Skip to content

don’t waste your life living in this moment

November 25, 2014

It is the thing to do right now. Be mindful! Be present in this moment! Look at all the good things you have right now and be grateful for them!

Dangerous advice.

It starts out harmless enough. Being present brings into your awareness just how wonderful this moment is. And this moment. Then comes the gratitude. “Life is actually pretty good…”

That is the sting in the tail. That is the point you should be very careful.

For many the next step is “Wouldn’t life be great if it could be like this all the time!”

Nobody wants to be present to the pain, to the suffering, to the parts of our lives that suck. We don’t feel like being grateful for those moments. We want them to pass as quickly as possible.

Living in the good moments becomes a trap when we start trying to make the current moment permanent. As soon as that happens you are living in the past and trying to recreate something that is forever gone. That is the moment when you begin wasting the rest of your life.

Don’t do it.

Be alive.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

they are wrong. Life is a dress rehearsal.

October 17, 2014

You are probably sick of them filling up your Facebook and Twitter feeds. Images of someone who has apparently just conquered some huge obstacle overlaid with the words “Life is not a dress rehearsal!”

They are wrong. Whoever created them clearly has no understanding of the rehearsal process. Or of life.

If we were to take them at their word it would require us to (literally) conceive of great dancers emerging into this world to be presented with their touring schedule across North America and Europe. Great guitarists picking up a ukulele and delivering virtuoso performances to their preschool class (introduced of course by the child born to be a local government representative and watched over by tiny toddler teachers and police officers keeping a watchful eye so that the one kid born a fully competent petty criminal doesn’t nick off with the milk and cookies).

A 'real' dress rehearsal

A ‘real’ dress rehearsal

The rehearsal process is an environment full of mistakes. I think of rehearsals as the process of finding all the ways not to say a line, all the ways that do not work, in the expectation that you will find some that do. And in all the best productions I have been in that process never ends. Dress rehearsal is the time for giving it your all under the additional pressure of knowing that tomorrow the audience for your what you have to offer will grow significantly larger.

Isn’t that what we hope for every day? That tomorrow we will have a slightly larger opportunity to make a difference in the world?

Dress rehearsal is a time when you become acutely aware that while it might you be out there under the lights you are completely dependent on the technician in the lighting box to bring them up and the stage crew to  ensure that everything else you need is there at the time you need it. Isn’t that the same as our ‘real’ lives. We can achieve very little without the support of others.

In dress rehearsals there are mistakes. There are always mistakes. And that is good because mistakes create a new space for improving our performance.

Forgotten lines and missed cues open the door to new ways of responding the provokes something altogether delightful that has never happened before.

I think you will find that even those who are at the peak of their performance, regardless of their field of endeavour, treat each performance as an opportunity to learn, an opportunity to improve.

So tell me again that life is not a dress rehearsal?

Every day we do the best we can in our given circumstances to ensure we have prepared as best we can – and yet we know that we could be better. We know that we will be nervous and that there is a chance that something will go wrong.

When our day is over we accept whatever feedback the audience has to offer, we take off our costume and we retreat back into our ‘other’ life knowing that tomorrow we will wake up and do it all again.

Each performance that you give is really just a dress rehearsal for the performance that will follow

So don’t believe what they tell you on Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Pinterest….

Life is a dress rehearsal. Or at least it should be if you want to get the best out of the performance that is your life.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

it is like learning to ride a bike – we never forget, we rarely remember

October 2, 2014

There is always one.

The one in front and the one behind.

One who appears to be more skilled. One who is trying their best to keep up.

There are at least two in every neighborhood. Two kids on bikes. And a hill. (Because they are connected at a level that we cannot understand. Where there are kids and bikes they will find a hill and they will ride down it. Or they will make one.)

If you watch them ride down the hill you will see the ones. The one in front and the one behind.

The one who rides with confidence and the one who tries to look confident. One who is leading and one who is trying to follow.

I identify with that one. It didn’t seem to matter what the vehicle was – bike, skateboard or go-cart – I  recall always trying to keep up. (Perhaps it could be considered as an early demonstration of leading from behind?) That is why there was an instant feeling of empathy when I saw them riding down the street. My street, the street that like them, I grew up in and on. Two of them. Riding across the footpaths and driveways of my childhood. I remembered. Fear played a big part of it. And joy too? Avoiding fear is a source of joy and it may be in those early experiences that we set ourselves up for the patterns of our later life.

A lot will depend on those early successes. And the failures.

