HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]:

Money matters

Snap Shots

Modern Medicine

Learn to Live to Learn

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Psychological Perspectives

Personal Directions

Money matters: A short history of the only real currency (part 1)

Graham Macdonald
MBMG International Ltd.

Further to our articles over the last couple of weeks the one thing that concerns us is that while the long-term weekly charts look bullish, there is negative divergence on the daily index charts. This suggests that the long-term trend is up, but that a pullback will probably occur shortly.

Also, most of the internals that we track, such as the summation indices, bullish percent indices and a few other ratios seem to support the price action. However, the negative divergence is also starting to show up on these indicators, thus a short-term pullback is a distinct possibility.

Oil stocks are actually setting up again for another possible rally, and this sector may attempt to break out to new highs again. However, use caution with this area because (yet again) there is negative divergence in the MACD histogram.

This brings us to the focal point of this week’s letter. Gold metal has been in a correction since late June. The commercial net short position indicates that it may soon hit another major bottom, possibly within another week or so. Gold stocks are outperforming relative to physical gold bullion and the sector is starting to look interesting again. I think a major buy signal could occur within the next month or so.

Last week we had an in-depth look at the action and history of the US Dollar (A Short History of Nearly Every Fiat Currency – 26 August 2005). I thought it opportune to look at the market action of gold and why we believe investors should hold some insurance (via gold bullion) in their portfolios. If central banks and governments around the world hold part of their reserves in gold, why is it that Joe Bloggs doesn’t keep any of his hard-earned retirement money in the only currency that has stood the test of time?

Before we have a look at the market action of gold and gold equities, I think it worthwhile to quickly go through a couple of economic figures as background information. Although this is not my specialty, it doesn’t take a specialist to get the gist of it. If the sheer size of the figures isn’t scary enough, the trend is!

The Internal US Lending Machine

First quarter total US mortgage debt expanded at a $US 1.127 TRILLION seasonally-adjusted annual pace to $US 10.774 TRILLION. US bank credit expanded $US 1.054 TRILLION seasonally-adjusted and annualised over the quarter to $US 7.0 TRILLION. US total credit market debt (non-financial and financial) expanded at a 6.9% annualised pace to $37.31 TRILLION. That’s 306% of US GDP.

The US economy supposedly expanded at an annual rate of 3.5 percent during the first quarter. But (and it’s a big BUT) US federal government borrowings expanded by 13.8 percent, US household debt by 9.3 percent, US corporate debt by 7.5 percent, and US state and local debt by 16.7 percent. All this shows that the US economy - at all levels - borrows at a rate which is now expanding much faster than the US economy.

A leap in the US Broad Money (M3) numbers

Over the week to May 27, US M3 jumped $US 23.8 Billion to $US 9.622 TRILLION. In one week, the US credit money machine created an additional US $23.8 Billion out of thin air. Those new US Dollars are now in full circulation. If the US Federal Reserve keeps this weekly rate of money creation up for a year it will have added an additional $US 1 TRILLION 237 Billion to the already outstanding stock of money in the US monetary system. This is where the global spill-over starts.

Let the record show

The wider US M3 money supply has grown from $US 7.3 TRILLION at the start of 2001 to $US 9.622 TRILLION through May 2005. Over the mere four and one-half years from the start of 2001, the US money machine has decanted this additional $US 2 TRILLION 322 Billion on top of the pre-existing $US 7.3 TRILLION, which is an increase in the total stock of money in the USA of 31.8 percent in that time!

US trading with the world

At $US 57.0 Billion, April’s trade deficit was up 18 percent from one year ago. Annualising the April trade deficit gives an annual deficit of $US 684 Billion. US goods imports were up 15 percent from April 2004 to $US 136.8 Billion. US exports were up 13 percent to $US 74.5 Billion. US May import prices were up 5.7 percent from one year ago. That hits right at the everyday American’s standard of living, unless his or her earnings (less taxes) have also climbed by 5.7 percent. It also hits businesses in the US if they have to acquire imports in order to complete their final products. Unless they can raise their selling prices to cover for this cost increase, they will take the hit right on their bottom line.

The US Global Trading Score
Card - for April

The US trade deficit with Japan narrowed to $US 7.2 Billion from $US 7.8 Billion. The deficit with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries widened to $US 7.1 Billion from $US 6.6 Billion. The deficit with Canada, the largest US trading partner, widened to $US 9.8 Billion from $US 9.3 Billion.

