|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!
TT1944 – On the Benefits of Hindsight
When you look back in life
Have you ever noticed that
Many things have happened to you
Because of a set of chance coincidences?
They appeared in mysterious and magical ways
Which were not obvious to you at the time.
Steve Jobs said: “You can’t connect the dots looking forward;
You can only connect them looking backwards.
So you have to trust that the dots
Will somehow connect in your future.
You have to trust in something:
Your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever.”
Do you trust your dots connecting in your future?
I was in the garden one lazy afternoon when
A strange cloud appeared in the sky
Weaving like a numeration of starlings.
A moment later a swarm of tiny dots landed
Just twelve feet in front of me!
That chance landing of a swarm of bees
Has taken me on a life-long journey of wonder and
Study into the magical world of the honeybee.
I’ve never met anyone else who experienced
A swarm landing directly in front of them –
But I am sure there are others, somewhere!
Steve Jobs further postulated:
“Believing that the dots
Will connect down the road
Will give you the confidence to follow your heart
Even when it leads you off the well-worn path;
And that will make all the difference.”
Do you have the confidence to follow your heart
Even when it leads you off the well-worn path?
What surprising coincidences or dots have lined-up for you?
What special places, people or natural happenings
Have lined up for you in magical ways?
Tell your story and please share it below!
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!)
TT1940 – Waste Not, Want Knot
Autumn leaves start to turn
And she blows her chilling wind.
The rain now feels colder and wetter
Than the September kind,
Flooding the parched earth
And bringing a new spring.
It’s time for a clear-up
(Or is it clear-out?)
Out or up, no matter, stuff has to go…
To make space for new things to come.
A sort of Spring clean in Fall
(There are no words for it… yet)
The strange thing about this time of year
Is that releasing those things that you no longer use
Can be seen as leaves falling from a tree
They may still be of value to others:
One man’s waste is another man’s water
It’s the want not, waste knot!
Do we REALLY need it?
Do we have a PLACE for it?
Will we really USE it enough to own it?
Do we LOVE it any more?
When was the LAST TIME we used it?
Won’t we bee better off if we RELEASE it?
Where there is tension, let it resolve.
Where there are liabilities, let them be settled.
Where there are past traumas, let them rewind.
Where there is resistance, go with the flow.
Where there is anger, let you have peace.
Where there is darkness, let it be light!
Want not, for there is an abundance for all.
Horde not, for others may have more need.
Release yourself from things that no longer bring you joy.
(For me it’s unread books and unplayed musical instruments)
Untie the want knot and release yourself from stress.
Come, join the revolution!
The Best Source of Innovation
The news this week that the upwards-ever-upwards iPhone sales are finally stalling was a stark reminder that even the greatest companies struggle to keep the juices of innovation flowing year-on-year. The Apple Watch couldn’t replace the iPhone and the iCar (if it ever arrives) is still a few years out.
Most companies that I study or consult to are in an innovation crisis. They know they must innovate in order to remain competitive and keep growing (or simply to stand still). Yet how often does the innovation agenda become demoted to “novel” efficiency drives and cost-cutting initiatives?
It begs the question: where is the best place to source innovation? Many of my clients in the telecoms world look to technology suppliers. They continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of products and services that were offered last year. The latest gizmo. The latest bell or whistle. Yet I already have an iPhone 6s. Why do I want a Plus? I upgraded from an iPhone 4s to wait for the 6. I think I’ll hang on until I see something really new and different from Apple.
Innovation can come from suppliers – but you can’t really differentiate your company if that is all you rely on. Such is the fate of many telecoms companies: they continue to develop new features on top of their already bloated stack of product features that were offered last year. The latest gizmo. The latest bell or whistle. A price war starts and the cost cutting initiatives cut even deeper. No, suppliers, are not the best answer.
What about the young folk who have just joined the organisation? Straight out of University or School, they bring a fresh set of thinking. They are the next generation! Surely they hold the answer? Give them a difficult problem and let them brainstorm their ideas to create something truly whacky. Too risky, I say! They will not understand the product and how it is used, yet. They might come up with some good ideas., but Good ideas are not the same as innovation. The newbees are not the best source of innovation either!
So where should we go next? To customers, of course! Customers that use (and misuse) your existing products and services! Customers who suffer day-to-day from trying to work the processes that you have under-designed and waste your customers time and effort. They are loyal customers until they suddenly vanish. And if no one contacts them to see where they have gone, then innovation dies on the vine!
Customers are an incredibly cheap this source of innovation, too. Not just cheap, but very valuable! By asking a few simple questions of customers every time you interact with them, you can increase your profitability, customer loyalty AND innovation in one fell swoop!
And what are those questions? Well, you will have to read the next few Thursday Thoughts to find out my thoughts on this. In the meantime, try and work out what you think they might be and comment below!
Oh, and thank you so much for reading this far. I hope, at least, it has made you think a bit more about one of the most important aspects of business and human life!
What you must open today….
New Year: A Dialogue
by Ella Wheeler Wilcox (1909)
THE NEW YEAR:
THE NEW YEAR:
THE NEW YEAR:
THE NEW YEAR:
THE NEW YEAR:
Wishing all readers of Thursday Thoughts
Good Cheer, Hope, Success, Good Health and Love in 2016
….on this, the last Thursday of 2015!
Thinking Outside-In: A Thinking Tool for the Festive Season
Looking at “Major Tim” the Astronaut talking from space on the TV last night, it got me thinking. How cool it must be to get outside of the earth’s atmosphere and look back down on the earth!
It triggered another thought. One particular type of thinking I find very useful is called “Outside-In” thinking. It takes a perspective of looking at an individual, a family unit or an organisation from the outside looking inwards. Some call it out-of-the-box thinking. It is a way of thinking that allows us to step outside of the box and get a more objective perspective on how we fit within each of the social units within we operate.
This type of thinking can also be used in a number of different ways.
Firstly, looking at your the key personal relationships that you have with others:
- How do you, as an individual, relate to those close around you? Take stock of what has happened in the past year. What were the good times and what were the not-so-good times? How can you build on the good and release the not-so-good? Which relationships require a little kindness to improve the energy between you both?
- How do the folk that you care about relate to one another? How could you assist in strengthening those relationships by listening and understanding both perspectives?
- It can also be a useful tool to work out what presents they would like to receive. Think about the last few conversations you have had with them. Who knows? They might even have dropped some hints!
Secondly, it is useful when looking backwards and planning forwards:
- What events or activities did you lead and enjoy – and how many others shared in your leadership and enjoyment at the time? How can you build on these activities in 2016?
- What themes do you want to improve and carry forwards into 2016 and how can they be accelerated by asking for some outside-in help?
- List out the challenges you face and work out who do you know who could help tackle some of those challenges in a different or disruptive way.
- Which activities and themes do you want to wind-down or stop – so that you can create more space for those that you want to build. Who can you offload the activities onto without losing the overall momentum of the theme?
Finally, as a tool for improving your business relationships. It is so very powerful when you get direct outside-in feedback from customers, employees, suppliers and business partners:
- How does the organisation that you work with appear to others? To customers? To suppliers? To those who work for it?
- What insights can you see that others are blind to?
- How can you work those into some actions that will help you and the organisation become more effective and be a more enjoyable and rewarding place to work?
So, as we enter the period where we have cleared our desks and are stocking up for the festive season it is worth looking forward to the challenges and projects that we want to take on in 2016 and spend a bit of time thinking outside-in. I’m sure you will find it useful. Please do write any thoughts on how else you and others could use this type of thinking.
And good luck to Major Tim and his space travels into 2016!
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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 email@example.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.”
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!
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”.
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!