“..making plans for the future is of use only to people who are capable of living completely in the present.”
My life is structured in what is often a seamless blend, so when someone asks me “what do you do?” and they are really asking “what is your job”, whatever answer I give tends to bemuse them. You see, I’m not playing the game of work, life IS the work, to me it is all in flow. Work, life, business, personal. It is all interwoven.
As an example, yesterday I had a sparkling conversation with Steve Chapman, partially captured in “The Power of Not Knowing“, then a meeting around a group I am a volunteer member of representing the Cayman Islands in London. I then went back to my home office for a video call to a client in California, a call that truly crackled and sparkled with energy and through which I wove some thoughts and ideas from meetings earlier that day and also in recent days. In other words, it all flows. As Alan Watts would say, it is all play.
Today, then, I’ll share a talk from the late Alan Watts, who Steve reminded me of when we chatted. Whenever I wish to look to understand what life is all about, Alan Watts is a frequent reference.
On Wednesday, November 27th, I wrote a “long read” called “Transferring Enthusiasm“, the essence of which is that when you have a live audience, to focus not on sharing data, information or knowledge, but simply to transfer your enthusiasm for what you are sharing with your audience.
That same evening, I joined around 20,000 others to watch The Lumineers live in concert. I had recently been introduced to their music by a good friend who is a fan. I arrived that night liking their music and somewhat excited about the concert, but mostly looking forward to sharing an evening with a friend.
I left transformed. Liking had turned to love for their music, but more than that I loved their live performance. They truly transferred their enthusiasm to me, so watch out if you see me soon, I’ll be evangelising for The Lumineers!
So, as a leader, how can you transfer your enthusiasm to others to it propagates and spreads?
I leave you with a video clip of the end of their final number, “Stubborn Love”, the refrain now stuck in my head, an “earworm”. Stubborn my love now will be for The Lumineers!
It is time business to embrace purpose. I’ve focussed for years on the idea that by putting Purpose, People and Planet ahead of Profit, businesses will “Do well by doing good”.
Small may be beautiful in ethical terms, but it’s not ideal for effecting large-scale change. If endemic poverty is ever to be reversed or global heating resolved, then big business also needs to embrace this more inclusive approach to business.
“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
~ Victor Hugo
I’ve focussed for years on the idea that by putting Purpose, People and Planet ahead of Profit, businesses will “Do well by doing good”. They must always continue to focus on making a Profit in order to Scale their impact, but Profit will be the outcome of this focus, no longer the driver of business.
More and more we are seeing articles like this recent one in the Guardian, as well as the FT leading on this, as shown in how they highlighted this in their sponsorship of the amazing annual Kilkenomics festival.
Today I will unapologetically repeat myself around this topic, as it is not only time business to embrace purpose, but it is now becoming a “hot topic” and I now feel like I’m talking about a mainstream idea, no longer an outlier. So, let’s review.
My “long read” for you yesterday was on: “Transferring Enthusiasm“, inspired by insight from a long conversation with a wise friend. Another wise friend is Chip Conley, author of “Wisdom and Work” and, like my friend who inspired yesterday’s post, is both wise and also deeply curious about wisdom in many forms.
So, what is your own definition? Let’s explore together.
If you wish to attract the best people, opportunities, clients, partners towards you, “be what you wish to attract”.
Yesterday I was officiating at the ISL Swim Meet at one of my favourite buildings, the London Aquatic Centre.
Having arrived several hours early and with a deck pass, I took time to look around the entire set up, then, with the officials toured around in-depth as part of our briefing, I heard and saw even more.
My conclusion? Everything about the setup is totally world-class. I have seen and also been part of events for lots of different pro sports around the world, this is one of the absolute best I have ever seen.
This carries lessons for all of us in how we lead, how we do business, how we live our lives.
Chip Conley often reminds us to learn a new skill every year that has nothing to do with what we do for work. This skill is what we do that is different.
For me, one thing I do that is different is that I have been passionate about being a swimming referee now for many years and always learning more in that field. Also, my most-read article of all time is one that went viral in the swim officials community: “Leadership Lessons from a Swim Referee” and, as the title infers, I find parallels to my work in this role too!
How do you know when something is ready? is done? it is time to stop refining and tweaking?
One of the services I love to provide to clients is to support them around developing their strategy, through which we focus on the story of the vision, what they want to communicate and how to do that.
In contracting for such work, I’m asked two questions: “how long with this take?” and “how much?”.
The answer to the latter is always an easy one to hear, as the investment in Business Strategy Coaching is so much smaller investment and so a far higher ROI than Business Strategy Consulting (see “Business Strategy Coaching – a simple secret“).
The answer to “how long will it take?”, however, often confuses, as the answer is always “until it is ready”.
You see, in coaching a client around their Business Strategy, they always know when it is ready when it is done.
Sometimes it takes quite a while, multiple iterations. However, sometimes it can be quick, they can have a breakthrough and simple know it is done.
In that latter case, however, the instinct of the client is almost always to question themself, to look to keep refining, keep iterating, keep “tweaking”. At that stage, my role is simply to hold them to their “knowing” that it is done, it is ready, to therefore make sure they stop and recognise that.
Today two illustrations of this, one a short post from Seth Godin on “How do you know when it is ready”, the other a story around a musician who created their masterwork, then simply stopped, forever.
There is wisdom in a minute of intensely focused contemplation.
Today sharing a post from Ed Duggar, a wise human I had the good fortune of meeting last year through “mi hermana”, Rosie von Lila as we all came together in NYC to support one of her “What Comes Now” live events
Ed is deeply passionate about taking his experience and skills in the field of investment capital and demonstrating (as he has, repeatedly, throughout his career) that one can invest capital to scale businesses, gain excellent returns AND address key challenging social and environmental issues AND addressing structural biases that radically limit access to such capital to women, people of colour and other less represented groups.
