Monthly Archives: December 2013

Tribute to His Excellency Vernon Lorden Shaw, Fifth President of the Commonwealth of Dominica

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This weekend we witnessed the funeral masses of two presidents, President His Excellency Mandela Nelson, known as the World’s President and President His Excellency Vernon Lorden Shaw, Fifth President of the Commonwealth of Dominica.  They were both moving ceremonies, and one of the things that struck a chord with me, was the impact on the lives of others that these men had.  While President Mandela’s impact was worldwide and much of it coming from knowledge of him from a distance, President’s Shaw’s impact was chiefly contained locally, with personal knowledge.  Last week I paid tribute to President Mandela.  This week, I pay tribute to His Excellency Vernon Lorden Shaw, Fifth President of the Commonwealth of Dominica.

 “One word of praise in life is better than all the eulogies in death,” this was part of the program of our late President, His Excellency Vernon Lorden Shaw.  When it was drawn to my attention, I could not help thinking how true and how so like His Excellency Shaw.  I loved Mr. Shaw and he loved me.  Every time we met, we would exchange hugs, kisses and words.  He often chastised me that I did not visit him often enough, and I would always promise to do better.  I did not keep that promise well, however, he never held it against me.

My journey with Mr. Shaw commenced when I joined the Civil Service in 1988, following my graduation from the University of the West Indies.  He was the Secretary to the Cabinet and though I was not in his ministry, I served as the Coordinator of the Administrative Reform Programme (ARP), and he was a member of the Reform Committee, of which I served as the secretary.  Mr. Shaw would get to work very early and would stand at the entrance of the Government Headquarters from about 7:30 – 7:50am daily.  He would often call me later in the morning and say, “Ms. Henry, I did not see you this morning, what time did you get to work?”  I would respond, “Mr. Shaw I am here! Mr. Symes is my boss!”  Through our interaction both on the Committee and in the execution of my duties, we developed respect, admiration and love for each other.

Mr. Shaw holds a special place in my heart for many reasons, and today I share one of the reasons with you.  Mr. Shaw was instrumental in me gaining a scholarship to pursue my MBA.  I received a scholarship from the University of the West Indies in 1988, to pursue an MPhil leading to a PhD, however, I was asked to return to Dominica as I was bonded, and I was earmarked to head the ARP, as Ms. Jennifer White was leaving to pursue studies in Canada.  The Government promised that the scholarship would be returned.  When I realized that because of the actions of certain individuals, I would not be getting a scholarship, I applied for a student loan at the Aid Bank in 1991 to pursue my MBA.  Mr. Shaw was one of the members of the Bank’s Loan Committee, and when he saw my application, he inquired why as he was the Secretary to the Cabinet when the decision to have me return and the promise to award me a scholarship was made.  He made a call (at the time I had no knowledge of this and I only found out about it much later, not from Mr. Shaw but from someone else) and with the help of a few other persons, including Mrs. Edith Bellot Allen, Mrs. Jennifer White and Mrs. Jennifer Astaphan, I received a scholarship to pursue my MBA.  When I went to thank him, he downplayed his role, but I would have none of it!  I thanked him for caring and for “righting a wrong.”   I am so glad I gave him his word of Praise while he lived so that my short eulogy is still in order!!

This incident reflected a lot about who Vernon Lorden Shaw was: He was a man of integrity, discipline and order.  He was selfless and was always willing to share and mentor.  He was frank and candid.  He took pride that in all of his many years of service he was never late or missed work except for his vacation (and he did not take all that he as entitled to; in today’s world, this would not be permitted!).  Mr. Shaw was known to send employees home if he felt they were not deported appropriately.  Some persons, because of Mr. Shaw’s strong disciplinary stance were either afraid of or avoided him.  I however saw behind the exterior, and found a man who was eager to share and teach.  He had a wealth of knowledge and I would tap into it to help me carry out my duties effectively.  He was by his very insistence on the proper way of doing things, driving us to be our best selves; to commit ourselves to excellence and to service to others.

I want to return to this quote, “One word of praise in life is better than all the eulogies in death.”  This quote resonates because it reflects well what I firmly hold and have commented upon on more than one occasion in this Column.  We need to give people their flowers while they are alive, while they can hear and appreciate it.  We need to let the people around us know what they mean to us.  We need to express our love, thanks and appreciation.  I have also said publicly more than once, please give me my flowers now, when I can appreciate them and they can serve to encourage me to keep on working on fulfilling my purpose on earth!

I have told my family and close friends and have said this publicly before, that when I die, I don’t want a mountain of flowers, all I want is a huge bouquet of yellow roses.  I want the money that would be assigned to the wreaths to be donated to the Education Trust Fund, and I pray that all who would have bought flowers will make the donation.  His Excellency Shaw requested donations be made to the Cancer Society in lieu of flowers.  One part of the request was honoured as only The President, Prime Minister and family members laid flowers.   I hope the second part of request is honoured.

