My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job.

I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.

Enjoy…

Always be Batman

Batman

Sometimes I “face the blank page” as a writer, yet inspiration always comes and this site now has over 200 daily posts and I am only building more momentum.

I love this meme and was reminded of it recently when a huge guy (at least 350lbs and 6 feet tall) sat down next to me on an overnight flight from Dallas to London. He is an engineer and was on his way to Hungary to work on a project. Texas drawl, baseball cap.. and a Batman t-shirt.

Another internet meme (and no, Mark Twain did not coin it) is :

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Authenticity and integrity to create and build trust as a leader, and a key to that is self-knowledge and then a relentless and consistent focus on self-awareness and a continued journey to a deeper knowledge of self.

As Ed Percival always taught, his 50+ years of coaching he distilled down to :

“BE MORE YOU”

That said, given the choice between being the highest and truest version of Tom and being Batman? Tough call.

Hmm.. and if not Batman? Lloyd Dobler? Hell yeah!

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Movies with Meaning – John Cusack edition

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

Some weeks my theme is deep and meaningful, this week simply to honour one of my favourite actors with three movies of his that I love.
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Writing I Love – The Stolen Child

stolen child

Leaders are often encouraged to be selfless, to be servant leaders (and other such descriptors).

However, our egos are very stubborn. They resist the idea of being selfless, as that means dissolving the ego so as to be of greater service to others, to shift and transform from one state to another.

It is very hard to “think your away” from one state to another, to get “out of your head”. In order to do so, shift from thinking to feeling, create an experience for yourself that is out of your norm.

That can be a walk on the beach, meditation, exercise. It can also be listening to music, dancing, even whirling and spinning as dervishes do for just such a purpose.

I love music and poetry, and the combination for me can be powerful. An absolute gem is “The Stolen Child” by Yeats, put to music by The Waterboys, from the Fisherman’s Blues album recorded in Ireland, and featuring the incredible voice of Tomás Mac Eoin, a local singer of Sean-nós unaccompanied singing. (more…)

You can’t pour from an empty cup

emptycup

A recurring theme for me is to encourage leaders to support themselves, to be aware of their energy and what they need to perform optimally.

As flight attendants announce on every flight: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure… first put the oxygen mask on yourself, then help those around you”.

Another way of putting this is “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Please have the awareness of how full your cup is, and as I advised in a recent post, “drink before you are thirsty“, don’t let that cup get empty.

The three line job description I use for leaders is :

  • Set and hold the Context
  • Manage the Energy
  • Coach, Don’t Play

That “Manage the Energy” role is about what you as a leader bring to your team in aligning them, energising them activating them, motivating them and more.

However, in order to “Manage the Energy”, you must first ensure you drink before you are thirsty, that you manage your own energy and put on that oxygen mask for yourself.

This week I have been at the amazing Modern Elder Academy in Baja Mexico. The visionary leader of this is Chip Conley, who is an amazing leader. I’ve been around so many over the years, all I would say is that I would follow this man anywhere. If he said jump, I’d only ask him to tell me how high to jump!

Still, one thing Chip owned this week is how tired he is from running about two months in a row of workshops at a place which is also his home, whereas one group leaves each Sunday morning, another one arrives that afternoon. Chip has been masterful at managing his own energy, and at the same time… wow.. back to back to back to back. This is a beta test of the Modern Elder Academy, and one learning is that when it goes live, for all the team managing and leading it, they will run a programme which allows the team to manage their energy, to fill their cup. That way they can keep filling up their cup so as to be at their absolute best always for those they choose to lead, to serve.

Drink before you are thirsty, as you can’t pour from an empty cup.

In closing, I also want to express my deep appreciation for Chip, Jeff, Christine, Carla, Tony, Saul and all the team at Modern Elder Academy. I leapt at the opportunity to come to Baja, my cup is absolutely overflowing. Deepest thanks.

Less is more – leave space

space between the notes

Seth Godin recently wrote :

“Since the dawn of the industrial age, tighter has been the goal. A tighter system, with less slack. Tighter connection with customers.

The thing is, tighter is fine when you’re trimming a sail or optimizing a production system.

But many things in our lives need to be looser. More room for innovation. More slack for peace of mind. More spaces for surprise.”

This week I have had an extraordinary experience as part of the beta test of the Modern Elder Academy in Baja. The concept and philosophy are powerful and of huge value to the world. The curriculum is excellent and the facilitators amazing.

