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BOOK REVIEW

The Ten Thousand Things: A story of the lived experience of the I Ching

Paperback, 227 pages, A5 format. Published by G.P. Martin. Released August 2010.
ISBN 978 0 9804045 3 1

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Review by Dr Klaas Woldring (Southern Cross University (retired))

Glenn Martin has written an interesting and unusual book. For those not familiar with the I Ching, they should perhaps start at the back of the book for explanatory notes. However, it is not essential to know all about it as the book is an account of the author's personal journey and his explanations of how consulting the I Ching, at various critical periods in his life, has assisted him.

One such episode, when still living in Sydney, was when he has a serious motorbike accident and expects to lose a leg (this didn't happen). Another instance is when he builds up a successful charity organisation in a small country town on the Far North Coast of NSW only to find his sustained efforts thwarted by bureaucratic manipulation, unethical behaviour and small town idiosyncrasies.

Martin was one of the early alternative settlers in the Northern Rivers area of NSW in the 1970s. He later turned away from this remarkable movement that started in Nimbin in 1974. It was strong and influential on environmental idealism but less convincing in the areas of practical management, finance and organisational skills.

Life was tough there. To his disappointment his wife and kids returned to Sydney. Martin then found a paid job in the area and successfully revived and managed an ailing but important charity organisation for five years. This leadership role was a rewarding experience but also brought him into work-related contact with a number of unethical and manipulative individuals. The interaction was problematical and finally resulted in separation.

After his departure from the charity organisation, an experience that forms the mainstay of his personal development in business ethics, he enrolled as a business education student at Southern Cross University. Martin's achievements there were quite exceptional. He gained an Honours Degree and the University Medal.

This reviewer arrived in the area as an academic in January 1975 and taught there until 1999. Martin was one of his (mature age) business students in some subjects. The book is described as a novel but it is that only in part. Some sensitive passages about the author's love and family life may fall within that category.

But much of it is really autobiographical and, particularly, a personal application of the I Ching philosophy. The guidance of this philosophy has clearly been character-shaping for Martin. The historic Book of Changes does not predict but, so he explains, has helped him "to live life wisely, ethically and joyfully, even in the midst of furore". Martin adds "I do not see it as a tool for divining the future" and also states that he is not a typical devotee but "it calls me to live my best self".

As a leadership study it is unusual in that it highlights the important ethical dimensions of the leadership role and the inevitable pressures and conflict potential that come with it. Furthermore, employees can have set expectations of leaders, which are different and culturally conditioned, such as toughness: "bulldozers who get things done". Martin experienced all of this as well. His congenial, participative style made some employees "self select" themselves out, but gradually yielded results. This book has many facets that will appeal to discerning readers.