Are You Still in the Game?

never too old ...

never too old …

I just noticed this in a Robert Goddard thriller:

“Tell me, did you ever meet my father?”
“Yuh, I met him.”
“What did you think of him?”
“I thought he had the look.“
“The look?”
“A lot of guys his age fold their hand and leave the table. Quit while they’re ahead, is how they’d put it. Something dies in them then. A light goes out. You can see it gone from their eyes. It never comes back. But Henry still had it. He hadn’t left the table. He was still in the game.”  The Ways of the World

It would be ridiculous, wouldn’t it, to judge people in interviews, meetings and assessment centres by the look in their eyes? Or would it? Isn’t that exactly what we’re looking for – beyond the usual proofs of competence – someone who is really present, fired up and energised? Honestly so.

We once selected quite the wrong person after a competence interview. There was no tick box for “shining eyes” on the interview form and so the process led us to choose someone who was neither present, fired up nor energised”. They had all the relevant competences on paper but lacked those vital elements that would bring motivation and purpose to the job.

Many people leave the table quite early on. It’s not about being industrious. You may say, for goodness sake of course I’m still in the game. I’m rushed off my feet; I feel I’m doing 3 jobs, not one. I’m definitely still at that table. You may indeed be super busy and getting through everything you have to do, but is it possibly just that, getting through? You might be acting out your role automatically, ruled by your head without the energy of heart or gut. You might be super-articulate, but not invested in your interactions with others. So, what’s wrong with that?

All that’s missing, that’s what’s wrong. We think we fear death, but all that dies inside us while we’re still alive is perhaps a greater loss. Empathy, for a start, for if you’re not really present, you lack genuine connection with people. Creativity, for another, that brings innovation, synergy and delight. Fulfilment for a third, that gives you the glow of satisfaction and keeps you firing on all cylinders. It’s not about being busy but rather, “Is the light still on?”

Does anything you do, think or feel make your eyes shine? I’m not suggesting that you should be more empathetic or creative or fulfilled, or that you should be anything. I’m suggesting that you look for what turns you on.

What does make your eyes shine? Feeling fully alive, definitely, so let’s start there. One of the things you notice first about people with dead eyes is the lack of life. ‘Unbeingdead isn’t being alive’, quips the poet e e cummings. Run over in your mind some of your encounters with people on a daily basis. How many really engaged? How many really saw you? If you watch children, it’s often their aliveness that strikes you. They haven’t heard of conserving energy, a misunderstood concept in any case. Why would you walk along the pavement when you could hop and skip? Or stay on the pavement at all when you could walk along the top of the low wall running alongside? Children are 100% in the moment. And with lightness – light on their feet and with a light in their eyes as they contemplate their next play idea.

In “The Art of Communication”, I write:

I can hear someone protest that nothing at work is about having fun. But look around you and you will notice people who tread lightly even in the workplace, and often achieve more than those who carry a visible weight of seriousness on their shoulders. There’s no right and wrong in having fun; there’s no such thing as a mistake. No one tries hard at it either. This is a huge concern in conversation, where inhibition or ideas of ‘rightness’ can easily stunt the flow. We literally forget how to laugh and play. It’s interesting isn’t it, that a musical instrument is always ‘played’? It’s never ‘worked’.

And every great musical performance sounds spontaneous – another crucial word. I continue:

Spontaneous people seem more intensely awake and happier in their own skin than other people, and you feel drawn to their strong life force. The art of meaningful communication starts from this powerful source of relational energy, for it transmits to others and encourages them too to be awake, present, and alive…

For those who are truly alive, awake in body, heart, and mind, every conversation is the flow of a new adventure, with fresh unknowns offering new possibility, powered by a vibrant energy that springs from within – their life force.

No, it’s not being ‘woke’, whatever tortuous meaning that insult is meant to have. When we are alive we energise others. When we feel great, we can love others. The poet Rumi (in Coleman Barks’ wonderful English version) says it beautifully:

There are many whose eyes are awake
while their heart is asleep.
And what do they see?
But those who keep their heart awake,
will open the eyes of a hundred more.

If you’re in the business of leadership and influence, Rumi’s words speak especially to you.

Sometimes remaining in the game involves giving up something good. Does the energy of those your work with bring you alive, or drain you? If you are working in an environment that sucks in energy, it is doing you more harm than poison in the atmosphere, however golden the handcuffs that keep you there.

Notice what energises you. It might be a physical activity that tires you out but leaves you simultaneously energised with endorphins coursing through you, or a just-achievable challenge where you feel wonderful afterwards. Everything you love energises you. Music, fishing, Tai Chi or embroidery, sunsets and the full moon. The fourteenth-century Sufi poet Hafez found his ecstasy in dancing and wrote a timeless sentence: “If you think I am having more fun than anyone on this planet you’re absolutely right.” Sometimes you feel a glow of excitement after a deeply satisfying conversation with a friend or even sitting in silence beside someone you are close to. You are alert, but with an expansiveness and ease. There’s more room to breathe. Catch that feeling and notice how it nurtures you. Lucky the people who are energised by their work.

Collecting joyful energisers has been a useful practice for me. I don’t know about you, I confess I’ve always found it easier to filter for negatives – it was a habit I acquired early, and climate and Covid fears and chaotic politics have brought some of that back. Of course, we feel rotten sometimes, disappointed, let down, regretful. Bad stuff happens – it doesn’t need our constant attention. We need our store of endorphins to keep us afloat in bad times and to flourish in better times. It’s a matter of noticing the good bits – catching them on the wing, “kissing the joy as it flies”, as Blake says, instead of allowing one bad feeling to wipe all the good from your mind.

Try jotting down the good bits – maybe at the end of the day. It’s the perfect recipe for quiet sleep, and a pleasure to read again months later.

Go well,

Judy

What Else?

Out of the Ashes

Phoenix Writers’ Circle has just released an anthology, Out of the Ashes.  Full of wonderful writing, brilliant story-telling and heart – both hopeful, and dark – it features poetry and prose from a selection of talented group members, and includes many pieces written during the Covid-19 pandemic. Okay, interest declared, I have dipped into creative writing and am a contributor. Out of the Ashes is available on Amazon and Lulu.

Also an event! As part of the Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival, Phoenix Writers’ Circle are holding a special evening of readings on Wed, October 27, 7-9 PM, at The Stepping Stones, Westhumble Street, Dorking, RH5 6BS.

Coaching

Let’s say you’re not getting ahead as you’d like to; you’re stuck in some way; you feel there’s more to life than you get out of it; you feel generally scared about what’s next in your life? …

What to do? Send me an email about it, and then we can have a brief chat on the phone without commitment about possible ways forward. That alone might be just the catalyst you need. Or we can arrange a coaching session to explore further. If you find that coaching useful, we can set up a series of maybe 4-6 sessions. I cannot tell you how many people successfully achieve what they previously thought impossible, through a few coaching sessions.

“Abel came back bubbling with excitement around how much he had learnt in his coaching and how he enjoyed the experience. Thanks again for all you do for us. You really do make a tangible, positive impact on people’s lives and they are resolutely in a better place for it.”  Richard Owen, Head of Global Real Estate & Construction, Lockton Companies LLP

My other Books

The Art of CommunicationHow to be Authentic, Lead Others, and Create Strong Connections. Relationships can be the hardest thing in life and also the most rewarding and fulfilling. This book explores ways to deepen your connection with others – an important topic for today’s world.

The Art of Conversation – Change Your Life with Confident Communication
My most popular book. It’s a great handbook to help you communicate better in every situation. Full of practical hints and tips.

Voice and Speaking Skills For DummiesContains a wealth of resources for improving your voice and communication. Great to dip into for particular voice and speaking issues.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with ConfidenceThis is the book for you if you ever suffer from performance anxiety. Get rid of your nerves now! The information is tried and tested, and highly practical.

Voice of Influence – How to Get People To Love to Listen to YouNow published in 9 foreign language editions! Acquire the voice you would love to have, and transform your impact.

You can get my books from all the usual channels and in e-versions and Audio. The links I’ve provided are to bookshop.org, an ethical source of books that supports local bookshops.

 

 

 

Stories within Stories

point-of-view

Sounds like the stuff of nightmare tales, but it is possible to get stuck in your story, unable to find a way out. Are you in a Matrix? Problems are solved only from outside the story, where you get a different perspective.

Gilgamesh, the oldest work of literature in the whole world, written over three thousand years ago, tells of the discovery of hidden tablets that in their turn tell a story – a story within a story. The oldest work written in English, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, consists of stories within a story too – the tale of a group of pilgrims travelling towards the holy shrine at Canterbury, in which each traveller tells a story as they travel.

More recently, the well-known film, The Truman Show, tells the story of Truman, who has lived on Seahaven Island from babyhood. But the story embracing that story is that he is living inside a huge dome, constructed for the transmission of an interminable TV soap opera, where everyone on that island apart from him is an actor in the show, and he is the only one not in the know – for him this is his life.

The concept of a story within a story makes good entertainment – The Matrix is another powerful example. And it is capable of giving us an uneasy feeling: “So what’s real? Am I living the real thing? Or am I living in a story too?”

All good fun to speculate, but it is certainly true that we do indeed live in stories of others’ making, probably much more than we’re aware of. Most often, like Truman, we’re born into them; sometimes we pick them up along the way. Cultures, including religious cultures, offer stories that differ widely from each other. But when we are born into a culture, its story isn’t a story for us, it’s just life, normality (however odd it may seem to others!). A fish doesn’t know it’s in water.

