Experience, huh …?

Just before my blog …

Don’t miss out! We are at a crucial moment in history for right-brain thinking.split brain

Here at the top – so that you see it! – just one week to go for the early bird rate for my Masterclass, Coaching and the HeART of Conversation on 17 October.

Don’t miss out on this event of the year! It’s going to be amazing… You don’t need to be a coach, but you do need to be interested in how we communicate with each other. Booking and more detail here.

The Masterclass will include material from my new book, REAL COMMUNICATION – Conversation That Matters in a World of Small Talk to be published by Capstone.

You will learn:

How to engage the attention of the right hemisphere of your brain to pick up subtleties of communication

How to catch deeper insights within the unpredictability and spontaneity of a coaching (or any) conversation

How to connect with wholehearted empathy without being sucked into the other person’s troubles

and much more.

 

And now, here’s my blog

Experience, huh?Demo+Sprinter+Image

It was early autumn, hint of chill in the air, a time of restarting, schools back, I was in my late 20’s, and after several years studying singing in Italy, I returned to the UK …

— and no job.

I wanted to be singing, but work in music was not coming. In the end I took a job driving a minibus with a London coach and tour company (I should have called this piece “From Coach to Coach”…). They helped me pass my Public Service Vehicle test as a coach driver, and also supported me in training to become an official Blue Badge London Tour Guide.

I wanted to be singing; I felt frustrated and disappointed. I didn’t want to be a bus driver – or even a tour guide.

However, I wasn’t bored: far from it. Every day was really different. Let me give you a flavour:

  • I drove disabled or excluded children to school, and teams to football matches.
  • I did endless day tours of London, Windsor and Hampton Court, driving and then guiding my visitors around the famous buildings. I did day trips to Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and Cambridge, Stonehenge and Canterbury, giving tourists the history of the places. I ran art tours around the British Museum and the National Gallery.
  • I swabbed down my minibus in the early morning with other coach drivers and then went down to the Greasy Spoon for breakfast.
  • I led weeklong holidays to Wales, Yorkshire, Cornwall and other parts of the UK, including a Scottish study-tour with American musicologists featuring harp making and a Presbyterian fire-and-brimstone sermon in Gaelic. At the end of the day, I’d get out my watercolours and find a landscape to paint. I guided a group from the congregation of President George Bush’s church in Midland, Texas on a tour of Ireland.
  • I did Italian language tours everywhere, and once lost (and found) an Italian in Stratford.
  • I drove film entourages to days of filming — John Cleese one day and Cliff Richard another. I ate non-stop for a day from film set catering while a company recorded an advertisement. I went to Phil Collins’ house for a recording day, plus a day of filming, mostly Beetles-like on a pedestrian crossing, with the Kings Singers.
  • I drove foreign diplomats around for the Government’s Central Office of Information to meetings with British companies – and parked my minibus once in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.
  • I drove architects to look at new towns, businessmen to visit cement works, public servants to look at state-of-the-art rubbish recycling plants.
  • I sat waiting for hours in the minibus and learned my music scores.

At the time, I sometimes felt frustrated that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing. I certainly didn’t see the work as anything useful, and I doubt whether family and friends did either. A friend disparagingly referred to us both as “under-achievers”.

 

Now, however, I look back and see what a wonderful apprenticeship it was for what I do now. As Steve Jobs famously said – it’s impossible to join up the dots forwards; they only make sense looking backwards. I realise now that those four or so years in my twenties gave me much that I appreciate every day today. It’s as if pieces of the jigsaw have come together and now make sense.

Let me count some of the ways:

  • I met a wide cross-section of people of different ages, cultures and interests, which taught me about connection and broadened my awareness of the world.
  • I had loads of experience in public speaking, and became very good at adlibbing to groups – especially in long traffic jams in central London!
  • I discovered what humour hit its mark with a group. I also learned that people are endlessly hilarious.
  • I learned many facts – that well-educated people are not always intelligent and that manual workers often are; that you can lug heavy cases onto the roof of a minibus and still retain your dignity (just); that the world is full of amazing things, including cement factories and an arsenal of ordnance underneath Salisbury Plain; that the King of Jordan is not tall (I stood next to him) and that Iona has the most beautiful empty beach in the world when you catch it on a sunny evening in May.