What makes it most extraordinary though is the environment, and that includes leaving space. As I wrote in “Listening, your Superpower” :

The French composer Debussy said: “La musique, c’est ce qu’il y a entre les notes”. The poetically translated English version is “Music is the space between the notes”. The French more literally translates to “Music, it is what is between the notes”

In that post, I share my knowledge on what makes for great listening, and the greatest part is to listen to the “space between the notes”.

At the Modern Elder Academy, the magic is in the space between the notes.

A few past participants, so used to their busy task and goal oriented lives, have begged for more content, more teaching, more notes, more things “to do” both at the Academy and when they get back.

To me, I’d encourage the reverse. Be ever more in nature, create experiences to embed learnings through feelings, or “Sentio ergo sum“.

In all of our lives, let us have the intentionality, commitment, discipline to leave space.

Meditation is the absence of absence

I’m writing this from Baja at the Modern Elder Academy, a one week intensive programme led masterfully by Chip Conley and Jeff Hamaoui.

Reflecting on the power of building close trust and collaboration in a group and what emerges from that.

In a session yesterday, Chip riffed on the power of presence, and that in our uber-connected world  we often have our faces in our phones and that is absence.

One of the parts of the week long gift of this immersion is daily morning meditation. Chip then referenced this by noting that Meditation helps us not be absent.

It hit me :

Meditation is the absence of absence.

I then shared that with one of our compadres, Jeanne, who said “hey, a koan”, which google tells me is :

“a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.”

The more we think, the less we know.

The more we are in our head, the less we use our heart to find wisdom

Feeling a sense of being enlightened I can take back into the world in my leadership,

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Smashing Paradigms – Drink before you are thirsty

Latest in the series on Smashing Paradigms. For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”

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(c) smasherofficial.com

This week I am feeling more privileged than ever as I am in Baja as a participant at the beta of the Modern Elder Academy.

Chip Conley is beginning a movement to change the way we look at ageing and the value our “Modern Elders” do, can and so will have for humanity at all ages and stages.

Inspired by the environment (see yesterday’s post on “Change your environment, change your outcomes”) today I give you my riff on and exercise on “five things you, as a Modern Elder, would like to share with Millennials that they could do that would make a big difference for their future lives”.

I thought particularly here of of young adults in their early 20s and the paradigms of our society. Get an education, choose a profession, choose an industry, narrow things down, get on the career track.

Consider that societal guidance, and also please consider my advice from my own experience. It is heartfelt. I title my guidance :

Drink before you are thirsty

drink-before-you-are-thirsty

In cycling in hot climates, cyclists all carry water bottles, but it takes experience to learn to drink before you are thirsty. You can carry on riding at high speed and high effort and be dehydrated and so lose performance long before your body tells your brain you are thirsty.

So, don’t wait until you recognise you need to do these five things, do them now, or at least soon, Trust me, you’ll benefit immensely.

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Change your environment, change your outcomes

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Nice view, wouldn’t you say ?

How about this eight second video to give you a fuller sense, including the sound of the surf on the beach.

This stunning location is where this week I have had the awesome privilege to be part of the beta test of the Modern Elder Academy, the brainchild of Chip Conley, who regular readers know is a leader who truly inspires me.

Chip and the team have created an amazing environment designed at all levels to create a space for transformative change for participants.

The home page of this site talks about elevating, about seeing our potential and bravely creating and achieving brave and transformative change.

This week, through the programme, the facilitators, the “compadres” in the cohort supporting each other, I have again and again been witness to profound and powerful changes in participants that will see them go back to their lives and make even deeper impact for themselves and others.

I am a participant this week too, and this has absolutely applied to me too, and I am so grateful to Chip and absolutely everyone here for that too !

So, back to environment, which is one element to the secret sauce of the “MEA” experience.

The physical environment is the start, it is absolutely stunning and world class. The next layer is a cohort aligned around the powerful message and vision in the book Wisdom at Work. Cohort members in the beta read an advanced version of the book, you can buy your copy now as a pre-order (published September 2018). Also, stay tuned to this site for more news on when the Modern Elder Academy opens applications to the public for education programmes in the autumn and winter of 2018.

wisdom ar work

Beyond the physical environment, the cohort themed around the Modern Elder book (and the movement this will create), the curriculum has been patiently fine tuned over the five month long beta test by the amazing faculty, However, beyond ALL of that, I wont give away specifics, but the Culture of the MEA is astonishing and truly abundant in being of service to participants and a broader and expansive vision for humanity.