I also want to use this phrase to address an issue that is prevalent in the workplace.  Over the past five years, I have administered employee surveys in several companies, in the public and private sectors in the Caribbean, and one common issue is employees’ view that supervisors and managers are long on complaints and short on praise.  They claim that managers will be silent when they excel and do well, but do not hesitate to condemn and punish for shortcomings, no matter how trivial, and often keep these shortcomings in active memory, no matter how distant the transgression.    Employees are paid to do a good job, and some supervisors and managers believe that because this is so, they do not have to acknowledge good work of employees.  Supervisors and managers do not have to start a “praise party,” when employees do what is required, however, when employees do more than what is required and when they consistently produce superior work, a “praise party” is required.  Supervisors and mangers must take note and show appreciation when employees out perform and for consistently doing a good job.

The absence of money is often touted for not recognizing employees, however, praise, thanks and appreciation do not necessarily have to costs much.  Words such as “Thank you for a job well done!” “This was great!” “I really appreciate you going over and above the call of duty.”   “You are a valued member of our team,” go a long way in employees feeling good about themselves, their supervisors, managers and organisation.  Emails, cards, an article in the company’s newsletter or even in the local newspaper are some of the ways companies can show appreciation for staff.  And of course a plaque, monetary gift, dinner for two, are other ways.

Employees accept better when they are reprimanded and disciplined when they are also recognized and rewarded when they do well.  They accept the reprimand for they know that they must have really fallen short of what was expected, for when they do well, they are recognized.  This however has to be prefaced with clear goals and expectations established up front, so that there is no ambiguity of what is expected.

This brings me back to Mr. Shaw.  He was clear in making known what he expected.  When those expectations were not met, he was firm in his reprimand. When those expectations were exceeded, he recognised and acknowledged it.  As we continue our journey of life, may we be clear in our expectations, voice our disappointments, recognise, acknowledge and appreciate when those expectations are exceeded.  And above all, be generous with our praise while the recipient is alive and can appreciate and know how and what we feel about them and not reserve them only in death, when others are the ones who can hear and appreciate.

May the angels come to meet you, Your Excellency Vernon Lorden Shaw, Fifth President of the Commonwealth of Dominica.  May your Soul Rest in Peace.

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MENTALLY STRONG

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CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MENTALLY STRONG

I begin this week with an apology for the absence of the Business & Life Column for the last two weeks. Today marks the start of the “Sixteen days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” and is also recognized as “the Day to End Violence Against Women. The Bureau of Gender Affairs has a program to recognise today and the sixteen days. The Dominica National Council of Women (DNCW) is holding its AGM this morning from 8am at the Civil Service Association Conference room on Valley Road. I lend my voice and give support to all efforts at ending violence and abuse against all. I wish the Bureau and DNCW much success in their work. VF Inc as part of an assignment with the Bureau of Gender Affairs will be holding consultations in the seven districts on among other things the National Gender Policy and we encourage persons to come out in large numbers when the consultation is held in their district. Transportation will be provided. Please contact VF Inc for further details.

I read an article last week entitled, “Mentally Strong People: the 13 Things They Avoid” by Cheryl Connor, a Forbes contributor, drawing on the work of Amy Morin, a licensed Clinical Social Worker, through a post on Facebook by Jones Murphy, Jr. This has inspired the article for this week.

What does it mean to be mentally strong? Mentally strong people are those who can cope with life’s adversity and blessings with equanimity. People who are able to praise and give thanks in all situations, good or bad, for they believe that the light is at the end of the tunnel, even when they cannot see it. They are optimistic, hopeful and have a deep sense of faith in God and themselves. Have you ever watched Serena Williams recover and win from what appears to be a sure defeat? If you have, you would see mental strength on display.

Serena however is not our only example of mental strength. There are examples of mentally strong people all around us. We look at our family, friends, neighbours and even our own selves, rise from the ashes of loss of loved ones, abandonment, unemployment, financial distress, teenage pregnancy, abuse, violence and countless other situations and we see mental and emotional strength.

Today as we mark the start of the “Sixteen Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence,” and recognize “the Day to End Violence Against Women,” it is fitting to reflect on mental strength. The focus is often on the abused, however, we need to pay as much attention to the abuser, if we were to end violence and abuse against children, women and men. I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, psychoanalysts, however, I believe that one of the root causes of violence and abuse is a lack of mental strength and security and this leads others to exert physical strength to assert themselves, to prove they are in control, in charge. They are usually insecure and hurting masquerading as strong. I read a quote recently on one of my godchildren’s “Whatsapp status”, that read, “Insults are the last resort of an insecure person in a crumbling position trying to appear confident.” I wish to modify this to say, “Violence and Abuse are the last resorts of an insecure person in a crumbling position trying to appear in control.”

Mentally strong people are secure. They know themselves and do not feel intimidated by and inferior to others; they do not feel the need to control every person and situation in their lives; they accept good and bad news with the same grace; they do not have to be right in all things and at all times. Mentally strong people know and accept the good in themselves and recognize it in others.

Thirteen characteristics of the Mentally Strong (adapted from Motin, quoted in Connors) and two of my own:

1. Take responsibility for their actions and outcomes – They do not look for excuses, sympathy or pity. While they may wish for and accept empathy, they recognise and accept the consequences of their actions or situations. They look for the lessons in all circumstances and apply them to and in their lives.

2. Know and Accept their Inherent Worth – They are comfortable in their skins and do not compare themselves to others. They understand, as Eleanor Roosevelt so rightly stated, “no body can make you feel inferior without your consent.” They know who they are and they do not buy into others perception of themselves.

