It was the turning of the 89/90 decade. I was in Berlin for New Year’s Eve. Fireworks were only allowed then To celebrate the turning of the year. I was at a party well away from the wall But had this urge to move up on up to it.
We made it just in time! A large crowd swarming Five hundred metres way up to the Brandenburger Tor. That symbolic centre of both the wall and Berlin herself. There was a determined push towards the gate Both in front and behind us, surging like a tidal wave As if the whole crowd moved with a collective psyche.
And then the fireworks began. Lighting the sky above. The dark shadow of the gate ahead, I could move Neither back, nor left, nor right, but only forwards. As more and more people joined the push Towards the tiny gap only created a few weeks before On, on, on, there was no going back.
I then realised I had no passport. My friend from Berlin Was allowed to go through with no papers, but I should not. Too late! The powerful crowd took that decision for me. We were pushed through the tiny gap and there – On the other side were two 12 ft replica cans of Coca-Cola! The American marketing machine had beaten us to it!
Illegal or not, there were no guards: it was a surge to freedom. We were discharged out onto the Unter den Linden, The boulevard of lime trees on the Eastern side of the gate. A calm peace after the hectic push and scrabble. We spent an hour or so soaking up the atmosphere Before returning back home to the Western side.
Elias Canetti, summed up in his 1960s book “Crowds and Power”: The crowd always wants to grow – it has no natural boundaries. Within the crowd there is equality. Differences … are irrelevant. The crowd loves destiny … it can never feel too dense. The crowd needs direction … and moves towards a goal. And so it was. The wall collapsed to create modern-day Europe.
I’m often out-spoken. It has caused me problems in the past. But I’ve never done anything like this before. I know I am not the only one reflecting these sentiments. Sometimes I challenge because I believe that is what is needed To change the system – or at least to draw attention to The main areas that could and should be improved.
I have met only a few of the people who are here. We live in a virtual world of listeners and applauders. Most online fora are self-congratulatory, ego-boosters for the author. People feel uneasy to join in if there is any dissension or (c)rudeness For fear of going against the crowd like the cheeky monkey That’ll have their legs broken so that they are eaten by the lions first!
Agent Provocateurs, Revolutionaries & Change Agents! Where are you? You can hide away in the corner Whinging & whining about the structures & systems that don’t work. Without the guts or enthusiasm to change anything – mainly because The whole darn system is so fragile, it might break anytime – and YOU don’t want to be accused of being the person who finally broke it!
Where are the innovators, the disruptors, the risk-takers? The folk who are up-ending the Establishment (with a BIG “E”)? Where are the young folk who want to bring on the change? They are in the cool start-ups, earning peanuts – for the chance Of creating something new. And one day, they’ll say: “I was there”! It’s a casino, for sure, but a lot more fun than those tied into BIG E!
Not all ideas come to fruition. You never know which ones will work. But that is not the reason to keep the ideas flowing. There is a big difference between a good idea and an idea which Has support, is properly funded and is successfully implemented. Without good ideas, you never get momentum for real change. It’s a clash between different types of people, thinking and processes.
The only action that comes from this is that the ideas keep flowing. The only leadership required is one of keeping an open mind. The only communications skills required are for active listening. Good ideas will stick and grow. Not-so-good ones will get overtaken. Presence over process. Curiosity over Knowhow and “BIG E”. Keep listening and I’ll keep posting! Give me a role and I’ll step up!
There are too many things going on. I’m stressed, RED with anger And getting over-emotional I can’t do everything! I’ve got burn-out! PLEASE HELP ME!
The future’s bright, The future’s ORANGE So they used to say! Time to get a grip! Recast my ambitions And create a new future
How best to do that? Listen to myself and others For a while. Don’t rush! GOLDEN friends who know me well And care about me: they know the answers It’s all going to be fine!
Step into the circle, the WHITE zone Take a break. Get some rest. Sleep in. Then – Move around. Walk outside. Eat more plants. Enjoy life! Life’s for living, not for stressing!
It’s time to get creative! Write out a list of all I want to do Like the colour PURPLE, What am I passionate about? Which small projects can I get underway NOW That will help me to achieve my dreams?
No point in feeling BLUE More complex things require the help of others Important things need to be negotiated So things end up as WIN-WIN Don’t rush it! There’s an underlying A collective intention that needs uncovering.
And then all becomes lined-up. All becomes clear! Time for action! GREEN light for go! Action with clarity and purpose No one can stop me now!
When faced with a challenge, some folks lark about Thinking it’s funny. I used to do that sometimes. But as I get older, I find that those that behave like this Are oft lacking some training, skill or knowledge. Perhaps even covering up some learning difficulty … Because they have not applied themselves to MASTERY.
I was reminded by this last week by my flute teacher His name is James and he has a first-class degree in Music. He’s versatile enough to play in both a symphony orchestra As well as in a jazz or blues band. Read music and improv – After years of what he calls “shedding” it (which means Long, tedious practice in the garden shed!)
James has helped me to re-learn the Art of Mastery. I’m not sure if you ever took music lessons at school My first piano teacher was very solemn and stunk of perfume She didn’t like my casual attitude to learning. I hardly ever practised one week to the next And she became more and more frustrated by me!