We may learn that fear can be overcome through practice, by mastery of whatever skills we need to ride down hill or up hill or swim or jump or run or lead.

We may learn that danger can be avoided and fear can be sidestepped by following after others who have made the path safe(r) for us, or by watching from the sidelines or from the safety of our home (“I think I can hear mum calling, I gotta go…”)

Both outcomes are sources of real joy for us. Both are effective and valid ways of reducing fear in a particular context. We rarely remember that when we grow up. We forget that we were all once kids holding too tightly to the handle bars.

We forget that the lessons we learnt then are lessons that we learnt well and they are the lessons that we never forget.

We ask others to move beyond their comfort zones, to ride a little bit faster, to head down a new track … and we are surprised when they step out to take a quick call from their mother or partner and then don’t return.

We wonder why life doesn’t present us with the same opportunities it seems to present to others – all the while letting others go on ahead to explore the new path, declining offers because we have something to do at home, or turning up late to the pivotal meeting because we had to take a call…

And we will both be happy in our own way. The one in front and the one behind. Because we have both found ways to deal with our fears. We both found ways to navigate down the hills and across the footpaths and driveways of our neighbourhoods.

Except that now we are not. And neither are they.

The context has changed so maybe it might be time for us to change too?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

are you working above your threshold of perception (or why wombats are not suited for apartment living)

September 5, 2014

It is my opinion that young wombats are not particularly suited to apartment living. While I am not a wombat expert I feel justified in making that declaration because there was a brief period in my life when I shared an apartment with a young wombat. It was not a particularly relaxed or peaceful period.

I suspect the wombat felt the same way.

The wombat was an orphan and my wife had responsibility for caring for her outside of business hours at the wildlife sanctuary. In between feeding and sleeping, young Minibus (she was somewhat tastelessly named after the vehicle that had made her an orphan) would be allowed to exercise herself in the lounge room. Her preferred mode of operation was to point herself in a particular direction and then charge off at high-speed until she hit something.

To me she always seemed surprised by the inevitable collision. And annoyed. She would try to bite whatever she had collided with as if she was blaming the wall or the lounge chair or my foot for getting in her way.

Adult wombats are big, powerful, determined and generally slow-moving. Their high-speed defensive charge probably works very well in their normal habitats which have fewer walls and chairs. I was left wondering if that with less to collide with the average wombat didn’t need to develop a lot skill in rapidly taking up information about their surrounding visual environments. Their ability to perceive their surroundings would be fine when they move slowly, but when their speed of movement exceeds their threshold of perception the risk of damage to them and their (apartment) environment increases dramatically.*

Try to image how fast you would be able to move if there was a delay between what is going on in your environment and when you were able to “see” it. Crossing a road would be incredibly dangerous. Lighting a gas BBQ would almost always result in burns. Correcting typos in documents would be infuriatingly slow.

Now think about your organisation? How fast is it trying to move? How quickly can it “see” changes in the environment as it moves? If you are finding that your team is running into walls that appear out of nowhere perhaps your speed of movement exceeds your threshold of perception? Instead of getting annoyed at the wall (or enduring self-imposed organisational paralysis out of fear of moving at all) perhaps you might like to consider some different responses:

  1. Slow down and pay more attention –  Paradoxically slowing down can improve your skill by initially making things harder for you. Think about riding a bike – it is only the highly skilled riders that have learned to ride very slowly or stand dynamically still.
  2. Introduce new ways of perceiving - Are there new ways of seeing the space you are operating in? Think about different mechanisms and measures that might be available to you to help detect rates of change in information. And remember that anything you think is static is just a special case where the rate of change is below your threshold of perception.
  3. Speed up your perception of your environment by reducing the waste in your processes - If you can remove the delays you can move faster and more effectively. Are there steps in your processes that no longer make sense because the external environment has changed? Were they developed for a business structure that no longer exists so there are gaps that slow the transfer of information?
  4. Change your environment - This wasn’t an option for our young wombat but you might want to consider if your way of being evolved to support you living in the bush might not be suitable now you are now living in an inner city apartment. Perhaps you need to make a move to get back to your earth moving roots?
  5. Accept that walls will appear - If you are hell-bent on going somewhere fast perhaps you need to develop features that will help you survive the inevitable collisions. Our young wombat had an impressively armoured skull (and pretty fearsome teeth) that mean she was not damaged by many things that she collided with. If you are thinking of adopting this approach just be mindful that there is always a risk of waking up an orphan.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

* If you want to get some real facts about wombats from people who know about them you might want to try sites like Wombania instead of relying on my musings based on a couple of days spent looking after one many, many years ago!

women need to practice leading before we can expect them to lead

July 18, 2014

“Do the thing and you will have the power.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Here is what I am thinking.