3. Embrace Change – They recognise that change is inevitable, and embrace it for the opportunities that it presents. Mentally strong people maintain their child-like curiosity and sense of adventure, venturing to the unknown with maybe some uncertainty but no fear. Yesterday, I watched my little Nathan climbing a ladder with absolutely no fear, but a sense of joy and adventure as to where it would end. I was the one fearing he would fall and asked him to get down, though a part of me wanted him to continue on his quest of discovery. I pondered long and hard on this later, telling myself I should have allowed him to continue to the top and stay on guard to catch him if he fell! He will try again, I am confident!

4. Know what is Within their Control – They live the “Serenity Prayer,” accepting what they cannot change, having courage to change the things they can and wisdom to know the difference.

5. Speak and Live Authentically – They live their lives stating their positions and doing what they do not to intentionally please or displease others. They do so because this is what they truly believe. They know that they cannot be all things to all men; some people will love them and others will not. They are true to themselves.

6. Take Calculated Risks – They weigh the pros and cons and make a decision. They know that this is better than no decision. Others may see them as crazy or foolish but they follow their instincts.

7. Focus on the Future – They reflect on the past, embrace the present and focus on the future. They do not get bogged down and deplete their energy and creativity dwelling on the mistakes or glory days of the past.

8. Learn from Mistakes – They look for lessons in all situations, especially mistakes and apply it in the future. This enables one to adopt a “Let Go, Let God and Move On,” attitude.

9. Rejoice in the Successes of Others – They are not envious or jealous. They are genuinely happy when others do well, and they try to learn from those persons.

10. Persevere – They have the faith of a mustard seed. They are determined and tenacious. They do not give up at the first failure or sign of failure. They stop, reflect, regroup and start again. They are also able to tune out the voices of the “naysayers.’ They go deep down and find the strength to carry on.

11. Spend “Me Time” – They go on dates with themselves! They carve out time to be alone, to pray, read, reflect, relax, think and go to dinner, a concert a play, the beach, whatever makes them happy. I remember years ago, the first time I responded to a friend, “ I was on a date with me,” when she asked what I was doing, she asked “Valda, are you crazy?” I replied, “No dear, I am Blessed, Happy and Thankful, so I am taking a little me time to stop and appreciate it all!” She now goes on dates with herself! My friends all now accept my dates with me.

12. Expect “No Free Lunches “- My father told us often that the world owes us nothing. If anything, we are the ones who owe the world, so we need to be and give our best. He also often told us that the world has enough problems of its own, so we should not add to it. Mentally strong people are positive and believe that with prayer, work, discipline and determination, they can be anything and go anywhere they want to go. They believe in the words of the song, “I am a Promise.” They see themselves as “great big bundles of potentialities.”

13. Celebrate Milestones & Life- They know and accept that success does not come overnight however on the journey of life there is much to celebrate so they stop frequently and celebrate.

14. Give Others Permission to Shine – They encourage others and help them discover their talents and potentiality. They praise others and give them their due reward. They are willing to share the spotlight with others.

15. Give Thanks – They recognise that no man is an island and that we are interdependent. Mentally strong people give thanks from the heart. They recognise the assistance provided by others along their lives’ journey and say thank you. They give thanks to God, recognising that there is a Higher Power, from which everything emanates and to whom they owe all. They give thanks to their families and friends for their love, support and caring. They give thanks to teachers, employers, mentors, bankers and all persons who are part of their lives, no matter how fleeting. They even thank the detractors for often the detractors help them see a strength, talent or opportunity they may have overlooked.

The Desiderata by Max Ehrmann sums up well the Qualities of a Mentally Strong Person. I recommend you give it a good read, whether you have read it before or not and live it. Happy & Blessed Day and week as we work on enhancing our mental strength.
Until we Meet Again, May the Lord Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

Happy Independence 2013!!!!!

Happy Independence 2013!!!!!

This week, we focus on Independence.  On November 3, 2013, we will celebrate 35 years of independence under the theme, “One Mission, One Dominica Celebrating 35!  I want to extend my best wishes to Mr. Raymond Lawrence who will be retiring soon as Chief Cultural Officer.  He has served well in this capacity and as the founder of the Waitikubuli Dance Theatre, in existence for more than 40 years, he has ensured that our culture is alive and well.  Mr. Lawrence as you retire from public service, I am confident you are not retriing from promoting and strengthening our culture, I, on behalf of VF Inc, wish you God’s continued Blessings, Protection and Peace.  As the Africans would say, as you move on, “Walk Good!”  You have and continue to serve Dominica well.  Congratulations! I hope you have planned at least a short vacation to just be!  You deserve it.  You are allowed to take a few bows!  We can all say “Well Done, Good and Trusted Servant!”

Before I delve into the topic, I want to thank “Anonymous” who gave a succinct explanation behind the Wob Dwiyet.   In 1986, Dominican students at UWI, Cave Hill Campus decided we were going to celebrate our Independence and asked and received permission for a flag raising ceremony on Campus.  We decided we would be dressed in national outfits and cook and display our local dishes and then have a brunch. Many of us however, did not have a Jupe, much less a Wob Dwiyet!  Mrs. Alix Boyd Knight, Speaker of the House of Assembly, a law student at the time, offered to make the national outfits.  She organised for the purchasing of the material out of St. Lucia and made the ladies our jupes, blouses and petticoat and the men the red cummerbunds and sashes.  Following our successful presentation, students of other islands adopted the idea.  I still think this celebration of independence by students of the different islands happens at Cave Hill.   Mrs. Boyd-Knight, I take this opportunity to thank you again for your generous offer and national spirit.

