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Adlai E. Stevenson II

"In quiet places, reason abounds."

American Politician

1900 - 1965

Silence is a valuable quality for writers and artists to find.  Silence allows us to process the tons of information that enter our brains.  Silence allows creativity to take root and grow beautiful flowers.  Silence allows for reason to prevail over ignorance.

Unfortunately, our society today is filled with too much noise — too much chaos.  So if we are to maintain our sanity we must find places that give us moments of silence.  Where do you go to find that silence?  To restore your spirit?  To maintain your sanity?  Maybe it is a walk at 5 am.  Or kayaking down a river?  Or taking a bubble bath?
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Henning Mankell

"Deep down he understood his father.  One should stay faithful to one's dreams.  How faithful had he been to his own?"

— Henning Mankell

Swedish Novelist

1948 -

These sentences come from the short story, The Pyramid, by one of my favorite authors, Henning Mankell.  The main character, Kurt Wallander, has flown to Egypt to rescue his father who was jailed for attempting to climb a pyramid.  Climbing the pyramids was his father's dream.  When Wallander sees the pyramids for the first time, he begins to understand what motivates his father.

I bet your parents also had dreams.  Do you know what those dreams were?  Did they achieve them?  I never knew my father's dreams.  My mother wanted to be a school teacher, but her father never let her go to high school.  Parents influence the dreams of their children.  Sometimes parents force their children down paths they don't want to take.  I was fortunate because my parents allowed me to find my own way.  The flip side is also true.  Children can influence and change the dreams of their parents.  

Have you been faithful to your dreams?  Or are you letting them slip away?  Don't give up on your dreams.  Stay focused and dream big.  Some day you too may climb the pyramids.  
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Gustave Courbet


"Beauty, like truth, is relative to the time when one lives and to the individual who can grasp it."

French Artist

1819 - 1877

Do you believe that beauty is relative and in the eye of the beholder?  I do.  What is perceived as beauty changes from individual to individual and from culture to culture and from century to century.  That is why some people will like a painting and others will hate it.   That is why some people enjoy a particular novel and others dislike it.  Beauty is not absolute.  It is arbitrary, fragile and dependent on the individual.  

What are your standards of beauty?  How do you judge a painting, a drawing or a novel?  What criteria do you use to judge a work of art?  And what makes your judgement correct?  Have you ever put down an artist or his art?  Have you ever criticized a novel, a film, an actor or an author?  We are applying personal standards of taste?  But what makes our judgement valid?  

Some creative leaders are rich and famous in their own time and forgotten after they die?  Others like Van Gogh or Emily Dickinson are unknown in their own time and become famous after their death.  What accounts for this change of fortune?  Is it the changing standards of beauty?

PJ Proudhon

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Ken Kesey

"Man, when you lose your laugh you lose your footing."

American Novelist

1935 - 2001

One of my favorite novels from my college days is One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey.  I have read the book a couple of times and seen both the play and the movie.  In a nutshell, it is the story of one man's fight against the establishment.  If you haven't read it, you should.

In this crazy world that we live in, where up is down and right is wrong, we need to learn to laugh.  Humor sometimes is the only way to survive and thrive in a world gone bananas.  I am not saying that you have to be a comedian or tell a lot of jokes.  What I am saying is that you have to have an appreciation for the absurd.  For much of what we encounter in the world of man is absurd.  As creative leaders, we need to reveal the truth buried beneath layers of insanity.  And that brings us back to the Cuckoo's Nest which is set in a psych ward.

Having working in a psych ward for ten months, I can attest that sometimes it is difficult to tell the difference between the staff and the patients.  Both exhibit behavior problems.  The only difference is that one group has the keys and the other doesn't.

So if you haven't laughed today, find something absurd and wallow in it.  Laugh to your heart's content.  And have a great day.

Here is a video background on what inspired Kesey to write the novel.

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W. S. Merwin

Photo by Matt Valentine

"On the last day of the world 

I would want to plant a tree..."