The gap with Mexico widened to $US 4.4 Billion from $US 4.3 Billion. The US deficit with Europe increased to $US 11.8 Billion from $US 10.9 Billion. The real geo-political issue that arises here is why is China’s trade surplus with the US such a huge problem? After all, the US has a GLOBAL trade deficit.

Trading up a storm with borrowed money

The US trade deficit reached $US 228.7 Billion over the first four months of 2005. The equivalent in 2004 was $US 187.3 Billion. Over 2004 as a whole, the US trade gap reached a new record of $US 617.6 Billion. The first four months of 2005 annualised comes to almost $US 700 Billion. The OECD has predicted a $US 900 Billion trade deficit for 2006. We are looking at a totally out-of-control situation. Its cause is straightforward. It is the immense generation of credit in the US; new additional credit issued through loans and then spilling over into external trade as purchases with the money which has been borrowed internally.

The Global US Dollar Spill-Over

Global international reserve assets being held by other Central Banks (excluding gold), as reported by Bloomberg, were up $US 563.93 Billion, or 17.5% over the past 12 months to $US 3.778 TRILLION.

A couple of questions

How come the US doesn’t have to keep any meaningful reserves? Is it because they can print reserves (currency) at will? Gold, as a tool of fundamental personal savings, as globally tradable and very private money, has at all times walked parallel with our new global fiat and credit money regimes. It has been patiently waiting to roll over the hill and charge when the monetary malfeasance has gone far enough. The IMF says in its own rules that Gold is a useless item. If that is so, why does the IMF hold Gold? Why does the US hold Gold? Why do the European Central Banks hold Gold, more between them than any other Central Bank? Why did the ECB acquire its own stock of Gold when it was established? If Gold is such a “relic”, why haven’t ALL these Central Banks sold the lot, simply to get rid of it? How come ANY financial institution is prepared to lend you 100% of the value of your gold, but not your share portfolio (especially if it contains the likes of Google and Yahoo)? Because it IS a store of wealth!

Gold is never mentioned in polite Central Banker company.

Continued next week…

The above data and research was compiled from sources believed to be reliable. However, neither MBMG International Ltd nor its officers can accept any liability for any errors or omissions in the above article nor bear any responsibility for any losses achieved as a result of any actions taken or not taken as a consequence of reading the above article. For more information please contact Graham Macdonald on [email protected]

Snap Shots: The best digitals?

by Harry Flashman

I am not sure if the cameras mentioned in this week’s column really are the best digitals around, but they are the ones that got the nod from the judges at the TIPA awards in Europe. These are the European Photo and Imaging Awards from the Technical Image Press Association (TIPA), and they were presented in Cologne at the Photokina in August this year.

These awards are given only to cameras and other photographic products released in the past 12 months, so even though they might have won an award, it does not mean that there was not something better released more than 12 months ago. The onus is on you to judge what’s best for your needs.

The judging parameters included innovation, the use of leading-edge technology, design and ergonomics of the products and their ease of use and price/performance ratio. The main category winners in the digital camera group were the Canon EOS-1 DS Mark II (SLR Professional), Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro (SLR Midrange), Canon EOS 350D (SLR Entry level), Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ20 (Superzoom), Nikon Coolpix 7900 (Compact), Sony Cyber-shot T7 (Ultra Compact) and the Sony Ericsson K750i (Mobile phone Imaging Device).

The Canon EOS-1 DS Mark II, the winning pro digital, was described as the real sensation of the year, pushing digital photography to a new level by creating image files up to 16.7 megapixels. This amazing output not only enables print-sizes up to 60 x 90 cm, but also ensures that professionals can safely crop images without the fear of losing quality. In addition to the huge file sizes, its 24 x 36 mm CMOS sensor is a true full-frame, so keeps the focal lengths of lenses exactly equivalent to those of 35mm film SLRs. This is a huge advantage to users of wide-angle lenses, and the large viewfinder image that results gives professional photographers the clarity they need for critical composition and focusing. The image processing is also second-to-none, and offers excellent detail at high sensitivity, up to at least ISO 800.

Best mid-range SLR went to the Fujifilm FinePix S3 Pro. While retaining the Nikon F-mount and the handling of the Nikon F80 film SLR, the FinePix S3 Pro offers a new Super CCD SR II sensor, with a total of 12.34 million pixels. Being half the weight of high-end professional digital SLRs, the FinePix S3 Pro is a very competitive option for studio, location or still-life shooting.