I now understand the reason behind the Dwiyet being made with non-madras cloth.  History is really important in our understanding of our culture and who we are.  In the bygone days madras was the cheaper material, like codfish and smoked herring, now they have taken pride of place in leading the prices!  I remember as a child our neighbours pouring alcohol and a match to smoked herring, as they did not want others to know they were cooking smoked herring.  It was called “the telephone”, as with the scent the entire neighbourhood knew what you were cooking.  I remember asking one neighbor why she was going through all that trouble, as we never did that at home.  So what if the nieghbours knew you were cooking smoked herring?  I loved smoked herring and still do to this day.  I will have it any day!

Independence, what does it mean?  I am not going to delve into a treatise on the meaning or even to mention the many definitions.  I will focus on one meaning, “freedom.”  In 1978, when we gained our independence from Britain, we were celebrating our freedom to choose our path of development, to govern ourselves and to define ourselves as Dominicans.  One can ask what have we done with that freedom, or how successful have we been in governing and defining ourselves and choosing our path of development.  I am also not going to delve into this.  This week, I am going to focus on the theme, “One Mission, One Dominica Celebrating 35.”

One Mission signifies one goal, one purpose, and one vision.  One Dominica signifies one people, one team, so the two together, One Mission, One Dominica signifies a team working together to achieve a common and shared goal.  It speaks to unity of purpose and indeed, this is something worth celebrating.  However, what is this one Mission, we as one people, are working towards? And back to the theme of “celebrating 35,” have we been working towards this goal as one people for the past 35 years?   What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Patrick Roland John for Dominica when he led us into independence?  What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Oliver J Serapahin, who led the interim government after the 1979 coup d’état?   What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Mary Eugenia Charles who led Dominica for fifteen years?  What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Edison James who led Dominica between 1995 – 2000?  What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Roosevelt Douglas who brought the Labour Party in from the political Wilderness in 2000 and led for a mere nine months?  What was the Mission/Vision/Goal of Honourable Pierre Charles who took on the mantle following the death of PM Douglas and who sadly also died in office in 2004?  What is the Mission of Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit who assumed leadership in 2004 following the demise of PM Charles and who received his own mandate from the polls in 2004 and 2009, the latest mandate being an 18-3 victory?

Do you see where I am going?  What is this one mission that we Dominicans have been working on or towards in the last 35 years?  I don’t know about you, but I cannot name one mission that has been spelt out by any of our Governments in the last 35 years, whereby a call for national unity has been made to get us to work towards, where government has concentrated its spending on achieving.  Our governments have worked and our current government is working – they have spent and spend money on infrastructure, education, health, social services, business, agriculture, tourism etc., but this is towards what end?  What is the driving force that is uniting us as a people?  What is this goal that we are working towards that is igniting our passion to give our all, to rise above partisan politics, personal likes or dislikes?  I know PM Skerrit has articulated that he wants a graduate in every household by 2015, however, is this the end or a means to an end?  If the latter, what is the bigger picture which a graduate in every home will help realise?

Even now with the theme, “One Mission One Dominica Celebrating 35,” what is this one mission we are called upon as one Dominica to work towards and to celebrate?  The theme is therefore vague. It may be emotive, but the substance is absent.  If we take a short hop away to Trinidad, the PNP Government articulated its vision for Trinidad, with a fifteen-year strategic plan dubbed “Vision 2020”, based on five pillars.  This was a rallying call, which saw Trinidadians from every walk of life embracing, such that even with a government change and shifts as expected, in certain policies, strategy and even name, “Vision 2020” remains.  This is what we call, One Mission, One Country, in that case, One Trinidad.

When we look around in Dominica today, with allegations of constitutional trampling and calls for boycott of the Youth Rally and National Rally, can we say we are embracing and living this theme?  I believe one must express one’s views and in certain cases demonstrate one’s displeasure, however, I strongly maintain that we must respect the positions of authority.  If we denigrate a position, how do we expect people to respect it?  It reminds me of a ladder. If we destroy the rungs on our way up, how are we going to get down, but with a mighty fall?  We may dislike and even not respect a person in a position however we must respect the position.

What is that Mission?  This I believe the government needs to articulate and publicise in the coming months for you see a Mission/Goal gives a sense of purpose.   We must know and believe in it so we can own it and work towards its attainment.  This Mission needs a deadline or timeframe for this gives the sense of urgency.  There must be periodic reporting on the progress towards attaining that mission and this will provide the accountability, which is critical for performance.  And to get us united as One Dominica in achieving this goal, there must be respect, transparency, trust, integrity, honesty and good governance.  Then we will certainly need to celebrate, not just at the end of 35, but everyday.

As we celebrate this 35th Anniversary of Independence, let us begin to think about the goals that we would like to achieve as a people and nation.

