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Bertie Ahern delivered his swan song to the joint houses of Congress today.

Here are a few things he was unlikely to say to his American audience…

  1. Ah howya, Nancy. Yer lookin’ good!
  2. On behalf of Her Royal Majesty, I am glad to be here today.
  3. Infidels! You all die now!
  4. Ah for feck’s sake: you ask me to speak here but you couldn’t even put me in a proper gaff last night..
  5. The following Irish wish is appropriate tonight.. “Ciúnas bóthar cailín bainne”..
  6. Whew! It’s a lucky thing I won’t be Taoiseach for the Lisbon Treaty Referendum..
  7. Thank goodness we got an agreement in Northern Ireland before that plank, Bush, was elected..
  8. You should take a look at my successor – he looks like a bulldog licking piss of a nettle..
  9. I’m goin’ to Boston to get pissed! I’ll be cryin’ plenty of tears for Parnell then, wha?
  10. And to the Irish people, I say… so long suckers! I bought a one way ticket and I’m claiming asylum here..

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I was lucky to attend a talk by a man called Mark Pollock today in Dublin. Mark is completely blind, having lost his eyesight 10 years ago while he was a student in Trinity College.

This event would be traumatic for anyone, but Mark rebounded. In the intervening years, he has completed a Masters Degree in Business, ran six marathons in one week in the Gobi Desert, and has successfully endured a marathon run around the North Pole. He makes his living today as a professional speaker.

That’s guts for you.

Mark had three messages for us:

1) Accept as quickly as you can what you cannot do.

There’s no point looking backwards and pretending that you are still able for something when all the evidence suggests otherwise. Mark spent some time after going blind believing that he would soon get his sight back. Accepting that this would never happen was the key to him getting on with life.

2) Figure out what you can do and go and then do it.

Mark focused on the excuses people come up with that prevents them from making the key steps to improving their lives. All they see are the problems and not ways to get around these difficulties. In his case, the targets he set built on each other over time. By starting with relatively straightforward goals, he gained the confidence and ability he needed to work on more challenging objectives.

3) Don’t go it alone. Seek help.

Mark was explicit in identifying and utilising informal networks in order to get things done. For him, the really big achievements are rarely the work of a single individual. Trying to do everything by oneself is a recipe for failure. Others, who have been there before and who know the pitfalls and mistakes can be of immense value.

Mark’s message has really hit home for me. I would recommend Mark to anyone in a business or organisation who would like to learn from a truly inspirational speaker.

Even though the multi-touch interface is now a reality in the market (what with the iPhone etc.), nevertheless I’ve been wanting to post this particular demo to my blog for some time. It took my breath away when I saw it.

It’s the future, and it’s comin’ at ya.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.ted.com posted with vodpod

Dignitaries from Ireland, the UK and North America will be attending a dinner in Dublin tonight commemorating the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. Given that the agreement helped to resolve the 30 year conflict in Northern Ireland, it’s a worthwhile commemoration indeed. It’s not Irish politics I want to write about though. I’m much more interested in the charitable cause being supported by the dinner in Dublin Castle. The beneficiary of the get-together is 3TS – Turning The Tide of Suicide. Their spokesman, Noel Smyth, spoke eloquently on the radio this afternoon about the stigma and the prevalence of suicide in this country and the initiatives in place to reduce it. It’s a noble aspiration and I wish them the very best in their efforts.

In my view, the task ahead of them is daunting in the extreme. It makes the resolution of the Troubles seem easy in comparison. Irish society is now structured in a way that makes suicide much more likely than ever. We have moved over the past three decades from a communal culture to a highly individualistic one, where only the successful seem worthy of love, respect and acclaim. We live now in a society where a person’s economic contribution is the prime determinant of how society views them. It’s now acceptable to look at those who have had reverses in their lives or who have failed to live up to the standards set for them by others as losers. While this approach may seem good for our economy, it has failed to take into account the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of individuals who feel left behind by it all. Messages of self-worthlessness are reinforced each and every day through their workplaces, the media and perhaps even their friends and families. It’s no wonder therefore that people seek extreme solutions to their problems.

Many modern workplaces are absolutely draconian in the way they manage their staff. The side effect of initatives such as talent management, bell curve assessments and high performance management is a reinforcement of the message that economic value equals self worth. Subliminal messages such as “Failure Is Not an Option” have become part of the modern zeitgeist. This is all very well, but as one gets older, one begins to realise all too painfully that failure is part and parcel of the journey through life.

From a conversation with a medical professional recently, I learned that the number of people taking anti-depressants in this country is staggeringly large. A recent report has shown that suicide has tripled since the 1960’s. It seems to me therefore that we are surfing a massive suicide tidal wave that has yet to fully break.

So what can be done? Well, I’m no specialist, and I appreciate that bad feelings will differ depending on the person, their age and the situations affecting them, but it seems to me that we can go a long way if we work on breaking (or at least lengthening) the link between between perceived economic value and self worth. In addition, anything we can do to destigmatise issues such as depression and suicide will help enormously.

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