In such a carefully and lovingly created environment, I and the other cohort members have all had incredible experiences, and again I am deeply grateful.

Change your environment, change your outcomes.

Please consider what changes you can make in your own environment to change your own outcomes.

You may not go to Baja, but a few ideas :

  • Who do you spend time with ? Be around a tribe that inspire you to aspire to more
  • Are you happy with your work environment ? If not, what can you do to change that ? Do you need to develop where you are to create change or perhaps have the bravery to leave and go to your next challenge ?
  • What about your physical body ? Happy with your energy, your shape ? strength ? resilience ? All too often we ignore that and it impacts our performance ? How intentional are you around what you eat, your exercise, sleep ?

So much more you can consider, these are a start for you.

Movies with Meaning – Trust and Consistency

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

Recently I was at a talk given by Rachel Botsman, author of “who can you trust” who I found last year (thank you google search) is pretty much the only other person using the term “distributed trust” to describe the trust revolution ahead of us (and I’ve written about this in multiple posts on this site).

Anyway, inspiring talk and one piece she talked about was to ask who the most trusted person in the UK is. A survey has been done on this, and the answer was David Attenborough, who has been making TV documentaries on nature for many decades, and is still doing so in his 90s.

To me, the key reason we trust him is his consistency. He has never varied in what he is about, what he does, why he does it.

There are many elements around what makes us trust others, today I focus on consistency. Yes, the work of Joseph Campbell means that so many movie characters live the dramatic steps of the hero’s journey, yet some of our heroes we trust as they have a powerful consistency of intention and purpose under pressure throughout.
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Writing I Love – We flatten the topography of their lives

topography

I post every Tuesday on “Writing I Love” and every Wednesday on “Movies with Meaning”. Why do I do this on a site with writings themed around leadership?

As I wrote recently when reworking my home page :

“I write daily posts highlighting various leaders, doers, dreamers, leadership methodologies and related themes that inspire me.

Writing allows me to share thoughts, ideas, insights and wisdom from people I admire, also adding my own ideas and musings synthesized from such inspirations.”

The key phrase there for me is “that inspire me”, and reading and movies often inspire me.

In our busy lives, it is important to leave room for inspiration, whether that be reading, movies, being in nature, being active, talking to friends, listening to brilliant people share their wisdom. Whatever inspires you, do you do as much of it as you wish? If not, what is lost?

A key part of leadership is inspiring others, and to do so we must also keep “topping up our tank” ourselves with what inspires us.

So, recently I woke up one lazy Saturday morning, lay in bed and scrolled twitter, then saw a tweet from a thinker, speaker, writer who has inspired me for years, Nilofer Merchant.

(Do watch her TED talk on walking meetings and read “The Power of Onlyness“).

Nilofer had shared an article on Shondaland on “The Sanitized Words of Complicated Women” by Dianca London, talking about how we have reduced the richness of work and human story of the likes of Maya Angelou, Toni Morrison, Audre Lorde to inspirational memes.

In the article, this stunning line leapt off the page at me :

“We flatten the topography of their lives”

I nearly leapt out of bed at the resonant brilliance of that line.

How often do we flatten the topography of our own lives, live a flat life, look to simplify, give the answer “fine” when people ask how we are, etc etc.

Our lives are meant to be lived to the full, letting our light shine, and also being brave enough to look at our shadow, at the fullness and wholeness of life! Don’t flatten your topography.

As you can see, I am inspired by this one line, this beautiful writing.

I then flow into thinking “what an amazing opening line for a book that would make !”, and then to considering great opening lines.

I’ll give you just one, and it is from one of my absolute favourite books, a masterpiece of magical realism, where one gradually lets go of the need to understand plot, timelines, narrative flow, and simply surrenders to the fantastical magic that flows from the pen of one of the greatest authors we have ever known.

“Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.”

Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude

Do more of what inspires you!

Power of positive language – Hamba Kahle

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As I prepared to go on a trip recently, a friend said to me “Hamba Kahle”.

I had no idea what it meant. It is Zulu for “go well” and you say back “Sala Kahle” or stay well.

I love it.

I can only imagine the resonance when Mandela died of “Hamba Kahle, Madiba”.

Language is so powerful, and positive language too.

In my work with leaders, I am very conscious of language, mine and theirs, and always encouraging people to frame language positively. Energy management is so vital as leaders, and the choice to use positive language is a simple one to make to support energy across a business, organisation, movement.