Women need to practise leading before we can expect them to lead. Men should practise leading before they can expect to lead.

Let me tell you why.

Research has shown that when considering a position description for a new role, women generally feel that before they can consider applying they need to know they have a demonstrated capability to meet almost 100% of the competencies of the role. Men on the other hand will apply if they believe they can meet around 60% of the competencies. From my (male) perspective that sounds about right but it goes further. If I looked at a position description and I knew I could already do 100% of the role I wouldn’t consider applying! I would see no opportunity for development and growth within the role.

Conversations I have had recently with people in senior roles support the research findings and the implications of that orientation are at the heart of why I think women are underrepresented in senior/ leadership roles.

Let’s start by accepting the hypothesis that women tend not to put themselves forward for roles that require capabilities that they feel they have not fully developed.  It would follow then that they would not get the opportunity to practise and develop those capabilities … which would mean others (usually men) would advance ahead of them, reinforcing an internal perception that they are not yet ready to take on those sort of roles. It is easy then to see how the cycle would continue. A self-deprecating spiral that sees organisations deprived of a significant amount of leadership talent.

To me the hypothesis holds and the consequences that follow are visible.

Many women, it seems, need the opportunity to practice before they feel they are capable of doing it for real. To address the imbalances in gender in senior leadership roles that means we need to provide opportunities for women to practise before we can expect them to step up and lead.

If those opportunities are not available we are setting them up for failure, asking them to ‘lean-in’ to something they fear they are unable to do. Throwing anybody in at the deep end of a pool and expecting them to swim when they have no chance to practise swimming is setting them up to drown – especially if they doubt their ability. Some do end up swimming but many end up fearing the water.

Many men, it seems, take a different approach. They walk around watching others in the pool while telling you how fast they will be able to swim if they get the new role. They dive in and thrash about and (just) manage to keep their head above water. Their technique is terrible and they spend a lot of time and organisational energy while they are learning how to do it better all the while setting a bad example for those who might be walking around the pool ready to follow them.

I believe neither approach delivers the leadership we need.

Thinking about the challenge of leadership in this way makes a solution clear:  Provide opportunities for meaningful practice for everyone before they dive in to a leadership role.

That is easier said than done in the leadership space so here are the four key attributes of leadership programs that you need to look for:

1. Ensure the target capability is actually being practised – I have to actually do it. As Emerson said, do the thing and you will have the power. Reading about how to do it isn’t the same. Reading about how other have done it isn’t the same. Discussing how others have succeeded or failed – not good enough. Watching a replay of the olympic final is very different to swimming it (or for that matter earning the right to swim it).
2. Ego involvement – I need to have skin in the game. If my ego is not involved then I am not going to learn and I am not going to engage. Delivering a presentation to a mirror is not the same as delivering it to the board. Swimming laps against the clock in your pool at home is not the same as racing others in front of a screaming crowd. Your leadership program needs to provide an opportunity to do it with and in front of others so that ego is involved.
3. Failure is mandatory – the program must create opportunities that provide safe ways for me to fail. If you do not fail you cannot learn and you will not grow as a leader. Any program that guarantees success will fail.
4. Real consequences but no damage – I must feel the pain. This is the part most development programs miss. If a two-hour session to discuss case studies is scheduled as part of a development program the main consequences are associated with my showing up or not to discuss them. If my attendance at the pool is all that is needed that will not drive me to develop the skills I need to swim well. But it has to be safe for me and for others in my organisation.

The best programs will create opportunities that do all four simultaneously. Allows participants to practise the target capability, in a way that they care about and that engages and involves their ego, with consequences attached to their failures that are real but result in no real world damage.

If you can do that then you can expect leaders of all genders will lead and lead well.

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

apologising for who I am not

June 18, 2014

I want to apologise for the photo. That is not how I usually look.

I have had a beard barchie_photoefore – but I was much younger then and it seemed an appropriately unapologetic way to announce that I had just returned from hitch-hiking around southern Africa. Today I have a beard and I find myself fighting the urge to apologise to everyone.

I also have the longest hair I have ever had. Ever. Never before have I had hair this long. I have curls! I have never had curls.

