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So What is Christmas?

First of all let me say that as good as the following are, these things are not what Christmas is about.

1. Presents
2. Family
3. Fun
4. Santa Claus
5. Children
6. Friends
7. Holidays
8. Food and Drink
9. Snow, sleighs, bells, tinsel or even trees
10. World peace…..

All these are great, and fun, and good for the world but there is one thing missing, the reason for the day in the first place.

The day recognizes the birth of Jesus, son of Mary and step son of Joseph. I do believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Although December 25 is not the actual day of the birth of Jesus, it is as good a day as any to celebrate that about  2010 years ago, Jesus was born on earth and the world will never be the same again.

His birth is just a small part of the story, he went on to comfort the hurting and the broken, heal the sick and even raise the dead. He forgave “sinners” the people who broke the rules of the day. Outcasts of society,  prostitutes and thieves where his friends. Ultimately He even took our faults and failures upon Himself and became a sacrifice once and for all that we no longer need to face an eternity with our problems.

His resurrection gave us hope that one day we too will be whole, clean and well, just as we all were supposed to be.

Even today Jesus is with you, whether you “feel it” or not, whether you accept Him or not is up to you, I will not, and cannot,  force you to believe because that decision is yours  alone to make. All I can ask is that you look into this season, Christmas, and take time to find out what it is about,  ask yourself “what is my response to it”?.

Read the parts of the bible called the gospels especially Luke and John, to find out more. Choose a version that is easily understood by you. Be open, take some time this Christmas to find out more.

Paul S Allen

(this is an updated re-post of a previous article of mine on 24 Dec 2009

Christmas Tree 2010 #1

Economics: Have We Got It Wrong?

A brief review of a presentation by Geoff White, the general manager of Trade Aid Importers Ltd.

Geoff White

This presentation was given as part of the BNZ Business Seminar Series  organised by the School of Business , University of Otago 10 August 2010.

The background was set by an explanation that all international commerce could be traced back to King Henry VIII. He then traced the history of economic development from then to the present (as a brief overview). White suggests that we should take a macro look at the history of economics and economic  development and not just take an arbitrary date that will support the current thinking.

White went on to discuss the Trade Aid charter explaining the three areas of partnership, change and sustainability.

Key statements:

“Globalization is very poor at growing wealth” and “free trade has not delivered growth, stability and equality”.

“I don’t want nice words, I want an order” White quotes a Bangladeshi women after he gave  a presentation on trade in a town in  Bangladesh.

“The status quo is not good enough for 80 percent of the world”

“The future of the fair trade movement is in the domestic market”. This is in the producing countries overseas and in New Zealand. With the decline of globalization, small and medium enterprises are ideally suited to service the domestic market that they are based in, e.g. local seasonal food produced for a local market.

To measure the impact of fair trade we need to make sure that success is measured in the eyes of the community that is being assessed  and not imposing a “western” standard that would be unobtainable. “An iron shed is luxury compared to a mud hut” yet to a first world economy observer it would be still an iron shed. Mediocrity to one person is excellence to another. It is not for us to judge the other, especially if we do not know all of the circumstances of the other.

“All this (change) is good, but besides, there is something really important that may be difficult to measure but is real: artisans and their families now can think in the future, they can do planning, they can even dream.” MINKA, Peru.


Are free trade agreements always good? Often the free trade agreements can include “hooks” that could affect, not just business but may impose a colonial style approach to education, health, and welfare. Each agreement needs to be looked at not just from an economic perspective but from a holistic societal and sovereign view. Is short-term gain ever worth long-term loss? Some doubt and suspicion is required to ensure that own interests are protected, this includes the sale of land to overseas interests.

A further question to be asked is: Sustainable for who? Are all parties to any trade being treated in a way that is beneficial for all?

Overall this was an excellent presentation and the fact that the audience was left with questions will help in applying due diligence to all trade practices.

Paul S Allen

Coach John Wooden

To me, this video sums up the essence of what it means to be a great coach or role model, it is a “must see”  for any aspiring leaders.

Only recently have I discovered John Wooden and all to late as he passed away 4 June 2010 at the great age of 99. (May he rest in peace).

Let me encourage you to study his Pyramid of Success.

Paul S Allen

Dangerous Leaders

To hold leaders and leadership in too high regard will lead to disappointment.

What happens when egocentric leaders meet needy people? Potentially a train wreck of use and abuse on all levels. When a self serving person is in a leadership position they are in a dangerous place and the emotional, spiritual and physical well-being of the followers are at risk. The leader will do all within them to protect their position because their ego and self-esteem have been tied together with the position.