Whether or not one is a believer in or proponent of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), it does bring strong awareness of the power of language, and for that alone, I encourage you to gain at least some grounding in NLP. I was fortunate to sit at the feet of a master of NLP and of language, Ed Percival, and have picked up many learnings from him.

Oh, and back to me going on that trip. Have you noticed how people automatically say to you “have a safe flight”? The sentiment is positive, yet the language tends to make me think “funny, I had no intention of having an unsafe one”. I much prefer “go well”, and love the term for flying and for life’s journey in general.

So, Hamba Kahle to you now and always.

Be ruthless with your time

Warren Buffett is one of the wealthiest men in the world, and also a friend and mentor for many years to another, Bill Gates.

In this short video (yes, it will take less than two minutes of your time, please invest in that!), Bill talks about the blank pages in Warren’s diary and how this amazed him when he first found how ruthless Warren is with NOT being busy.

“I can buy anything I want.. but I can’t buy time:

Much of my work is spent with leaders, helping them elevate, and one paradigm shift is around VALUE and TIME.

Plenty of paradoxes here.

Here’s one. I don’t work with clients based on TIME, on a “power by the hour” basis, I work based on VALUE. Sometimes takes a while for them to understand they can contact me anytime as I am not “on the clock” (professional firm partners are particularly connected to the TIME trap!). I vividly remember a client once calling me to work through something before a key meeting. We had been working together for years at this point, and it took only a few minutes to work through something powerful, simply because we had a shorthand of understanding developed over the relationship. Later, they remarked “a few years ago that would have taken well over an hour. Perhaps I should be paying you more when it takes less time to get what I need”. Paradoxical thinking, huh?

Another Paradox is that time is free, yet it is our most valuable resource, and Warren Buffett says you can’t buy it, but can you? In some ways, you can. Adam Smith worked this out hundreds of years ago with “division of labour”. I have an Executive Assistant who manages my diary. I pay her for something I could do myself, but I pay for the fact that it saves me time (and energy, a whole other related topic). What do you do for yourself that you could pay or otherwise delegate to someone else to do? I see so many business leaders who keep involving themselves in so many day-to-day activities that take their time and energy away from what truly matters.

My dear friend and mentor Suki Laniado Smith signs off every email with :

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change”

Every client I have ever worked with, every person I have ever known (and yes, very much including myself) could always benefit from bringing what I would call “ruthless awareness” to where we spend our time.

This does NOT mean being scarce with our time. To the contrary, using myself as an example, I practice “radical abundance” with my time (as does Professor Adam Grant), but it is really important therefore to a) have boundaries, and b) make sure you don’t spend time doing stuff that doesn’t matter.

(BTW, I just thought about NOT taking time to add links to past posts that relate to the above thoughts, but to me sharing my writing and my thoughts DOES matter, so I have taken the time to do so.)

One of the most meaningful quotes in any movie for me comes from the movie Lucy “the whole purpose of life is to pass on what was learned. There is no higher purpose”, watch a clip in this post, the very first in my weekly series of “Movies with Meaning”

I leave you with two quotes from Steve Jobs :

“Your time is precious, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life”

(Visit the post with video of the speech in which he said this, along with other thoughts on “Memento Mori” (remember you will die))

and

“My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It is really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.

~ Steve Jobs

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Too much information, too little knowledge

Data information knowledge insight wisdom

Thanks to my friend Jacob Aldridge for sharing this with me. Jacob is a brilliant Brisbane-based global business coach, Guinness World Record Holder and all around wonderful human!

Recently we were chatting about different levels of work with clients, and this image came to his mind.

So much data and information in the world, so little knowledge. As leaders, the key is to work out first what knowledge is important, then to focus on the insights we can gain from that, and hopefully sometimes we glean wisdom and lead from that place.

In a recent 81 second “Pinkcast” from Dan Pink, he shares wisdom from the “Sage of Omaha”, Warren Buffett :

Pinkcast 2.17: Life advice from Warren Buffett | Daniel H. Pink

Teh short video has a great story and lesson for achieving what matters to you. Do take the 81 seconds, and I also highly recommend following Dan and his site and emails, I gain much from the knowledge he shares abundantly.

At the end of it, an additional distilled piece of wisdom from Buffett :

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So much data, information, less knowledge, far fewer insights, and wisdom? That is rare, but as I often say :

“Wisdom is something concise that, once you hear it, you feel you always knew it”.

As you finish reading this, consider this question that springs from the Dan Pink video above.

