TT1947 – Learning to Learn Again

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:

Dedicated to James Penny – my awesome flute teacher who gives me lessons over Zoom every week (or so). Let him know I sent you!


It’s not just about Thinking. It’s about Energy!

In 1998 I started my third career in consulting.  I remember buying a book at the time which stared something like:

“As a consultant, your clients pay you mainly
for the energy that you bring to bear on their problems”.

Not for time, not for skills nor expertise, but for ENERGY.  The idea struck me deeply at the time and has stayed with me ever since.

So it was a few weeks ago, I was re-reading a book called “On Form” by Jim Loher and Tony Schwartz which digs a bit deeper into the idea and has some great worksheets at the back of the book.

Screen Shot 2014-06-05 at 9.12.44 PM

The whole premise of the book is taken from great athletes – who have to manage their energy to achieve peak performance.  Here are a couple of key ideas:

Managing energy, not time, is the key to high performance

Full engagement requires drawing on four separate but related dimensions of energy:



mental and 


Because energy capacity diminishes with both overuse and underuse, we must learn to balance energy expenditure with intermittent energy renewal.

To build capacity, we must push beyond our normal limits, training in the same, systematic way that elite athletes do.

Positive energy rituals – highly specific routines for manning energy are the key to full engagement and sustained high performance.

Four Sources of Energy

Physical capacity is defined by quantity
Emotional capacity is defined by quality
Mental capacity is defined by focus
Spiritual capacity is defined by force

What particularly struck me was the different types of energy that we need to balance in order to perform at our highest levels.  So many businesses focus on financial targets, operational objectives and stakeholder satisfaction.  I have seen very few that have taken the idea of energy to the heart of their business to achieve the results that they want – and help each individual to achieve optimal personal performance so that they can be more effective in achieving the objectives of the organisation.

Aside from early morning exercise rituals in Japanese companies and the Military, few have physical rituals that are embedded in their culture.  Most require employees to turn up – and keep their energy up through the fashionable cup of Starbucks (or equivalent) caffeine shot.  Emotions are required to be left outside the door so that that people can focus on mental tasks. Spiritual energy is deemed to be a private matter – yet those companies that strive for a higher purpose (over-and-above making a profit) consistently do better than this with less worthy ambitions.

For me, I gave up caffeine for Lent – and have carried on without it.  My energy levels are more stable, and more balanced.  One of the best changes I have made to my routine in years.  Highly recommended!

Interested to know readers views on any of this – and what rituals they have found keep up their energy levels – not just physical!

Source: “On Form” by Jim Loher and Tony Schartz, Nicholas Brealey Publishing 2003, pp197-198 – also available on Kindle