American Poet

1927 -

From time to time people have predicted the end of the world and their followers have given up their worldly goods and waited — only to find they waited in vain.  Yes, the world as we know it will come to an end one day.  But none of us now living will be here to see it.  In the past, civilizations have come and gone.  Think Mayan, Aztec, Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Chinese.  One day our civilization will also pass into history.  

And even the animals and plants come and go.  Remember the dinosaurs?  The human animal too will disappear from this earth and a new species will appear.  But don't fear neither you nor your children or grandchildren will be here to witness it.

So if by some freak accident, you had the opportunity to be on this earth on the last day before the total destruction of the earth, what would you do?  Would you plant a tree as Merwin suggests?  Talk about optimism in the face of disaster.

Over the last thirty years, Merwin, who lives in Hawaii, has planted more then 4,000 trees on 19 acres that were once considered a wasteland.  He has planted 850 different species of trees. Here is the complete poem from which this quote comes.


by W. S. Merwin

On the last day of the world

I would want to plant a tree

what for

not for the fruit

the tree that bears the fruit

is not the one that was planted

I want the tree that stands

in the earth for the first time

with the sun already

going down

and the water

touching its roots

in the earth full of the dead

and the clouds passing

one by one

over its leaves

Here is W. S. Merwin reading his poem, Yesterday.

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Johari King

Wave Dreams


"I'm learning not to shy away from experiences I want just because I'm afraid of failure and criticism.  And I now know when to remove myself from situations that chip away at my spirit and slowly destroy me.  I've realized it's all about balance and breathing in a bit of fresh air."

American Writer/Painter

1977 -

One of the biggest challenges for many creative leaders is coping with fear: the fear of failure, the fear of success or the fear of criticism.  This fear can actually paralyze the artist within and prevent the production of creative work.  Overcoming this fear takes courage, faith and belief in oneself.  Overcoming this fear can take years.  Even successfully published writers and artists can be paralyzed by fear.  Some turn to alcohol or drugs to take off the edge — to hide the anxiety.  Others withdraw and hide.

This fear can chip away at the spirit and slowly destroy a person.  A creative leader must learn to overcome his anxiety and fear.  He must find a way through the wall that threatens his creativity.  He must learn balance and the ability to breathe fresh air.

What fears are holding you back — keeping you from producing your best work?  What are you doing to find a way through the fear?  How are you finding balance and faith in your life?

Buddha's Garden


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Nice Inspirational Quotes

"If you want something you've never had,

you must be willing to do something you've never done."

---Thomas Jefferson

"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."

---Winston Churchill

"Be thankful for what you have, you'll end up having more.

If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."

---Oprah Winfrey

"The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing."

---Walt Disney

"It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself."

---Ralph Waldo Emerson

"Blessed are those that can give without remembering and receive without forgetting."


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M. Scott Peck

"The quickest way to change your attitude toward pain is to accept the fact that everything that happens to us has been designed for our spiritual growth."

American Author

1936 - 2005

I think that we can learn valuable lessons from everything that happens to us.  I believe that one of the reasons we are on this earth is to learn and grow as human beings.  Sometimes we do better than others.  And sometimes we fail to learn our lessons again and again.

In 2006 I was diagnosed with prostate cancer and had robotic surgery.  I believed then and still believe today that it was an experience that taught me several things — from humility to gratefulness.  

And while this maybe difficult for some to accept, I think the rejection we experience as creative leaders is meant to teach us valuable lessons.  So the next time you face some challenge in your life, ask yourself what lessons you can learn from this experience.  What gift are you being given?

Here is a poem I wrote in response to my diagnosis of cancer and my surgery.


God is in the backyard

playing with the squirrels

and rabbits.  I am barbecuing

steaks for dinner and

the wife is preparing the salad.