So, in this season of new starts, maybe you are setting off to start something new or maybe you’re stuck with what you don’t want to do. I’d say, whatever it is, don’t knock it – there’s gold there somewhere. The aforementioned Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates that it was a random course in calligraphy after he had officially dropped out of university that provided the foundation for Apple computers’ gorgeous graphics later. Joining up the dots …

A woman who does valuable work in psychotherapy told me that her brutal early start in life provided the foundation for the good things she does now. You wouldn’t wish Nelson Mandela 27 years in prison; nor young Malala Yousafzai the assassination attempt; nor Oprah Winfrey her early sexual abuse – but nor can you separate who they became or are becoming from what happened in their past. The corollary is that you suddenly realise that a charmed childhood followed by Eton and Oxford with bed-makers and grand-dinner-providers and a political adviser position and a seat in Parliament isn’t in fact charmed at all. Where’s the breadth in that? Of course, (oh, dear) charmed childhood, high school and university describe me too …

Which is why I want to suggest:

– that single focus and narrow experience is seldom a blessing;

– and that experiences of any sort, good, bad and indifferent, can be valuable and
motivating in later life, if you can integrate them sufficiently to use their gold.

How do you do that?

You work to release blame, not fair and poor me, and ask yourself instead, “Yes, okay, rubbish, boring, brutal, unconscionable, I’d rather it hadn’t happened – any of which may be true – but:

How are these experiences part of my becoming the best of me – now?”

Go well,

Judy

PS Did I remind you about the fabulous Masterclass, Coaching and the HeART of Conversation on 17 October – early bird only till this week-end? Oh, I did? Go for it!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Bottom Line

Bottom Line 1unnamed

When you work in the area of people development, you’re often invited to submit a proposal, and in the past I understood that decision makers wanted to know how the proposed intervention was going to affect the bottom line of the company. So I would tailor my proposal to attempt to provide an answer to this question.

I always felt awkward about it, not only because the causal relationship between people and profit – though significant – is seldom a direct one, but also because I never believed that the bottom line was the bottom line. Money is almost always NOT the bottom line for human beings. Yet, it seems okay for companies – that consist of and are created by and for human beings – to have profit as their bottom line, and for their leaders to make decisions based entirely on return on investment.

Is money really the only consideration for a company? Naïve question, you might think. But I don’t think so. It matters, yes. But is it the only consideration?

There are certainly myriad examples of how money as the bottom line creates distortion. Take sugary drinks: soft drinks companies make millions but create addiction to sugar resulting in widespread obesity (extremely costly, though not for the drinks company, we presume). False safety checks on cars have enabled more cars to be sold – though clearly noxious to health – and a criminal practice that backfired. The gig economy creates wealth but all too frequently through uncertainty and lack of basic guarantees for workers. Heavy-duty plastic wrapping for fruit and vegetables makes for longer shelf life and profitable speed at checkouts, but destroys the planet with plastic waste. Hefty corporations make the lowest bid for work while promising good practice, efficiency and effectiveness, yet fail disturbingly often to provide adequate services in an increasing bid for profit. Changing conditions for care-workers so that they are not paid for journeys between clients and have impossibly reduced time to provide care makes money for the care company but exploits its workers. Business decisions that make sense in terms of profits today maybe at the expense of harming the company tomorrow.

The term “bottom line” has two meanings.

  • One comes from the total at the bottom of a balance sheet and refers to financial considerations such as cost or profit and loss. I’ve been using this meaning so far.
    .
  • The second means the fundamental and most important factor. The bottom line in a negotiation would be the single crucial sine qua non you want from the negotiation – the non-negotiable, if you like.