Until we meet again, May the Lord Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

MADAM WOB DWIYET 2013: A REVIEW

MADAM WOB DWIYET 2013: A REVIEW

    Congratulations to Mrs. Veronique “Ma Boyd” Nicholas on being sashed “Madame Wob Dwiyet 2013” and to all the other contestants who participated in the show. I love the Madame Wob Dwiyet Show, and while I may not attend the Miss Wob Dwiyet, I have only missed a Madame Wob Dwiyet because I have been out of State on the day of that show.  It is just heart-warming to see the older folks proudly displaying their talent and the Wob.  I love the Wob!  When you step in one, it automatically transforms you into a matador and you have no choice but to “strut your stuff!” Your shoulders go up, your back is straightened and your head goes up.  I am convinced, I become taller, a full extra inch!  Combined with your headpiece and beautiful jewellery, albeit mostly costume, you feel like the matriarch of the family, the queen; the one who holds court and behave accordingly.  This is why my heart was hurt with the handling of the Wob by Mrs. Germaine “Lady Jockey” Letang, one of the contestants of the Madame Wob Dwiyet Show.  I will return to this later.

As I speak of the Wob, there is a burning issue for me.  Mrs. Delia Cuffy-Weekes and Ms. Aileen Burton (I hope I have spelt the name correctly), two of our cultural gurus and icons, whom I respect and love, have indicated that the formal Wob Dwiyet is the one made out of non-madras cloth.  Logically, this does not make sense to me:  I don’t understand how the more expensive material was/is the one used for the everyday event.  Personally, while I like some of the non-madras Wobs, my preference is for the madras Wob Dwiyet.  Another issue, with the exception of Mrs. Joan Frampton on Friday, every other contestant and the Madame Wob Dwiyet 2012 wore a petticoat with the coloured ribbons.  My understanding was that the coloured petticoat was only worn with the Jupe.  I may be wrong for I would think the organisers of the show, would have advised the contestants accordingly.  Okay, I have had my say, now let’s get on with the review.

I enjoyed the show.  It was for me a wonderful break after a week of long hours of work.  I missed the introductory round but I was informed that the round was full of jokes and if it were anything to judge by, we were in for a “Show of Shows!”  Round one, first contestant, Mrs. Huguette St. Hilaire performed a mini skit and then ended playing the flute.  She played beautifully.  The skit in my view detracted a bit from the performance, as she should have devoted more of her time to playing the flute.  I never understand why people, who can sing, dance or play an instrument, resort to skits or other activities instead of singing, dancing or playing an instrument.  These are gifts I have either not been blessed with or developed sufficiently.  I used to say often when I was younger (I don’t now) that God knows why he did not give me the gift of singing, dancing or playing an instrument (I did go to piano lessons as a child and again as an adult however, I confess while I love it, this is not my strength) for the world would not be able to contain me, and he does not want me to perish!  I digress!  Let me get back to the show.

First round, second contestant, Mrs. Joan Frampton.  I was disappointed.  Mrs. Frampton is a cultural icon in Dominica and I came to the show with high expectations.  I expected her to win the talent round hands-down.  She can sing and dance all of the traditional dances.  I expected to be dazzled with a combination of dances and singing.  Mrs. Frampton forgot the words of her song, the drums could barely be heard, there were at least two exchanges of words between Mrs. Frampton and her drummer, and by the time Mrs. Frampton began to dance, the energy was gone, and if ever there was a situation of “too little, too late,” this was one sure one.  This was also a reminder that the judging begins when the show begins!

Then came Mrs. Masylin Massicot, who came with a “conte” about Monsieur Williams and Monsieur O’Neal.  While we, the audience, occasionally had to help her with the names, the moral of the story was strong.  It included appreciating what we have and the people in our lives, making wise choices and looking before we leap.  The crowd loved Mrs. Massicot, a 76 year old, mother of eleven.

Then contestant four, Mrs. Germaine “Lady Jockey” Letang.  Her talent was part skit and part-singing.  Mrs. Letang fully decked in red, told us about her love for the Prime Minister and sang, “Children obey your parents,” acappella.  This performance lacked coherence and I thought the song was not targeted to the audience, for while there were some children at the Show, this show is mostly attended by adults.  I reasoned that this might have been one of her popular songs from her competing days as “Lady Jockey.”

Finally came Mrs. Veronique “Ma Boyd” Nicholas.   From the time I heard the entrance song, “Moin sortie hord habitacion pour vend marcher,” I knew we were in for a treat.  She came dressed in a black and white madras dress tied around her breasts and waist and a basket of provisions on her head.  She told us friends were coming and when they come, they want everything Dominica has and so she was going to make a “braff”.  She had one “to warm the heart and feet” before cooking.  Well everything went into that “braff”, from chives and onions in whole, okra, carrot, and my friends smoked herring, messier marie.  The crowd also got into the performance, shouting “in the braff”, when she was adding her ingredients.  And I did not tell you about the size and the shininess of that pot!  It could safely feed us all at the Arawak House of Culture.  Oh what fun!  I told Ma Boyd if this were the way broth was made, I finish eat broth!  Yesterday, at the supermarket, when I saw smoked herring, I bought some to put in my broth!!!