Tomorrow I am having surgery

and God has come by to

wish me well.  He says I

should not worry because

He will be there holding

my hand.  I smile and

ask if He wants to take

my place on the operating

table.  He ignores my

request and goes on

chatting about how much

better I will feel when

the cancer has been ripped

from my body.  I flip

the steaks over one more time.

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Hans Hofmann

"I can't understand how anyone is able to paint without optimism.  Despite the general pessimistic attitude in the world today, I am nothing but an optimist."

German Painter

1880 - 1966

Being an artist, a writer or an actor requires a lot of optimism.  You have to believe that you will be successful.  You may struggle for years with no recognition or money and yet you must keep working.  You must have the faith that one day the world will discover your talent.  Many people give up too soon.  The negativity of the world wears them down.  You must believe in yourself even when no one else does.

The Golden Wall

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Alexander Pope

"Narrow-minded people are similar to narrow-necked bottles.  The less they have in them the more noise they make pouring it out."

English Poet

1688 - 1744

Unfortunately, we live in a time when narrow-minded people the world over have grabbed the microphones and are filling the air waves with their empty noise.  Narrow-minded people scare me.  They can not face the uncertainty of the times we live in so they seek refuge in absolutes and try to force others to follow them down a path that leads to destruction.

Creative leaders need to have open minds if they are to hear the voices of the wild exotic muses and if they are to dance passionately beneath the stars of the universe.  They have to be willing to consider the unbelievable, the impossible and the unrealistic.  

Are you open to the power of the universe?  Are you open to the people living in your backyard?  Have you broken through the glass ceiling?  Stay open!  Stay free!  Stay happy!
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Amos Ferguson

"I paint not by sight but by faith.  Faith gives you sight."

Bahamian Folk Artist

1920 - 2009

Do you have faith in your creative talents?  Do you believe in yourself and what you are capable of creating?  We may work a lifetime on our art and never receive a dime for our effort, but we still need to have faith that we are on the right path.  That we are doing what we should be doing with our life.

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Erich Fromm

"The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning.  Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers."

German Psychologist/Sociologist/Writer

1900 - 1980

Do you see the world as black and white?  Or are you comfortable with large amounts of gray? Is truth eternal and sacred or is it flexible and changing?  I believe artists and writers need to live in the gray areas.  Certainty inhibits creativity.  We must be able to challenge and question everything that others take to be truth.  Certainty limits how we see the world and prevents us from exploring our vision of how the world should be.  
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Julie Otsuka

"I really like the act of writing; it's the same as painting in that I become engaged in the process of making stuff.  What I love is the form and language.  Each paragraph is like a puzzle."

American Novelist

1962 - 

Julie Otsuka graduated with a bachelor's degree in art in 1984.   Thinking she would have a career in art, she entered the MFA program at Indiana University and quit after 3 months.  After struggling with what she wanted to do with her life, she switched to writing and her first novel, When the Emperor Was Divine, was published in 2002.

Sometimes we think we know where we want to go in life, but events and circumstances can and will alter our course.  When I was a sophomore in high school, I committed to being a preacher.  By the time I was a senior, I had rejected the faith of my parents.  I turned instead to writing, hoping one day to be successful.  Instead for almost 25 years, I have spent my time and energy as a speaker, a preacher variation.

Have you traveled the roads that you thought you would travel when you were 18?  What surprises did you not anticipate?  What impact have these changes had on your creative expression?  How many times have you changed careers?  Where do you see yourself tomorrow?
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Ernest Hemingway

"I sometimes think my style is suggestive rather than direct.  The reader must often use his imagination or lose the most subtle part of my thought."

— Ernest Hemingway

American Novelist

1899 - 1961

The writer and the artist should not tell everything.  They should respect the intelligence of their readers and admirers.  One important concept that my study of haiku has taught me is that the reader must bring something to the table.  The artist's job is to suggest.  The reader must discover the meaning in the writing or the painting.  My writing like Hemingway's is often suggestive, not direct.  Simple, not complex.  My painting is even more suggestive and simple.  