Bottom Line 2

So, presuming that you don’t make money just for the excitement of the chase or to create a pile of gold to look at,

What do you earn money for? What is the bottom line, in this second sense, for you?

I have heard many answers to this question – such as: satisfaction at work, a roof over our heads, food for my family, wellbeing, leisure, comfort, luxury, increased freedom, more possibilities, love… The answers often involve values.

The corollary of this question is:

What injustices, fabrications or unkindness do you go along with in order to keep your job?

How many times do you shut your eyes or look the other way?

What personal values are trodden on as a result?

Conflicts of values are exhausting and harmful for us. Many illnesses and mental breakdowns are created by such conflicts. Plus, we diminish our thinking powers by numbing ourselves to our own truth.

So …?

Life’s complicated — it’s the economy, stupid; people have to work. But one step might be to open our eyes to what matters to us and what we believe. This will make us consciously aware when someone or something tramples on our values. For example, if honesty is a fundamental for you – a bottom line – you are going to suffer in an environment where economy with the truth is the norm.

In what ways might you respect what matters to you when your values are threatened?

Or even,

What changes do you need to plan in your life to move away from a noxious environment?

I don’t discount small changes. When I moved from a challenging partnership to working on my own, I built a website and promoted my work in a way that felt more authentic and truthful. As time went on, even my proposals to companies reflected my beliefs more. These changes were positive for my sense of me, good for relationships and, well I never, pretty good for business too.

What’s your bottom line? I have this picture of a fishing line going down into the depths of an ocean to the deepest places. What emerges from your deepest places regarding what really matters to you? Is it health… wellbeing… peace… love…? I could say with plenty of validity that business success is enhanced by bringing such values into the workplace, but that would be to express the relationship upside-down. Fulfilment comes from being aware of these aspects of you and holding them as your compass for action and change.

I’ve found a quote to pin on my wall this week …

Your life is like a coin. You can spend it anyway you want, but only once. Make sure you invest it and don’t waste it. Invest it in something that matters to you and matters for eternity.  ― Tony Evens

And to honour both sunshine and my theme, a short poem from 14th century Hafiz:

Even
After
All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth,

“You owe me.”

Look
What happens
With a love like that,
It lights the whole sky.

Happy summertime,

Judy

You are warmly invited to my one-day
Masterclass on 17 October 2018:

Coaching and the HeART of Conversation

in Guildford, (courtesy of Guildford Coaches Group) for coaches and others interested in communication and conversation

What does new information emerging from neuroscience tell us about the different attention of the two hemispheres of the brain and its urgent relevance to our communication with each other? And how do we bring the full presence of our humanity into our coaching and conversation so that something new and creative can be born?

A rich day of lively exploration and personal experience with the aim of allowing something new to emerge in each of us

More details – and booking for both Guildford Coaches Group members and others here.  
(or copy the following to your browser: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/coaching-and-the-heart-of-conversation-tickets-47400353734)

Do hope you can join us at this special one-day event.

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Thank you to everyone who has given me their consent to continue emailing my newsletters. If I’m sending this to you in error or you want to remove your name, please click Unsubscribe at the bottom of any newsletter and you will be immediately removed from the list. Please see the new Privacy page on my website for further details on the protection of your data.

As usual, my books

The Art of Conversation — Change Your Life with Confident Communication
What an important topic! 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 — 25 Sure-fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 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 — 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.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

Money and beliefs come up against each other for every artist. I’ve just finished a highly enjoyable novel by Linda Proud on such a conflict for the great artist Fra Philippo Lippi. The composer Ralph Vaughan Williams (from Dorking where I live) wrote at the age of 18 that he was surprised when his teacher Parry declared that a composer must write music as his musical conscience demands. It was quite a new idea for the aspiring young composer.

