply cannot sit and doing nothing.  My thoughts continue to flow.

How about you? Are you caught up in the culture of doing or have you learned like Roethke to enjoy just being?

Here is my favorite Theodore Roethke poem. I love the first three lines. This is a poem to be read out loud. Listen to the interaction of sounds.

The Waking

I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

I learn by going where I have to go.

Monday, November 14, 2016

William Thackeray — Reflection



This is a very profound statement by the English novelist, William Thackeray. The world that we see is a reflection of ourselves. 

I tell a story in my seminars about a little girl who lives in the mountains with her parents. One day the little girl has a fight with her mother and she runs out of the house. When she reaches the edge of the cliff, she stops and yells at the top of her voice: "I hate you. I hate you." 

To the girl's surprise she hears a voice shouting back at her: "I hate you. I hate you." This frightens the little girl and she runs back into the house and tells her mother that someone out there hates her. 

Her mother realizing what happened tells her young daughter to go back outside and shout, "I love you." The little girl tiptoes back outside and nervously tiptoes to the edge of the cliff. She calls out: "I love you. I love you." Echoing back out of the valley, she hears the words, "I love you. I love you." 

 The message is quite clear: what we send out is what we get back.  What we expect to find in the world is what we find. If we think the world is a negative, hostile place where our enemies are seeking to destroy us, we will find examples to prove our world view.

If we think the world is helpful and supportive, we will find examples to prove our vision of the world. The world we see is a reflection of the person we are. Have you looked in the mirror lately? What kind of person do you see?

Monday, November 7, 2016

Linus Pauling — Curiosity



Are you curious about the world around you? Are you searching for new information and ideas? Are you asking questions and looking for answers? Are you challenging the status quo? Do you doubt what people accept at truth? 

Do you question the world around you? Do you ask: why? how? when? where? Do you challenge the assumptions of others? Do you challenge your own assumptions? Do you challenge your beliefs? Do you question your habits? Or do you simply accept what was taught you? 

Do you accept without question the statements of experts? Do you question what you read in the newspaper or hear on television? Are you willing to think differently than those around you? Do you hang out with people who think like you do? Or do you surround yourself with people who think differently than you?

Creative leaders seek out new ideas and new ways of seeing the world. We need and want answers to our questions. Part of our thrill in life is learning something new — figuring out something we didn't know.

Creative leaders need a strong sense of curiosity about the world they inhabit. They should not satisfied with the pat answers of the past. The challenge is in finding new answers to some of the age old questions.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Anwar el Sadat - Fear



Many years ago I read these words in In Search of An Identity, the autobiography of Anwar el Sadat, President of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, and since then I have been sharing his words with my audiences in my motivational speeches on leadership.

Fear is a powerful tool for destroying the soul of a person and the spirit of a creative artist. Rulers have used it for centuries and so have parents. "You better behave or the bogeyman will get you."

Ask yourself what you are afraid of? What fears control your actions? What fears are holding you back? Are you afraid of snakes? Heights? Success? Math? A blank piece of paper? Silence? A blank canvas? The neighbor's dog?


In 1972 I was traveling through the western United States and decided to visit a mentor from my childhood who was living in British Columbia, Canada at the time. Ernie was a lumberjack turned minister and missionary.  He had been the camp director of a Bible camp that I had attended every summer from the age of ten until high school.  He was physically a very strong man.  He could grab a pole with both hands and raise his legs in the air until they were parallel with the floor much like a flag.

I spent a couple of weeks with him in the Canadian Rockies.  One time he took a group of us on a two-day canoe ride on a large lake.  I saw from a distance a grizzly bear fishing for salmon.  On our way home we encountered fog and lost our way.  After going in a circle a couple of times, Ernie stopped the canoes and asked us to bow our heads in prayer.  Despite his strength, Ernie knew that he could not let fear conquer him so he turned to God, the one source of strength that he knew.  

Creative leaders must learn to shake off the chains of fear. Fear can prevent us from taking risks, trying new ideas, exploring new ways of thinking. Each of us must find the courage to do what we desire to do despite our fears.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Robert Henri — Education



I believe that each of us is in charge of our own education. We choose what we want to learn and what we don't want to learn. Even in the best of schools, students fail because they don't apply themselves. And in the worst of schools, students still graduate and go on to accomplish great things. Yes, a teacher can inspire you and mentor you, but in the end you are responsible for your own education.