He and his business partner Julianne Zimmerman follow this purpose and passion through their business, Reinventure Capital. As part of this, they write regular blog posts, and today am sharing a recent post from Ed on “The Wisdom Within a Minute”. To cut to the “punchline” of the story that follows, Ed asks and answers a powerful question:
..if only given a tiny little minute — didn’t choose it, had to use it, must give account if I abused it — but that minute had an eternity of ripple effects within it, what would my decision be?
Perhaps the best answer is the one we knew was right to begin with, when free of considerations of lost favor or personal retribution. Powerful decisions full of values we believe in, that stand the test of the time we live in.
I do not agree with what you have to say… but I will defend to the death your right to say it
For several years I have gone each year to Kilkenomics, my favourite event of the year. One of the most remarkable things about it is that the panel moderators are professional comedians, who bring their skills in sensing the crowd to how they facilitate conversations, and also are really well briefed, particularly Konstantin Kisin and Colm O’Regan.
However, I had never seen any of the comedians doing a comedy set, until last weekend when I went to watch Konstantin and his show “Orwell that ends well”.
Konstantin went through a media whirlwind late last year, so I have to admit it was with some trepidation I went to his show, as I had a surface concern that his material might offend me.
What happened instead was that, by being open to going to the show and to listen, instead I found the show deeply moving and affecting and reminded me strongly about the power of listening to diverse views, and, above all, to the importance of free speech.
My question today is not CAN you as a leader take time to learn from athletes, but DO you?
As an ex-athlete as well as friend, father and colleague to a number of elite athletes and leaders involved in supporting elite athletes, the crossover in learning from Athletes to Leaders has always been an obsession of mine.
I read, listen and enquire voraciously both for anecdotal learnings and wisdom as well as deep and evidence-based studies. I then often share these (succinctly) with those clients who use me as their sounding board and library. I then also share much of what I learn in my daily musings here on this site.
However, in my experience supporting Leaders, I rarely find that they do more than booking the occasional keynote “inspirational speaker” talk when looking to learn from Athletes.
For you, then, my encouragement is to go deeper into learning from Athletes for yourself, both for your self-leadership and in leading others.
As a starting point, open the image and read it carefully, then select the top three of the fifteen traits listed, then ask yourself: “what can I do to learn more about this?”
Once you have your three, why not book a call with me and we can talk through them and share learnings?
My clients say I “see what others don’t see”. Experience for yourself, book your 30-minute call now.
As the great Ed Percival always taught me: “never make a point without telling a story”.
Today, for your Sunday morning delectation and delight, simply sharing the latest from Tim Harford, a great story-teller in written form (who I first discovered through “The Undercover Economist“.
Tim has just launched a wonderful new podcast called “Cautionary Tales“, each one anchored around a particular true story from history, yet within a relatively short (around half an hour) podcast, full of stories and curiosity around how we humans behave and why.
To me, curiosity is an absolute pre-requisite for the leaders of today and tomorrow, so I encourage you on this Sunday morning to relax, sit back, and enjoy Tim’s latest story-telling, and absorb the points he makes therein.
On the evening of December 26th 2010, Christmas festivities were over. I lay back on the couch to watch a movie but soon fell asleep, only to wake up hours later in some of the most agonising pain I’d ever experienced. I literally could not sleep other than propped up on the sofa for nearly a month from that point on!
Having not been to the GP since, well, pretty much “ever”, I called our GP (a family friend) and they had me come in the next day for blood tests. When the tests came back, they sat me down and told me that one of the blood markers was 24 times over the normal level and that this meant a diagnosis of Rheumatoid Arthritis. As someone who had been an athlete almost all my adult life, this was devastating.
To cut a long story short, luckily, after over two months of enforced rest (and many more medical tests), I was fine. It turned out that I was simply stressed and had been overdoing it, and overdoing it massively.
I’m writing this post as a recent email by Whitney Johnson struck a chord with me, where she said:
I love my work. In fact, that might be an understatement. Because I love it and love the people I work with, I get even more opportunities to work. Imagine my surprise then, when one day a few months ago, I realized, “I am really stressed. Why do I feel this way? I’m not supposed to be stressed. I love my work.”
So, let me tell you why my body literally broke down on Boxing Day 2010.
The difference between memorization and learning In order to learn something, you must understand it. You might become so insightful and facile with the ideas that it appears you’ve memorized them, but that’s just a side effect.
Rote memorization can be done in some fields, and you can even recite what you’ve memorized to someone else who can memorize it. For example: You can’t learn alphabetical order, you can only memorize it.
On the other hand, memorizing anything that you’ll need to build upon, improvise on or improve is foolish. You’ll need to do the work of understanding it instead.
In my school and university career, I did really well up to a point by “rote learning”, by using memorising and other tools to cram information into my head. However, in my professional education after that (to become a Chartered Accountant), there was progressively more emphasis on understanding a topic, up to the final “TPC” (Test of Professional Competence) exam, which was a full day, “open book” case study.
In short, testing whether or not we were ready to be “competent professionals” was not based on pulling facts or figures from a textbook, but from us being able to show we had gained a deep understanding of what we needed to be a Chartered Accountant, that we had learned.
Moving to another level of learning, that of embodied learning. I wrote a long post recently on this, noting around a learning experience:
I truly felt and still feel it deeply. It is an embodied learning, no words are necessary, it is “in me”.
I am still (and always will be) on a journey to learn new ways to learn. I am, you could say, looking to understand how to learn, and that is, I feel, the essence, seeking to understand is the root of learning. Be curious, be humble, always look to understand more.