Well, we all have our varied experiences, our world view, our different opinions. But the stories we believe drive our actions. The trouble with living inside a story without knowing it’s a story is that it prevents us stepping outside the storybox, which is often the only place to solve our problems. I watched Wild Wild Country recently, the story of a large religious group that moved from India to remote Oregon in the US and built a city there. Members of the group were clearly hugely inspired by their leader Bhagwan, later known as Osho. Encountering opposition from locals and later by federal forces, they did everything to protect their leader, and as the situation escalated, they armed themselves and finally executed violent acts against those who opposed them. Each worse act was motivated by a strong positive intention (as we would call it in NLP). Perpetrators would have said, “I’m doing this to protect Bhagwan, that is all that matters.” The story doesn’t end well, as you might imagine.

Get out of the Matrix

How often do we try to solve our problems “within the matrix, the story”? For example, “This person is difficult, I’ve got to deal with him/her.” The story in this case is “This person is difficult” and the proposed solution derives directly from the story, “I’ve got to deal with him/her.” “Dealing with” frequently involves some sort of violence. With some politicians, the story is, “My party has got to win this battle,” and the rationale within the story is, “Therefore I’ve got to tell whatever story will win this battle.” This is where truth gets sacrificed. Working within the story often involves a belief that the end justifies the means.

But that’s only one way of viewing a problem, and it’s unlikely to be solved satisfactorily by continuing to look at it from the one perspective. There’s a different way, which is to recognise the matrix and step beyond it. There are various ways to do this.

  1. Step into a bigger picture. Sit back and open up your view. See yourself and the “difficult” person from a distance in your mind’s eye, and watch the “dance” of movement and sounds between you as if you are watching a film of two people you don’t know. Discover how different aspects of the problem become apparent when you put a bit of distance between you and it. It often happens that you notice that the movements of the two are surprisingly similar, or are polar opposites. If the relationship carries a lot of emotional baggage, you can increase clarity significantly by imagining that you are looking at it from as far away as the moon!
  2. Turn the statement upside down. Change the statement, “This person is difficult” to “I am difficult” for instance. How might you be difficult for the other person? You might have resistance to thinking this way, but if you change your mindset to a different viewpoint, something will change in your understanding and new approaches will emerge.
  3. Shift from “This person is difficult” to different levels: consider the person in the context of wider relationships; reflect on what really matters in the relationship, understand which values are important. How might you find harmony, for instance, with this person? What might be a route to further lightness? A sense of humour even? Or trust? Such questions will release possibilities that would never emerge from previous formulations of the problem.

Gym training

How do you get fit for such mind games? You learn as 3-year-olds do: you play at it. You experiment and don’t insist on success, whatever that is. You find more variety in your life, especially important to many of us who have spent months with diminished horizons during the pandemic. You introduce something different into your day – a new activity, or walk or food or something you wouldn’t usually read, a TV programme that you wouldn’t usually watch. And you step into the shoes of what it is like to be someone who enjoys such activities. The more experience we have of difference, the quicker we become on our feet to respond to what life throws at us, and the easier we find it to adapt to what is needed in each circumstance. And even as we dance with new approaches, ideas and attitudes, we feel more grounded, more solid in who we are. Another of life’s joyful paradoxes!

I want to add, without any trace of lightness at all, don’t think you are doing anything small when you expand your possibilities in this way. Our world is at a critical moment and has huge need of warm hearts and flexible minds. (I’m talking for myself here!) Don’t you agree?

Dance in the moment! Go well,

Judy

NEWS

*** THIS SUNDAY, 13 June – “From Inner Critic to Inner Coach”

A Spirit of Coaching Event on Zoom, from 2 to 3.30, with John McConnel and yours truly.

InnerCriticInnerCoach

It has been said that our mind can be our best friend or worst enemy. There is often a war going on inside between these two aspects of ourselves that can be draining and demoralizing. We explore how to train the mind to enable us to live a happier and more fulfilling life.

The event is free, you just need to register your attendance in advance to get the link. tinyurl.com/InnerCriticInnerCoach. All welcome.

Podcast

Last month I was interviewed by Brett McKay for the American online magazine, Manliness. The title of the conversation is: The Art of Conversation — A Guided Tour of a Neglected Pleasure, and Brett and I grapple with the question, “How do you have a meaningful conversation with another person?” We had a great time and covered some interesting issues – I hope you enjoy it too. There’s a transcription on the link as well as the audio.

There are more podcasts to come – I’ll give you details next month.

Permission to Shift Summit JUDY APPSRoss, Judy

25 – 27 June

Fireside chats on how to create meaningful relationships. I am speaking on 27th. More information at www.permissiontoshift.com, and details of how to book coming very soon.

 

 

 

 

Understanding NLP

Part 5 of my free E-course, Understanding NLP, offers ideas on how to view things from different perspectives – a hugely valuable skill. Register for the whole course here.

By the way, thanks to everyone who downloaded my free e-course, How to Raise Your Profile

last month – it was a popular one!

A book recommendation, Juliet Grayson’s Landscapes of the Heart

Probably the first book by a psychologist that I just couldn’t put down. Juliet Grayson takes us into the hidden world of a psychotherapy session.  She shakes our assumptions about how relationships work, and what to expect from our intimate partners, showing us different routes to more satisfying and loving intimacy, and giving us a grounded understanding of what makes relationships successful. It’s brilliant.

Finally, the usual links to my books

The Art of CommunicationHow to be Authentic, Lead Others, and Create Strong Connections
Relationships can be the hardest thing in life and also the most rewarding and fulfilling. This book explores ways to deepen your connection with others. Such an important topic for today.

The Art of Conversation – Change Your Life with Confident Communication
My most popular book currently. It’s a great handbook to help you communicate better in every situation. Full of practical hints and tips.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies
contains a wealth of resources for improving your voice and communication. Great to dip into for particular voice and speaking issues.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence
This is the book for you if you ever suffer from performance anxiety. Get rid of your nerves now! The information is tried and tested, and highly practical.

Voice of Influence – How to Get People To Love to Listen to You.
Now published in 9 foreign language editions!
Acquire the voice you would love to have, and transform your impact.

Get rid of titles for a moment and truly lead

If you operate just from your title, you sacrifice real connection and dialogue, with all the possibilities that offers. And leadership without connection is a paltry thing.

Hierarchy 2021-05-02 at 15.40.04


  • Is there a conversation you’re struggling to have with someone? Forget their title just for now.
  • Do you lack connection with people you work among? Find the sense of equality that comes from knowing you’re both just human beings.

 

Emily Dickinson wrote a great little lyric in 1897:

I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Dont tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!

Have you, just occasionally in the past few years, felt that there are too many “Somebodies” around? Honestly?

At one time, living in London, I worked as a peripatetic clarinet teacher – that was my title. One day a week, I taught pupils at an inner city comprehensive down the Old Kent Road, and on another weekday, I took a train down into leafy Surrey and taught at a private girls’ school. The girls waited politely for my instructions and never made a sound without being invited to play. Some pupils at the London comprehensive were like that too, but others came into their lesson with a sense of urgency, “Hey, Miss, look, I tried this, but it never comes out right, listen!” And the pupil would jump straight in and show me what they were attempting to do, with various loud squeaks, and burst out with, “So, what am I doing wrong?!” I found the second way challenging at times, after all, I was the teacher and had an uneasy feeling I ought to be in charge; but at the same time, I admired it. Those kids really wanted to improve. And, crucially, improve they did.

I was the teacher, I ought to be in charge.” The concept of hierarchy is almost built into our DNA in Britain. Who doesn’t know that King and Queen comes before Prince and Princess, who come before Dukes and Duchesses followed by Earls and Ladies and so on down? It’s been so for a thousand years and we (okay some of us) know our place. Corporations follow a similar pattern, carving out ever more subtle divisions in the hierarchy pyramid for absolute clarity. Just look at this list of subdivisions at the level of Vice President:

  • Senior Executive Vice President (Sr. EVP)
  • Executive Vice President (EVP)
  • Senior Vice President (SVP)
  • First Vice President (FVP)
  • Vice President (VP)
  • Additional Vice President (Addl. VP)
  • Assistant Vice President (Asst. VP)
  • Joint Vice President (Jt. VP)
  • Associate Vice President (Asso. VP)

Imagine a group photograph where all the VPs try to get themselves sorted in order of precedence! (Talking of knowing your place, have you ever watched the old Social Class Sketch with John Cleese and Two Ronnies’ from the 1966 Frost Report? Just 24 secs.)

Well, you might say, you have to know where the buck stops, don’t you? True. But hierarchy with its evil twin obeisance has a lot to answer for.

Think of the absolute power of the feudal lord of the manor, the unquestioning deference of parishioners for the priest, the increasing powers yielded to the ruling executive, the unquestioned power of theatre and film producers over young artists, and of sports coaches over young players – there’s many a hardship and many a scandal that’s come out of  assumptions that accompany hierarchy.

Maintaining a hierarchy puts a pressure on everyone. From page 26 of The Art of Communication:

Time and again in business and politics, people find themselves in the role of courtiers admiring the Emperor’s new clothes – making comments with a verve and energy they do not feel or acting impassively while feeling strong emotion. To use ambiguous language is exhausting – it’s a kind of lying, and lying always saps energy. Maintaining your position, reputation, credit, or standing is exhausting too.