The Vaughan Williams Singers are celebrating Vaughan Williams 60th anniversary with a concert at his former home, beautiful Leith Hill Place near Dorking, now owned by the National Trust, on Bank Holiday Monday, 27 August. As I’m involved, I thought I’d share the information with you:  https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/leith-hill-place/features/over-hill-over-dale-august-concert 

Enjoy bite-sized learning at home

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

 

 

Perhaps the Truth Depends on a Walk

Truth depends

My friends have just completed a 400-mile long walk in Portugal and Spain – in 26 days. I quickly do the maths: an average of 15+ miles a day. I’m impressed. My friend says it’s wonderful – “We just get up each day and walk: no deciding what to do, where to go, what the weather’s doing, what to wear, what to take, we just up and go.”

Now, there is a kind of walking that is focused – I’m sure my friends had their minds fixed on their goal as well as enjoying the scenery. But walking is more often an activity where conscious mental activity is absent, and that is its joy. It often represents a gap between activities – the lunchtime stroll through a park, the walk from the train station home, the quick once-up-the-local-hill with the dog.

And in this gap, good things happen.

Someone tells me that when she goes for a walk with an awkward friend, conversation that might be stilted in the house begins to flow with the rhythm of walking in the open air. Back in the day, I’d walk to an activity with my teenage son and he’d turn from taciturn into talker. (The same happened sometimes when he was sitting beside me in the car, both gazing forward).

When I am coaching, my client and I typically sit at 45%, considered professionally to be a non-threatening and equal arrangement – but some clients feel self-conscious when looked at, even at an angle – maybe walking side by side would work better for them? Certainly, there are coaches who specialise in coaching walks – walk and talk and silence, silence, talk and walk.

When I got angry one day and marched out of the house, a two-hour walk completely dissipated my anger – I could scarcely grasp the reason for it by the time I got home again with renewed energy and optimism.

So walking conversations can be in communion with someone else and sometimes they are conversations with yourself – both produce something new.

It’s fine to use a walk as thinking time, but I’m reflecting particularly on walks where there’s nothing to be accomplished, no goals, no decisions. You give your foveal vision a rest – delights spring up at the periphery – a half-hidden flower, a butterfly, a pleasing pattern on a tree trunk … Walks in the town are okay too, but a walk in the countryside puts human presence more on the edge of things. Nature impresses with its permanence yet is always different. Today sunlight is creating dappled sun and shade under the trees; a few months ago, tree trunks stood out against the hill in dark silhouette. The day you venture out in wind and rain against your saner judgement, you come back wet and wind-battered with adrenaline coursing through your veins and you think, “Wow! I’m glad I did that,” thrilled that you have a wild side after all.

The physical act of walking affects your mind, of course it does. When the writer Margaret Forster was recovering from cancer, she noticed particularly the connection between walking and writing. “It was remarkable”, she writes, “to find that walking must be somehow related to writing, that it somehow fuelled it. I’d always enjoyed walks, and seen them as an essential part of each day, but I hadn’t appreciated this strange connection. The walking loosened the writing.” (I recommend Forster’s My Life in Houses).

In last year’s Wimbledon tennis, I remember a match in which Andy Murray was visibly suffering from a hip injury. This of course affected his speed and flexibility of movement. But it clearly affected his thinking and judgement too, much more than you could attribute just to his physical state. Lack of physical balance and wellbeing affect mental and emotional wellbeing too. When I had a bad back I discovered the truth of this for myself; when I couldn’t walk I couldn’t think well either.

Sometimes these days I’m surprised to spot a piece of new research that proves a connection between mind and body – as if it were something new. Who could ever think that mind and body were not connected? Often physicality unlocks something that was stuck, where any amount of thinking and feeling has failed.

So here’s something you might like to try:

Think of something that you want to be able to do or something you’re struggling with, and consider separately the thinking, feeling and physiology of it. Then change your physiology.

For example, feeling daunted? Stand up tall and strong but relaxed, and breathe fully for a few moments; notice how that introduces something new into your feeling and thinking.

Is your brain bursting with too much to think about and decide? Feeling overwhelmed? Go walking in nature for at least an hour, preferably two, putting one foot steadily in front of the other, and pay attention to your surroundings. Notice how different you feel on your return.