In the digital compacts, it was the Nikon Coolpix 7900, incorporating several new features such as the D-Lighting function that adds light and detail to dark areas of shots, while leaving brighter areas unaffected. The In-Camera Red-Eye Fix function automatically corrects red-eye in flash photos, while the most innovative new function is Face-priority AF, which can automatically sense the presence of a human face in the frame and sets accurate focus accordingly. Great idea, as long as the face was intended to be the subject matter!

Best Digital SLR Entry Level was the Canon EOS 350D. With its CMOS 8.2 MP sensor and Digic II image-processor, the Canon EOS 350D is both powerful and compact with a very attractive price-tag (in Europe). While being easy to use, it also incorporates the latest technology employed by high-end models in the Canon professional range. It can be used either on its fully automatic setting, or with complete manual control of shutter speed, aperture and ISO settings, thus allowing newcomers to develop their photographic skills. The EOS 350D is compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S lenses, giving a large choice of optics for the discerning user.

Just to show that film is not dead (yet), Nikon picked up the Best 35 mm SLR Camera award with its Nikon F6. With its robust build quality, its exceptional viewfinder, its incredibly accurate exposure system, and its fast and responsive auto-focus, the Nikon F6 gives the dedicated film user all the benefits of the very latest developments in technology and ergonomics. It is without doubt the best analog SLR that has ever been produced, and will provide its owners with a tool that will never go out of fashion. It’s rugged construction will last for many years - at least as long as film is available!

Modern Medicine: Beware of doctors’ neckties, they could make you sick

by Dr. Iain Corness, Consultant

The heading to this week’s article was in an email I received recently. Eye catching enough for me to read further, it went on to say, “The next time you meet with your doctor and he or she is wearing a necktie, feel free to compliment them on their taste, but immediately ask them to tuck it in their shirts and then WASH THEIR HANDS. Neckties are the carriers of a myriad of germs and bacteria. If the tie rubs against you, or your doctor touches you after adjusting his/her tie, the chances for contracting an infection are high.”

I read on further, getting more and more annoyed with the sweeping statements, and then came to the punch-line. Here it comes, “Available on DVD and VHS video tape for $29.95, (it) gives valuable insight into the potential hazards of the hospital experience without instilling fear or blame.” Excuse me? Without instilling fear or blame? That was the whole thrust behind the email, complete with statistics claiming two million people enter hospitals in America and contract infections, and 90,000 of them die! Worry the reader enough and they’ll cough up $29.95 before they go to hospital, for that DVD that will save their lives (suitably sterilized of course).

Now I am not going to deny that my necktie might have the odd bacterium on it, but so also does my nose, and so does yours. And what about the stuff in your pockets called money? Goes from dirty hand to dirty hand and then into your pocket. Probably the most dangerous thing you routinely take everywhere! Perhaps I should make a DVD called “Your money is killing you!” Instill enough fear and they’ll sell like hot cakes for $29.95 too. Just don’t pay cash, it’s too dangerous.

Hot on the heels of the DVD that will save my life if I have to go to hospital (and since I go there every day as part of my work, I am really facing certain death, it would seem), there came another email to alert me to the dangers of aspartame, one of the sweeteners regularly used in diet carbonated drinks.

The email warning went, “If you are using aspartame and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss-you probably have aspartame disease!” Wow! I think I’d better stop breathing, just in case I inadvertently inhale some of this incredibly potent and dangerous toxin.

Even Time magazine was prompted to write, “A widely disseminated email by a ‘Nancy Markle’ links aspartame to Alzheimer’s, birth defects, brain cancer, diabetes, Gulf War syndrome, lupus, multiple sclerosis and seizures. Right away, the long list warrants skepticism. Just as no single chemical cures everything, none causes everything.” Well said, Time magazine.

The very highly reputable medical journal, The Lancet commented, “Our research revealed over 6000 web sites that mention aspartame, with many hundreds alleging aspartame to be the cause of multiple sclerosis, lupus erythematosis, Gulf War Syndrome, chronic fatigue syndrome, brain tumours, and diabetes mellitus, among many others. Virtually all of the information offered is anecdotal, from anonymous sources and is scientifically implausible.”

