Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop He was born in about 280 in Patara, Lycia Which is in modern-day Turkey His parents both died when he was young And he used his inheritance to help The poor and the sick.
There are many legends surrounding Saint Nicholas He is supposed to have saved three men Who had been falsely accused and sentenced to death. He is said to have died on 6th December 343. His reputation went before him as a gift-giver As well as the protector of children and sailors.
So how does that explain where Santa Claus cames from? Well, his story as a Saint became popular in Europe Until the Reformation when Saints became unpopular. However, the Dutch kept celebrating his feast day On 6th December – children put out their shoes at night and In the morning would discover the gifts he had left for them.
In the 1700s, Dutch immigrants took the legend To the Americas where he was known as “Sint Nikolaas” Or more commonly by his nickname “Sinterklaas” There, he went through many transformations to become Known by his present-day name of Santa Claus, although The present-giving was moved to the Christmas festival.
Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem in 1820 called “An Account of a Visit from Saint Nicholas”. He described Santa Claus as a jolly, heavy man Who comes down the chimney to leave presents For deserving children. He also drove a sleigh pulled by Magical Reindeer flying through the sky.
Cartoonist Thomas Nast added to the legend in 1881 Drawing Santa with a red suit trimmed with white fur. In the early 1930s, Haddon Sundblom illustrated A marketing campaign for the Coca-Cola Company. And so the kind, charitable bishop from Turkey morphed To became the jolly Christmas icon we know so well today.
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!
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!
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.
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!)
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
Last week’s Thursday Thoughts raised many comments from readers: which has certainly made me think a lot more about innovation in the past week! Many thanks for those of you that engaged in the conversation!
My hypothesis that customers were the best source of innovation was challenged by quite a few!
Kit thought that innovation stemmed from technology, newbies AND customers;
Lucy thought it was all about execution;
Jerry echoed Steve Job’s famous saying that “customers don’t know what they want until we’ve shown them”. (Apple again!);
Joanna highlighted the fact that we can become swamped by the choices that we all face, so that we don’t know what we want;
Brian made a great distinction between inventors and designers (very close to my heart);
Ryan complained of Apple’s cables and pop-ups and vented his frustrations about spellcheckers and such; and
James made a very insightful point “Customers are certainly a good source of innovation, but I read somewhere one of the gurus suggesting the people who weren’t yet customers, or weren’t customers anymore were even better.A bit more difficult to access, but an interesting thought.”
Given that the subject (combined with my rather over-simplistic conclusions) created so many comments, I thought I would carry on with the same theme – though this week look at the process of innovation in great companies.
In my research, I came across a very interesting book: “Winning at Innovation: The A-F Model” by Fernando Trías de Bes and the famous Philip Kotler published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2015.
There were a few very useful Ideas I have gleaned from the book. Firstly, on page 16, the authors state that: “the phases or stages of an innovation process cannot be pre-determined, but must emerge as a result of the interaction of a set of functions or roles performed by certain individuals.”
This resonated with a thought I had last Sunday that the true source of innovation was probably not the customer, but more likely a passionate, problem-solver driven to do something new. Like Steve Jobs – a catalyst that wants to put a “ding in the Universe”. Somehow this made me feel a lot better, because it meant that this “innovation activist” could really make a difference by simply believing that they could!
The book “Winning at Innovation” called this first role (in their A-F model) an “Activator”. Perhaps Activator is a better word than an activist. Less revolutionary and more chemical. The six roles that they define are:
Activators – these are people who will initiate the innovative process without worrying about stages or phases.
Browsers – these are the experts searching for information.
Creators – The people who produce ideas for the rest of the group. Their function is to ideate.
Developers – People specialised in turning ideas into products.
Executors – The people who take care of everything to do with implementation.
Facilitators – Those who approve the new spending items and investment needed as the (team-defined) innovation process moves forwards.
The book gives a chapter to each role. Rather like a Jazz band, the magic only happens when the players perform their parts with each other by getting “in the groove”.
How far away this model is from the classic “Stage Gate” process! So many large companies try to institutionalise innovation by forcing new ideas through a series of gates, each gate blocking innovation and creating an economy of scarcity and innovation prevention agents. Some might say it is a game and chant “gamification”, but that is not my experience.
Innovation is everybody’s job – and everybody’s right! By defining roles and allowing the players (within a scope / budget / set of objectives) to define their own process (or set the rhythm to their own music), innovation flows naturally. No need for costly gates and financial cook-books.
One wonders whether the corporate and public sector dinosaurs of the 20th Century will be able to adapt to such models in the next 10 years. I predict that they will really struggle and find it difficult to beat the innovation pioneers who take knock-down the stage gates, put themselves on stage and leave Gates to his philanthropic endeavours!
I call this idea “Presence over Process”. Think about it. It really helps if you are struggling to navigate any corporate or government process.
Long live the spirit of Jobs and all other innovation activators!
That also gives a clue to next week’s piece. But it probably isn’t the Jobs you think it is!