And here’s a speaking tip:

If you lose courage for a moment on the platform or make a mistake, move a few steps away from where you were standing and take a deep breath. You’ll find that your brain resets and your poise returns – even perhaps your sense of humour.

Feeling under the weather, walk; in any weather walk; if you are able – walk. But don’t set conditions on it. In life’s paradoxical way, walking is most restorative when you don’t demand that it restores you or cures you, or fulfils an aim. Don’t ask anything of it.

The early 20th Century American writer Alfred Kazin sums up the power of walking most beautifully in Open Street:

“Walking I am unbound, and find that precious unity of life and imagination, that silent outgoing self, which is so easy to lose, but which at high moments seems to start up again from the deepest rhythms of my own body.  How often have I had this longing for an infinite walk – of going unimpeded, until the movement of my body as I walk fell into the flight of streets under my feet – until I in my body and the world in its skin of earth were blended into a single act of knowing.”

It’s a grand time of year for walking :-)

Go well,

Judy

You are warmly invited to my
One-day Masterclass on 17 October 2018

Coaching and the HeART of Conversation

in Guildford, (courtesy of Guildford Coaches Group)
for coaches and others interested in communication and conversation

What does new information emerging from neuroscience tell us about the different attention of the two hemispheres of the brain and its urgent relevance to our communication with each other? And how do we bring the full presence of our humanity with all its frailties into our coaching and conversation so that something new and miraculous can be born?

A rich day of lively exploration and personal experience with the aim of allowing something new to emerge in each of us

More details here.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ec2Iukkr8ivkkzKYXJNwEK49wFBPLEEbuEUVG4FUqO0/edit?usp=sharing

To book, complete the registration form here.

 https://judyapps.us6.list-manage.com/track/click?u=187dc8c293&id=8e1d2aa726&e=6f63167e9e

Or simply email me to register your interest or to ask me more about it.

 mailto:Judyapps@voiceofinfluence.co.uk ((Guildford coaches email me to join list)

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Enjoy bite-size learning at home

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

Communication Skills in More Detail

(in my books!)

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! 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 – offering 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.

 

A Walking Coach

My colleague Karen Liebenguth – compassionate coach & mindfulness trainer of Green Space Coaching – has many years’ experience of coaching in the open air. See http://greenspacecoaching.com for details of what she offers.

 

My Life and Executive Coaching and Voice Coaching

Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

 

And for voice coaching – it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Here lies the body of Mary Ann Bent

Here lies the body of Mary Ann Bent,Mary Bent
She kicked up her heels, and away she went.

What do people say about you?

What will they say when you’re no longer around?

Did you ever have secret names for people when you were a child? My siblings and I used to call one neighbour “Mrs Dominoes and Solitaire”, because she once babysat for us and in an attempt to reassure my mother of her ability to look after us she asserted in a cut-glass voice, “Oh, everything will be just fine: I have dominoes and solitaire!” The name summed up beautifully for us her complete lack of understanding of us children together with her not entirely successful air of upper class respectability.

People reveal themselves by what they say. I used to perform around the country with a musician from Stoke on Trent, and whenever we visited a new town, he would ask, “What do people do here?” To someone like me who came from Surrey the question was a mystery. Surely a town had doctors, postmen, lawyers, nurses, teachers and the rest – just like any other town? I had a sort of Mr Bun the Baker “Happy Families” idea of what comprised a town; I never thought about where the money came from to support all those jobs. My friend wanted to know how the economy worked, what industries supported people: coming from the Potteries, he knew about industries in decline and wanted to know how people got by.

My father was very handy around the house, from painting gutters and repairing the car to fixing electric wiring and mending watches. When talking about any of these projects afterwards he always said, “It was harder than I thought.” When I grew older, I used to think that surely he should have the measure of difficulty for any job by then. But now when I think of him, I wonder if it was a gentle request to be praised for his effort and skill, even though he would have shrugged off any plaudits. Or was it his summing up of life in general?