The email finished by stating that “Monsanto, the creator of aspartame, funds the American Diabetes Association, the American Dietetic Association, and the Conference of the American College of Physicians. These Associations cannot criticize any additives or convey their link to Monsanto because they take money from the food industry and have to endorse their products.”

Gentle reader, let me assure you that this is fatuous nonsense. Before any scientific papers are published, the researchers have to declare any ‘Conflicts of Interest’ to ensure a lack of bias. They can, and do, criticize the chemical industry, where scientific evidence exists. Once again, scare tactics being used to distort public thinking.

However, if you want a chemical that does cause tremors, brain function loss, ascites and liver failure, coma and death, go no further than C2H5OH, otherwise known as Ethanol, and often called beer. And I had one (or two) at the weekend! Perhaps I should strangle myself with my necktie before it is all too late!

Learn to Live to Learn: The Guru

with Andrew Watson

That’s it, then. For international school students, the holiday’s over. It’s back to school. The pleasure and pain of a new school year awaits. Whatever happens, it’s not going to be boring (can I hear some students yawning in disagreement?). Of course, schools shouldn’t be boring places, quite the opposite, and they should be positive places too. Thus, I trust we can rely on student and parent power to ensure that those who bore are given short shrift! And what better way to celebrate returning to the daily joy of teaching and learning by reaching into the heart of education and indeed, the heart of this column!

Chris Wright: “We must never forget that educators are not just transmitters of knowledge but cultivators of souls.”

Just before I boarded the plane back to Thailand, it was my consummate privilege to visit a man whom in my opinion epitomises what transformational twenty first century education is about. Not content with leading a school, with vision and compassion, through the midst of the Intifada, he returned to the neglected industrial heartland of the United Kingdom in Stoke-on-Trent, where he immediately set about implementing a stunning new vision for his school, the community and the city, its operation, its infrastructure and its identity. In a multicultural city under political threat from the BNP (British National Party), this man was well equipped for the challenge. A Christian married to a beautiful Muslim, he lives his dream. His unmitigated success is sending massive positive karma across Europe and beyond. Chris Wright’s record of achievement speaks for himself. A recent Ofsted inspection rated him ‘inspirational’ and he’s now Head of two schools simultaneously. Clearly, he is the ‘Wright’ man for the job.

His front door was open when I arrived. A light summer breeze flowed through the hall of an aesthetically alluring interior, full of light and works of art from around the globe, preaching truth, love and integrity. Chris appeared, wearing a djellabah and a warm smile. He was all charm. Sitting comfortably in the twinkling sunshine of his conservatory, I asked, and then listened, to a real live Guru.

AW: What does education mean to you? Why is education important?

CW: Education encompasses the whole of life. When it is true to itself it awakens the soul of each person caught up in it to a celebration of life in all its rich diversity. Its purpose is to help its students to mature into fully compassionate human beings.

I often start the new academic year by reading the following letter to my staff to remind them what education is really about:

Dear Teacher,

I am a survivor of a concentration camp.
My eyes saw what no man should witness:
Gas chambers built by learned engineers
Children poisoned by educated physicians,
Infants killed by trained nurses,
Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.
So I am suspicious of education.
My request is – help your students become human.
Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, educated Eichmanns.
Reading, writing, arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

Although this letter was originally written in 1953, it is has retained its poignancy, especially in the light of the increase in terrorism around the globe during the last few years.

AW: But what does it mean to be human?

CW: At the heart of the human person, I believe, lies a mystery, a place of yearning for eternity, for awe and wonder. Helping our students to become truly human means that

• when our young people leave our schools they are able to stand being alone;

• they can understand that pleasure and happiness are offshoots of activity and service to others and are not ends in themselves;

• they can look at themselves in the mirror at 2 o’clock in the morning and not be frightened by what they see;

• they listen respectfully to the views of others yet be willing to pursue their own search for truth and justice;

• they can begin to exercise compassion for those who do not belong to their own group;

If they have begun to reflect deeply on the meaning of life and the central religious questions and their alternatives then we have helped them on the journey to become fully human. If not, then however glittering their achievements, we have failed them.

AW: What are some of the dangers of education today?