Hierarchy intimidates. People in the workplace often feel daunted when speaking with ‘experts’ or those higher in the pecking order and block themselves, thinking, “He’s senior to me, it’s his call,” or “She’s going to think me stupid.”

For myself, hierarchy got in the way of my coaching:

  1. First, very simply, I often found that people who came for coaching wanted me to be powerful. They were paying to be fixed by me, and in so doing, thought it quite right to hand all responsibility to me. So far, so flattering. It was nice to be seen as the expert, and easy to slip into that role. But it didn’t help the person being coached, because when the power came to me, it leached away from them, which didn’t help them in their journey towards personal autonomy and self-realisation.
  2. I also found that, the higher my client was in their work hierarchy, the more I was tempted to cling to the idea of my expertise, almost subconsciously to balance things out. I found myself sitting straighter and talking more in business-speak to match their status. I particularly acted the expert role on occasions when I wanted to impress. None of this aided people’s progress.

Progress happened when we connected. And different hierarchical levels don’t connect, not really – hierarchy has to be suspended, even temporarily, for genuine dialogue. Coaching isn’t a transaction: it’s an exploration, side by side, into areas that are obscure or difficult for people. Of course, they want to feel safe, so it’s not a matter of both scrabbling around in the dark. A coach offers safety, a kind of guarantee that the person won’t be overwhelmed as they move towards their desired outcomes. As coach, I offer everything I have to offer, but I don’t lead, I walk beside.

When you come down to it, most people don’t actually need very much help in goal setting; what impedes them is much more likely to be fears and limitations they don’t understand. They want someone they trust to travel with them into the unknown.

I used to coach clients or even – powerless word – coachees; I now work with people. Those proactive schoolkids down the Old Kent Road didn’t think I was better than them. They saw me as a helpmate – a supporter if you like. I knew stuff that they didn’t,, but that wasn’t what allowed them to learn. My presence helped to keep them afloat in their quest – and they knew whose quest it was.

Lao Tzu says, “To lead people, walk behind them.” That might seem an insignificant role, but it’s not the power of my role that’s going to help; it’s the relationship. And we relate only where there is equality – the ultimate equality of I’m human and you’re human.

“There’s equality in conversation. It’s very hard to have a good conversation with someone who intimidates or patronises you or with someone who is intimidated by you.” The Art of Conversation, Chapter 1.

When Crick met Watson, he never said, “Ok, first things first – we need to decide who’s in charge;” and DNA would hardly have been discovered had he done so. The generative magic came from two scientists of different disciplines coming together as equals in genuine dialogue.

I would hazard a guess that quite a lot of people high up in organisations have a strong sense of ‘better than’, and I would guess that even more of them act the part of ‘better than’. The best leaders don’t do that, nor do they see their role as one of control. They see a big part of leadership as support and dialogue – creating relationships that are genuine, that are a model of how their people might connect more deeply with each other – plus the ability to do and be what enables their people to fly.

Andria Zafirakou, the British art teacher who won Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher prize in 2018, dubbed the Nobel for teaching, says that teaching is all about building relationships: “Build the relationship, build that trust. And then everything else can happen.” Many fine leaders would say the same. She continues, “I think sometimes the most beautiful thing about being a teacher is when you ask the child to teach you.”

Every person that you meet has something to teach you. Look at leaders you admire; I don’t think you’ll find a single one who wears their importance visibly like epaulettes on the shoulders. Their people say of them, “She/he treated me like an equal.” And when the organisation is successful, as such organisations often are, you find that individuals don’t tend to look to a hero leader for the cause. No, they think, “We did that”, or “I helped make that happen.” In fact, I think other coaches will tell you that the greatest joy of coaching (of leadership too) is the day your person owns their success and, throwing their hands in the air, exults, “I did that! I made that happen!”

MORE ABOUT CONNECTION

Connection in my TED Talk

How Your Voice Touches Others: The true meaning of what you say

Connection in my books

The Art of CommunicationHow to have deeper conversations that open up new possibilities

The Art of Conversation – how to have truly two-way satisfying exchanges.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies – Find the voice that connects with others

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – how not to be daunted when you interact with others

Voice of Influence – how to speak so that people want to listen to you

I’ve given you links to bookshop.org that supports local bookshops, but you can buy the books everywhere, including e-versions and audio.

A great definition of connection from Brene Brown

“I define connection as the energy that exists between people when they feel seen, heard, and valued; when they can give and receive without judgment; and when they derive sustenance and strength from the relationship.”   Brené Brown

Raise your profile through connection

Part 5 of my free E-course: How to Raise Your Profile is called Curiosity and Connection. It turns out that even when you have the desire to raise your own profile, connection is a key part. Follow the link to download the E-course.

Go well this Merry Month of May!

Judy

Another not-going-anywhere day …

IMG_1558

 

Another chill, dull, not-going-anywhere Sunday.

Stuck and boring, nothing being achieved, nothing worth achieving.

And then, by mid-afternoon, snow. Silent, drifting, changing the landscape utterly, its brightness lifting the spirits. A miracle of snow.  I didn’t make it come. It just came. I  watched it though, and it made me smile.

Sometimes, the present is a time of doing, sometimes of feeling, or dreaming, or waiting. Sometimes it’s none of those things, it just is. Or maybe it’s letting go of those things.

Once, I went to California for three weeks, and on my return, people were more loving, nicer. It happened in my absence. That’s how it seemed.

Last summer, the little track outside our back fence was full of flowers, more than ever before. I didn’t seed them, they just arrived.

I don’t know that much about chess, but when I enjoyed The Queen’s Gambit recently, I noticed that the crucial chess move is sometimes a step backwards. Kind of counter-intuitive that.

We all know that the summer fly banging against the windowpane could turn around and fly free out of the open door, if it could just let go of its obsession: “Gotta keep right on going there! Forwards, onwards, come on! try harder!, progress, success, victory, Up school! Up school! Oggy, Oggy, Oggy! Oi, oi, oi!”

Letting go. A friend of mine started to practise mindfulness and wrote a song. There was no plan to write a song.

There’s a moment in yoga when you let go of everything, jaw, mouth, brow and eyes – the expression on your face melts away and you lose every characteristic of yourself so that nothing is left. Except of course that nothing isn’t nothing at all, but a whisper of the vastness of space, freedom, peace, harmony, eternal connection …

What am I saying? I’m saying that letting go is not merely a physical or mental health strategy; sometimes it IS the complete answer.

Whatever we bang on about, whatever we bash our heads against, whatever we despair about, whatever conclusions we force into being, there’s also the miracle of stuff that just happens: that unexpected gift from left field that lightens the spirit and kindles a precious spark within, causing everything to change. Like a miracle of snow.

What else?

Aikido and Communication

The Japanese martial art of Aikido (meaning: the way of harmonising energy) has much to say about communication, including the art of letting go. I have spent many hours on the mat, and I’m greatly looking forward to talking on communication with Quentin Cooke’s Aikido group on Zoom this Thursday. Quentin is an Aikido 7th Dan (proof of exceptional mastery), and in normal times runs a thriving Aikido Group in Cambridge.

Reading

There’s quite a lot about letting go in my latest book, The Art of Communication, as in all my books. Here’s one relevant short section from page 77:

Let Go

We access high energy only when our minds and bodies are free and relaxed. Having energy is very different from expending effort. Deep in many of us there lurks a private conviction that nothing worthwhile is achieved without hard work. The conviction leads us to extraordinary contradictions. We work hard for peace; we beat ourselves up to relax more; we worry about our serenity of mind; and we thrash ourselves in the gym to acquire ease in our bodies. None of these efforts is energizing when approached as hard work.

The more we wrestle with ideas in our minds and the more we exert effort, the more physical tension we have in our bodies. I was interested to discover that most people move more rigidly on their dominant, ‘try hard’ side. When we frown, clench our teeth, or tighten our jaw we create resistance against ourselves that makes everything harder. It’s like pushing and pulling at the same time. We find ourselves unable to think clearly or make headway in whatever we are doing. Paradoxically, this triggers more effort to think, which causes the rational part of our brain to make ever greater conscious effort.

Communicating with others is certainly less productive if you try too hard. The only solution is to let go. But how can you do that when communication and relationships with others matter and you want things to go well? To most of us, the idea of letting go is associated with giving up and we fear that it would be a disaster. We have lots of baggage around keeping going, maintaining standards, fighting the good fight, continuing the struggle, and refusing to surrender. It takes a special type of courage to let go of your usual anchors and props.

And then there’s

The Art of Conversation – Change Your Life with Confident Communication
My most popular book currently. It’s a great handbook to help you communicate better in every situation. Full of practical hints and tips.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies
contains a wealth of resources for improving your voice and communication. Great to dip into for particular voice and speaking issues.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence.
This is the book for you if you ever suffer from performance anxiety. Get rid of your nerves now! The information is tried and tested, and highly practical.

Voice of Influence – How to Get People To Love to Listen to You.
Now published in 9 foreign language editions! Acquire the voice you would love to have, and transform your impact.

Voice of Influence

Did you know that you can gain similar benefits to my popular Voice of Influence Training (which I’m not running currently) through online one-to-one coaching – and at no extra cost, with the time spent entirely on what will benefit you most. Contact me if you want to know more. I have various packages that might suit you, a typical one being 3 separate sessions of coaching over a period of about a month, with space between sessions for you to practise in real life what you are learning.