I think in my own history, one overused word was “just”, as in “I’ll just pop this letter in the post and then I’ll be with you.” “I’ll just finish this report – I won’t be a moment.” In other words, I was always in a rush, cramming in things in, and fearful of letting people down. Or was it that I wanted to be seen to be busy? I see my epitaph now, “Time just ran out.”

The title of the story of your life

We are defined by what we say most often. Those words could be seen as the title of our life’s story.

Someone I know used to say, “Life’s out to get you” – a fantastic formula for meeting trouble if ever there was one. Imagine that line running through your head as you embarked on any project or went to meet anyone. And the final epitaph: “Life got’im in the end!”

Another I’ve heard often is “Can’t complain”, which I read as, “Just look at my wordless suffering and the word ‘victim’ emblazoned on my forehead!”

The favourite word of a public services department in which I once worked was “they”, as in, “They’ve changed my hours!” “They’ve cut overtime!” “Look what they’ve done now!”– “they” representing all the reasons for people to feel resentful. Have you come across working cultures like that too?

Attention

The words we say most frequently show what we give attention to. If we give attention to everything that’s going wrong, we’re feeding those negative parts of our life and encouraging them to multiply. Try encouraging the opposite with questions like, “What was good yesterday?” “What’s working for me at the moment?” and “What do I want to happen?”

You may be familiar with three important areas of attention, time, money and energy. They all pose questions:

Time

You may feel that you don’t have much autonomy about your use of time, but how you spend your time determines who you become. If you don’t spend any time on what actually matters to you, you’re going to find life dissatisfying.

What would you have to do or indeed not do to free up more time for what you really care about?

Money

It’s easy to see inconsistencies in other people when they declare that they haven’t money for a certain thing and you notice that they spent freely on something else. How you accumulate and spend money announces loud and clear your priorities in life.

What is your attitude to money, and what does it say about who you are?

Energy

How you expend your energy determines what you attract in life, be it abundance, joy, worry, need, excitement or peace.

What drains your mental or physical energy and what would you like to give more energy to?

What’s your life’s story called?

We spend our attention on certain things and so we create a whole life. What would you like people to say about you after you die? Here are some epitaphs:

  • Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty that I’m free at last
    Martin Luther King’s epitaph sums up his life’s quest for freedom.
  • I told you I was ill” (in Irish)
    Spike Milligan’s gives us a final taste of his alternative humour.
  • I had a lover’s quarrel with the world
    Robert Frost gives us a poet’s insight into the paradox of living.

I once played a game with friends making up epitaphs for ourselves and each other – it made us all laugh a lot – and proved revealing at the same time. Have you tried it? What is the story of your life called? What would you like it to be called? Ah, yes, what would you like it to be called?

Go well. Enjoy the promised spring sunshine!

Judy

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Books

I’m writing a new book and it’s very slow! Meanwhile, do dip into my other books. If you’ve enjoyed any of my books, would you write a review on Amazon?– short as you like.

Voice of Influence

– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You …a fascinating mind-body approach to finding your authentic voice and expressing yourself with integrity, presence and passion. (Judith Lowe NLP Trainer) Should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to learn how to communicate more effectively and how to be more authentic and charismatic in putting across their messages.(Celia Morris, T & D Mgr Railways, MottMacDonald)

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

– 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence … I love the elegance, accessibility and clarity of this book and shall certainly be recommending it to clients and colleagues alike. (Kate Burton, coach and author of For Dummies guides to NLP, Coaching and Confidence) If you’ve ever faced the fear of public speaking, this brilliant book is essential reading! Judy Apps provides super strategies for becoming a confident communicator. Her easy-to-learn and thorough approach tackles every aspect of speaking with great examples, stories and exercises. (Arielle Essex, author of Compassionate Coaching)

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

Not another presentation or public speaking primer, this book schools you in timeless principles that work equally well when addressing packed stadiums, in intimate gatherings and even during one–to–one conversations.

