Challenging Yourself

My wife calls it “my insatiable quest for knowledge”. I call it just needing to know. It is one of the things that drives me. Now I can be as irrational as anyone else (after all, I support Spurs, a team that, according to Roy Keane, “will always let you down”); however, I do like to find out how and why. Hence most of my reading is nonfiction as is much of my radio and TV input. I just find it considerably more interesting that the usual drivel that is served up. I am also, I like to think, someone who aims for the highest common factor and not the lowest common denominator in life.

Interestingly, the more I get to know my wife (and, after 25 years, I’m still learning), the more I see, below the surface, what makes ours such a strong relationship. We have a great deal in common, grounded in a belief in the inherent goodness of the vast majority of  humanity and the need for a caring and sharing society that helps people to develop their talents and contribute to the greater good. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that we’ve taken the paths that we have; it even helped to create the circumstances through which we met in the first place. Along the way, I, the noisy one, have learnt a great deal from this quieter one. I’ve done this, often with some reluctance, by listening to and, more importantly, hearing what she has to say. It’s funny how, the more I do this, the better at it I become. It has also, of greater significance, helped me to see some things differently and made me a more rounded person. It’s also, of course, made for a better relationship.

Which leads me to my point. The more vociferous and opinionated among us may be just that. We don’t necessarily have a monopoly on experience or wisdom. What is also interesting is that, in much of my career in the voluntary sector, among my roles at consultation and other meetings, was to give those who were less confident or able to express their views, the chance to do so. That often meant shutting the likes of me up. There have been many demonstrations of the success of this but I will quote just one.

When I first became self employed, my first job was helping a group of residents in Luton to put together a presentation to bid £48m of,  what was then, the government’s New Deal for Communities funding in competition with other similar groups in the area. Among those chosen, from among the group, to make a presentation was Jackie, who I remember as a young mother. On the day of the presentation, she stood up to speak. She was so nervous that I could see her shaking from yards away. Yet she kept going. The result was that, along with the contribution from the other speakers and their presentations, Marsh Farm was selected as the successful applicant.

So, all you politicians and masters of the universe, listen and take heed of what the rest of us think. You may find that there are better ways of doing things if you overcome your preconceptions. After all, you could hardly call the current situation a success story.

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