She taught me FACE and “Every Good Boy Deserves Fruit” (As well as others I can’t remember for the Bass Clef). These have been useful with the flute because All the notes you play is in the Treble Clef. Since then, I have not read music. I’ve just “larked around” But if you want to play with others, you need to read music.
What does it take to become a Master in a given field? Malcolm Gladwell said in his book Outliers that It requires 10,000 hours of practice. That’s catchy and easy to remember but completely false! It’s not the number of hours that are important. It’s about the quality of time spent practising & rehearsing.
James tells me there are two types of students. Those who want to learn to read and play in an orchestra And those who just want to play by ear. I used to be the latter, but am now re-learning the fun Of reading music for the first time. It’s a slog, but getting easier as each week goes by.
James wasn’t born when I started to learn to play the piano But I still remember my first teacher’s perfume. Yuk! James is many years younger and wiser than me, He has taught me how to learn (again) And he has three words he uses to describe the Art: DISCIPLINE, FOCUS and PRECISION.
Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!
Have you ever noticed When you have to decide between Two different points of view, Or two contrasting futures … The best answer is almost never found At one extreme, nor the other?
Have you ever seen leaders Giving passionate speeches about a future That requires short-term pain for long-term gain? Dividing those who can stay (on uncertain terms) Against those who will need to go to “save the ship”? All in the name of some grand plan no one understands.
Have you ever wondered if there might be a better way? We oft need reminding that you can’t follow fear. Fear doesn’t know where it’s going. It only knows where it’s not going. Through the confusion of fear, uncertainty and doubt, The spin-doctors weave a web of contradictory messages.
Why is thought-control through fear so common? The “leaders” are even more fearful of losing their positions. They oft say nothing, for fear of any negative reaction. They become angry and throw tantrums like a 3-year old child. They cannot see their way forwards through the confusion. They become tired, despondent and ill.
Apparently it was Eleanor Roosevelt who once said: “The past is history. The future is a mystery, But today is a gift – which is why we call it ‘The Present’” As we move into the time of the year where we think About which gifts to exchange, have you ever thought That giving love in the present moment is all that’s needed?
“Deal” or “No-Deal?”; “Blue or Red?”; “Haves” or “Have Nots” Where can we find the best answers to all our struggles? Settle into a place of stillness and quieten the mind. Then focus on a higher purpose: centred in love, not fear; One that both excites you and is of service to future generations. You’ll find that the answer lies in the space between!
You know the feeling. When you are flowing with effortless ease. When everything is “firing on all six cylinders” And working in harmony. Plans and ideas move into place, with no friction And all things work in the way they were designed to be.
Flow isn’t just a great feeling; It’s also one of the main contributors to the success Of any great project, team or company. The dividends are great for those that design for flow. They become faster, more efficient, more successful And out-perform those around them that ignore her.
How can we work better with this mysterious thing called flow? Flow starts to move in the channel of the listener. She takes the easy route: the path of least resistance. Like a stream or river heading down to the sea. She flows around any obstacle, rock or pebble To get down to the next pool and onwards to the sea.
Flow is fragile when she appears and is hard to retain. She can vanish and nobody knows where she has gone. The strange thing in a business is that no single person Is responsible for creating or destroying her. Nor does anyone really have the overall power or responsibility To get her back when she is gone!
Without flow, everything slows. Deadlines slip and budgets bloat. People get irritable and start blaming one another. Games are played that increase the blockages Which makes flow vanish even faster. She is as mysterious and transient as the Queen Bee!
Jazz players call it “being in the groove”. Each player feels the beat Each one dancing with harmony, discord and periods of silence. In the moment. There’s no score, just a few hidden rules to be broken. Performing with no effort, she demands hours of practice. Whilst listening for the beat, flow rewards those that study her. Invisible and ephemeral, we love to play with her hidden mysteries.
Listen! Stop what you are doing! What do you hear? Listen for those subtle noises That are normally drowned-out In the busyness of life.
Listen more! The chatter, the clicks, the hubbub Listen to the space between the noises They are quieter and even more silent Than the silence you started to listen to – Quieter, even, than the quietest sound!
What else lies in the space between? It is a space to meditate on The past and the future. It is the place of pure presence. Absence of anything, It holds the answer to everything!
Claude Debussy once said, “Music is the space between the notes.” The notes might dance harmoniously, But the rests dance closer to the truth. A hidden message that you can only hear If you listen to for the silence.
In conversation, there are those that compete To drown-out the silence. They do not listen They are on “permanent send”, Not yet charmed by (nor knowing of) the fact That they were given two ears and one mouth For a reason: to listen twice as hard!
Try it for a minute, then an hour, then even a day. Muted by the desire to listen more. Not just to the noise, but more importantly, To the space between the notes That play to the timeless music of glorious silence. The answer lies in the space between.
At the end of every quarter, I move into the centre of the circle. The centre is constantly shifting and changing. Sometimes it can feel a bit stuck in place or time. Othertimes, it has everything spinning around at 100 miles an hour. But there is always a still centre to be found somewhere in there. Calmness in the eye of the storm.