And I believe learning is a life-long process. When a person stops learning, he stops living. What are you doing to further your education in your chosen field? What are you exploring outside your field of expertise? When was the last time your read a new book? Or talked to a stranger? Or developed a new habit?

This past June I attended a 3 day workshop on the art of Zentangle in Providence, Rhode Island.  I had been studying Zentangle by reading books since 2012.  The workshop increased my understanding of the unique art form in ways I am only beginning to understand.  Books sometimes can take you only so far.  You need to experience and explore the subject in other ways.  
Zentangle #221

A few years ago,  I met a minister who had lived for fifteen years in Japan. I learned about his life as a minister and living in Japan. He shared how he had witnessed the cremation of a dead person. The Japanese custom is to wash the body and then have it cremated. The family gathers at the crematory to witness the burning of the body. Then the family is given a portion of the ashes and bones in a small box and the remainder are buried in the ground. I learned something new by listening and asking questions.

Creative leaders need to be constantly learning new things. What have you learned recently that you can incorporate into your writing or painting or acting?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Marquis de Vauvenargues — Great Thoughts



The heart is powerful, intelligent and intuitive. Most of us have been taught that our intelligence resides in our brain, but this is only partially true. Logical and analytical thinking occurs in the brain. Intuitive, sensitive and compassionate thinking occurs in the heart. 

 Often, though, we let our brain override our heart. We need to learn to listen to voice of our heart as it reveals a deeper truth. Reason may dominate our thinking, but compassion should govern our actions. While the brain is busy analyzing the options, the heart knows intuitively what road to take.

Years of experience have taught me that my heart knows the answer often before the brain has finished its analysis. I have learned that it is better to trust the small voice inside my heart then the loud voice inside my head. Do you trust your intuition? Are you listening to the voice within your heart?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Walter Inglis Anderson — Risk



Life is about taking chances. Risk is a key part of success. And, I think, most creative leaders understand this. The very nature of creativity is risk taking. In order to create something new, we have to break down old patterns and rebuild in a different way. But if we are being honest with ourselves, we must admit that we do not take risks in every area of our lives. 

I, for one, will not risk my financial stability and security. I am an intellectual risk taker. I will explore new ideas and new ways of thinking. I will question my beliefs and those of others, but I am not an entrepreneur. I will not gamble the financial security of my family and myself. I will take risks with my writing and my art, but I won't risk my relationships with my family and friends.

Where do you draw the line? What are you not willing to risk? I am not willing to risk my money. If I gamble at a casino, I am only willing to lose five dollars. I work too hard for my money to throw it way.

Anderson is right. The most difficult risk is being honest with ourselves, admitting our failures and our weaknesses. What are your blind spots? What are you not willing to admit to yourself or to others? What do you want to keep hidden from the world? It takes courage to be honest with yourself. To face your fears and failures and honestly assess your weaknesses.

Monday, October 3, 2016

George Washington Carver — How far will you go




One of challenges we all face is accepting people who are different than ourselves. And I am not talking here about race or culture or religion or nationality. I'm talking about the little things that separate people. Is there someone in your life who talks too much or too little? Are there people whom you perceive to be stuck-up or arrogant? Do you dislike fat people or sloppy people? Is there someone in your life who is too organized or too thin? Do you think all poets and artists are crazy and should get a job that pays a salary? Do you not like the way someone combs his hair or the clothes he wears?

As George Washington Carver points out, we are all human. We have all been young and if we live long enough we will all grow old. What people who complain about growing old don't realize is that the alternative is dying young. Now the interesting idea in this quote is that we need to be tolerant of both the strong and the weak. And it is easy to see the importance of being tolerant of the weak, but why the strong? I think the reason we need to be tolerant of the strong is because they also make mistakes. We have a tendency to put people on a pedestal and then knock them off. We don't like it when our heroes are too perfect. We prefer them to have clay feet so we can knock them down.