The Art of Conversation

– Change Your Life with Confident Communication … What is it that some people have naturally which enables them to converse comfortably and easily, to engage people and build better relationships? The Art of Conversation will show you step by step how to converse skilfully and enjoyably with other people, at home, at work, on the phone and in the street- even if you’re daunted now, discover the difference good conversation can make in every aspect of your life.

Download some of my E-courses

(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

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need a nudge? Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

If you’re on my mailing list, to continue to receive my (typically monthly or less) newsletters, please EMAIL ME HERE WITH “Consent” IN THE SUBJECT LINE.

 

Limitations and Mistakes

download-2What would you be proud to read on your gravestone? Judging by the advertised efforts of many people’s lives, I imagine that some would like to see,

          At least 
        I didn't make 
        any mistakes

If I found such an inscription, I’d be tempted to add the graffiti,

e x c e p t  d y i n g,  o b v i o u s l y

How well we’ve all been taught to believe that mistakes are bad! “Oh, only 98%?” asks the kindly father of a conscientious student; “What about the other 2%?” “How can I best help?” thinks the teacher, “Oh, point out all the mistakes, obviously.”

In the face of such criticism, we learn to blame others, to reason our way out of difficulties and especially to invent fine excuses (even to ourselves). Politicians and company bosses never make mistakes, have you noticed? Wouldn’t you love to hear a politician put their current intelligence and wisdom down to the number of mistakes they’ve made getting there rather than parrot the only too familiar, “I’ve done nothing wrong”?

A young artist I know has set himself the challenge of creating a daily ink drawing without correction – whatever he sets down on the page stays. His method is producing some beautiful images. Sometimes a ‘mistake’ is used to take his design in a different direction from the original idea, often resulting in something superior to his original plan. So his deliberate self-limitation in not correcting mistakes actually aids his creativity.

Wonderful inventions sometimes occur after a mistake or disaster, when a scientist allows his creativity free rein. The chance discovery of penicillin through a petri dish culture growth that “went wrong” is well known. A more rigid mind would have missed the clue in the “failed” experiment.

An engineer working for Canon thoughtlessly put his soldering iron down on his pen and then, as the pen heated up, ink squirted out of the nib. Instead of annoyance, he foresaw the invention of the inkjet printer.

Viagra was developed to treat patients with angina. When the scientists noticed its famous effect during trials, instead of cursing an unwanted by-product, they envisaged a new use. It is now the most popular medication in the US for treating impotence.

Creative people don’t mind mistakes, and even welcome limitations. If an artist finds himself with only chalk and slate, or sand on a tidal beach, he makes use of what he has, not as a limitation but as an opportunity. In fact, limitations excite the artist’s creative mind, and provoke fresh ideas. Being given the challenge to fit a poetic idea into fourteen lines or a painting into a limited palette helps the unconscious in its creativity. Even a tight deadline gets the juices going. An unsolved problem or impasse pump-primes the process. Necessity is indeed the mother of invention.

Some of the stories are inspiring. The Italian violin maker Antonio Stradivari, whose violins are still considered the very best 300 years after his death, made some amazing violins from seeing possibility in discarded broken waterlogged oars he found in the docks in Venice.

The creators of prehistoric cave paintings at Lascaux in France used natural shapes and imperfections in the rock face as features of their designs. Sculptors are stimulated to use faults in natural marble and wood as essential parts of the form.  The great Japanese painter Hakuin’s simple O painted with a single rapid brush stroke arouses more passion in the beholder than any perfect circle.

Mistakes in work throw up new possibilities. A successful film-maker interviewed on a radio programme recently suggested that his tight budget had been a blessing in disguise. He said, “If you have money you order from a list, if not, you have to think of new ways to make things happen.”

One of the best places to find creative mistakes is in improvisation. J S Bach, Mozart and Leonardo Da Vinci were all brilliant musical improvisers. Musicians who improvise use inevitable “mistakes” to create a new pattern or direction. There’s no going back; so they make the way forward more exciting and interesting by using what happened by mistake as an integral part of their design, going with whatever happens. You might even call impro the art of “going with”. In dramatic improv, some of the most gloriously funny episodes emerge from “mistakes”.