In the second round, the ladies came out in the Wob Dwiyet.  They moved and glided, and for the most part displayed their Wob with grace.  Mrs. St. Hilaire came out in a Wob, which fitted beautifully and was complemented with a purple foulard.  I felt her lipstick was too red for the purple foulard and the impact would have been better with a purple or lighter shade lipstick.  She moved well, but did not execute well the pick up of the dress, which is one of the highlights of displaying the dress.   Mrs. Frampton redeemed herself in the second round!  I loved her Wob and it fitted her well.  She moved with “gam,” she was happy and joyful and one could sense that she was in her elements.  I was happy!

Then came Mrs. Marcellin, who had already won my heart in round one.  When she came out she stood still for a moment to take in the crowd and to give us an opportunity to appreciate her.  She moved slowly and gracefully, displaying that Wob in all its glory.  While some contended she was too slow, I argued she was moving gracefully and showing off every aspect of the dress and was sending a powerful message that we need to slow down.  She was moving, as a popular song says, “nice and easy!”  She was followed by Mrs. Letang, who did not appear to be comfortable in her Wob.  It appeared too big and fitted poorly.  There was no grace in movement and there was no display of the dress.  The pickup never happened.  Many laughed.  I was sad for such poor execution and display of the Wob.  Mrs. Letang however appeared oblivious and took all the time allotted to her and maybe some parading on stage.

Finally, Ma Boyd appeared, a vision of beauty in a joyfully patterned Wob, which fitted to perfection.  She moved gracefully and deliberately, displaying every aspect of the Wob, similar to Mrs. Massicot, just at a slightly faster pace.  She walked with confidence and her mannerisms were in total contrasts to her first appearance.  What a transformation, confirming my position that when you put on that Wob, you become a better you!!  When she pulled out that fan, at that point, the round belonged to her and so did the Sash!

The organisers of the Madame Wob Dwiyet 2013 Show need to take a few bows for a job well done!  The show started on time and flowed beautifully.  The performances before the show, between the rounds and before the results were well chosen and well executed.  The Sisserou Singers, Lady of Song, Ophelia Olivacee Marie, Sibouli Dancers, Grandbay Cultural Group, Waitikubli Dancers, all need to take a bow.  The joy, which the performers emitted during their performances, was palpable.  The young and very young people in the groups indicate strongly that culture is alive and well in Dominica. The judges did a great job, and I don’t think anyone objected to the results.  There are just about two things I would change:  seven contestants instead of five and maybe a bigger venue for this was a sold out crowd!  Many people came but had to leave, as there were no more available seats.

This was time well spent, an energy giving time!   I say Thank You to the organisers, contestants, performers and my row mates, for a great night out!  I had, in the words of Nathan, “big fun!”  I enjoyed myself.  I was blessed!  Thank You and May God Continue to shower you with his blessings.

Until we meet again, may the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands!

 

Indecision

Indecision

I hope as you went about your day in the last two weeks, you have given a little thought to your energy management.  I have been practising what I preached and I can tell you, I feel more rested, alert, patient, alive and I am certainly more productive.  Yet, I have been thinking from Friday about the topic for this week’s article and while a few ideas surfaced, none held me, so here I am still without a topic.

How can one write an article on no topic?  This makes no sense.  But as I write this, this brings to mind something.  Are there times in our lives when we do not know what to do?  Are there times in our lives when we do not understand what is happening to us?  Are there times in our lives when we are confused about the meaning of life?  It can get to even more mundane things; like what to wear, what to eat, who to visit and where to go.  We are undecided.  What does indecision tell us? What does it mean?  This is the topic for today.

Indecision is a state of flux.  The Oxford English dictionary describes it as, “Lack of decision; hesitation.”   As Steven Berghas stated, indecision is never about making the correct choices, but rather, about being blocked from action.  Whenever we are in a state of indecision, we need to stop and get to the root of it.  What makes me indecisive?  Why I am not making a decision?  What makes me hesitate?  The reasons are many and include fear, incomplete information, inadequacy of knowledge & skills, fatigue, anxiety, apathy, fear of offending others, depression, perfectionism.  Whatever the cause in order to get beyond our indecision, we need to confront the cause.  It is not always easy to get to the cause, for we are sometimes afraid to confront the truth about ourselves.  However, it is vitally important that we do so to be able to move on and to get out of our indecisive state.  Sometimes, Professor Ian Davidson, my PhD supervisor, once said to me, “You just have to act.  Just begin writing without thinking whether it makes sense or not.  Write and afterwards you will edit.  You can achieve nothing without action.”  So true!

So if you are in a state of indecision, how do you get out of it?  How do you begin to act and thereby achieve result?    Steven Berghas in “Seven Ways to Combat Indecision:”

  1. Forget about always appearing smart – Sometimes we are so concerned about always being correct and perfect that we are mobilized by that fear and anxiety.  We have to know when we have done our best and let it go.  We have to stop competing with ourselves and with others and focus on doing our best.  In 1991, when I was heading off to study, my friend, Helen Mellow Pascal, gave me a mug with an inscription, “I do my best and leave the rest to God.”  I have taken this to heart and continue to live it.
  2. Trust your guts – We have to listen to our inner voice and trust that it’s directing us to the best outcome.  How many times do we say or hear other say, “If only I had listened to my mind,” or “Every time I go against my mind, I leave to regret it.”  That is our inner voice speaking.   Yes, we have to analyse the facts and figures, weigh the options, however these do not preclude us from listening to that inner voice.  Proverbs tell us that our inner voice is better than seven watchmen.
  3. Beware the Paradox of Choices – There are so many choices we do not know which one to choose.  We are overwhelmed by the options before us.  We then need to eliminate and narrow down our choices.
  4. Prioritise your Demands and Fears – Our indecision is sometimes caused not because we do not know what to do, but we are afraid to act.  We are often afraid to act because we don’t want to offend.  When we are placed in that situation, we need to ask which is more important…our fear or our need.
  5. Channel Winston Churchill – Our indecision is sometimes caused, as Marianne Williamson so aptly stated, “…Not that we are inadequate.  Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.  It is our Light, not our darkness that most frightens us.”  We are afraid people will say we are “show offs” and demand, “Who does she/he think she/he is?”  I tell you we must never be afraid to let our Light shine.  In the words of Winston Churchill, “The only guide to man is his conscience; the only shield to his memory is the rectitude or sincerity of his actions.  It is very imprudent to walk through life without this shield, because we are so often mocked by the failure of our hopes and the upsetting of our calculations; but with this shield, however the fates may play, we march always in the ranks of honour.”  In other words, we must always let our conscience be our guide.  This is why it is so important that we keep this guide, this inner voice unsullied, and we listen to its wise counsel.
  6. Accept the Limits of Analysis – This is what is called “analysis paralysis”. So while, it is important to seek advice and to research, we have to know when enough is enough.  We have to understand that we must make a choice for by not making a choice we have indeed made a choice!
  7. Flip a Coin – It is better to make the wrong decision than no decision at all.  The truth is, we can learn from wrong decisions and we often get the opportunity to right them, growing in the process.  This urges us to make a decision, to act.

 Indecision, though debilitating if allowed to fester and take root, can be managed and we can overcome.  So as we go about our day and week, I pray the Lord grants us His Wisdom, Understanding and Discernment to make our decisions with decisiveness and good judgement.

Until we meet again, May the Lord continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.  Blessings Aplenty………

Energy vs. Time Management II

Energy vs. Time Management II

This week, we continue our focus on Energy Management and take an Energy Audit designed by Schwartz and McCarthy, to determine how effectively we are managing our energy and creating balance in our lives.

Please check the questions that are true for you:

Body

  1. I don’t regularly get at least seven to eight hours of sleep, and I often wake up feeling tired
  2. I frequently skip breakfast, or I settle for something that isn’t nutritious
  3. I don’t work out enough (meaning cardiovascular training at least three times a week and strength training at least once a week)
  4. I don’t take regular breaks during the day to truly renew and recharge, or I often eat lunch at my desk, if I eat it at all

Emotions

  1. I frequently find myself feeling irritable, impatient or anxious at work, especially when work is demanding
  2. I don’t have enough time for my family and loved ones, and when I am with them, I am not always really with them
  3. I have too little time for the activities that I most deeply enjoy
  4. I don’t stop frequently enough to express my appreciation to others or to savour my accomplishments and blessings

Mind

  1. I have difficulty focusing on one thing at a time, and I am easily distracted during the day, especially by email
  2. I spend much of my day reacting to immediate crisis and demands rather than focusing on activities with longer term value and high leverage
  3. I don’t take enough time for reflection, strategising and creative thinking
  4. I work in the evenings or on weekends and I almost never take an email free vacation

Spirit

  1. I don’t spend enough time at work doing what I do best and enjoy most
  2. There are significant gaps between what I say is most important to me in my life and how I actually allocate my time and energy
  3. My decisions at work are more often influenced by external demands than by a strong, clear sense of my own purpose
  4. I don’t invest enough time and energy in making a positive difference to others or to the world

How many ticks do you have?  The guide below explain your results:

0-3 – Excellent energy management skills

4-6 – Reasonable energy management skills

7-10 – Significant energy management deficit

11 – 16 – A full-fledged energy management crisis

Which areas do you need to work?  The following is the guide for the categories

0 – Excellent energy management skills

1 – Strong energy management skills

2 – Significant energy management deficits

3 – Poor energy management skills

4 – A full-fledged energy crisis

I got an overall score of 8, with my key area of weakness being the “body”.  I have to sleep more, eat breakfast, exercise more consistently and eat lunch at more regular hours.   I started last week Wednesday ensuring I got a minimum of 6 hours of sleep, eating breakfast and lunch and I have been swimming.  Already I see and feel the difference.  A bonus is a younger looking and brighter face, giving truth to the “beauty nap!”

My strongest area is my “Spirit,” and it is the love for what I do and the opportunity to live my vocation and God’s purpose in my life, that sustains me through it all.  Therein lies the answer to the question often posed to me, “Valda, how do you do all you do?”

My continued quest, as I am acutely aware of the need, is to find balance between all four dimensions of my energy source.  Can you imagine how much more we can all accomplish if we get that right balance?  This would give meaning to the words, “Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard nor has the heart comprehended what God has in store for us…” (1 Cor 2:9).

Until we meet again, May God Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.

Energy vs. Time Management

Energy vs. Time Management

I start of this week’s article with a reflection on the Abkhasian proverb, “Without rest, man cannot work, without work the rest does not give any benefit.”  This proverb is similar to the popular proverb, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy and all play and no work makes Jack a mere toy.”  These proverbs speak to the need for balance, the need to put work in perspective and the need to recharge and to be reenergized.  They also recognize the importance of work. This leads me to the topic of this week, “Energy vs. Time Management”.