What this also means is that our state of mind when we read something impacts our response to what we read.  It impacts our experience of what we read.  Readers always bring something to the table.  Some books should be read when we are young and others when we are more mature.  Some books should be read again and again.  Each time we read it, we find new meaning in the words because we are a new person.  The same is true of painting, music, dance and theater.

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Anne Frank

"In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart."

German Writer

1929 - 1945

One of the challenges that I have faced in my life is that I am sometimes too trusting of people.  I believe that inside every person there is some good.  Yet, I know that people have been nice to my face and negative behind my back.  Sometimes I have not found out about it until years later when somebody accidently says something.  

As creative leaders we may encounter people who will try to use us and manipulate us for their advantage.  People will try to take advantage of us.  I talked with a speaker once whose office manager embezzled more than $750,000 from him.  He trusted her and treated her as family only to find out she was stealing from him.  Those of us who have a kind and trusting heart need to be careful.  

Fame and fortune can turn friends into enemies.  Fame and fortune can bring jealousy and envy.  In the book, Dean and Me: A Love Story, Jerry Lewis discusses the breakup of his business and theatrical relationship with Dean Martin.  Fame and fortune brought people into their lives who did not have their best interests at heart.  These people stoked the flames of jealousy and envy.  And eventually the dynamic comedy duo was destroyed.

Yet, as Anne Frank says so well, we need to still believe in people despite what they may have done to us.  Don't let yourself become cynical and sarcastic.  Not everyone is out to steal from you.  Not everyone wants to use you and your good name.  Hold onto your innocence.  Believe in the good in others.

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Wallace Stevens

"A poet looks at the world as a man looks at a woman."

American Poet

1879 - 1955

What a powerful statement of love and lust!  Do you lust after your creative expression?  Do you lust after the physical world?  For some creativity is a form of sexual expression.  Do you have love in your heart when you create?  Do you make love to the infinite when you paint, or write, or dance?  Are you inspired by the beauty surrounding you?  Does your creativity give birth to your greatest desires?  Are you passionate about the work you do?  Do you dance with your muses and sing songs of love and lust?

Do you look at peaches with lust and love?  Here is a poem by Wallace Stevens.

A Dish of Peaches in Russia

by Wallace Stevens

With my whole body I taste these peaches,

I touch them and smell them.  Who speaks?

I absorb them as the Angevine

Absorbs Anjou.  I see them as a lover sees,

As a young lover sees the first buds of spring

And as the black Spaniard plays his guitar.

Who speaks?  But it must be that I,

That animal, that Russian, that exile, from whom

The bells of the chapel pullulate sounds at

Heart.  The peaches are large and round,

Ah! and red; and they have peach fuzz, ah!

They are full of juice and the skin is soft.

They are full of the colors of my village

And of fair weather, summer, dew, peace.
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Robert Bly

"I learned to trust my obsessions.  It is surely a great calamity for a human being to have no obsessions."

American Poet

1926 - 

What are your obsessions?  Do you deny that they exist?  What is it that keeps appearing in your paintings or writings?  In my art I am obsessed with masks.  I paint and draw masks.  When I did wood carving I carved masks.  When I doodle, I draw masks.  We all wear masks even those who say they don't.  We change our behavior depending on the people we are with? I bet most of you act different around your parents than your friends.  And you are probably different at work than you are at home.  We all don our masks and sometimes we even hide from ourselves.

What are your obsessions?  What drives you to paint or draw or write?  What is the message that you must deliver to the world?  Do you trust your obsessions?  Do you understand why you must pursue your obsessions even if it means putting yourself at risk?  Please take a moment and share your obsessions?  I would enjoy hearing from you.

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Adages of Wisdom Quotes by Master Sheng Yen

In life, we must make the best preparations, and be ready for the worst.


As long as we still have breath, we have boundless hope, and the breath we have is the greatest wealth.


Those who aid and deliver the suffering are bodhisattvas, and those in the throes of suffering are great bodhisattvas.


