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that is the point of the arrow

June 30, 2015

Arrow

There is a moment when it feels like the point of the arrow might pierce your skin, that if you push any harder against it it will break through into the soft hollow at the base of your throat. Instinctively you pull back just a little and you start thinking that you cannot do it.

After all, that is the point of the arrow isn’t it?  To penetrate, to get inside your outer defences, to cause harm?

I have one stuck to the bottom of the screen here on my desk. A broken arrow. Just the shaft and feathers.

There is no point to it. I broke it off one night using only the soft hollow at the base of my throat.

Watching other people succeed in breaking the arrow and listening to their advice on how to approach this particular challenge doesn’t really help. There are even videos showing them doing it, but that doesn’t really show you how to do it.

Because the point of the arrow is there to ensure it gets inside you.

Even before the shiny metal point touches your skin it gets inside your head and starts telling you all that could go wrong. The sensible thing is clearly not to push forward, not to expose the soft parts of you, to avoid damage, to avoid being harmed.

But if you sit with the possibility for a while you start to notice things, things that you didn’t see. The failed attempts that didn’t make it on to YouTube because … well because nobody wants to watch other people not succeeding.

There is no joy in watching someone fail repeatedly. We are conditioned to find no inspiration in seeing the look of fear cross their face as the pressure on their throat increases. (Think about that, no inspiration from people who are prepared to face up to their fears!)

There are always failed attempts. I know because I was there. I saw the fear. Fear that the experience would leave them hurt and bleeding. What they knew, the ones who eventually succeeded, was that if we don’t fail we cannot learn and that failing doesn’t always harm us (though it rarely feels good).

If we don’t step into spaces that scare us we will not grow. And that will do us more harm than good.

That is the point of the arrow.

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It goes without saying (though I am going to) – don’t try this at home. The experience I described in this post was conducted in a controlled and supervised environment. This post encourages you to use the process only as a metaphor!

That said, 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 pay it forward!

 

knowledge does not equal understanding

May 27, 2015

We do not see the world as it is. We see the world as we are.

Or to put it another way, we get so caught up in the way we have always done things that we lose sight of the fact that we always do things that way.

Confused?

Watch this great video on The Backwards Brain Bicycle to see what it looks like to practice and what it takes to overcome a simple bias. Make sure you watch towards the end when he tries to go back to where he started!

 

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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 pay it forward!

Push-to-talk or why I can’t hear a word you are saying

March 23, 2015

You know how to communicate. I know you do. You listen. A lot. You choose your words carefully. You acknowledge other points of view and then respectfully offer your own perspective. And then?

Crickets.

Nobody even acknowledges that you have spoken let alone engages with your contribution to the conversation. But why?

A push to talk buttonIn the work I do developing the capacity of virtual teams we use a program that is configured just like a walkie-talkie. You have to push a button when you are talking if you want other people to be able to hear what you say.  With many people on-line it removes a lot of the distractions of background noises. Some participants find it frustrating and some will show up to the initial sessions with the system configured to “voice activated” – which means that whenever they say something their words are transmitted to everyone. They prefer it that way. It is “easier” for them. Others will hold the button down continuously just in case they have something they want to say. It has the opposite effect because the feedback it creates makes it more difficult for anybody to hear anything that is said.

For me there are  clear parallels with personal styles and communication challenges in the workplace. There are some people who believe that every sound they utter should be heard by everyone in the team. And there are times when we all have had the experience of speaking and seemingly not being heard. Communicating effectively can be frustratingly difficult.

I like the concept of push-to-talk functionality. Yes, I forget to push or sometimes I make what I think is a particularly insightful contribution only to realise I have been pushing on the wrong key and nobody heard me. It is frustrating but what it forces you to do is to think before you speak.

Inserting that extra step, the pressing of a particular key, into the process helps you to become more mindful of the fact that you are speaking and, for me, it prompts a consideration of the value of what I am intending to contribute to the conversation. It works both ways because it also makes me aware of the ways we use our voices to communicate that we are listening. Smalls sounds like “mmmm…”, “uh huh” and “yes…” that are a part of everyday conversations must be consciously transmitted. You have to push to talk to show you are listening as well.