One of the frequent laments of people, especially managers is that they do not have enough time and we comment on how quickly time flies.  Once I was saying this and a friend said, “Valda, the number of hours in the day has not changed.  It remains 24 hours.  It is what you do or want to do that has changed, and so you should reconsider what you do with your time.”  I have often reflected on this, and I have found that I try to put in too many things in too little time, and this is one of the causes of my tardiness.  Example, I will wake up at 5am and before I get ready for work, I will pray, go walking with the dogs, make breakfast, sometimes cook lunch and this should be all, but oh no, I will decide that this is now the time to begin cleaning or washing or responding to emails, and of course, before I know it, I am late.  So now, when I find myself doing some unnecessary things in the morning, I will say, “Valda, not now!  Do this in the evenings!”  I also set out a very ambitious ‘Things To Do’ and it takes me working all through the wee hours to complete it and then sleep gets sacrificed. A few days of being sleep-deprived then leaves me feeling under the weather and my productivity level drops, giving truth to the adage, “Without rest, man cannot work.”

I came across an article “Manage your Energy, Not Your Time,” by Tony Schwartz and Catherine McCarthy (HBR, Oct 2007) while researching “time management,” and I could identify with much of that article.  The authors argued that most of us respond to the rising demands in the workplace by putting in longer hours, which inevitably takes a toll on us physically, mentally and emotionally.  This then leads to declining levels of engagement, increasing levels of distraction, high turnover rates and soaring medical costs among employees.  They contend the core issue with working longer hours, is that time is finite, and we should instead focus not solely on time management but also and very importantly energy management.   They define energy as the capacity to work and state that energy comes from four main wellsprings: body, emotions, mind and spirit.  In each of the wellsprings, energy can be systematically expanded and regularly renewed by establishing specific rituals – behaviours that are intentionally practiced and scheduled with the goal of making them new habits.

This focus on energy management, they posit requires a paradigm shift in how employers view employees.  Organisations need to shift their emphasis on getting more out of people to investing more in them so that they are motivated and bring more of themselves to work every day.  Individuals too have a responsibility to recognize the costs of energy depleting behaviours then take action to change then, regardless of the circumstances they are facing.

The ideas postulated by Schwartz and McCarthy are quite thought provoking.  What does it mean to us?  For each of us, the lesson may be different, however there are some things that may be common.  They are in essence saying to us, rather than saying we don’t have enough time, we did to focus on what we do with time and the impact of what we do on our wellbeing.  Are our behaviours energy depleting or energy giving?    We should then take action to reduce energy-depleting activities and increase energy-giving activities.  Let us take a look at some typical hours in the working week:

5am – 7 am – Preparation for Work

7am – 7:50 – Travelling to Work

8am – 4pm – Work

The question becomes what do we do in those hours.  In our early hours of preparing for work, do we pray, exercise, take a quiet time for self and reaffirm our love for our family?  Or do we shout to wake and get the children ready for school or work, do we fuss over what to cook or engage in a quarrel with our children or spouse/partner?  In the former, we are renewing the four sources of energy: physical, emotions, mind and spirit, and so we are reenergised and get to work or school with a positive spirit and attitude, prepared to take on the challenges of the day.  In the latter scenario, we are depleting our energy sources and we get to work frazzled, bothered and unhappy, and find it difficult to deal with others and the challenges of the day.

In our travelling to work, how do we engage our self?  Are we listening to uplifting music or program and engaged in positive conversation or are we listening to loud, aggressive music or conversation. This, too, impacts on our energy sources, either renewing or depleting.   A friend once told me that I had zero tolerance for negative conversation.  She is right for I find nothing fulfilling about engaging in negative conversation.  I believe if there is a problem, while one has to speak about, one must that dwell on it.  One should be focused on solving that problem and turning that negative, wherever possible to a positive.

We spend, as I often say, the better part of our day at work.  In those eight and sometimes, nine, ten, twelve or even fourteen hours, what do we do?  How do we spend that time?  If the work environment is hostile, working conditions are poor, communication weak, interpersonal relationships ineffective, is it any wonder employees do not give of their best?  If the work environment is energy depleting then employees are disengaged, unmotivated, give only the bare minimum and report more sick days.  The Dominica Social Security and Chamber of Commerce are concerned about the high levels of sick days reported by workers in Dominica.  It would be interesting to do a study to identify the companies with the highest levels of sick days and determine whether the environment was energy depleting or energy giving.

If however, the work environment is healthy and energy restoring and giving, employees are engaged, productive and happy.  This is reflected in not just the quantity of work performed but very importantly the quality of the work and relationships with co-workers, managers and customers.  This makes for successful business.  This is one of the reasons why Schwartz and McCarthy advocate the paradigm shift from “getting” more out of people to “investing” more in people.

Next week we continue our focus on Energy Management and take an Energy Audit to determine the level of our energy and examine strategies for replenishing and renewing our energy.   In the meantime, lets us reexamine how we spend our time and assess whether it is energy depleting or energy giving.  Let us commit to engaging more in energy-giving activities.

Until we meet again, May God Continue to Keep Us in the Palm of His Hands.