Coaching

A few sessions of one-to-one work with a coach might be the answer to your situation during the pandemic. Whether it’s about relationships, or feeling stuck, or wanting to give yourself a better chance of advancement, or wanting to find who you really are, coaching gives you a unique space to deal with issues in your life. Online or telephone coaching works brilliantly. Contact me if you want to have an informal chat about it – by email in the first instance: judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

A Poem for Tricky Times

In Denise Levertov’s collection of poems, “Sands of the Well”, published posthumously, there’s a poem entitled For Those Whom the Gods Love Less, which speaks to those who struggle creatively (all of us in one way or another, I guess). Here are the final lines:

Each life in art
goes forth to meet dragons that rise from their bloody scales
in cyclic rhythm: Know and forget, know and forget.
It’s not only
the passion for getting it right (thought it’s that, too)
it’s the way
radiant epiphanies recur, recur,
consuming, pristine, unrecognized-
until remembrance dismays you. And then, look,
some inflection of light, some wing of shadow
is other, unvoiced. You can, you must
proceed.

You can find the whole poem here, and Denise Levertov herself reads it here (find this poem 7 mins exactly into the YouTube video).

Here’s to happy serendipities this month,

Go well, friends,
Judy :-) xxx

 

Only connect

Yes, even during a pandemic …0_Mother-and-son-walking-through-a-park-in-winter

Perhaps because I saw fewer people last year, I thought about friends and family and valued interactions more than usual – both face to face and via the internet. It made me ask myself what made certain relationships stand out.

Has it been the same for you? And have you found certain relationships meant more than others? What were your best interactions like? Energising? Fun? Natural and easy? You felt understood? Sensed a real connection?

Special encounters can happen with the person you love the most, but also with complete strangers. In the summer when I wrote The Art of Communication, I recorded the following in my diary: *

“The little cabin we booked to rent in Shropshire was next door to an old house containing a restaurant that was shut at present. The owner, Elizabeth, came out to meet us and briefly explained that her husband wasn’t available to open the restaurant during our stay as he was currently ill. She showed us around our cabin, invited us to contact her if we needed anything, and then withdrew. Later, as we strolled out to explore, we paused by display shelves in the front garden containing a variety of interesting jams and pickles and unusual garden plants for sale, set up by our host.

“We didn’t see Elizabeth again until the morning of our departure a few days later, when she emerged from the house to wish us goodbye. As we said our thanks and farewells, we quietly asked her about her husband, and she explained that after a few years of ups and downs with cancer, his condition was now terminal and the time remaining probably short. As we listened, she told us about his work as a restaurant chef, their life in other cities, and some of the challenges of running things on her own now. We admired her garden produce and plants and commented on the variety of birds that were attracted by the food she put out in feeders. Encouraged by our interest, she told us about her excitement a couple of days before, when in the early dawn she had witnessed five nuthatch fledglings leave the nest. Time was suspended for a few moments and I felt physically the frisson of our connection.

“What was it? A short inconclusive conversation with a stranger. Yet I took much more from our conversation than some sad facts and some happier ones. It felt as if we had shared for a moment a larger theme of life. Such words are perhaps too abstract and fail to recognise how real the exchange felt – to each of us, I think. The truth lay in some in-between-ness; and it touched us.”

* This became the prologue of The Art of Communication.

What made such a casual short encounter exceptional? The first word to spring to my mind is empathy. And that was true of other memorable interactions too. I’ve been pondering on that and thinking that it matters – hugely – to all of us.

Empathy is personal

The first thing that strikes me is that empathy is personal. (It’s like the word sorry, in that you can’t actually practise it in any genuine sense on someone else’s behalf – though people try it all the time with sorry, perhaps with empathy too). Some people possess an impersonal kind of friendliness. They may be amiable, genial, convivial, gregarious, extrovert, outgoing, easy-going, good-natured, agreeable – there are loads of ways to describe it – but their friendliness is non-specific. For many such sociable people, friendliness is not their number one priority, but more a way of oiling the wheels on their way towards whatever is their first concern. (If you’re interested in MBTI (Meyers Briggs Type Indicator), ENTP might be an example, with an extrovert expression of friendliness that’s not the number one priority). You will certainly know people like that, at work maybe, or in the public arena.

Empathy is not a public attitude. It’s one-to-one, personal; and it’s a response rather than an attitude. When you are empathetic, you tune in to micro-signals and catch the vibrations of someone’s feelings and thoughts, whether joyful or painful, and you join them in that same place. It’s Rumi’s, “There is a field, I’ll meet you there.”

Empathy perpetually changes according to what it finds, so it has to be light and flexible, and open to the unexpected. Sometimes it’s silent and listens, sometimes it moves to specific words and action. It’s not generalised. If you have ever been in a bad situation and had someone dealing out sympathy in a general way, you’ll know the difference. There’s nothing so annoying as sympathy taken off the shelf, a fix-all attitude to adversity that’s all about the other person – “I know exactly what you’re feeling.” Empathy doesn’t know; it isn’t knowledgeable. On the other hand, it is intelligent – it sees (hears, feels, tastes, smells, intuits) clearly what is.

Intelligence: Intelligence is just openness of being.
Being open we respond with fresh insight.
– Osho

Empathy is connection with your equal

Secondly, empathy is a connection that takes place only between equals (or as equals). You have to breathe the same air. This is acutely important. If I think I’m better than someone else, I don’t reach them. And how many ways there are to feel better than other people! Maybe I received a better education than you; I’m more knowledgeable. Or I went to a school where we were taught that we were exceptional; or grew up in a religion of chosen people. Or my parents had more money and we belonged to a “better class of people”, or I’m “cultured” and have a superior accent. Or, I’m the teacher, expert, voice of experience.

And, of course, it works the other way too. Maybe I think I’m worse than other people, less well educated, more ordinary, ignorant, poor, stupid, uncultivated, badly spoken, with not much going for me at all. Maybe I think I’ll never make anything of myself, always be an outsider. Maybe I make constant comparisons and come out of it badly. Whether we feel superior or whether we feel inferior, we struggle to connect. Connection happens in the absence (however temporary) of better and worse.

By the way, we need to remind ourselves that someone being better at something doesn’t mean they’re intrinsically better than us, and someone being worse at something doesn’t mean that we’re better than them. (And isn’t it funny how the most talented people are often the most modest and how the reverse is also often true?)

How connection happens

Think back again to times when you have really connected with someone. What was true of those times? I would guess it wasn’t that you were the same, but equally there was no superiority or inferiority; you met side by side on the same ground of understanding and feeling understood. It put you on the same wavelength. Literally, your vibrations were in synch with each other. When this happens, something new – an idea, a solution or a breakthrough – often emerges.

It’s Either Or

So here we are at 2021. And we have a choice, both individually and on a global level.

Either, we play better and worse, and compete and fight on the premise that there’s not enough to go around – it’s my oil, my land, my vaccine, my water, my food, my job. I can turn everything in life into a fight: I win and you lose, or I lose and you win. I can fight disease, fight depression, fight the system, fight everything and everyone that’s other. I’m better than.

Or, we can connect and seek common cause. The world is telling us in increasingly urgent terms that the planet is interconnected and we won’t survive in silos whether we like it or not: our good health depends on global good health (viruses aren’t good at respecting borders); climate catastrophe will create shortage, uninhabitability and people movements on a scale we haven’t yet dreamed of. We’ve got to think more joined up even to save ourselves. Where’s the latest place they’ve found plastic – within a foetus in the womb? No gain in bleating that it’s not my plastic! Everything is connected. We’re too informed today to pretend otherwise.

So my intention this year is:

  1. To practise intelligence – learn to see more clearly, learn to be more joined-up in my thinking.
  2. Work on feeling equal to other people. Feel nervous of talking to that person? They are not better than you, even if they’re highly exalted in your company and paid 472 times as much as you. Feel superior to that person? Get very, very curious about them. Could I survive with my whole family in one room during months of lockdown? Could I work understaffed in an ICU unit, and face death constantly for a whole year? What is it truly like to be them? You’ll never feel superior if you do this exercise with diligence.

    Guy Standing puts it well:

    “A vital sentiment of a good society, empathy is the ability to put oneself imaginatively in the shoes of ‘the other’, whether or not one agrees with their predicament or actions” (my bold).
    (From The Plunder of the Commonsnow there’s a great read.)

  1. Spend some of the time I’ve spent ranting about politicians this year in seeking out people to admire and finding out more about them. I’ve already started my list – it’s a feel-good exercise! Albert Einstein, even had he not been exceptional in other ways would make it onto the list for this quote alone:

    A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Einstein

  1. One last wish. I hope that on 31 December 2021, you and I can look back and say with truth, “I’m pleased about my life in 2021. That was a good year!”

My warmest good wishes to you,

Judy

 

BOOKS

If you’re interested in this article, you’ll enjoy The Art of Communication – How to be Authentic, Lead Others, and Create Strong Connections. Relationships can be the hardest thing in life, and also the most rewarding and fulfilling when you know how. This book explores ways to deepen your connection with others.