CW: Especially in the UK, there is a danger that educational establishments become so obsessed with the formal aspects of raising attainment that they limit their sights and become obsessed with assessment procedures and the measuring what has been learnt and in so doing, miss out on the great adventure and challenge of enabling our students to become fully human. We must never forget that educators are not just transmitters of knowledge but cultivators of souls. C.K. Chesterton wrote that “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.” As such, schools have a grave responsibility to be the change agents of society. Instead of merely mirroring the society in which they find themselves schools should be, paraphrasing Gandhi, the change they wish to see in the world. This is probably the greatest challenge that educators face these days. It is a far easier route to copy the mores of society around them. The challenge is to take hold of their prophetic role, at times to offer a critique of the over arching secular materialist culture and to present a vision of humanity as it is meant to be.”

In thrall, I hadn’t noticed the shadows creeping. As dusk did its work, Chris cracked open a bottle of Chablis, then continued…

[email protected]
Next Week: The Wright Man

Heart to Heart with Hillary

Dear Hillary,
A frequent visitor to Thailand and Pattaya I have read the books written about bar girls also read with interest your column whilst in Pattaya and at home on the net, it is a great source of quality information and amusement.
Two years ago I met a young lady in one of the seafront bars and the usual holiday romance ensued, liking this girl too much I arranged for her to return to her family home in Chiang Rai whilst I returned to Manchester sending her money on a monthly basis.
After lots of contact via email telephone and a further few trips back to Thailand we applied for a 6 month visa to the UK and brought my young lady home, we returned to Thailand in the November last year and were married; now we reside in the UK but hope to live in Thailand by this time next year.
All my family and friends adore May and she brings to me fits of laughter on a daily basis, this Thai lady is a joy to be with full of genuine love affection and compassion.
May works extremely hard in and around the house and garden and always has a smile to give to everyone, the elderly people next door think she is a true treasure and are extremely fond of her, so am I one of the lucky ones or are the Thai girls too much maligned by a few bad apples amongst them?
Happy Harry

Dear Happy Harry,
Firstly, may I congratulate you and your wife and thank you for writing in, showing that there can be another side to the well tossed coin. In any group there will always be a bad apple or two, and the question really comes down to the relative proportion of bad apples in the local beer bar(rels). Judging by the plethora (now there’s a nice word) of letters of complaint, I would surmise that bad apples might be more plentiful than nice fresh and tasty ones, but I doubt if there has ever been an in-depth study, possibly because any researchers would probably have fallen in love by the third evening and all results would be the subject of extreme bias and too many “buy me colas”. Enjoy your times with your delightful young lady, and always remember that 50 percent of UK marriages fail, without any “buy me colas”!
Dear Hillery (sic),
Has it not come to your attention that the term “farang” is as much a racist term as “Nigger” or “Gook” or “Whap”? The Thai people have come to a place where they can choose to be racist or not. It is up to you. Hillery (sic), are you a racist, or can you choose to be better than that?
Al from Canada

Dear Al from Canada,
You’re not a lumberjack, are you? I’ve heard some bad things about those guys. No, Petal, I am not a racist, but the term “farang” is one used by Thai people to generally describe all the white-faced foreigners with big noses. This is merely a terminology that says “not brown-skinned locals with small noses”. It comes from the French, and is a derivative of “francais” who were the most usual white-faced foreigners with big noses a few centuries ago. However today, when discussing people in this country, “farang” is non-specific as far as the country of origin is concerned. Now if you had chosen “Kak”, which is used to describe those of Indian descent, then it is a racial term, even if not racist. There is a significant degree of difference, Al from Canada. Racial refers to race, while racist refers to racial superiority. And no, Hillary (get my name right, Petal) is not a racist.
Dear Hillary,
I’ve got just a short one for you, Petal. Are you one person, or are there more than one of you? Just can’t imagine some one person sitting down and reading all the drivel that must arrive every week. Surely you must feel like throwing them away unopened? Do you use a secretary or anything? Just interested to know. I do enjoy the weekly columns.

Dear Jimbo,
Glad it wasn’t Jumbo, Jimbo. I must commiserate with you too. Having “just a short one” must be a definite drawback these days (size does matter, Petal, don’t believe what the other magazines might tell you). No, there’s only one Hillary, and as for a secretary! Are you kidding? On my salary? Although are you looking for a job? Was this a kind of toe in the water exercise? Unfortunately, Jimbo, even if you stand in the water to mid thigh, I still don’t need a secretary to open letters for me. And as far as reading drivel every week - I read yours, didn’t I? And I didn’t complain either. I get a masochistic pleasure out of some of them, I must admit. By the way, do you know what a sadist is? It’s someone who is nice to a masochist! Glad you are enjoying the columns, and thanks for your letter too. Opened by myself, read by myself and answered by myself (but sometimes I use a dictionary for some of the big words!).

