Inventors are from Uranus. Investors are from Venus.

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!

                                     North, South or somewhere in between?

 

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.

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The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery

It’s fascinating how aspects of Westernised Zen philosophy came out of Hitler’s Germany. Below is the link to a paper called “The Myth of Zen in the Art of Archery” with some extracts below that to prove the point.

http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/…/download;jsessionid=CB13F300…

‘Eugen Herrigel’s “Zen in the Art of Archery” has been widely read as a study of Japanese culture. By reconsidering and reorganizing Herrigel’s text and related materials, however, this paper clarifies the mythical nature of “Zen in the Art of Archery” and the process by which this myth has been generated.

This paper first gives a brief history of Japanese archery and places the period at which Herrigel studied Japanese archery within that time frame. Next, it summarizes the life of Herrigel’s teacher, Awa Kenzõ. At the time Herrigel began learning the skill, Awa was just beginning to formulate his own unique ideas based on personal spiritual experiences.

Awa himself had no experience in Zen nor did he unconditionally approve of Zen. By contrast, Herrigel came to Japan in search of Zen and chose Japanese archery as a method through which to approach it.

The paper goes on to critically analyze two important spiritual episodes in “Zen and the Art of Archery.” What becomes clear through this analysis is the serious language barrier existing between Awa and Herrigel. The testimony of the interpreter, as well as other evidence, supports the fact that the complex spiritual episodes related in the book occurred either when there was no interpreter present, or were misinterpreted by Herrigel via the interpreter’s intentionally liberal translations.

Added to this phenomenon of misunderstanding, whether only coincidental or born out of mistaken interpretation, was the personal desire of Herrigel to pursue things Zen. Out of the above circumstances was born the myth of ‘Zen in the Art of Archery.'”

To copy YAMADA Shõji’s concluding paragraphs:

“Zen in the Art of Archery continues to be a bestseller. The Japanese language version, Yumi to Zen (1956), which represents the culmination of a circular translation process that rendered Awa’s original Japanese words into German and, then, from German back into Japanese, has altered Awa’s words to such an extent that it is impossible to ascertain his original expressions. Yet, in spite of this fact, many Japanese rely on it to acquire a certain fixed interpretation of Japanese archery.

Faced with this situation, I have attempted to present a new reading of Herrigel and associated documents from a different perspective so as to clarify the mythic function that creates our conception of what constitutes “Japanese-ness.” At the same time, I have attempted to counter the tendency that has prevailed up until now to read Zen in the Art of Archery with little or no critical awareness.

This paper represents only a preliminary analysis of Zen in the Art of Archery. The next step must compare and contrast Herrigel’s account with descriptions of Japanese archery written by other foreigners during the same period in order to bring to light the idiosyncratic nature of Zen in the Art of Archery and the peculiar way in which it has shaped foreign understanding of Japan and foreign interpretations of Japanese archery in particular.

Moreover, it is necessary to reposition Herrigel’s first essay on Japanese archery within the milieu of the Berlin of 1936 when the storm of Nazism was raging.   Finally, it will be necessary to trace the process by which the ideas in Zen in the Art of Archery, the revised version of Herrigel’s 1936 essay, were imported back into Japan and widely accepted, creating the illusion that the archery of Awa and Herrigel represented traditional Japanese archery. I hope to address these issues in the future.”

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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”.

AdobeStock_58963799 450x600

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 Hidden Treasure

The Creator gathered all of creation and said,

“I want to hide something from the humans until they are ready for it.

It is the realisation that they create their own reality.”

The eagle said, “Give it to me, I will take it to the moon.”

The Creator said, “No.  One day they will go there and find it.”

The salmon said, “I will hid it on the bottom of the ocean floor.”

“No.  They will go there too.”

The buffalo said, “I will bury it on the great plains.”

The Creator said, “They will cut the skin of the earth and find it even there.” ….

Then Grandmother Mole…. who has no physical eyes but sees with spiritual eyes,

said, “Put it inside them” [for that is the last place they will look.]

The Creator said, “it is done.”

An old Sioux Indian Fable from “Somebody Should Have Told Us! (Simple Truths for Living Well) by Jack Pransky

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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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The Seven Questions of Innovation

Sometimes you get stuck.  You can’t think of a way out.

Well, it’s not the first time!  Mankind has a long history of innovation.

This video explains it beautifully – and gives us seven questions to ask when you get stuck:

Go on! Try it!  Ask the seven questions:

1.  What can we imagine?

2.  What can we look at differently?

3.  What can we use differently?

4.  What can we move?

5. What can we interconnect?

6. What can we alter?

7.  What can we make?

That’s all very well if you are a guy (like me) and trying to fix things to make things better.  But what about the emotional side of the equation?  Jason Headley has another (perhaps much more brilliant video) which should amuse those that find communication skills between the sexes more challenging:

 

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The Heart’s Intuitive Intelligence

Last Thursday, I had a meeting with a business colleague.  We had only met once before – but somehow the energy felt really good between us.  Conversation flowed.  Ideas bubbled to the surface.  Creative spirit abounded.

During the conversation, it became apparent that I had talked in our previous meeting about intuition.  I had forgotten this – but it  is something I have recently become very interested in.  In summary, it’s the idea that the world is far too “mental” and that many have lost touch with their intuitive guidance system – based around the heart.  I’m also a strong believer in the idea that everything is connected.