The Art of Conversation – Change Your Life with Confident Communication is a great handbook to help you communicate better in every situation. Full of practical hints and tips.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies contains a wealth of resources for improving your voice and communication. Great to dip into for particular voice and speaking issues.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms – 25 Sure Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence. This is the book for you if you ever suffer from performance anxiety. Get rid of your nerves now! The information has been tried and tested, and is highly practical.

Voice of Influence – How to Get People To Love to Listen to You. Acquire the voice you would love to have, and transform your impact.

COACHING

A few sessions of one-to-one work with a coach might be the answer to to your current situation. Whether it’s about relationships, or feeling stuck, or wanting to give yourself a better chance of advancement, or wanting to find who you really are, coaching gives you a unique space to deal with issues in your life. Online or telephone coaching works brilliantly. Contact me if you want to have an informal chat about it – by email in the first instance: judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

TIME FOR A POEM

Read the whole poem and enjoy it. Or if your brain is jangling today, just read the last four lines as we embark on the new year.

I have News for You by Tony Hoagland

There are people who do not see a broken playground swing
as a symbol of ruined childhood
and there are people who don’t interpret the behavior
of a fly in a motel room as a mocking representation of their thought process.
There are people who don’t walk past an empty swimming pool
and think about past pleasures unrecoverable
and then stand there blocking the sidewalk for other pedestrians.
I have read about a town somewhere in California where human beings
do not send their sinuous feeder roots
deep into the potting soil of others’ emotional lives
as if they were greedy six-year-olds
sucking the last half-inch of milkshake up through a noisy straw;
and other persons in the Midwest who can kiss without
debating the imperialist baggage of heterosexuality.
Do you see that creamy, lemon-yellow moon?
There are some people, unlike me and you,
who do not yearn after fame or love or quantities of money as
unattainable as that moon;
thus, they do not later
have to waste more time
defaming the object of their former ardor.
Or consequently run and crucify themselves
in some solitary midnight Starbucks Golgotha.
I have news for you—
there are people who get up in the morning and cross a room
and open a window to let the sweet breeze in
and let it touch them all over their faces and bodies.

 

What if …?

Come to the Edge 2020-12-04 at 21.09.05

What if …

okay, back to fundamentals, let’s just consider this for a moment –

what if you were completely okay?

Cut the subjunctive:

what if you are completely okay?

I mean absolutely, completely okay, just as you are?

There is just a chance that you already are. You may be in love, and the person you most esteem in the whole wide world is assuring you in every possible way that you are absolutely perfect, just as you are. If you are someone who has ever been in love, you might remember a time when someone else was your whole world, your universe, and their love for you made the universe and you in the universe amazingly okay.

It doesn’t last.

Okay, okay, okay, it does last; love does last; but does that very particular feeling of being okay last? Not for most people. You decide to have a ceremony to celebrate your love, and within the blink of an eye, you are deciding to go on a diet so that you will look especially great on that day, because currently, you’re a bit

See what I mean?

So, to come back to my question,

What if you are entirely, fundamentally okay just as you are?

Oh, I know that’s hard to take! Surely, if you thought you were okay just as you are, firstly you’d be self-deluded, and secondly, there’d be no motivation to improve yourself?  But we’re not talking perfect, we’re talking okay as opposed to not-okay.

What would be different?

I ask myself that question this morning, a day of dark skies and continuous rain, plenty of time to think about it. Oh my gosh, sobering thought, here goes …

  1. Well, for example, I’ve just done half an hour of home yoga – so what would be different with that? I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t need to push myself towards a result to feel justified in the practice. Without trying to get somewhere, I’d just enjoy the feelings of movement and stillness, of stretch and strength. I think it might be joyful. In fact, without the straining to do something right, I’d try out some free movement just as the mood took me and enjoy the combination of breath and rhythm and movement, lively and slow. No right and wrong. My body might even become my friend, a means of expression, creative. I like that.
  2. Generally, I wouldn’t have so much need to worry, and I do worry a lot. I call it getting excited ahead of events or being prepared – but it’s worry really. Have I done enough? Will people be happy with it? Will I achieve success? Ah, there’s a word that has other people’s branding all over it. But if I’m okay, I don’t worry about success in the eyes of other people, I don’t have to squeeze and bully myself to fit expectations. I put my own mark on it, and it gives me the glorious freedom to act as I want to act. I feel an energy rush even as I write those words.So – who knew it? – being okay energises. Well, of course it does; we all know that angst and tension are exhausting. Knowing I’m okay before an event – that is, I’m okay whatever happens – allows me the joy of imagining new ways of being with people, and fresh approaches to take. Creativity soars. If I’m okay, pressure lifts. I breathe afresh.

My face gets warm, tears feel close. Forgiveness seems in order. I’m sorry, self. I’ve been a bully. And for what? It’s just cut me off. Whipping myself into hard work – and competitive hard work at that – isn’t necessary at all.  “Yes, but,” I tell myself, “but I’m the kind of person who needs incentives, and structure and goals. If I don’t force myself, I’m afraid that …” Woah! you’ve slipped back into not okay, and you’ve hit on the cause – being afraid. Come back to the practice: what if you are completely okay?

  1. If I’m truly okay, I trust myself. This is true even if you find yourself at rock bottom and the choice ahead is between very, very bad and pretty damn awful but not quite as bad. That’s still a choice, and if you trust yourself, you’ll make a good choice; and then another; and another. And good choices lead to a good life.In any case, If I’m okay, mistakes are okay too, and sometimes a gift. The thing is, a mistake doesn’t make you not okay. The world is not four-square: it’s full of anomalies, oddities, rarities, irregularities, quirks, variations, eccentricities; and hurray for that. If you’re okay, you learn from mistakes and stay okay; if you’re not okay, a mistake merely confirms that you’re not okay – nothing learned.
  2. If I’m okay, you’re probably more okay too. All through this strange and taxing year, haven’t you found solace from friends who in spite of everything they’re going through are fundamentally okay? Me too. And If you’re okay, there’s more to laugh about. You jettison that dreary ball and chain of guilt. Hallelujah!
  3. If I’m okay, I love more. Such a lot of not being okay comes from “I’ll love you if ….” (if you don’t cry, if you become the person I want you to be etc. etc.) which is what some adults implied to us as children and what – if we don’t learn in time – we pass on in our turn. When you’re okay love isn’t conditional. And you don’t look out and see a world that is reflecting your non-okay image back at yourself. No, you look out and see all the amazing things there are to see. Doing so, you lose yourself; and in losing yourself you are able to relate to the other with love and compassion, no longer alone.

Soft stuff? If you like. Relevant to business and to leadership? It surely is. You must be aware of bosses who are not okay and create havoc, and world leaders who after growing up on the receiving end of “I’ll love you if …”  emerged as narcissistic, fundamentally irresponsible adults. They threaten the very planet. Whereas when you are okay, you form generative relationships and make sound decisions. You love and live, in other words.

SO. The all-important question: can you decide to be okay?

You can.

“You’re joking. I’ve never been okay. Ever.”

No matter. That’s entirely it. You decide – in your core rather than in your head. Your core is untouchable, and wonderfully, beautifully, achingly, gloriously okay.

And that’s the truth, you are okay, you are an okay person. Your life might or might not be, but you,

You. Are. Okay.

Writing this, a song I haven’t sung for quite a long time came to mind Here below are the words, and here is Shana Noll singing it (plus lyrics).

How could anyone ever tell you
you were anything less than beautiful?

How could anyone ever tell you
you were less than whole?

How could anyone fail to notice
that your loving is a miracle?

How deeply you’re connected to my soul.                                                               
© Libby Roderick Music 1988   All rights reserved.

Let’s allow good stuff in this month. Let’s just let it in.

Go well,

Judy

Plus

My good colleague Sarah Smith, Director at Indigo Coaching and Leadership Development, interviewed me about communication and influence in the autumn. Here’s a snippet of our conversation (with many thanks to Sarah.)

Coaching

Did you ever want to get good at something, and then one day you took the plunge and had some lessons, and suddenly your performances was transformed, and you declared you should have done it ages ago? Coaching is like that: you acquire new abilities that greatly enhance what you are able to do. If you wish, you go deeper and discover your true motivations and purpose deep within. Then your life is transformed. Why would anyone not have a coach?! Contact me if you want a chat about it.

Books

What a wonderful Christmas present, and so easy to buy. If you want to encourage our bookshops rather than feed the online shopping behemoth, you can order online from Waterstones or go to www.hive.co.uk or uk.bookshop.org.

So how about a book on communication from yours truly? (That’ll make my Christmas!)

The Art of Communication: How to be authentic, lead others and create strong connections.
 We live in times where “living the image” has become endemic, and it chokes off genuine problem solving. This is as true for our relations with those close to us as for solving the world’s ills.

The Art of Conversation: Change your life with confident communication
Conversational skill isn’t just about being articulate and having lots to talk about It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-fire ways to perform with confidence
This is a book about performance anxiety – it offers 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence: How to get people to love to listen to you
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Recharging

2nd LawAnd so it goes on.

Clocks go back.

I fell down a rabbit hole again today.

You know – when you read something on the internet which links to something else, and when you follow the link, that reveals something else, which, when you follow that link …? So, I was surfing – burrowing rather – when the first law of thermodynamics popped up and I realised that I wasn’t exactly sure what it was. (Not something you admit in public of course, I mean who doesn’t know the first law of thermodynamics?)