Psychological Perspectives:  Our humanity outweighs our differences

by Michael Catalanello, Ph.D.

There are many ways of dividing and subdividing the human race. We have males and females, young and old. We can divide people according to their countries of origin, and subdivide them according to regions of origin within the country.

We often assign people to various categories of social or economic class: lower, upper, middle, upper middle, lower middle, etc. We can make cultural, religious, and ethnic distinctions among people, and we can make distinctions based upon any number of physical characteristics, including height, weight, hair color, facial features, skin color, and body type.

We sometimes categorize people according to their respective sexual orientations: homosexual, heterosexual, or bisexual. We even divide people according to their dominant political ideologies, such as liberal, conservative, neo-conservative, democrat, republican, labor, libertarian and independent, to name a few.

A person’s membership in a group often influences the positions he or she takes on issues of controversy. For example, the citizens of Iraq have, according to the media, experienced fundamental disagreements concerning key issues addressed by their new constitution. Positions concerning these disagreements have generally lined up according to citizens’ membership in one of the three major ethnic groups inhabiting the country: Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.

Some groups, such as Israelis and Palestinians seem to have intractable differences and longstanding rivalries with one another, based upon conflicting claims of divine right over tracts of land. Much is made of the importance of one’s identity as an Israeli or Palestinian. This was painfully demonstrated last week when some people were evicted from land and homes in Gaza, while other people qualified to be granted land and homes, based solely upon their identification with one or the other group.

The Thai culture seems to promote the making of very fine distinctions among people, resulting in a highly stratified society in which everyone holds a position of importance or unimportance in relation to every other person in the society. These distinctions are based upon such factors as age, education, occupation, apparent economic status, and a host of other factors, combined in a way that can seem baffling to outsiders.

With so much emphasis upon various divisions, groups, and subgroups, the human race often appears very fragmented. We might feel quite alien from groups which, on the surface, appear so very different from us. With so many divisions, it is easy to lose sight of the fact that, as humans, we actually have much in common with one another.

All of us, of course, share a common biology. We each experience sensations, such as heat cold, hunger, thirst, and pain. Our prenatal development from a single fertilized egg to an embryo and a growing fetus followed a common path. Once born, there was a predictable and unvarying sequence in our growth and development. As infants we rolled over before we were able to sit without support. We stood while holding onto objects, then crawled, then began to walk, in exactly that order. We learned to communicate with others by using a complex language, the likes of which we do not find among the nonhuman inhabitants of our planet.

We are all social creatures. We form strong bonds, first with members of our family, and later with our friends. We exhibit bias in favor of members of groups to which we belong. We exhibit a vague mistrust of outsiders. We experience a range of emotions, such as liking, love, happiness, frustration, sadness, disappointment, anger, fear, agony and ecstasy. We laugh, cry, eat, drink, sleep and dream. We sing and dance to celebrate. We mourn the death of a loved one. We universally recognize basic emotions communicated in the facial expressions of another human, regardless of that person’s country of origin or cultural background.

There is a good reason for this similarity. We are all related. If we go far enough back into our human history, we find that we are, in fact, one family. Archeologists tell us that we are descended from a group of humans that originated in Africa in the distant past. In that sense, we may all consider ourselves Africans, members of our family tree having migrated far and wide to populate the globe. Many of our differences are the result of groups of our ancestors having lived in prolonged isolation from other groups, and having developed separate identities, cultures, and biological adaptations to meet the challenges of survival in a range of environments existing across our planet.

Divisions among humans will undoubtedly change over time, but never disappear. Disagreements and conflict among groups, likewise, seem inevitable. As long as we are human, I suppose we will favor our own groups, and look upon those who are different with a degree of suspicion and mistrust. By viewing our differences within the context of our much more fundamental shared humanity, however, we might learn to approach our divisions with greater sensitivity, appreciation, and tolerance of the interesting diversity present in our human family.

Dr. Catalanello is a licensed psychologist in his home State of Louisiana, USA, and a member of the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Asian University, Chonburi. You may address questions and comments to him at [email protected], or post on his weblog at

Personal Directions: Those old familiar words keep popping up…

by Christina Dodd

Most of us at some time or another fall victim to the words, “Sorry I couldn’t get back to you, I’ve just been too busy”, or one of the many variations – and there are indeed many. Last week I was on the receiving end of three such excuses and so it prompted me to write down my thoughts. And as I write them, I can recall numerous other examples that crop up out of the blue and in all walks of daily life – not just in business.