I have grown my beard and my hair so that I can portray someone else. When I am on stage it feels right. My long hair falls annoyingly across my eyes and it makes him grumpier. But unlike the costume and the makeup, the beard and the long hair stay on me when I leave the theatre. At home I look in the mirror and I am not familiar with the face that looks back at me.

It isn’t my usual face so I feel the urge to apologise for showing it.  I say “It is for a role I am playing…” as I apologise for who I am not.

To baristas. To the people I have worked with for years. To people I Skype with for the first time. Even to other people with beards. (I feel like they take their beards very seriously because they don’t need to grow it like I do. I don’t want them to think I am mocking them … or that I am emulating them. If I was I would be coming late to the trend of wearing a beard – and I don’t like the thought that I am past any peak. That is not part of my identity.)

Don’t judge me for having a beard…” I think that is what I want to say. “Don’t misunderstand my long hair. I am not usually this way.

But I can only be afraid of being judged or misunderstood if I can conceive that who I believe I am is diminished in some way by having a beard and long hair. That I will be judged negatively because I have a beard and long hair.

Precisely the same way I must spend my life judging and misunderstanding others who have beards. I can’t yet put words to how I do that, to exactly how I judge but I will be listening to myself a little closer now. To see who I really am. And maybe that is the fact of it.

The beard isn’t obscuring my face in the mirror – it is holding a mirror to my real face. It is a looking glass that is helping me to see how I see. How distorted and prejudiced my view of the world can be. Rather than showing me who I am not, it is showing me glimpses of who I really am.

Which provokes further uncomfortable questions. What if instead of a beard it was a scar? Instead of long hair it was no teeth? Or psoriasis?  Or tattoos? Or no arms? Or breasts? Or all of them or none of them? How distorted and prejudiced can my view of the world we share be? That might be what I need to apologise for…

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

 

the next sixty feet

June 10, 2014

Winter road by Scoo, creative commons licensed.Even though we are driving at night and can only see the next sixty feet, we live our lives as though we know what the next sixty miles are going to be like.

In this life sixty feet is all you really get to see. If you think you can see more than that you are deceiving yourself.  Talking to anyone who says they can predict the future based on the past is like talking to a turkey in the week before Thanksgiving.

Only being able to see sixty feet ahead is OK though. You can drive from LA all the way to New York at night, only being able to see the next sixty feet in the headlights. You don’t need to see any more than that. Right?

And they say while you can never be sure what is beyond the edge of the lights you can get just about anywhere if you are able to stay present and deal with whatever it is that you can see.

It is something I am experiencing groundhog day style on stage at the moment. Four times a week I have hours when I have no idea what is beyond the words I am listening to and when I have no idea what to say next or what I will say next. Being in front of an audience of a couple of hundred people can make it more than just a little frightening. But when a signpost comes into view I know that this is the point where it is my role to take us down the left turn to explore a side road for a while.

And I do (mostly).

Where I can get us into trouble is if I am worried about what is beyond the lights. Thinking too far ahead about that bit at the end of the scene that didn’t go quite right the last time or why that little old lady sitting out there beyond the lights can’t open her mints just a little more quietly… and then we blow straight by the signpost and the left hand turn and we have to take all manner of back streets and u-turns and sometimes travel over the same section of road again to get us where we need to be.

And as life imitates art, my real life is feeling a bit like that at the moment as well. In these uncertain times I know I am not the only one feeling this way. I am fighting the urge to worry about what is going to happen too far ahead, to plan for what might be out of view and to obsessively look in the rear view mirror at what I might have done wrong or right yesterday.

I keep telling myself – all you can do is just keep driving, be present and deal as best you can with the stuff you can see coming in the next sixty feet.

Some days it does the trick. Other days it is not enough.

So what I want to know is how are you dealing with the uncertainty of life at the moment? Got any tips that might help the rest of us who are white-knuckled on the steering wheel and out on the road with you?

***

If you would like me to come and share with you and your team the insights that come from the experiential learning environments that I create, make me an offer via the Contact Me page.

If you enjoyed reading this or my other posts and you would like to read more, you can subscribe and receive them via email simply by putting your email address into the Email Subscription box just on the right of my blog home page. You will receive a confirmation email (which some systems will think is spam so keep an eye on your junk mail) that you need to acknowledge to complete the subscription process.

After you have subscribed, send this post on to your friends. Go on. You know at least one person who should read this post and three more who could use a bit of shaking up… seriously. Do it now. You read this far so send it on! I promise they won’t judge you or think less of you if you do.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 420 other followers

%d bloggers like this: