TT1941 – Will or Flo?

There is a tension between 
Willing something to happen
And going with the flow.
Will tries to control the situation.
As Flo becomes less attached,
Will becomes more so!

Flo has a wisdom about her
Acting with Grace and effortless ease
Such that magic often happens.
Will can’t understand how she does it
So he tries even harder
To control the situation.

So who wins? Will or Flo?
Flo and Will are not natural partners:
They are like Fire and Water.
Too much heat and Flo evaporates
In a puff of steam: she’s gone!
Off to find consolation in condensation.

Too many of Flo’s watery ideas
Extinguish Will’s fiery inspirations
Which dance from one flame to the next.
They are no match for the bucket
Of intangible wishy-washy water that Flo
Throws on Will’s energetic flickers of intent.

So is there any resolution?  Indeed!
Erf can help by grounding the situation.
He provides a hearth and channel 
So Will and Flo can co-exist in separation.
Ayr can also help Will to focus his fiery resolutions
As well as Flo, crystallising her thoughts with a chilling wind.

In any polarising situation, two forces
Will flow better when a third comes into play.
Dilemmas are broken with new vibrations
Played out with the different elements,
Each one needing some of the other to find
The sweet spot of our creative genius.

(To my friend Bee, who reminded me all that
I have forgotten about the magic of the Four Elements!)

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The Art of Rounding Things Out

With a large part of my early career spent designing and testing telecoms billing systems, one of the inexact sciences that I still find intriguing is the word: “rounding”.  I remember one client making millions of extra pounds with the Finance Director requiring their new system to round-up every recorded minute as opposed to rounding them down – even though it was against the regulations.

Yet rounding errors and rounding up and down is a small part of the “art of rounding things out”.  The circle is probably the most drawn, painted and elegant symbol in Art that continues to enthral us, whatever age, gender, colour or creed we are:

(Source: https://www.pinterest.com/jhilts/round/)

Rounding things out is an almost innate human need.  And some are better at it than others!  Indeed Belbin allocated one of his nine famous team roles to the “completer finisher” – defined as follows:

The Completer-Finisher is most effectively used at the end of tasks to polish and scrutinise the work for errors, subjecting it to the highest standards of quality control.

Strengths: Painstaking, conscientious, anxious. Searches out errors. Polishes and perfects.

Allowable weaknesses: Can be inclined to worry unduly, and reluctant to delegate.

Don’t be surprised to find that: They could be accused of taking their perfectionism to extremes.

(Source: http://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/)

Surely a very useful person to have on any team – particularly as the team comes to the end of a task?  Somehow, though, in the modern world, completer-finishers do not seem to be so highly valued.  Technology firms with meteoric values and no customers just want to get on and create the next feature.  Dreams and visions win over completed circles.

The recent big storms hitting North Western Europe was another reminder for me that we continue to pollute our oceans with plastic – and that we are taking very little effective action to curb the rising trend of more and more plastic being dumped daily into the ocean.

Any rising consciousness of rounding things out is increasingly drowned out by the advertising industry pushing for the convenience of fast food and throw-away packaging.  “Someone else’s problem.  Let me get on with my life.  I’ve got too much else to worry about than where my rubbish will end up!  In any case, I don’t have the space for all those extra sorting bins in my tiny flat!”  Roughly the words from a forty-something London urban female I met recently.  She comes from a different planet from the one I live on.

I suppose that some of my angst on this subject stems from spending a year in Berlin in 1980.  If it could be fed to the pigs, it was.  Otherwise, if it was rubbish, it was very carefully disposed of by folding it up or squashing it.  Disposal of rubbish was very expensive because the number of landfill sites inside The Wall were scarce.  Programmed about such things in my early ’20s, I suppose I have kept a consciousness that most London forty-somethings would think quite abnormal.