As a result I am becoming much better at observing how we communicate, what works and what doesn’t work for myself and for the teams that we are working with.

You can too. You don’t need to buy walkie-talkies for everyone in your team – although I think you would be surprised at what you became aware of if you did. You can start by having a talking stick at your next meeting – you have to be holding the stick to be able to speak. Notice what happens to you when you have the stick (and “they” have to listen) but notice especially what you are feeling when you want the stick but someone else is speaking (and you “should” be listening). If not having the stick creates a mood of frustration it is a clear sign of a team that is intent on speaking and not on listening and that is a team that is not communicating.

Coming to that realisation is the easy part though. What you need to do next as a result of that knowledge can be difficult and challenging but it is critical that you do the work if you want your team to succeed.

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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 pay it forward!

 

it hurts when you hurt

February 9, 2015

Crying childClose your eyes for me and imagine you are with a group of people in a confined space – on a plane, a train, a bus or in a doctor’s waiting room.  Feel yourself in that space, feel your body being in that space with those people and know that you are going to be there with them for the next few hours.

Then notice that just across the way is a couple with their baby who, stirring from sleep, starts to cry. Feel yourself in that new space, feel your body being in that space now with that baby. Watch yourself and others as the cry becomes wailing and the couple’s attempts to sooth the baby fail. Can you feel the screaming reverberating around the room as the volume increases?

How does your body feel now?

What about after another hour of being stuck in that space with that incessant crying?

For many people just imagining that situation is enough to create a feeling of distress, frustration or anger. I doubt there is anyone who would argue the real situation does not create real feelings of distress, frustration or anger in a large majority of the people who find themselves there.

And that is not surprising because from the day you were born your survival depended on two things:

1. Your ability to communicate with other people without using words, and
2. Their ability to understand you without needing words.

If that wasn’t the case you would not have made it to your first birthday. If it doesn’t remain the case now you will not make it to your next birthday.

It hurts when you hurt and we hurt when you hurt. We don’t need words to know.

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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 pay it forward!

I know you said you would, but did you?

February 2, 2015

Hypothical multiple choice answers“Welcome aboard. Our highly qualified pilots and cabin crew are here to assist you. We have all correctly answered over 1,000 multiple choice questions that are designed to cover any circumstances that might arise during our flight today. Please fasten your seat belt in the manner indicated in answer C and place your seat backs and tray tables in the position shown in answer B.”

Feeling confident and comfortable in your seat? No. I thought not.

Nobody wants to fly on an airline where the only training for their  crew is to read the manual and correctly answer multiple choice questions on what to do when smoke fills the cabin! You want them to have practiced – in a real cabin full of smoke. You want the pilot to have flown real planes. You want them to have made some mistakes, crashed a couple of simulators and you want them to have had the chance to reflect on those mistakes and learn from them.

So why is it that most organisations are content to let their staff experience ethics or leadership training by discussing what they would do or asking them to provide answers to questions about what they would do?

A big part of what I do centers around the concept of practice. Of doing something rather than just talking about it. Saying you would report a hypothetical team member for a major breach of the Code of Conduct is easy to do. Reporting a friend who you have worked with for many years for a minor breach (but a breach nonetheless) is a very different matter.

The consequences are much, much higher.

That is the problem with the usual sorts of training – there are few consequences beyond those associated with not attending. Once you have shown up it doesn’t much matter what you say:

  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and think that you would.
  • You can say you think you would do the right thing and know that you wouldn’t.
  • You can say you would do the wrong thing and think that you just might. It doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter because nothing happens when you say what it is you would do. There are only ever consequences when you actually do it.

That is why I am not interested in what you would do. I am only interested in talking about what you did do and what happened as a result of a your particular actions.

  • What were the consequences?
  • How did the presence (or absence) of other people who were witness to your actual choices affect the choices you made?
  • What story did you tell yourself to justify the choices you were making?
  • What did you do when you saw other people making choices different to the choices you were making?