As writers, artists and actors, we sometimes put other actors, writers and artists on a pedestal and become disappointed when they don't live up to our expectations. We need to become more accepting and tolerant of our peers, mentors and teachers. We are all human and we all make mistakes. The message is simple: judge not others.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Sara Teasdale — From the Heart




Do you listen to your heart?  Our most original creative work comes from the heart. The heart produces work that is more authentic than work produced by the analytical brain. Analytical stories and poems often fail to connect with the hearts of the readers and leave them wanting. Creative work that does not come from the heart can be cold and uncaring. You will do your best work if it comes from your heart.  So listen to your heart.  

Debt

by Sara Teasdale

What do I owe to you
Who loved me deep and long?
You never gave my spirit wings
Nor gave my heart a song.

But, oh, to him I loved,
Who loved me not at all,
I owe the little open gate
That led through heaven's wall.

(Originally published in Poetry, March 1914.)

Monday, September 12, 2016

Harley King — Tomorrow



During a conversation with a colleague this week, she asked me in jest: "What is the meaning of life." I responded with the first thing that came into my mind: "The sun will rise tomorrow."  And we both laughed.

On the surface, this appears to be a mundane, boring observation about the obvious. We all know the sun will rise tomorrow so we never give it any further thought.  We sometimes become so caught up in the stresses, challenges and problems that vex our daily lives that we act like the world is coming to an end. What we often forget is that tomorrow is a new day filled with new opportunities. 


In my 67 years on this planet, the sun has never failed to rise.  Now, I may not have been able to see it  on some days because of the clouds, but I knew it was there. This may seem like a simple observation, but it is filled with wisdom. If we choose, each new day is an opportunity to begin again. Every time the sun rises, we are given a chance to try something different — to find another path.

Have you ever sat before a blank piece of paper and had no idea what to write?  Have you ever stood before a blank canvas and had no idea what to paint?  Do you remember your frustration and maybe even anger?  Have you ever spent a few hours writing or painting and felt that your work was worthless? Have you ever wanted to give up and quit?  Remember that today will simply pass into history and tomorrow will be a brand new day that offers the opportunity to start again.

So tomorrow, give thanks for the sunrise and shout, "Good morning, world!" from the roof tops.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Henry Moore — Observation



How much is your art connected to nature? Do you spend time observing the shapes and patterns within nature? Do you study nature and learn from it?

When I spent seven years writing and studying haiku, I spent time connecting with the physical world around me — listening to nature. I would take walks and write haiku. Even those of us who live in cities are a part of nature. Here is a haiku that I wrote while walking around Chicago.

downtown Chicago
a squirrel buries apples —
warm autumn sun

As creative leaders, we must look for inspiration in nature whether we write novels, paint abstract paintings or compose music. Nature has much to teach us about ourselves and the world in which we live. Watch the rabbits playing in your backyard. Enjoy the beauty of a sunset. Take a walk and feel the snowflakes on your cheeks.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Carol Emshwiller — Change the World



Sometimes as creative leaders, we hope we can change the world — to make it a better place for everyone. Unfortunately, our vision of what we want the world to be and what it actually is rarely match. And even the most powerful people can not change the world to fit their vision. We can have an impact on the lives of some people and can alter the small corner of the universe where we eat and sleep. Maybe as Emshwiller suggests, we need to lower our sights. If I touch one heart, changed one life, I have made a powerful difference.

If I want to influence the world that I inhabit, I must first change myself. As creative leaders, we must work on becoming who we need to become before we can change those around us. It is very difficult to change someone else. Husbands and wives understand this. Those who learn to accept their spouses for who they are will be happily married. Those who spend all their time trying to change the behavior of those they love, often end up bitter and angry.

Change is something that we enjoy when we are the ones who initiate it. If someone else tries to change us, we put our foot down and refuse. As creative leaders, our art, writing and music can touch people's lives and inspire them when they are ready to hear and see. We all plant seeds and yet, we may never hear if the seeds grow and bear fruit. So we must hope that we have inspired a few.


What do you want or need to change in yourself?  What steps are you taking to change your behavior?  What are you doing to transform yourself into a better writer or artist? How will you be different tomorrow than you are today?  It is never to late to change your habits, your hopes and your dreams. Start today.

Monday, August 15, 2016

William Baziotes — The Process of Creation



Evolution is the way a poem happens for me. I don't know what the poem is about until I'm finished writing. The poem evolves as I write. I know there are writers who outline everything they do. They know what they are going to write every step of the way. For me, it does not work. I like not knowing. The excitement is in the writing. The same thing happens when I write a story or a novel. Only at the end do I know what I was writing about.  And even then I might not be sure.

When I travel I am the same way. I want to discover new places. My wife and I once were on a trip with another couple. They had everything planned down to the minute and became upset if we deviated from the plan because it put them behind schedule. I can't travel that way. The joy is in the discovery.

Art for me is also about discovery.  When I draw a mask, I never know what a mask will look like until I am finished.  The joy is in the process of creation. The joy is in not knowing where you are going. 

Zentangle 2016
I have been studying Zentangle, a meditative art form, for the last four years.  A basic principle of Zentangle art is that you don't plan your work.  The fun is in the exploration — of discovering where you should go.

One of the things I have learned over the years is that creative leaders have many different ways of working. What works for one person does not work for another. How do you work? Do you map out your story in advance of writing it? Do you know what your painting will look like before you start painting it? Are you confined by the expectations of yourself or others?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Harley King - Heroes and Stories



Are you the hero of your story? Or are you the victim? We all have faced challenges in our lives and we have struggled to overcome difficulties. We have people who seek to hurt us and cause us harm. Have you found the strength to share your story of triumph and victory over the pain? Or are you still dwelling in a past of unhappiness? Maybe it is time to retell your story with you as the hero. Maybe it is time to celebrate your healing.

Our stories are not new.  Others have tread the same path and faced the same challenges.  The difference is in the details. The difference is in our memories. Share your memories and the details that make your story unique. Share what is special about your story.

The fact that I have been fired five times in my career is a part of my story. Yet, I have risen from the ashes of failure to find new paths. I have used my failures as opportunities to grow and change. I have overcome the pain of loss. I have become the hero, not the victim.  I have been employed by the same company for the last 28 years.

The fact that I was diagnosed with prostate cancer is a part of my story.  Yet, today, ten years later, I am cancer-free.

The fact that editors have rejected my poems is a part of my story.  Yet, I did not let the rejection stop me from writing.  I chose to keep writing and have now written over 5,000 poems.  And I still write and rewrite my story.  I celebrate my story. 

What stories are you telling? Are you the hero?  Or the victim? Is it time to rewrite your story?

This entry marks the 950th post to this inspirational blog filled with positive quotes and comments. I have written every week for six years, beginning with my first entry on August 7, 2010.  The first two years I posted a daily entry. During the last four years I have posted weekly. I am writing and rewriting my story.
First blog post: August 7, 2010
http://harleyinspiration.blogspot.com/2010/08/every-flower-is-soul-blossoming-in.html

Monday, August 1, 2016

Tom Robbins — Options



Many artists and writers dream of becoming successful.  They believe they will be happy when they have a best seller on their hands.  Be careful what you wish for.  When you are an unknown writer or artist, you are free to explore new genres or avenues of thinking without anyone criticizing you. When you are successful, you can become boxed in by the expectations of others and your options to explore new genres becomes limited. 

One of my favorite mystery writers, Walter Mosley, has tried on occasion to write novels outside of the genre of mysteries and these novels have never been as successful as his Easy Rawlins novels

 I once talked with Denver Pyle, a Hollywood character actor for most of his career. He said that his role as Uncle Jessie on the Dukes of Hazard negatively impacted his ability to be cast in any other roles. He was typecast as Uncle Jessie. 

Sometimes we as creative leaders become trapped by our own success and are unable to reinvent ourselves. Ricky Nelson speaks of this trap in his song, The Garden Party.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Carl Rogers — Paradox of Change



Have you ever had a desire to change who you are?  Have you ever dreamed of waking up and being somebody different?  That is one of the fun things about being a novelist or an actor.  Novelists and short story writers can become the characters inside the stories they tell. I once wrote a short story, Bath Day, in which I inserted my real self as a minor character seen through the eyes of the main character.   Actors take on the character of others.  They play heroes and villains.  They experience death, love, sorrow and laughter in the skin of imaginary characters.