So I looked it up:

Energy can be changed from one form to another, but it cannot be created or destroyed. The total amount of energy and matter in the Universe remains constant, merely changing from one form to another.

Wikipedia takes over 9,000 words interspersed with dozens of formulae to say that, but that’s the basic premise.

Flat

I couldn’t be bothered to read the 8,950+ surplus Wiki-words: I was feeling flat. Flat is a word I’ve heard a lot this year. Many of us don’t like to say we’re feeling dejected, or pessimistic, miserable, depressed, disconsolate, dispirited, desolate or broken regarding our current human and planetary lot, so we say to people we’re feeling a bit flat. How often, particularly during this Covid period, do you wake up and feel low on energy? It’s very common. Most of us have the experience of ebbs and flows of energy, if not more extreme threats to our mental health.

So there was I feeling “flat” – low energy – and the first law of thermodynamics prompted a question, “Where had the energy gone if energy is never destroyed, only converted from one form to another? Also, how did I lose it? If my energy is low, the first law of thermodynamics suggests I’m using or dissipating it elsewhere. And, of course, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Sometimes, we don’t know what’s draining our energy. A friend who seemed to me to have coped brilliantly during this pandemic year, living in a gardenless second-storey flat with a young family , told me that she didn’t fully realise the tension of living in a crowded city until she went on holiday to an isolated location for a week, and felt a huge weight lift.

Sometimes, however, we do know, don’t we? I had a meeting with someone the other day and felt wrung out like a towel after they had gone, but I knew how it had happened. They were demanding my attention for too long without a mutual understanding, pushing me too far in their requests, and I allowed them to do this, from politeness or a wanting for things to be pleasant, against my better judgement. So I was basically fighting against myself. Exhausting.

What’s depleting your energy?

I think it’s always worth investigating what’s draining your energy. The depletion is often due to fighting yourself, as in the last example. Putting on any sort of act is always tiring if it confronts your values.

Fighting “what is” also drains our battery drastically. This often happens when life wants to move on, and you refuse to let it. You say to yourself: I am this sort of person in this sort of life and that’s how it is. And you get stuck.  Huge energy is dissipated in forcing things to stay the same, when change is the natural order of things…

Hey, wait a minute, you say, the whole problem with this year is that we are stuck, stuck at home, stuck in the same daily grind, stuck in the middle of a wretched pandemic which isn’t going to end soon. No wonder the winter ahead looks like a pit of trouble, danger and discord. We are stuck.

And the battery runs down.

Move a little

We feel stuck. Yet, there’s energy for recharging everywhere if I look.

There’s always movement. There’s always breathing. We’ve been created like that. You are always moving physically, even if it’s the slightest change of air moving your body in deep sleep. Movement is often the answer to flatness or any other drained energy. Of course, the gremlins will still whisper in your ear, “Don’t move, you’re too tired”, but that is also usually untrue.

Have you ever tried moving just a little bit when you feel sluggish, and a minute hand movement gradually gains more movement and turns into an arm movement which turns into a slight stretch of the waist or shoulders, and a yawn, and soon your whole body is flowing, and will flow further if you let it. Then when you stop, you realise that the movement was energising, and has created endorphins – energy!

The dynamism of the change of the seasons, every moment different. A week or so ago, I awoke to a bright red sky in the early morning. I rushed downstairs in my nightdress to get my iPhone, but by the time I got back upstairs to take the photo the sky had paled to ordinary. Nature changes every moment. In trying to anchor the miracle of that sky in a photo, I almost missed the moment itself.

It’s all about movement. Ben Zander demonstrates this idea of movement most beautifully – and comedically – in his earliest TED Talk, where he plays Mozart and Chopin on the piano – have a look!

Perhaps the most damaging element of stuckness is stories. We are so practised in making sense of our lives through the negative stories we tell ourselves over and over again. We fix our past to make our story publically consumable – even at the expense of our wellbeing. I failed at this because of that. I can’t run because I have weak ankles. Why not instead, I have weak ankles because I don’t run? Is that any less true?

Equilibrium

I read an interesting interview with John Gray this morning, celebrating the publication of his latest book, Feline Philosophy: Cats and the Meaning of Life. Cats, says Gray, “naturally revert to equilibrium whenever they’re not hungry or threatened.” They don’t live in an imagined future.

If you know cats, you’ll recognise their “is-ness”. When a cat is paused ready to pounce, it’s supremely in that moment. When it stretches luxuriantly in the sun, it’s in that moment. Nowhere else. There.

(See my Cat Repose Practice below)

What is fear, what is anxiety, if not living in an imagined future? So I’d say, let’s find examples of now, right now, today, now. For example, as I wrote “now” – just now – the sun broke through – absolutely true – and there it was. Wow. Which suddenly switches on a poem in my brain. Not the first time I’ve quoted R S Thomas, but here it is again:

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the pearl
of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realize now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying

on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

Everyday miracles are all around, so let’s keep our eyes and ears open, and pop them in our pocket like pennies in the bank, as we keep moving.

“All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”

Judy

Also:

Breathe Like a Cat in Repose

This practice comes from my newest book, The Art of Communication

Picture a cat resting in a warm sunny spot, looking
comfortable and relaxed with its body stretched
out. See how its whole body rises and falls with the breath.
For this exercise, lie stretched out in a comfortable warm
place. Feel open and relaxed. Imagine you are that cat in the
sunshine, enjoying the beautiful relaxation of your whole
body and the gentle rise and fall of your breath – nothing
to do, nowhere to go, just the pleasure of this luxurious
moment and the feeling of effortless flowing movement.
The breath comes into your body like a caress. It might even
make you smile. It’s amazing how little you need to do to
breathe fully.

My TEDx Talk 

How Your Voice Touches Others: The true meaning of what you say

How can you engage with people if you aren’t expressing in your voice what you want to convey? Talking at each other is NOT communication! When you and your voice are one, ah, then you connect powerfully.

Coaching in 2020

Most coaches are used to telephone and video coaching and know how well it works. Without leaving your own home you can engage a coach and grow into a more confident and capable person for your career and relationships. You don’t need to be at a particular level professionally or even have a job to seek out a coach. Coaching takes you where you are at and gives you more self-assurance and sense of being the person you were meant to be.  Don’t hang back because you’re not sure if it’s for you. I can’t think of anyone it doesn’t benefit. If you want an informal chat to find out more, get in touch with me initially at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Simple short ecourses

Sign up for a free E-course to enjoy at home (I never share your email with anyone).

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation
How to Raise Your Profile

Talks

Let me know if you’d like me to give a talk to your organisation – on communication, conversation, confidence, voice, connection, interactive leadership, or a subject to decide between us. Contact me in the first instance at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

My Books

The Art of Communication
You’ll find my latest book especially helpful if you want to find ways to be more real in your connection with others. We live in times where “living the image” has become endemic, and it chokes off genuine problem solving. This is true for our relations with people close to us just as much as for solving the world’s ills.

The Art of Conversation
Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – it offers 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

My new ‘guru’ … well, I don’t believe in gurus

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Is “walking the talk” all it’s cracked up to be?

What is excellent leadership really made of?

I don’t even believe in gurus, but here’s my new one

There’s a well-used tiny book my mother-in-law kept by her bed in her last days that has now come to us. It measures about the same as an old iphone and is covered in scuffed leather, the spine broken, with a faded title embossed in the leather:

THE MEDITATIONS OF MARCVS AVRELIVS.

The Meditations is a kind of manual on how to live (and die) as a fine human being, written by a world leader. (See quotes for a flavour.) Marcus Aurelius, 121 – 180 CE, was born into a patrician family, and eventually became Roman Emperor, ruler over 60-70 million people from the Middle East to Britain. He was also well-known as a philosopher. I find what he says highly relevant today.

This edition was published in 1899, so clearly wasn’t new to my mother-in-law. From time to time, I leaf through it or allow it to open randomly to read a page. Today, I started from the beginning. Book 1 plunges straight in with no preamble:

“From my grandfather Verus, a good disposition and control of my temper.”

“From my mother, respect for religion, and a love of liberality; and the habit not only of checking evil actions, but also of repressing evil thoughts. From her, also, a simple way of living, and avoidance of luxury.”

In the next 19 pages, in considerable detail, Marcus Aurelius lists positive traits, attributes and values he has received from his family, tutors, friends and other people in his life. Don’t you think it’s remarkable – odd even, for a world leader – to start with 19 pages of gratitude?

I thought I’d have a go myself. Once I begin to remember how good fortune has come to me, it’s uncanny: every time I come across something that I think I achieved on my own, I find it’s never so. Indeed, there’s invariably a whole chain of different instances of ­­­­­help I’ve received on the way.

For instance, I was hugely proud of winning one of only two scholarships to an excellent private high school, after performing particularly well in the 11 plus exam. But I was really practised in intelligence tests, having spent 2 years in the top year of my junior Catholic school practising them day after day. My parents thought of that school because my aunt was dancing teacher there. They couldn’t afford it – but a wealthy great aunt offered to pay. I had 2 years in the top class because I was so young that the head teacher advised my parents to keep me at junior school an extra year. I was young for my year because my mother had taught me to read fluently before I ever went to school. I was quick with arithmetic because my father would play endless mathematical games with us when we were small.

And so it continues. I can take any personal achievement, throughout my life and find a chain of interventions from others that helped it to come about. In fact, for later achievements the chain gets longer and the serendipities ever more crucial. It certainly puts things in perspective.