And so it was, just by chance (as happens when browsing the internet) I came across this video below:

I don’t know too much about the organisation behind the video – but just love the overall theme, messages and visuals.  It somehow helps us to remember things we have forgotten or lost – so we can get back into the life-force and remember who we are.

Sit back and enjoy!

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The Ultimate Purpose of a Bee

Last Sunday, I took my friend Sam to visit my bees.  He has been trying to keep bees for three years – but to no avail.  The last swarm that I gave him on his birthday two years died off the first winter he had them.

And so it was, I was completely charmed that, on Tuesday morning, he rang me to say that a swarm had gathered on the window of his office – exactly above the desk he works at!  We set about to catch them later that day – and yesterday we installed the swarm in one of his new hives not so many miles from here.  I’m sure the bees will stay with him now.

This evening, I came across a beautiful piece by Tolstoy about the ultimate purpose of the honeybee – which I thought I would share with you.  

 It has been a magical and charmed week and the honeybees have truly touched my friend, Sam and me with this amazing encounter.  Long may the honeybees swarm into people’s lives as they did for me so many years ago.

Bee Banner

“As the sun and each atom of ether is a sphere complete in itself, and yet at the same time only a part of a whole too immense for man to comprehend, so each individual has within himself his own aims and yet has them to serve a general purpose incomprehensible to man.

A bee settling on a flower has stung a child. And the child is afraid of bees and declares that bees exist to sting people.

A poet admires the bee sucking from the chalice of a flower and says it exists to suck the fragrance of flowers.

A beekeeper, seeing the bee collect pollen from flowers and carry it to the hive, says that it exists to gather honey.

Another beekeeper who has studied the life of the hive more closely says that the bee gathers pollen dust to feed the young bees and rear a queen, and that it exists to perpetuate its race.

A botanist notices that the bee flying with the pollen of a male flower to a pistil fertilizes the latter, and sees in this the purpose of the bee’s existence.

Another, observing the migration of plants, notices that the bee helps in this work, and may say that in this lies the purpose of the bee.

But the ultimate purpose of the bee is not exhausted by the first, the second, or any of the processes the human mind can discern.

The higher the human intellect rises in the discovery of these purposes, the more obvious it becomes, that the ultimate purpose is beyond our comprehension.

All that is accessible to man is the relation of the life of the bee to other manifestations of life. And so it is with the purpose of historic characters and nations.”

Extracted rom Leo Tolstoy’s War & Peace: Chapter IV

You can also find this, and other bee stories on one of my other blogs – http://beelore.com/2007/08/07/the-ultimate-purpose-of-the-bee/

Photo from iStockphoto

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Big Rocks and Full Jars

The very famous Chinese professor from the very famous Chinese university sat in front of a group of new students. In front of him was a large green jar. The kind of jar some people keep plants in.

Green Vase

The professor looked at the students but said nothing. Then he leaned down to his right hand side. By his foot was a pile of fist‐sized rocks. He took a rock and very carefully dropped it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Then another and another and another. Until no more rocks could be dropped through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”

The group murmured assent: the jar was now full.

The professor said nothing and turned to his left side. By his foot was a pile of pebbles. He took a handful of pebbles and carefully poured them through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Handful by handful, around the rocks, until no more pebbles could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?”

The group mumbled that it certainly appeared as if the jar could possibly now be full, maybe.

The professor said nothing and turned again to his right side. By his foot was a pile of coarse, dry sand. He took a handful of sand and carefully poured it through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, around the pebbles, handful by handful, until no more sand could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group and said: “Tell me, if the jar now full?”

There was silence.

The professor said nothing and turned again to his left side. By his foot was a jug of water. He took the jug and carefully poured the water through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar. Around the rocks, the pebbles and the sand. Until no more water could be poured through the hole at the top of the neck of the jar.

He turned to the group: “Tell, me is the jar now full?”

There was silence, even more profound than before. The kind of silence where those present check to see if their nails are clean or their shoes polished. Or both.

The professor turned again to his right side. On a small blue square of paper he had a small pile of fine dry salt. He took a fingerful of saly and carefully dissolved it in the water at the top of the neck of the jar. Fingerful by fingerful in the water, around the sand, around the pebbles, around the rocks, until no more salt could be dissolved in the water at the top of the neck of the jar.

Once again the professor turned to the group and said: “Tell me, is the jar now full?” One very courageous student stood up and said: “No professor, it is not yet full.” The professor said: “Ah, but it IS now full.”

The professor then invited all the people who were there to consider the meaning of his story. What did it mean? How did they interpret it? Why had the professor told it? And after some minutes the professor listened to their reflections.

There were as many interpretations as there were people in the room.

When the professor had heard from each of the students, he congratulated them saying it was hardly surprising there were so many individual interpretations. After all, everybody there was a unique individual who had lived through unique experiences unlike those of anybody else. Their interpretations simply reflected their own experiences and the unique perspective through which they viewed the world.

And in that sense no interpretation was any better – or any worse – than any other. And, he wondered, were the group curious to know his own interpretation? Which of course, he stated, was no better or worse than theirs. It was simply his interpretation.

Oh yes, they were curious.

“Well,” he said, “my interpretation is simply this. Whatever you do in life, whatever the context, just make sure you get your rocks in first.”

Would be great if you share your interpretations of the story!

Story from “The Magic of Metaphor” by Nick Owen – primary source – Julian Russell

Picture from: http://www.2ezr.com/items/787648/item7876482ezr.html

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