Why do we do this? Perhaps we really are so busy that we can’t get back to someone’s call or email or request. It is a reality and certainly the workloads today are taking their toll on how people handle and sort out what tasks they should do first, second, third … or not at all. This problem of managing our time either in our personal life or work life is seriously on the rise and is confronting most of us.

But the knock-on affect of this particular phrase about being too busy to attend to someone and the inaction that comes as a result, is extremely negative and destructive to the recipient of such a message. I know how I feel when it is said to me and I am sure you feel exactly the same way. I feel as though my particular needs are unimportant and that moreover - I am unimportant. I firmly believe that for us to use such an excuse means that our own personal management is out of sync and it’s not about how busy we are - it is about us! We need to look more closely at ourselves, and how we manage ourselves.

I have seen hundreds of executives fall prey to Time Management training that skirts around this issue and that concentrates on all the tools in the world to get things prioritized, and listed and delegated and so on. Some of this is of course useful, but if you can’t manage yourself and understand what the triggers are within you in order to overcome your limitations, no amount of tools will help you!

To me, hearing the “busy” excuse is really a cry for help. This person is in need of someone to help unravel the mountain of thoughts going on in their head and to help them begin to take charge. They have developed a bad habit that has become so automatic that it has taken hold and is controlling their responses rather than allowing them to think. And it may not have ill intention, but it certainly sends the wrong message to the listener. Is that desirable? Is that what you want to do to your friends, colleagues, customers and clients?

Another area for concern here is that when you do this frequently, and people brush it aside as they may not want to upset you and so they let it go, then you begin to feel that it’s “okay”, it’s acceptable and there was no harm done. This leads you further into the habit becoming part of how you normally behave. And ultimately, you end up not being able to see what you’re doing wrong. But the crunch factor here is that others do.

To remedy this is not to find nice, pleasant sounding words that try to make the message sound better. This is like applying a band aid to a broken bone. It is totally the wrong call. What needs to be done is to get to the heart of the matter and that is to dig deep and begin to look at your personal competencies - self awareness and self management. You need to get to the source of the problem. And one very effective way of doing this is to work with a coach to help you on a “one-on-one” basis examine these areas and begin to develop ways of changing behaviors - changing bad habits. Finding the reasons why you are so busy and redefining individual development initiatives. Understanding the “triggers” within you that cause you to divert to bad habits and starting to apply techniques and self-discipline to rectify them; looking at change within you. Subjects such as these require personal attention through the guidance of an experienced coach and many executives in the hectic pace of businesses today recognize this approach to the development of their key people.

Coaching has proven to be one of, if not the most effective method of enhancing a person’s growth. It is “real time” which is focused on the individual and this is where it is so valuable. For most people with deep needs the only way to attend to them is through this close contact. Addressing these needs through attending regular training programs is not the right approach as the objectives are very much different. That is not to say training is not effective - the objectives and the issues at hand are what should determine whether training or coaching is the approach needed.

There are more and more executives in major corporations undergoing coaching programs simply because it works. Senior executives are key players in the successful running of any company and their development through this method is now becoming a “must have”. In countries such as Australia, the UK and the US for example, most senior positions will have the opportunity to work with a professional coach.

In Thailand the coaching approach is in its infancy but it has sparked great interest in the boardrooms of certain companies and organizations which are looking at leadership development as a priority in their HR Development plans. This is a very positive move and one that we at ATA – Lifecoach are keen to embrace as it is at the center of our “individual development and human capital philosophies”. And at the very heart of that is Emotional Intelligence without a doubt. For those of you reading this article who are interested in this subject and would like to read up on it, Dr Daniel Goleman is the author of Emotional Intelligence & Working with Emotional Intelligence. He also wrote Primal Leadership of which there is a recent edition entitled The New Leaders, and for anyone involved in managing people, I can’t stress enough that it is “compulsory” reading.

If the “too busy” excuse shapes your day, why not drop me an email at christina [email protected] Or for more details on how ATA – Lifecoach can work with you on training and coaching matters, check out our website at www.

Until next time, think about what other old familiar words keep popping up?