I’m sure you have your own stories. Try it.

I’m thinking about it today, because one of the gifts of gratitude – apart from making you feel good  – is the way in which it makes other people more real for you. Gratitude is a reckoning but it’s also a feeling; and you cannot feel gratitude to another human being without catching their humanity. When I feel grateful to the postman for bringing me a wanted parcel, I acknowledge his reality – today it’s the reality that he’s tramping the streets, 8 or more miles a day, in temperatures of 34° to bring the post.

If, on the other hand, you think or pretend that you’ve achieved everything on your own, you neglect the people who are part of your story. Eventually, you actually believe that you got your prestigious well-paid job entirely on merit, forgetting early comfort and advantage, financial or other support, superior private education, connections to powerful people and much else. You forget. Neglecting the relevance of others leads irrevocably to cruelty. If you don’t even notice the mouse, how are you going to realise your foot is on its neck? I wonder idly if any of our classically trained political leaders today have come across Marcus Aurelius at all?

The ancient Greeks – classical education again – tell of the Lethe, river of oblivion, that brings you forgetfulness if you drink of it. Their word letheia means oblivion or forgetfulness. We live in forgetful times, I think.

But they also have a word with the opposite meaning. A-letheia means unforgetfulness, unconcealment – everything laid out in the open – and this is their word for truth.

I really like this definition of truth. The best leaders don’t forget; they don’t conceal. They don’t stand higher than everyone else thinking only of themselves, forgetting connection. No, they see cause and effect laid out in the open; they remember, they see people.

My daughter, as a child violinist, was asked to play viola in the National Children’s Orchestra. She found she loved it. The viola doesn’t usually get a star role; it’s neither the highest string instrument not the lowest; its tone is mellow. She explained her delight. The viola is right in the middle of the harmony, so really matters, and as a viola player you feel the wonderful sensation of bringing the harmony together with the sounds you make. You matter hugely, but your contribution is largely unnoticed until it’s absent.

I think great leaders have that. They matter hugely, but they don’t stand at the front like a peacock, primping and strutting their stuff, bending their small head decorated with a shock of beautiful hair with little knowledge of anything beyond their own superiority (and then leaving the female to get on with building the nest). On the contrary; they’re in the middle of everything that happens, their finger on the pulse. They have an acute sense of the whole, and they value contribution – they know gratitude.

When you notice any enterprise working well in this life, look out for the viola player, that person without whom nothing happens. It isn’t always instantly obvious. Ask yourself, who is the linch pin? For sure, they won’t be sitting in luxury on the top floor or constantly seeking the limelight. You’ll find them down where people are, validating, encouraging, bringing people together to achieve, and inspiring connection and gratitude.

– which of course is where I started.

Go well!
Judy

Plus

My Books

The Art of Conversation (2014) has sold many more copies so far than The Art of Communication (2019), but to my mind The Art of Communication is many ways the more exciting book. If you have come across both, tell me what you think.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms will still hit the spot if you are looking for ways to overcome performance nerves, shyness, timidity, awkwardness, stage fright … you know, all that stuff that none of us is really immune to.

Not forgetting: Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies, the best book for dipping into to solve vocal issues.

And Voice of Influence, my first and fundamental statement of what I’m about – how to find your own voice and use it to influence those around you.

Coaching

This year of uncertainty is a great time for coaching. You don’t need to be at a particular level professionally or even have a job to seek out a coach. Coaching takes you where you are at and gives you more confidence and sense of being the person you were meant to be.  Don’t hang back because you’re not sure if it’s for you. I can scarcely think of anyone it doesn’t benefit. If you want an informal chat to find out more, get in touch with me at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Talks

Email me at  judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk if you’d like me to give a talk or run a workshop in your organisation – on communication, conversation, confidence, voice, connection, interactive leadership or the subject of any of my books. I’d be delighted to discuss options with you.

 

 

 

Truth Seeking, Detective Work and Scepticism

Question+everything_c61372_4372075This fine summer continues. And I’m feeling out of control. With coronavirus here to stay and immunity probably short-lived… With climate creeping towards the cataclysm… With the state of the country – What can I do? Vote? My constituency’s been the same since 1950… With all the lies… a few minutes checking proves them to be lies. Why aren’t we all calling them out? Why do they get away with it?

I’m asking myself this last question as I listen to the podcast of Greta Thunberg (Summer with Greta) describing the tumultuous past year of her life. And then she says, in her perfectly enunciated English,

“If I’ve learned anything in my travels around the world, it’s that the level of knowledge is almost non-existent.”

I think to myself, “That’s it. We don’t question things anymore. Or perhaps our education doesn’t teach us to question things anymore?”

When I lived in Rome, someone told me that Italian security devices were always trialled in Naples first, as that city was so full of rogues that if anyone anywhere could break a lock, a Neapolitan could. If a device passed that hardest of tests, it was considered secure.

Good story, and I like the strategy. When I look at school teaching through this prism, I find that the whole notion of teaching children facts lacks rigor. Who tests the facts? Shouldn’t we be teaching children, Naples-style, how to test the veracity of what they are taught? (I know – against all the odds, good teachers still manage to do that). Moreover, outside school, all over the world, isn’t that what we all need now? – desperately? If ever there were a time …

Recipe for trouble? Clearly; but even so … I propose a curriculum subject called: Truth Seeking, Detective Work and Scepticism

Truth Seeking, Detective Work and Scepticism

(First, what a delightful word, scepticism: one hard c and one soft c, both followed by e or i: bang goes a spelling rule straightaway, how satisfying.)  First lesson can be about the limitations of facts and rules – they all have limitations.

My own education was full of rules and facts. My Oxbridge-educated history teacher taught us to make notes, precise and numbered just the way she spoke it. E.g. “There were 4 reasons for the outbreak of the War of Spanish Succession: first …  second …”, all cut and dried. It was a bit like the 1930s book, 1066 and All That by W C Sellar, (brilliantly ironic but that’s another story), which classifies events as “a Good Thing” or “a Bad Thing” – just so as you know.

This describes fairly accurately Michael Gove’s approach as Education Secretary in 2011. Gove said he wanted more “facts” in England’s national curriculum – by which he meant an unironic 1066 version of monarchs, generals, wars and empire (benevolent, British). He also wanted to pin down language with factual labels such as modal verbs and fronted adverbials. (Not sure of the precise denotation of the latter, dear reader?  It’s “a word or phrase used, like an adverb, in the front of the verb or clause” as for instance, Unfortunately…,  or, Yesterday…. Glad we cleared that up – it’s still in the Primary school curriculum).

So, back to my new school course on Truth Seeking, Detective Work and Scepticism. Here are 5 simple principles to start us off:

  1. Quietly question all rules. Be sceptical about ALL facts!

Before later revisions of the curriculum, children were actually encouraged for a few years to undertake detective work in history learning and examine source materials. What a brilliant innovation to teach children to ask, “Who says so?”! Better still to follow up with “And what axe had they to grind?” but one step at a time.

History: from 1066 and All That:

“Henry VII was very good at answering the Irish Question, and made a Law called Poyning’s Law by which the Irish could have a Parliament of their own, but the English were to pass all the Acts in it. This was obviously a very Good Thing.”

“Miss, who says so.”

“Oh, er, well, the English I suppose.”

“The Roman Conquest was, however, a Good Thing, since the Britons were only natives at that time.”

“Who says so, Miss? Am I only a native, Miss?”

“The Romans said so. That’s it. No more questions.”

English:

“So, children, yesterday, – which is an example of a fronted adverbial …”

Interruption: “Miss, who says so?”

“Oh, er… well, I believe it might have been Mr Gove … or maybe Mr Rees Mogg …
oh I don’t know!  Right, that’s it. Back to the old curriculum …”

The “Who says so?” approach might then develop into learning about bias – in grown-up terms “prejudiced opinion,” “one-sided point of view,” and “specific inclination.” Later in the curriculum this would lead to discussion of unconscious bias, justice, equal opportunities, diversity and inclusion – wouldn’t that be something?

  1. Realise that huge numbers of people can be wrong all at the same time.

Flat earthers; wearers of Elizabethan (Elizabeth I) cosmetics (white lead is sooo good – who knew it killed you?!); voters for Hitler and other conscienceless demigods since; the millions of followers of all religions that aren’t your own true religion if you have one; climate emergency deniers; people who think coronavirus is over (Bournemouth Beach was sooo good – who knew it killed you?!); people who sit down with calorific beverages and watch people running about with a ball instead of running about with a ball themselves (sorry, delete the last) …

Realise that weight of numbers of itself never makes something right or wise.

  1. Understand that facts depend on your perspective

Example of male perspective:

The sleeping tablet Ambien is one of the most commonly used insomnia and jet lag treatments in the world. Yet a decade or so after its approval, reports emerged in 2013 that women taking the recommended dose were behaving bizarrely or having accidents. They discovered that the recommended dosage was based on men and was double what it should be and actually dangerous for women. This situation is still mirrored in numerous pharmeceuticals today. Who knew?

Examples of wealth perspective:

“Lockdown: just stay in your house, walk in your garden and enjoy life at home with some exercise in your local park or countryside.”
Hmm, excuse me – two bedroomed 24th floor flat in city suburb, no garden, gig economy sporadically employed partner, 3 children of different ages to home school, no computers, precious little money coming in, eviction imminent, food cupboard bare? … who knew?