I’ve never particularly seen myself as having the characteristics of a completer-finisher.  However, the older I get, the more concerned I am becoming over the lack of importance attached to round things out.  Indeed, after a recent Circular Business Design workshop we ran, I coined a new term “Telosonance” meaning “having concern for where something might end up”.  From the Greek word “Telos” meaning objective or end-result” and an ending sounding like resonance, it creates a word for something that we don’t seem to have in everyday use in the English language.

Maybe the “art of rounding things out” is a similar idea as Telosonance?  Except that it is the consequential action that follows a concern or feeling that things, people or places are not lined-up to complete the disposal of the thing-in-question in an elegant way  – in other words – “to round things out”.

I’m not sure the Finance Director of the dodgy telecoms company that I worked with those many years ago would have worried about any of this, but it is a subject that is close to my heart at the moment.  I truly believe that we need to applaud the ways that completer-finishers think about problems.  Sooner or later, we are all going to have to worry about where things end up and help find elegant ways to round-out and clear up the mess that we have made over the past 100 years.

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Jump Out!

Yesterday I flew from the UK to Germany to have the first meeting this year with a client that I last worked for ten years ago.  Getting up at 4.00am and struggling through the security gates which reminded me of a cattle ranch and then twisting and turning through the duty-free glitter path that is the only way to get to the plane at Stanstead Airport, I took a short 20-minute taxi ride to the client’s office that turned out to be more expensive than the flight itself!  It was a beautiful day and I had a good two hours before the meeting to walk down memory lane.  I needed to make sure I was energised and that my mind was clear.

The most surprising thing for me was that the  client faced pretty much exactly the same challenges that they faced when I was last there.  It was like seeing an old friend in the street that I had not seen for a while and saying “Wow!  You haven’t changed a bit!”  They were stuck in a rut.  And what is more, they acknowledged the fact.  It got me thinking: how difficult it is for all of us (and large organisations in particular) to adapt and change.

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Whilst chatting to a friend today, the exact same thought arose in a different way.  We were reflecting on what we had achieved in 2015 and what 2016 holds in store for us.  Like wine, we tend to describe the past year as a “good year” or a “difficult year” or even an “annus horribilis” – depending on what has happened.

I think I would call 2015 a year of transition.  What one word would describe this year for you?

Yet another friend said that their work has gone very well in the past year (to the detriment of everything else) and that he was way off on the objectives he had set himself which were to spend more time with his family.  Success is both personal and relative – not just from individual to individual – but also in terms of the emphasis we put on specific relationships and projects.  Everything has an opportunity cost associated with it.  Life is a balancing act.

For example, in the first six months of this year, I became very distracted by a project which meant that I took my eye off the ball for several other things in my life – both personal and business.  Setting a balanced set of aims and objectives at the start of the year is so important.  Reflecting on the objectives that I set myself at this time last year, I completely underestimated the passion that I had for this unplanned distraction.

Understanding the dependencies and trade-offs that need to be made is so important.  Yet we are emotional creatures and can often be overtaken by distractions and unpredictable events that come at us from stage left.  Planning for unexpected turns is also important.  As the great Peter Drucker said: “It’s not the plan that’s important, it’s the planning.”

Fish Out of Water

But perhaps the most difficult thing in all of this is to break old habits.  This is the case with my client in Germany – and is also so true of  myself as we move into 2016.  In order to change, you need to jump out of an existing pattern and create a new pattern – like the goldfish jumping from one bowl into another in the picture.

Some say that if you practice a new habit for 30 days, then it will stick.  I tried that by giving up alcohol for 6 weeks in mid-October.  Those friends who got a bit worried need concern themselves no more!  I started again last week.  Which just proves that the 30-day rule doesn’t work!

The creation of a new habit requires the displacement of other habits that you need to stop.  And it needs to happen so that the new pattern becomes unconscious behaviour.  Yet, when you jump to a new habit pattern, it can be quite lonely for  a while.

Unless you can create a substitute pattern that is more fulfilling and purposeful, the tendency is to jump back to what is familiar.  All the 12-step programmes understand that.  The first step is always to admit that you are powerless to the particular addiction or pattern.  In doing so, you become conscious of it and can change it.

