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    Dividing camels

    The traditional teaching stories of the Sufi's are often intriguing. One of my favourites is known as Dividing Camels. I originally came across it in Idries Shah's book Thinkers of the East.

    There was once a Sufi who wanted to make sure that his disciples would, after his death, find the right teacher of the Way for them.

    He therefore, after the obligatory bequests laid down by law, left his disciples seventeen camels, with this order:

    'You will divide the camels among the three of you in the following proportions: the oldest shall have half, the middle in age one-third, and the youngest shall have one-ninth.'

    As soon as he was dead and the will was read, the disciples were at first amazed at such an inefficient disposition of their Master's assets. Some said, 'Let us own the camels communally,' other sought advice and then said, 'We have been told to make the nearest possible division,' others were told by a judge to sell the camels and divide the money; and yet others held that the will was null and void because its provisions could not be executed.

    Then they fell to thinking that there might be some hidden wisdom in the Master's bequest, so they made inquiries as to who could solve insoluble problems.

    Everyone they tried failed, until they arrived at the door of the son-in-law of the Prophet, Hazrat Ali. He said:

    'This is your solution. I will add one camel to the number. Out of the eighteen camels you will give half--nine camels--to the oldest disciple. The second shall have a third of the total, which is six camels. the last disciple may have one-ninth, which is two camels. That makes seventeen. One--my camel--is left over to be returned to me.'

    This was how the disciples found the teacher for them

    Here is a sufi comic version from Arif & Ali's Blog

    Dividing Camels


    Doing one thing at a time

    The Magic of Doing One Thing at a Time:

    Excellent reminder from HBR to focus on doing one thing well

    Tell the truth: Do you answer email during conference calls (and sometimes even during calls with one other person)? Do you bring your laptop to meetings and then pretend you're taking notes while you surf the net? Do you eat lunch at your desk? Do you make calls while you're driving, and even send the occasional text, even though you know you shouldn't?

    Well, sometimes… The post finishes with some suggestions for managers

    • Maintain meeting discipline
    • Stop demanding or expecting instant responsiveness at every moment of the day
    • Encourage renewal ….It's also up to individuals to set their own boundaries.
    • Do the most important thing first in the morning
    • Establish regular, scheduled times to think more long term, creatively, or strategically
    • Take real and regular vacations 



    Models for decision making

    I like this introduction to decision making techniques at Creative Market.

    "Some decisions appear to be relatively straight forward until you take a step back and look at the entire picture with a fresh perspective. You may notice that there are a variety of factors that actually impact a choice or decision that you did not notice before."

    The post also features a nice mind map example from Learning Fundamentals focused on personal actions for reducing climate change impacts.

    I find the iPad an ideal tool for mind mapping especially with the power of iThoughtsHD.


    Looking for meaning by paying attention

    This stimulating post from Art Markman at has a focus on Innovation.

    It turns out that if you practice finding the meanings of proverbs, you can get better at finding the same kind of essential definitions of problems you are trying to solve. Describing problems in this way will help you retrieve the knowledge you have that is most likely to lead to innovative problem solutions.

    Ultimately, the key to innovation is not to "think different," but rather, to think about different things. (Via

    Beyond business innovation, paying attention to the meaning of the words we use and the cultural stories we retell is also a tool for deepening our understanding of the world around us. Many of us go though our daily routine in a somewhat robotic state with our actions being driven by habitual routines. This lack of attention is sometimes seen in the way we use words and proverbs without considering their original and often insightful deeper meanings.

    Numerous esoteric disciplines feature exercises to help people look below the surface veneer of life by paying attention to multiple meanings of culturally common words, phrases and stories. For example - the Sufi's have a practise that aims to find seven levels of meaning inside traditional teaching stories. These are a somewhat like extended proverbs in the sense that they are usually involve folk lore characters and common situational contexts e.g. the Mulla Nasrudin stories. These stories are constructed to prompt the mind to seek the underlying message which is indirectly pointed to by the characters and plot.


    Maintaining physical social and mental fitness

    Since I subscribed to the Harvard Business Review blog posts I have seen a steady stream of sharply observed and well thought out pieces. Many are aimed at corporate efficiency however a good smattering challenge the existing order and some are just timely good advice like this one

    Maintaining Physical, Social and Mental Fitness for Peak Performance

    Mental fitness involves the following seven practices — some of which cross over into the physical and social domains: good night's sleep (7-8 hours is recommended), physical activity, focus, reflection, down time, connecting time, and play time. This approach to mental fitness is similar to the Human Performance Institute's Corporate Athlete program which focuses on physical, emotional, mental and spiritual (or purpose) sources of energy to build resiliency and drive peak performance. (Via


    Healing power of chooks

    This post has been in my mind since I saw a wonderful program ABC TV. The program “Rare Chicken Rescue” has two themes, one is depression and the other is about rescuing rare chicken breeds. Both subjects are interesting however it was the role that keeping chickens played in rescuing Mark Tully from depression that really struck a chord.

    When we lived on the North Coast of NSW we kept about 20 odd chickens and 3 ducks. Watching this mob of birds going about their daily activities was a source of endless fascination for us. If you slow down and observe with curiosity their individual characters become more apparent. Chickens have an astonishing range of movements and noises when they allowed to follow their natural patterns. I can easily understand how watching the birds can bring someone out of a downward spiral and gradually lead to some relief from symptoms of depression.

    As anyone who has allowed chooks to free range around their garden will know, they have an uncanny sense of which beds to head for to disperse carefully mulched delicate plants. Roosters also seem to be able to get over just about any fence and into a vege garden.

    One of the experiments we trialled was the use of “Chook Tractors”. This is an idea popularised by Bill Mollison in the Permaculture books. The version we used was a chook dome made of poly pipe and chicken wire, that was rotated over half a dozen circular vege beds (as described by Linda Woodrow in The Permaculture Home Garden). One additional benefit of the dome was that it was easy to sit next to and watch the chickens go about their business.


    Finding Optimism - an award winning blog aimed at helping depression suffers and their helpers, also links to their excellent software package for the Mac that provides an easy way to maintain a daily record of your mental health symptoms and the various triggers that are associated with with them.

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