Find out exactly who is stating the fact, and what their interest might be in the matter.

  1. Realise that a fact always omits more than it tells you.

Do you remember the positive comments phase in primary schools a while ago, when teachers were strongly encouraged to write only positive statements in children’s reports? Facts maybe, but not very enlightening. Parents who wanted to pick up anything useful had to learn the art of reading between the lines. After a while, it became perfectly clear to everyone that, “Johnnie sometimes cooperates with other children on tasks” meant “Johnnie is a pain in the neck, and catastrophically disrupts lessons 99% of the time.”

With similar reasoning we might state confidently that, “Edward Colston (of the famous statue) beneficently endowed schools, alms-houses and hospitals in Bristol. This was a good thing.” And a fact, as far as that goes. But, as we now know too well, it is far from the whole story of that buyer and seller of slaves, so far-from, you would say, as to constitute an outrageous lie about who he really was.

Many “facts” are extremely slippery. A fact never tells the whole story.

  1. Get one step ahead of other people’s dishonest tricks

In The Art of Always Being Right, or 38 Ways to Win an Argument written 125 years ago, Arthur Schopenhauer collected dishonest tricks debaters use and explained how they worked. It’s partly the art of logic, but also understanding how to deal with obfuscation, diversion, full frontal attack and shamelessness. It’s a gold mine if you want to win arguments AND if you want ways to counter people who use dirty tricks in debate.

For example, trick 2: “Use different meanings of your opponent’s words to refute his or her argument.”

One of many subterfuges used by the Leave campaign in the EU Referendum was always to refer to an invented word “Brexit”, instead of talking about the act of leaving the EU. Once you have an abstract term it can mean what you want it to mean, and you can change the meaning mid-sentence in an argument. “Brexit” has worn thousands of different hats in the past 4 years! Thus, the hidden joke of “Brexit [what you think it means] means Brexit [what I think it means!]”. You can even use sleight of hand to “get Brexit done”.

Here’s the whole list of Schopenhauer’s stratagems if you’re interested. Such tricks are employed by politicians and business people all over the world – it’s a great list to study if you wish to survive the next decade! You could of course, heaven forfend, study it to become the next populist leader; but I hope you will see it as a powerful tool for countering attacks on the public good.

My hope

Imagine a future where young people grow up with greater understanding of how things work, where it is much harder to hypnotise them with parseltongue. Where they can’t be manipulated with hate campaigns, false bogeymen such as immigrants or false gods such as fool’s gold or populist ‘saviours’. Where they appreciate the subtle hinterland of “facts”. Where they understand humour, irony and speaking between the lines. Where they are able to hear falsehood in a tone of voice and feel truths that are unsayable. Essential for the highest leadership too. Now there’s an education! There’s some hope for humanity!

My facts? Your facts? Pouf! Nonsense!  To quote Einstein (as always),

Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.

I’m sure the remarkable Greta Thunberg would agree.

Warm good wishes to all,

Judy

 

Plus

Time to blow my own trumpet – was in lockdown for too long!

Just heard, my book The Voice of Influence is being translated into Arabic – to be published after Christmas. So that’s 11 languages now.

Recent email to me from someone who read The Art of Conversation in lockdown:

“Your book ‘The Art of Conversation’ is really great – warm, accepting, celebrating the possibilities of conversation, realistic about challenges, but also giving easy and fun exercises, pointing the way towards practice and skill.  So many thanks. I have never written to an author to thank them for their book before – you are the first!”

I’m on a roll! A colleague in Canada sent me this on my TEDx talk:

“I watched the video of your TED talk with enormous admiration. It was superb as to both content and delivery. I believe in your message about the benefits of speaking in your real voice but it’s a risky thing to do. It takes courage because you become vulnerable and that’s too scary for many people. I think it’s well worth the risk because that’s the only way one can really reach people, – along with listening with empathy to what they have to say in response.”

Finally, Tim Salau’s My Weekend Read:

The Art Of Communication [my most recent book]. Here’s some of the things you’ll appreciate about this book: ~ Whole-Mind listening: Listening with both your left and right-hemispheres of the brain to capture emotional depth, tone of voice, and other specifics. ~ How to guide a conversation: Even unexpected conversations can lead to powerful realizations. ~ The power of vulnerability in conversation. It’s a strength and a sign of trust. Dear product manager, add this to your COVID-19 reading list!👍🏾 Thank you, Judy Apps♥️

Okay, I don’t do this very often. Just now and then!

Coaching

This year of uncertainty is a great time for coaching. Coaching is for those who are so full of promise that they deserve help to fly high. It’s also for those who are struggling. It’s for leaders who are senior enough to be isolated, and for those who are just stepping into new roles. It’s for business success; it’s for personal relationships. So don’t hang back because you think you’re not quite the kind of person who has coaching. It’s more than likely that you’re exactly  the kind of person who will benefit. If you want to talk to me about it, get in touch at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Talks

Let me know if you’d like me to give a talk to your organisation – on communication, conversation, confidence, voice, connection, interactive leadership, or a subject to decide between us. Contact me in the first instance at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

The first springtime of my life

The Thrree Witches

The Thrree Witches

I turn left out of the house, up onto the green, and then through the woods and onto the narrow road that runs by a stream where I sometimes see a heron. No one around. Quiet, unusually quiet. And the air is clean and cold, a bright April day in this first springtime of my life.

 

We’ve all been blindsided by this bolt from the blue. Those who are on the front line are perhaps busier than ever before. And those who are self-isolating – me, us – we have all the time in the world. How is it for you? I have time to write words; except with all the time in the world, words don’t come. I’ve lost the way to words that seem helpful or worth saying. Nevertheless, I’m writing at last.

For the past 3 years, I’ve been infected by a kind of obsessive angry energy with Brexit as the underlying theme. Now those voices have gone quiet, and I realise that the country itself was in a similar state, unable to look beyond the single issue. Disaster planning must have been way down the list of issues that weren’t being dealt with. Which makes this an accident waiting to happen, you might say. It certainly feels as if we’ve all suddenly woken up.

Personally, I discovered that my current isolation didn’t immediately turn me towards the pursuit of all those desires I’d never had time for before. I’ve been gardening and cleaning the house and enjoying it, but for me currently they’re merely displacement activities – a substitute for my former busy-ness. I would have imagined that with time on my hands I might have turned to painting, creative writing or music, but I haven’t, at least not yet. It’s been a step to knowing myself, to recognise that, “If I had time, I would …” wasn’t true. I got time. And I didn’t. Makes you think, doesn’t it, “If this isn’t true of me, what else?”

If anything, I’ve turned to philosophy.

Lots of little revelations. “I like clothes, but I wear them for my own pleasure” was another lie – at home now, what I wear doesn’t matter to me at all.

I discovered that I’m not quite as nice as I want to think I am. First thoughts: have we got enough food supplies? Have we got our delivery slot? Or, as they used to say on flights, “Put on your own life jacket first” Yes, I’m in that camp.

At the same time, I realise now that relationship is the only thing that matters. At 25 I wanted to achieve life goals; I did need relationships then just as much now, but I didn’t know that I did. Now I know. At the same time, I’ve blown another myth, that I’m someone who needs to be out and about and doing, meeting people, sharing experiences. Not true, I’m actually fine at home.

I’m rediscovering my good fortune, oh am I that! Are you too? – the roof over my head, the good food I eat, my family, friends, the countryside, nature, my health and strength, the internet – that magical city of libraries-learning-theatres-films-information-resources-connection in one smart phone; humour, freedom to use my imagination, the goodness of people, especially that …

I’m seeing a bit more clearly the injustices of government and systems, and what’s rotten in our country and world. I’m realising that things I thought were essential structural elements of our society are proving to be anything but. I discover that huge change can and does happen, that money becomes available when needs must. This pandemic is powerful because it doesn’t discriminate; it affects us all, so all must take heed. It makes me think that decisions about services should never be made by people who are never going to use them and so don’t care about them. When we’re in it together (not the slogan version), when we’re actually all in it together, life becomes fairer.

Lastly, like you, I’m sure, I am overwhelmed by other people in this crisis – not the random assholes, but every single person who is being generous and brave and making life possible for the rest of us. It’s so good that we can feel a different emotion for a change – sheer love and thankfulness.

 

I’ve walked a gentle circle and I come back through the wood to a glade known locally as The Three Witches, after three giant sweet-chestnut trees with their spiralling bark. I think I may be tuning in to what endures. Like love and thankfulness, they’ve been here for ever. They’ll be here after we’ve all gone. I hope they will.

 

Wishing you so well,
Judy

 

Connection …

“Not touching, still connecting” says inspirational Five Rhythms teacher Peter Wilberforce at the beginning of each of the practices he’s recording currently on Facebook. Connection is today’s thread. My last book, The Art of Communication, grappled with that theme, as did my last year’s TEDx Talk. I think I’ll be coming back to it again in the next weeks and months too.

Connection Space

I’m currently in isolation but have phone, Skype, Zoom, Facetime and email. If anyone genuinely feels they need to talk to someone, maybe I can be a listening ear? I won’t call it coaching – not quite, and I won’t charge for it. Sometimes, even a short conversation with someone creates something new. So, whether you are a coach yourself, or a friend wanting to connect, or someone looking for some which way to turn, maybe this is a connection you want to make. Connect with me here first. And many thanks to all who can do the same for me.