The danger that is faced is not just for the follower, the leader is building a folly for themselves that will (not could) fall down at any stage.

The follower with low self-esteem or is wanting constant approval will be encouraged by the egocentric leader to do more, give more, give up more, not for the purpose of the organisation but because it gives a sense of having people serve them, it is all about power and control. Then needy  follower will feel that they are being “useful” or “important” without being encourage to improve their own lives or situations.

This is all done in very subtle ways where even the leader may not be aware of what is going on.

So what can be done to protect the follower and inform the leader that they need help too?


  • Remember that the cause, purpose or vision is bigger than you (well at least it should be).
  • It is not about power and glory: You are in the position because there is a need in the community that requires attention or fixing.
  • Get help, to change an egocentric lifestyle or leadership style will require the assistance of others, may be even professional help.
  • Swallow your pride
  • If you need to resign, or step down while you get it sorted, do it
  • Become accountable to someone outside of your organisation


  • You need assistance too, again this may need to be professional assistance
  • Talk to friends and family not attached to the organisation, ask for their honest opinions and LISTEN to them
  • Take a big step and say “no”.
  • Learn where your boundaries are and where they should be
  • Take time out for yourself, and don’t feel guilty about it
  • Know this: YOU are important, YOU matter, and YOUR opinions count

Getting your priorities in order is individual and although people may suggest what they should be, only the individual should organise their own.

Good leadership will always respect the individual, embrace the different opinions of others, it will respect boundaries while challenging the status quo.

Paul S Allen

TEDxDunedin (A Reflection) 2

A reflection on the second TEDxDunedin event held 16 April 2010.

TED has the tag line “Ideas Worth Spreading”, this was again true tonight.

If I were to sum up the night succinctly it could be said like this… Don’t get stressed about what you do not have, live a simple but enjoyable life and when you come to leave this life make sure you have made your peace over what really matters.

The Speakers

Professor Andrew Bradstock “Mind the gap: why inequality effects us all”

It was a interesting to hear that New Zealand has the sixth largest equality gap between rich and poor in the world. It is not however a surprise to hear that this large gap has a negative effect on the whole of society. “We are all poorer because of inequality” The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer in New Zealand and across the western world. What we fail to grasp is that more wealth does not equal more happiness. It is not for us to judge that one materialistic rich life is better than a simple but content life. I have said in a previous article “Mediocrity to one person is excellence to another. It is not for us to judge the other, especially if we do not know all of the circumstances of the other.”

Andrew finished with an open call for dialogue around the question “What makes for a better society?”. Let me echo that call.


Kate Wilson “The Measure of Happiness – and Other Unmeasurables”.

The main message from Kate was that a happy life is not dependant on having things or more money or looking like this model or being rich. It is by working out your own values, that is what is really important to you. Contentment is not measured by commodities or consumer products or even the size of your bank balance.

Money is not part of this question. Money is just a tool.

The question to ask of yourself is “What is your measure of contentment?”.


Richard Egan “How To Die Well”.

The trend has been over the last few centuries that we are “living decades longer” but “dying badly” (especially long drawn out cancer and heart decease) and there has been a “growth on meaninglessness”.

Spirituality and death can not be separated, one could say that death is in every way a spiritual act, whether there is a particular faith or belief the act of dying is deeply spiritual. To die well implies that one has to prepare spiritually while still alive.

The spiritual is important and needs to be looked after regardless of personal belief systems.

A question was asked “how do we prepare for death?” This is not easy to answer but each of us needs to search for the answer, as Socrates said “an unexamined life is not worth living”.


I have personally had my brush with death as when I was five I nearly drowned and had to be rescued after I became unconscious , death now has no sting for me, I remember that it was very peaceful and knew I was in the safest place. I have a deep faith in God that sustains me. My father, who also has a strong faith, says “death is an exciting adventure waiting to happen” (he has a heart condition).

The whole evening topics could be summed up Live well, find out what makes you content, help others on the way and know how to die well.

Also part of this event was a video from Hans Rosling from TED India(Click the link below)

“Hans Rosling was a young guest student in India when he first realized that Asia had all the capacities to reclaim its place as the world’s dominant economic force. At TEDIndia, he graphs global economic growth since 1858 and predicts the exact date that India and China will outstrip the US.” (TED)

This was another excellent night and thanks to all those who organised and hosted this night.

Paul S Allen

Find out more about a TEDx event near you.

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