Most of us have struggled with our self-identity. We may not like our physical looks or the bill-paying work that we do or the fact that we have grown old. We may think that we are poor husbands, wives or parents.  And yet, if we learn to accept who we are and what we have done, then we can begin to change into who we want to be.

Have you ever tried to change your habits? Stop smoking? Lose weight? Start exercising? Learn another language? Leave the toilet seat down? Some people say it takes 21 days to form a new habit. Personal change is never easy. We need to learn to be more forgiving of ourselves and those with whom we share our lives. None of us are perfect. And if change is difficult for us, don't you think it is just as difficult for those you love. Learn to be gentle with yourself and those you love.

Monday, July 18, 2016

William A. Ward — Humor




Are you able to laugh at yourself and the circumstances you find yourself in?  Life has a tendency to throw you off balance and unless you are able to laugh, you will surely cry.  Laughter gives us balance and a way to cope with the challenges we face.  

Many of us take ourselves too seriously. We need to learn to laugh at ourselves. We all make mistakes. We all screw-up. When we learn to laugh at our mistakes, we begin to heal the pain. None of us are perfect, even those of us who try to be. For years perfection has been one of my goals whether I was speaking or writing and I have had to learn a hard lesson that it is okay to make a mistake. I have had to learn to relax and to laugh at myself. In fact, mistakes make us better people, more human.

Have you laughed today? In these crazy times (and when have they not been crazy?), we need to be able to find humor in the absurdity of living or we will quickly lose perspective. We will fail to see the forest. Laughter and humor are essential for maintaining one's sanity in a difficult, confusing and chaotic world.

Some of the best humor is what I call spontaneous humor.  This is humor that is not planned.  This is humor that rises spontaneously out of the situation and it can't be conveyed to others.  This is humor that you have to have been there to grasp it. 

Are you able to find the humor in difficult situations?  I challenge you to keep a humor journal where you record funny things that happen to you.  And on those days when you feeling down, pick up your journal and relive those laughs.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Brianna King — Second Chance



How many times a day do you think of yourself as a failure?  How often do you throw your creative work in the trash? Maybe it is time to learn the art of imperfection.  Too many of us strive to be perfect. Perfection cannot be achieved.  Even the best works of art have mistakes.

In Japan, some craftsmen practice the art of 500-year-old art of Kintsugi which involves repairing broken ceramic pieces with a lacquer that is mixed with gold, silver or platinum.  We should not simply throw things away because they are broken or imperfect.  We need to find the beauty in the imperfection.  We need to celebrate imperfection.  Our imperfections are what make us unique and special.  Without our imperfections, we would not be who we are.

So, the next time that you want to wad up your writing and toss it in the waste basket, don't. Put it aside and come back to it on another day.  Learn to find the good within your creative work.  Learn to celebrate the imperfections. Honor your mistakes.

Here is a video that provides more background on the philosophy and history of Kintsugi.








Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Katharine Graham — Love What You Do



Do you love what you do? Do you love to paint? Do you love to write? Do you love to act? Do you love to draw? What is your passion? If you do not enjoy writing or singing or painting, then maybe it is time to get out of the creative business and find something you love to do. The creative world is difficult and if you don't have fun being creative, you will feel like you have been hit by truck.

What we as creative leaders do is very important. We touch people's lives and help them feel better about themselves. We solve problems and show the world a better way. We bring beauty and new ideas into the world. We help people escape their mundane worlds for a short time. We inspire people to be better than they are. We give hope where there is none. We help people visit new worlds and experience new places.

Celebrate the creative work that you do. Be proud of the creative work that you create. Appreciate your accomplishments and achievements even when others don't recognize your talent. Be happy with who you are.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Certified Zentangle Teacher




I am now a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT). I attended a 3 day workshop in Providence, RI, last week and am now certified to teach Zentangle art. People learn to draw abstract patterns using black ink on white tiles. Zentangle practice is a relaxing and meditative form of art.

https://www.zentangle.com/zentangle-method

Here are some examples of my recent creations.