Think about it.  Which patterns do you want to dissolve or move away from in 2016 to give yourself more time to do the things you really want to do?  What entrenched (perhaps unconscious) patterns do you want to jump out of?  Write them down and share them with a close friend or relative.  Get some support on the shift to a new pattern.  It is much easier like that!

That’s what I hope to do with my German client.  Given that they are conscious and want to change, we will start by describing the new fish tank.  All the good things about the new environment and the benefits of being there.  Then finding one or two fish that will make the first jump.  A bit like “Finding Nemo”.  The good news is that there are plenty of fish to choose from and I believe that, 10 years on, the temperature in the current tank is a bit too warm for comfort.

Please comment if you see any other analogies or have any relevant stories to tell!  In particular, let us know what patterns you want to jump out of and let us know how you are thinking of doing it!

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To bomb or not to bomb. That was the question.

The arguments raged for ten hours in the House of Commons.  The vote was cast.   The MPs agreed by a sizeable majority that it was a good thing to let the Royal Air Force bomb Syria.  A few hours later, the Tornado Jets were set loose like the dogs of war.

Tornado

The rest of the country stood by like a confused onlooker.  Whatever your beliefs, whatever your fears, however good your knowledge of the situation: none of those would count.  In May, the UK’s democratic system transferred our voting rights for another five years to a bunch of elected MPs to take nearly all decisions on our behalf.  We’ll all get a vote on whether or not we want to stay in Europe – but that will be equally confusing too.  Just like the Scottish No vote last year.

David Cameron’s timing for the bombing Syria vote was lucky.  The Paris atrocities a couple of weeks ago certainly added considerable weight to the case.  His party held the line, and increased a narrow Tory majority by doing whipping deals with selected allies and the vote for the “ayes” was further buoyed-up by the schism in the Labour party.  So the “ayes” had it and the NATO alliance held together because that’s what allies do.  Stick together in hard times.

What other solutions were put forward?  What other creative ideas were framed?  What other, more effective ways of preventing further bloodshed were considered?   What were the real options to stop further escalation the a tit-for-tat of a bomb in a beach resort or another vulnerable European city versus drone attacks and bombing raids on strategic Daesh targets in Syria?

I remember visiting Beirut for a day in 1978.  I was in transit from Egypt to Cyprus.  Middle East Airlines put me up for a free night in a four-star hotel as part of the deal of flying via their country.  It was a great deal for the penniless student that I was at the time.  I took a taxi around the central part of the city on the way back to the airport.  On every street corner there was a burned-out armoured car and a different faction guarding their patch.  Nothing much seems to have changed since then.

The UN Climate Change Conference, which started in Paris this week, has given some hope that we might be reaching a level of consciousness that understands that climate change is going to continue to hit random parts of the world as a knight moves around in a game of chess.  Although ridiculed by some newspapers for his views, I can see the connection that Prince Charles made about climate change causing drought in Syria which in turn causes a shortage of natural resources (like water),  which in turn cause a refugee problem in South Eastern Europe.  The world is so connected now – more than it ever has been, perhaps.  It is the butterfly effect in action.

We need to think differently and organise ourselves differently if we are going to solve the complex problems that the world is currently facing.  I used to think that X causes Y was the only way to think.  I’m not so sure anymore.  Just look at the weather.  Everyone’s weather in the world is apparently affected by changes in water temperature just off the West Coast of South America with the El Niño effect.  And so it is with international politics and relations: everything is connected.

I’m sure computer modelling and technology can help here – but we need a lot more than “big data” and analytics and advanced aerial killing machines directed from many thousands of miles away to solve these problems.  In particular, we need to understand that each of the world’s primitive fragile systems of fresh water, clean air, natural energy resources and inhabitable land are themselves so interconnected that together they will have the greatest impact on the world’s population migration and quality of life of all of us in the coming twenty to thirty years.  Southern Europe is currently under siege from migrants who themselves are refugees from a part of the planet that is fast burning-up.  Areas which have traditionally sustained life, but which can no longer do so.

What to do?  Commentary by analysts simply isolate the issues.  Linking them together does not seem to happen so much.  It might be my associative mind, but the inter-dependencies BETWEEN the systems mean that the gaps between the systems might just hold the answers.  As regular readers will know, one of my favourite expressions is that: “the answer lies in the space between”.

On first glance, it was very encouraging to see Mark Zuckerberg give up 99% of his fortune to charitable causes.  Line up all the rich kids and strip them of 99% of their fortunes.  Job done!  Yet, reading between the lines, the vehicle Zuckerberg will use will be a limited liability partnership (LLP), not a charitable foundation.  The LLP will be allowed to lobby, make a profit and won’t have to give away a pre-determined amount of cash to other charities every year.   Smart man, Zuckerberg.  Maybe he is onto something.

It is time to think afresh about how we take decisions and how we control the excesses – whether they be banking bonuses, lobbying for vested interests or pollution.  Relying on individual human nature won’t solve these problems.  Traditional economically-driven regulation won’t hack the course either.  The current systems are so stuck in the past; they need a complete rethink.

Waging war by throwing deadly flying machines at an enemy who can only fire back with machine guns and suicide bombers will only dig us deeper into the proverbial.  It may well take Zuckerberg, Gates and a few others with purposeful family-centric LLPs to crack many of the problems that our more outdated institutions have failed to solve.

Then again, I suppose that rich families and the dynasties that they create have always ruled the world.  All other structures are impermanent, insignificant or mouthpieces of the ruling classes.  Mr Zuckerberg for President, anyone?

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Give Thanks! Fire, Aim, Ready.

Last week we explored what it was to be “on purpose”.  The various meanings of the word and the importance of living a purposeful life or working within a purposeful organisation.  It has been very encouraging that so many readers have commented on the post and that the ideas resonated with many of you so well.  Thank you also for the feedback: it is always welcome!  I wish you all success in thinking more about what it is to lead a more purposeful life and continuing the quest to find more meaning in it and in the work you do.

This week I want to deepen that thinking and explore the relationship between purpose and the main aims (or goals) that cause us to line-up the activities that we perform as we go about our day-to-day lives both at home and at work.  I believe that this process is at the heart of what it is to be successful.  Indeed, success is a very personal and subjective thing.  Sure, others might judge your success – but that is by THEIR opinion, not yours.  It is important to shape the factors that will make you successful by moulding them out of what you are and what you want to be.  Sourced from your passions and purpose, as it were.

It is a perfect time of the year to look back and look forwards.  Particularly as today in Thanksgiving in the Americas.  Even if you are not from that part of the world, it is a useful exercise to be grateful for all that has happened to you in the past year and for the friendships and experiences you have had.

At the same time, it is also worth looking forwards.  Thinking about the habits that you want to grow, or the ones that you want to release.  Thinking about the ideas or relationships you want to nurture and the ones you want to celebrate or change.

There is an old phrase “Ready, Aim, Fire” that covers the stages you go through when firing an arrow at a target.  For a bit of amusement, I decided to reverse the order of these three steps to see what new thinking might emerge.  It ended up as  “Fire, Aim, Ready”.  Not a very significant sequence of events if you want to hit a target, you might think.

FIRE

But wait!  What if we use the word “Fire” in some slightly different meanings: FIRE that you are fired-up by – or FIRE when you have a “burning platform” that needs immediate attention – or FIRE when we fire someone from work or a relationship.

If you write down your purpose and underneath put the three or four things that are firing you up at the moment or that they need immediate attention, then FIRE becomes a good first step to deciding the few things on which you should focus.  Either because they are important (as in fired-up) or because they are urgent (as in burning platform) or else you want to be rid of it (as in “you’re fired”).  What few things do you want to add, act on urgently or get rid of in your life?  For me, I have a bonfire worth of business books that have been lying up against the wall on the landing for the past year!

AIM

By listing-out these few aims (or goals) and then understanding what sort of change is needed in your life, you can then try to envisage what life would be like with more (or less) of the factor.  New role at work, more time with family, change-out the car, less time tripping over books.  That sort of thing.
At this stage, it is so important to write these ideas down on a bit of paper.  Sure, a computer will do, but somehow writing them down on paper and referring to them on a regular basis helps speed the process to achieving the aim – and either adding to or subtracting from the fire!  They need to be the bigger things in your life.  Otherwise, you will bury yourself in a long to-do list.  If this happens, try to pick the top five or six ideas and work on them.

READY

If nothing else, by doing this exercise in the next few days, you will be in a better position to shape your ideas, projects and activities as we move into 2016 and be ready to design some bold, boring or fun New Year’s resolutions over the next few weeks ahead of the rush.  Typically, in the past, I have jotted my resolutions down on a paper napkin with a hangover from the holiday period on 1st January and then throw them out with the rest of the excess paper a few days later!  It is only in the past few years that I have become a bit more disciplined – but I still have a way to go.

Writing out your aims and then having the discipline to review them regularly reaps the rewards.  Not least, by the above definition of success, you will be much more effective in aligning your activities to your purpose and living a more fulfilling life!

———-

Next week we will focus on how you can measure your aims (or goals) by breaking each one into a series of defined objectives.  Not only will this allow you to envision more clearly what success looks like, but it will also let you recognise success when you arrive at your destination sometime in the future!

If you are interested in digging deeper into these ideas in the New Year – as well as wanting some help to accelerate success in achieving your aims and objectives, then please do email me at lorne@objectivedesigners.com and I will send you some additional information in December.

And to add a Zen-like koan at the end of all of this just to get you thinking even harder (or not at all):

A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.” 

Lao Tzu

———-

Oh, and some of you have kindly asked about my friend’s planning application that I wrote about two weeks ago.  The inquiry has been adjourned until 21st December – so we might well not know the outcome until the New Year – but I’ll keep you posted when I know the result!

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Acting On Purpose: A Twin-Edged Sword

Picture the scene.  A young child who has done something wrong.  A parent standing tall over the child looking on in disgust or anger.  The young child cowering, knowing that they should not have done it – whatever the act was.  The parent erupting: “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”

Doing something on purpose, in this case, is doubly bad.  It adds to the criminal act because it was “on purpose”.  It is the difference between manslaughter and premeditated murder.  Somehow, when a crime is committed, when it is done “on purpose”, then it is so much worse and carries a heavier penalty.
Picture another scene.  A company gets amazing results.  Profits are up.  Revenues are up.  The workforce has high morale.  The CEO is asked: “Why are you are doing so well?  How did you make so much profit”  He or she answers “Our primary objective isn’t to make a profit – although it is nice to make a profit so we can develop better services for you.  The main reason that we are doing so well is that we are all in service for a higher purpose”.

Think of some recent technology successes: Google and Apple.  Each one highly profitable, yet much more importantly, each one serves a higher purpose.  “Do no evil”.  “Putting a ding in the Universe”.  Interestingly, in its early days, Microsoft had the mission of putting “a computer on every desk and in every home”.  In 2013, Microsoft changed its mission to “morph from a software company to a devices and services company”.  In doing so, their purpose became clouded (literally) in confused corporate-speak and financial engineering.  As soon as the purpose (or mission) is framed in terms of profit or puts shareholder returns above everything else, the writing is on the wall that the organisation to become less successful.

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Such a powerful phrase it is, then. “On Purpose”.  It shows premeditated intent.  Driven by purposeful desire, it can create extraordinarily beautiful things.  It also drives people to follow great leaders – not because of the ego or personality of the leader, but because the whole tribe/team/organisation believes in a higher purpose beyond the power of a single human being.  It is why great religions have such enormous followings.  Abraham, Buddha, Christ and Mohammed.  Each, in their own way, started a religion which today still have many followers.

Purpose also drives revolution and could be seen as the lifeblood of change.  The events in Paris last week were a tragedy, attacking the French libertarian belief system to its core.  The repercussions are still to be played out in terms of hardening European borders, increasing the checks on people travelling to and from Europe as well as the need to control the mass migration to Europe from North Africa and the Middle East.  In some cases, it is a cash of ideas, ideals and purposeful intent.  In another, it is driven by a desire to find a better life for yourself and those who depend upon you.

However hard it is to imagine  a cause is so strong for someone to want to blow themselves up in martyrdom, history shows that there is nothing new to such an extreme act.  Religions are full of martyrs – often given god-like attributes after their demise.  For someone to die “on purpose” or in total alignment with their belief system is somehow at the extreme end of heroism and martyrdom.
Back to the first scene that I started with at the start of this piece.  What is most interesting is whether you saw yourself as the child, the parent or an onlooker?  Think about it!

At an individual level, many of my close friends in their late forties or early-mid fifties are in transition from a full-time career in corporate life to a much less secure “portfolio career” in post-corporate life.  Is it at times like this that you really do question your own purpose in life.  You think “what is this all about?”.  “Why did I spend over 10/20/30 years working for such-and-such a cause and end up with …..?”  It is a time for reflection and searching for a deeper meaning in your own life so that it can become more purposeful.

In thinking about your own purpose, I like to think of an analogy with the Global Positioning System or GPS.  I used to do offshore sailing back in the 1980s and early ‘90s – when the navigation was all based on charts using pencils and compasses and triangulation to work out where you are.  How the world has changed!  Via the GPS system, you can now know exactly where you are – even if it is thick fog outside.  A Guiding Purpose Statement (or GPS) should do the same for you at major transitions in your life.

Gps device on sailboat

Over the next few weeks, I am creating a programme to go deeper into some of these ideas.  If you would like to find out more, please do email me at: lorne(at)objectivedesigners(dot)com and I will send you an outline of what I am thinking about – plus a few questions that might help us create something that is a bit different and special.

The main purpose is to create a group that can support  folk as they transition from a more structured (corporate) part of their lives to a portfolio career where you have to take more personal risks and seek deeper meaning in what it is you do and how you express yourself.  I’ve been through it myself – and have some lessons I would like to share – but I am sure many readers will also have equally valid ideas and suggestions to help others through this period of their lives.

By the way, on my search for more meaning and purpose, I have come up with my own GPS: “To help people communicate more effectively”.  It helps me to bridge my interests in telecommunications, media,  marketing and conversational flow between systems.  I’m currently refining it to be a little more tangible, but it will do for the moment.  If I can help you in this mission – or, indeed if you can help me become more effective in my mission, please also email me!

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Experiencing Flow and Being in the Zone

The older I become, the clearer I become about one thing. Life is all about flow.  And the current modern madness that we see in society is mainly due to us being “out of the flow” and not “in the zone”.

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What do I mean?

Last week, a friend asked me to act as a witness at a local planning enquiry.  It was no normal planning enquiry.  It lasted five days and had barristers for the prosecution (the district council) and the defence (my friend).  It was more like the hearing of a legal case in a court of law.

I was asked to turn up as a witness on the final day last Friday.  Having just come off a week’s training in presentation skills, I thought I would put them to the test.  I knew I had a very short slot (10 minutes maximum).  I decided to take up five.  I wanted to create maximum impact.  How should I go about it?

A bit more context.  My friend and his wife allow me to put my eight hives on their land.  Their land is an oasis of natural flora and fauna – itself nestled in an ancient woodland in area of outstanding natural beauty.  It is so unique, it has been designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (or SSI).

My friend and his wife live onsite to manage the woodlands.  They also allow me to keep eight hives on their land.  They were merely seeking permission to extend their project for another three years.  They live off-grid practicing the most sustainable living of any family I know.  To be applauded and copied, you would think, – particularly in this modern era of climate change and sustainable living.  But no.  The establishment was not happy.  My friends might set a precedent.  We might have hundreds of woodland owners taking to living in the woods and becoming feral.  And that is not a good thing, apparently.

The previous four days of inquiry and inquisition had been hell for all involved.  An important stand against the erosion of some law written somewhere or a total waste of precious government money?  Not for me to decide, but I tend to believe it was the latter.  The final day was for supporters to give evidence.  Throughout the whole week, no one turned up to oppose the proposal.

I arrived at 09.30 and got the first speaking slot for the day.  I did not speak on behalf of myself. I petitioned on account of the bees that I keep!  Everyone knows that bees are under threat.  I described the project as a colony of bees might.  Appreciating my friends generosity allowing them to have the bees on their land and at their gallant efforts to protect and conserve the nature in these ancient woodlands.  At the end of the short talk, I stood up and offered everyone in the room a pot of this year’s honey.  The courtroom melted.  I was so in the flow or “in the zone”.  It was a deeply moving experience.  It was brilliant!

From Wikipedia:  In positive psychology, flow, also known as the zone  It is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.

Named by Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, the concept has been widely referenced across a variety of fields (and has an especially extensive recognition in Occupational Therapy), though has existed for thousands of years under other guises, notably in some Eastern religions.   Achieving flow is often colloquially referred to as “being in the zone”.

Jeanne Nakamura and Csíkszentmihályi identify the following six factors as encompassing an experience of flow.

1. Intense and focused concentration on the present moment

2. Merging of action and awareness

3. A loss of reflective self-consciousness

4. A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity

5. A distortion of temporal experience, one’s subjective experience of time is altered

6. Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding, also referred to as autotelic experience

Earlier this week I took on two new mentees.  Folk who have been washed-out of the corporate system.  “Over fifty and out”.  Both trying to face the new uncertain world for post-corporate man.  Again, faced with a challenge to know the right thing to do, I constructed a short course in realignment.  Before plunging into the more standard questions that treat individuals like 20th century companies – like “what is your personal mission statement”, I reflected back on what had worked for me in the past when I was a mentored twenty years ago.  The first step in the process was to write six to eight stories (or vignettes) where I felt good about something I had achieved.  Each story took about a page to write-up.  The common theme for me was that at some stage in all stories across I was “in the flow” or “in the zone”.

In the run-up to 2016, I am going to use the weekly Thursday Thoughts slot to build on the idea of filling our lives with events where we are truly “in the zone”.
If you are interested in exploring these ideas in the last few weeks of 2015 and launch yourself into 2016 with new energy and enthusiasm, then as an exercise, I suggest that you write down six to eight events in your life that you were “in the zone” and achieved something extraordinary for yourself or others.

  • What was the context?
  • How did you feel?
  • What were you experiencing when “in the zone”?
  • Who were you in service to at the time?

If you feel inclined, please pick the best story and share your experiences with us!

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The Single Most Important Ingredient for a Great Product Launch

This week’s “Thursday Thoughts” is one in a series on Product Launches – a subject that I find fascinating and so important to growing a successful business.

So, what is the single most important ingredient of a great product launch?  We need to look no further than the film (or movie) industry – and to a quote Shawn Amos:

“Every major summer blockbuster that is released is essentially a product line being launched across multiple verticals. However, the centerpiece of the product launch is a big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain.”

I believe that the single most important ingredient for any successful launch is to frame a “big, beautiful story whose job is to entertain”.  Think about it.  A story that describes a personal journey.  Your personal journey with all the ups-and-downs and trials and triumphs that go to make us all human.

Our Story

And so, in the closing two days of Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula (a once-in-a-year opportunity to see the master in action), Jeff has offered two personal but quite different stories that show how changing the way you think about a product by re-framing it around a product launch can literally transform people’s lives.

The first story is from Barry who overcame a life-changing accident to go on and organise and teach those who make a living from entertaining.

The second is from Shelly – a very different story of a mother trying to juggle the three forces of family, paying work and passion.