To transcend the sufferings of birth, old age, and sickness, keep to the three principles: live happily, face illness with a healthy mind, and embrace old age with hope.


To transcend the suffering of death, keep to the three principles: never seek death, never fear death, and never wait for death to come.


Death is an occasion for neither mourning nor celebrating, but one for solemn Buddhist practice.

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Wilfred Grenfell

"The service we render for others is really the rent we pay for our room on this earth."

English Medical Missionary

1865 - 1940

It is a privilege and honor to be an artist.  We have an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of people.  Creative leaders provide tremendous value to societies and the people who make up those societies.  We entertain, inspire, inform and teach.  We give hope when hope is needed.  

Have you ever read a book that changed your life?  Thank the author with all your heart for the hours he spent writing and rewriting that book.  Have you ever read a novel that made you cry?  Thank the author.  Have you ever listened to a piece of music again and again because it calmed you down?  Thank the composer and the musicians.  Have you ever stood before a statue with your mouth wide open in awe?  Thank the sculptor.  Have you ever sat for hours in a museum studying a painting of a master?  Thank the painter for sharing his talent.

Be thankful for the privilege of serving others — of helping to ease their pain.  For giving them a few moments of laughter, joy and encouragement.  For helping them bear the loneliness of living.  For saving them from their thoughts of suicide.  Creative leaders are seldom aware of the impact and influence they have on people's lives.  If they did, they would be thankful every day for the gift they have been given.

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Hisham Matar

"When I first began writing In the Country of Men all I had was the voice of the protagonist.  He intrigued me and my desire to want to know him and his world became almost compulsive."

Libyan Novelist

1970 -

Sometimes it is the small things like a memory or face or a photo that triggers the beginning of a story or a novel.  Maybe it is a voice inside the writer's head.  The novel I wrote many years ago was inspired by a character in one of my short stories.  I wanted to explore the relationship between a father and a son, but the father took over the story and it became his story.  The son almost disappeared from the novel.

What triggers your imagination?  What inspires you to put pen to paper and spend hours creating a story?  What inspires you to paint a particular subject?  Some artists paint people.  Others paint landscapes or a still life.  As artists and writers we are drawn to particular subject for a reason.  Somewhere in our subconscious, we recognize that we need to learn a particular lesson or explore a particular idea.  Do your subjects speak to your heart?  Do they demand your attention?  Do they grab you by the shoulders and refuse to let go?

What's Your Opinion?

Please take a few minutes

of your time and share what

inspires you to write or paint?

Click on the comments below.

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Katsushika Hokusai


"I have been in love with painting ever since I became conscious of it at the age of six.  I drew some pictures I thought fairly good when I was fifty, but really nothing I did before the age of seventy was of any value at all.  At seventy-three I have at last caught every aspect of nature — birds, fish, animals, insects, trees, grasses, all.  When I am eighty I shall have developed still further, and I will really master the secrets of art at ninety.  When I reach a hundred my work will be truly sublime, and my final goal will be attained around the age of one hundred and ten, when every line and dot I draw will be imbued with life.

Japanese Artist

1760 - 1849

Humility — a trait many creative leaders do not possess, yet a behavior we all should cultivate.  In fact, the lack of humility has caused the down fall of many creative leaders.  They start believing what their admirers say and acting in accordance with what is said.  In the words of my childhood:  they grow too big for their britches.  They begin to believe their own press.

Learn to cultivate the trait of humility.  None of us are perfect.  We all make mistakes — both in our personal lives and our artistic creations.  It takes a lifetime to become a master and even then we may not achieve that designation.  Be thankful for what you have been given and seek to be humble.

Great Wave of Kanagawa

Sometimes we become so caught up in the day to day activities of living that we forget how short life is. We are here today and gone tomorrow.  In the eons of time, we live for only a second.  That fact alone should make us humble.  And if you look at our place in the universe, we shrink even more.  Practice humility.

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