They are the types of questions that arise in the debrief and group reflections that are part of the Samurai Game. Participants have a lived experience of what it is like to try to operate according to a set of values, within a dynamic environment governed by rules with real consequences attached to the choice to follow them or break them. They are able to reflect on the choices they made knowing there are always multiple possible choices but not always a single right answer.

Sound familiar? It is the organisational equivalent of a smoke-filled flight simulator cabin and there is no value to be had in describing it in more words – it needs to be experienced.

If you would like to gain some insight into yourself, to uncover a little about how you show up in the world please join me for our next public Samurai Game offering. You can find all the details of upcoming workshops here. If you would like me to facilitate a workshop a little closer to where you are drop me a line. Just know that I will be flying on an airline where the crew have actually

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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.

sweep first, then sharpen the saw … into a knife.

January 23, 2015

Spending three days with a master knife maker like Barry Gardner is a real privilege though apparently not everyone who visits his workshop sees it that way.

I was more than a little nervous when I arrived on the first morning. Not a keyboard, desk or chair in sight and yet I was to spend three days working? I learnt a great deal during my time there, enough to come away with the clear knowledge that there is a great deal that I do not know. Three days of tuition does not a knife maker make.

And yet I felt at the end of each day that I had accomplished something real. Something I could be proud of. Starting with a piece of an old saw blade (and with a fair chunk of help from Barry) I produced this on the first day:

A handmade carbon steel knife

My carbon steel knife

On the second day, with his patient guidance and gentle encouragement I produced the thing I am perhaps most proud of (mine is on the left):

Forged damascus steel

Forged Damascus steel

On the third day, I walked away with a beautiful and functional knife that, like a new father, I show photos of to anyone who will stand still long enough. The patterns in the blade are a direct result of the way I interacted with the steel on the day before. It shows where I was tense and anxious and where I came to be more relaxed with the forge and the press. I can understand now how a person’s spirit can come to inhabit a blade:

A damascus steel blade

My Damascus steel knife

Along the way I received a lot of help but I have come away feeling like it is something I can do if I practice. Also knowing that traditional blade sharpeners would spend a decade training before they would be allowed to work on a live blade! It has reconnected me with what I think is a basic human need to work with and create with our hands. It has also reconnected me in a visceral way to the concept of mastery. Reconnected me to what it takes to not just be good at what  you do, but to be great at it.

And at the end of every day I swept.

It might sound strange but it was an honour to sweep Barry’s workshop. In the dojo sweeping is an honour reserved for the senior grades – to be given the responsibility of caring for the place in which you practice. And I did care about the space and that showed up in the way that I swept and in the pleasure I found in sweeping.

Old circular saw blades

Blades for blades

I know it will be a long time before I can replicate the quality of that first knife but I am not concerned. I am making preparations to be able to practice making knives here at home.

I can see it being something I will do for a very long time.

I found myself some old saw blades that I will recycle for the steel in my knives. The largest saw is 1 m in diameter so I should have enough to keep me going.

Before I start sharpening that saw into a knife though, I need to sweep.

 

 

 

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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 would like to make a knife with Barry in the beautiful Barossa Valley in South Australia, he has a number of 1 and 2 day courses you can take. Be warned, he is booked out months in advance.

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.

Announcement: Samurai Game, Brisbane, February 22

January 21, 2015

Great_SamuraiI am running a special one-day offering of the Samurai Game in Brisbane on Sunday, February 22.

This is what one participant had to say about their recent experience:

“As a participant in my first ever Samurai Game I can now understand why the world has embraced this experience to take people out of their comfort zones and enable them to explore their own everyday existence, values and morals. I would recommend this to any leadership team or business unit wanting to unlock that extra 1% in their team/organisation in order to achieve greatness. Paul has that unique ability to read his audience and push the right buttons at the right time. Do yourself and team a favour and do this, NOW!!”

                                          -Ken, General Counsel, Business Owner

More details are available in the flyer you can download here.

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