It is that centre that I seek out every three months. To give me space. To take stock. To look backwards and forwards at the same time. To celebrate what has been done. And to meditate on where we might go in the future.
This week is a particularly special time of the year. The hard work of opening-up the combs and extracting the honey is over. We have an angel called Heather who helps us with that part. It is now time to bottle the sweet amber nectar. Some say it’s been a bad season for others. But we have been fortunate this year. It’s looking like a good ‘un!
The honey itself pours into the jars in a vortex of swirls Sometimes left-handed, other times right. Never straight-down like water. As each jar fills, the trick is not to stop the flow too early, Nor too late before the honey overflows onto the floor and makes a mess. There is a rhythm to it which becomes quite meditative. Like all skills, it is a combination of practice, timing and feedback.
You are never quite sure how many jars you will fill. Nor how many total pounds of honey you will jar. The mystery of not knowing whether this will be a record season. But it really doesn’t matter. It is what it is. I don’t worry too much about which particular flowers they have come from. They make their own unique, delicious blend.
Harvest time is such a natural time of the year to close circles. The celebration of the friendships made And a time to reflect on those who have passed. Now to get ready for winter. It’s going to be a cold ‘un, they say. Time put the winter quilts into the tops of the hives. The circle is closed.
Sometimes you trip over a word and it takes on a shape. It bugs you until you look at that shape and see something different. Something unusual.
That happened to me this morning. I received a note from a friend of mine who was talking about Elon Musk and his investor dilemma. Whilst typing back a reply, I said: “it’s the difference between an inventor and an investor”. And the shape of these two words hit me! They were so similar – and yet poles apart.
So, as is my wont (an old English word meaning habit or custom that spellcheckers highlight as a mistake, but it isn’t), I set to with the idea that an inveNtor and an inveStor are two opposing forces under tension in any business.
And whilst deciding that this was, indeed, a good analogy, it struck me that so many letters are shared between these two words. In fact, seven out of eight letters are not just the same – BUT THEY ARE IN EXACTLY THE SAME POSITION IN THE WORD! The only difference is the fifth letter – where one is an “N” and the other an “S”. How can two such similar words have such contrasting shapes positions in business, yet share so much at the same time?
To use the old analogy “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus”, it got me thinking about which planets would inveNtors and inveStors inhabit? I looked up this idea on an astrology website and found that Venus is the bringer of love, beauty and money. So that will do for the inveStor community (though I sometimes find it hard to see how those three words fit nicely into one sentence.
As for Mars – well that is a non-starter. We needed another planet. And so I typed-in “innovation” to find that Uranus represents technology, rebellion and innovation! That will do nicely!
So, inveStors are from Venus and inveNtors are from Uranus. There you go!
Yet that wasn’t enough. I further studied the two words to find that the only difference were the two letters: N and S – and suddenly it hit me! They are also polar opposites on the dial of a compass! I was so encouraged to find even more elegance down this particular rabbit-hole!
Further to discovering this chance pairing, I thought again. Whilst looking at the meanings behind the planets, I came across Mercury, the Messenger God who is know for communication, day-to-day expression and coordination. A vital and often missing ingredient when inveNtors and inveStors cannot see each other’s point of view. What other letter (in the same place as the N and S) could be a catalyst for change? What could be the Mercury that goes between Venus and Uranus (though I know full-well that is impossible in our particular solar system – but work with me on this!)
And so I came across the letter “R”. One of the few that makes sense and is a word. An inveRtor. It has a medical meaning, but I preferred the one used in electricity – which converts AC to DC current and back again. An inveRtor is a converter of energy from invention to investment. Perfect!
So, in summary, we need more inveRtors in business to go between the impossible stances that inveNtors and inveStors take when they stand-off in their own worlds of creativity and resolution. A few more inveRtors that will be comfortable in the space between what is impossible and what is possible. A few more inverRtors that will help inveNtors like Elon Musk save the planet with his fantastic ideas to make the world’s transportation system run on electricity without making all the inveStors run a mile!
As it was such a great rabbit hole to go down (and it is Thursday and I have not written Thursday Thoughts for a while), I thought I would write-up the story. More to follow soon!
Please do leave a comment below if you see any other strange or fantastic happenings on the road from invention to investment.
Someone asked me what one word or phrase I would use to take me into 2018, leave behind those ideas, things and people you don’t need anymore and create something new and vibrant.
I thought for a moment and then said “I use the term “Lighten Up! quite a lot.”
It gives you the chance to drop those dead-weight ideas, as well as the things and even people who drag you down. It also gives you permission to become more conscious and, literally, “enlightened”. It is a good one, too for losing those extra few inches around the belly and becoming lighter on your feet!
The lighter you think, the lighter the world becomes. You need fewer words to connect with people. Your emails become shorter. You need fewer “heavy” conversations. You laugh more. Life becomes much more fun and interesting because you are not held back by the shadows of past traumas nor fears of the future.
And if you look into the light, you can’t see the shadows of the past anyway!
“LIghten-Up!” It works for me! Try it. It might work for you too!