Watch the videos and work out what you can learn from each of them.  See how the personal stories create a different way of thinking.  By building your business around a series of launches (and great stories), rather than flogging a me-too product, you can create a new sense of drive and momentum.  Think hard about how you can apply the learnings to (re-)launch your own products and services and create a new sense of purpose and heartbeat to your marketing campaigns.

Of all the research I have done into this area, Jeff’s strategies and teachings are second-to-none.  And it can be applied to book launches too!

If you think that there is value in digging deeper into the Product Launch Formula, then I thoroughly recommend that you sign up for Jeff’s programme – which will only be available for the next day or two.  Otherwise, you will have to wait another year for the offer to come around again!

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The Prince of Promises and the Grains of Salt

Once upon a time in a land far from here there lived a wise King. As he neared the end of his life, his barons gained in strength and the King was forced to pass many laws which gave away power.  The kingdom became a less certain place.
The King’s eldest son, (nicknamed “The Prince of Promises”) was a quiet and thoughtful man, but was unsure of his own position in the court. He was full of good ideas and promised many things to many people when he would become King – but few now listened to him for they thought his promises were empty.
Time passed and the King became ill. Whilst he lay on his death bed, the Prince asked his father “What is the one thing that you have learnt that you want to tell me before you pass on?”
The father said “Go and seek counsel from the wise man in the mountains. He has taught me so much. He lives in an old hut that has a blue door and with a yellow circle. Ask him about the story of the grains of salt”.
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When the King finally passed away, there was a week of mourning. Soon after, the recently crowned Young King (who some now called the King of Promises) set off to the mountains to seek out the wise old man. The court, by then, was running itself with the barons creating much discontent and division in the lands.
After several weeks of travel through some very treacherous areas, the Young King arrived at a modest hut which had no sign, save the blue door with the yellow circle. He knocked and a voice said “Please come in”.
The wise old man was very natural and very gentle and said “Ah, you must be the Prince”. The Young King said “No longer a Prince. My father died last month and I am now King and have come to seek your counsel.”
Within the hour, the Young King was relaxed and finally mustered the courage to say to the wise old man “My father told me on his death bed to ask you about the story of the grains of salt. Can you tell it to me, please?”
The wise old man sighed and said “Of course!”. He lit up a pipe, drew deeply on it whilst closing his eyes. He then started to hum with a low droning noise before reopening his eyes. Looking directly at the Young Prince he started the story.
“When your father was much younger, the land was in chaos. There had been a civil war and the barons were very powerful. Your father had a good mind, which was full of many good ideas, but he had trouble putting them into practice. Before he had time to act on one thought, another would enter his mind. Maybe you have some of that in you?” he asked with a wry smile, knowing the Young King’s former nickname of the Prince of Promises.
The Young King nodded in agreement. The wise old man continued.
“Ideas are like grains of salt. There are many ideas and many grains of salt in this world. However, a single idea that is shaped into something that others understand is like 10 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that can help solve a problem is like 100 grains of salt. An idea that is shaped further into something that for people to buy because it is valuable to them is the equivalent to 1000 grains of salt. And an idea that is so useful that the majority of the kingdom will buy into it is worth a mountain of salt.”
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“And so it is, Young King.” he continued. “Be careful about who you share your many ideas with and who you give your promises to. The effectiveness of your reign will be dissolved very quickly unless the ideas that you have are simple enough to explain and useful enough to grow into the larger mountains of wisdom that you will be remembered for.”
The Young King thanked the wise old man and a day or two later, he returned to the Capital of his Kingdom. On his return he spoke a lot less, gave out far fewer promises and was much more considered in his ideas and opinions. He also listened a lot more to his subjects before laying down any new laws. His subjects said that he had been transformed from the Prince of Promises into the King of Contemplation. Some even called him the Salt King – for he re-told the story to many in his court.
He ruled for a further 35 year and although he made very few new laws, each one was very effective. At his bequest, he was buried under a nearby mountain – which was made entirely of pink salt.
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To this day, that mountain still exists in the Himalayas.
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