What one thing above all else do you wish to achieve in life, and what one thing could you say no to today that will create space to help you move to closer to that goal?

Smashing Paradigms – Procrastination as a Good Thing

Latest in the series on Smashing Paradigms. For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. One way of defining a paradigm is “we’ve always done it this way”

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(c) smasherofficial.com

As a writer, occasionally I face the “blank page”.

This blog is inspired by my friend and brilliant business coach Jacob Aldridge, who I chatted with at one such “blank page” moment, including noting to him the power of the book “The War of Art” by Stephen Pressfield, a book that David Kirkaldy introduced to me and that I’ve since recommended to countless people as a great support in how to address procrastination.

Jacob then gently guided me to a 2005 essay by Y Combinator founder Paul Graham titled “Good and Bad Procrastination“, in which Paul smashes the paradigm that procrastination is a “bad” thing.

He opens his essay with :

“The most impressive people I know are all terrible procrastinators. So could it be that procrastination isn’t always bad?

Most people who write about procrastination write about how to cure it. But this is, strictly speaking, impossible. There are an infinite number of things you could be doing. No matter what you work on, you’re not working on everything else. So the question is not how to avoid procrastination, but how to procrastinate well.

There are three variants of procrastination, depending on what you do instead of working on something: you could work on (a) nothing, (b) something less important, or (c) something more important. That last type, I’d argue, is good procrastination.

That’s the “absent-minded professor,” who forgets to shave, or eat, or even perhaps look where he’s going while he’s thinking about some interesting question. His mind is absent from the everyday world because it’s hard at work in another.

That’s the sense in which the most impressive people I know are all procrastinators. They’re type-C procrastinators: they put off working on small stuff to work on big stuff.”

He closes the essay (and please do read the whole thing) with these words :

“I think the way to “solve” the problem of procrastination is to let delight pull you instead of making a to-do list push you. Work on an ambitious project you really enjoy, and sail as close to the wind as you can, and you’ll leave the right things undone.”

Beautiful and masterful !

I look to model Paul Graham’s words in my life and work, and to inspire others to do the same. One of the joys of writing daily is that, over time, I’m creating a trove of thoughts on related and recurring themes, so search away on terms, tags, key phrases (flow, ikigai, presence, innsae and others come to mind).

I’m with Paul Graham. I support others in focussing on what’s important, As I identified in “Matter, Anti-Matter, Doesn’t Matter“, reflecting on chatting with fellow Physics students in my last year of high school :

“we were amused and baffled at so much of the stuff they had us learn, when some of it mattered, and some of it simply didn’t. We felt super pleased with ourselves to come up with the idea that not only was the universe made up of both “matter” and “antimatter”, but also that there was a third type that we had discovered through our inventive reasoning. We called it “doesn’t matter”.

So, a thought to ponder. Are you busy ? If so, what about considering how much of your universe is filled with “doesn’t matter” ?”

Good procrastination then, is about being clear with yourself on what is the “doesn’t matter” in your universe, then being ruthlessly laser-like in eliminating as much of it as you can.

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Leap and the net will appear

leap and the net will appear

“I have often said “Leap and the net will appear”, though the net doesn’t always look like a net” 

Maeve Gillies, brave, inspiring and creative Cultural Entrepreneur

I was inspired to write by this line from Maeve once before in: “How do you know if you could be an Entrepreneur ?“, but today I will focus on taking leaps to make a big career change, as inspired by a message from someone today feeling totally stuck where they are, yet my insight is that they simply need to follow Maeve’s advice and “leap and the net will appear”.

A story to make the point.

One of my very first coaching clients many years ago was the amazing Virginia Czarnocki, who literally walked into my office and said: “help me quit my job”.

As a coach, I simply listened deeply to her, asked the right questions, and helped her see what was really true to her and what was the b*****t she was telling herself. In V’s own words from her Linked In recommendation.

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Now, Virginia did quit her job as a top lawyer and embarked on a journey with no idea what the “net” would look like, yet now she is absolutely thriving.

Her brand “Moozlers” (see FB page) started out as an idea to create healthy food around the world and has morphed and changed. Now “Coach V” is inspiring others in Cayman and around the world to be healthy and fit in so many ways, including nutrition, exercise and general wellness. She has multiple strands both on and offline through which she lives this, and here is an example video.

 

Thank you for visiting my website

People are my library, my daily writing a way to discover what’s in it: ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little fun. As your humble librarian, I invite you to subscribe to check out a digest of daily emails emailed twice each week. No late fees, ever.