In film too: in one take of a scene in the film On the Waterfront, the actress dropped her glove by mistake. Marlon Brando picked it up and, carrying on talking to her, put the glove on his much larger hand. The action was so unthinking and meaningful that the scene became famous as an example of brilliant spontaneity.

A novelist plans his story, and then at a certain point his fictional characters refuse to fit the mould he has planned for them and begin to take on a life of their own. At this point, the wise novelist gives up rigid control of his plan and goes with the direction the characters are taking. The book then opens up into something more interesting and exciting than the writer could have imagined beforehand.

Stephen Nachmanovich, author of one of my favourite books, Free Play, writes:

Looking out, now, over the ocean, the birds, the vegetation, I see that absolutely everything in nature arises from the power of free play sloshing against the power of limits.

SO why, why, why do we beat ourselves up about mistakes? Why do we (well, why does the media) insist that no person in public life can make a mistake, that what he or she said in 1992 cannot gainsaid by any later accumulation of wisdom. This is madness in full light of day. And we go along with it.

What distresses me most is the extent to which we hold ourselves back. I hate to make mistakes. How many times have I inhibited myself, not spoken up, not volunteered, not made a leap in the dark, to avoid making a mistake? Far too many, I fear. And I fill that scary space of lost opportunity with busy business and items of mundane importance, and a thousand excellent reasons (I’ve got SO good at reasons!) for my lack of action.

I’m not going to criticise myself for it. There’s been too much self-criticism. But I am going to shine a bit of light on the fear that others taught me long ago. Fear, you are a useful feeling, but I’ve set the trip switch needlessly low. Time to change that I think.

I like David Whyte’s words on the subject:

Let my history then
be a gate unfastened
to a new life
and not a barrier
to my becoming.

Also the down-to-earth words of Oscar Wilde,

Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.

The only things one never regrets are ones mistakes? Wow! In that case, what really good mistakes can you make today? Or, to put it another way, what might you do today if you absolutely knew that nothing you did could possibly be a mistake? Absolutly NUTHIN?

What might you not do?!

Go well!

Judy

 

OTHER MATTERS

I haven’t asked before, but if you’ve ready any of my books and enjoyed it, I’d be very happy if you’d write a review on Amazon – short as you like!

If you haven’t read them, I hope you find them useful. Here they are with their Amazon blurbs – available in print and e-versions:

Voice of Influence
– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You

....a fascinating mind-body approach to finding your authentic voice and 
expressing yourself with integrity, presence and passion. --Judith Lowe, NLP 
Trainer, PPD Learning Ltd
Should be on the reading list of anyone who wants to learn how to communicate 
more effectively and how to be more authentic and charismatic in putting across 
their messages. --Celia Morris, Training & Development Manager, Railways Mott 
MacDonald Ltd

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
– 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

I love the elegance, accessibility and clarity of this book and shall certainly 
be recommending it to clients and colleagues alike. --Kate Burton, coach and 
author of For Dummies guides to NLP, Coaching and Confidence.
 If you've ever faced the fear of public speaking, this brilliant book is 
essential reading! Judy Apps provides super strategies for becoming a confident 
communicator. Her easy-to-learn and thorough approach tackles every aspect of 
speaking with great examples, stories and exercises. --Arielle Essex, author of 
Compassionate Coaching

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

Whether you dream of commanding thousands with the power of your voice, or you′d 
just like to get your point across more clearly and convincingly, you′ve come to 
the right place. Not another presentation or public speaking primer, this book 
schools you in timeless principles that work equally well when addressing packed 
stadiums, in intimate gatherings and even during one–to–one conversations. 
Discover how to use your voice to surprise, seduce, soothe, intimidate, amuse, 
motivate and more. And, with the help of fun, easy voice exercises, you′ll 
quickly master critical elements such as breathing, rhythm, modulation, pitch 
and pacing.

The Art of Conversation
Change Your Life with Confident Communication

Good conversation is at the heart of networking, meetings, interviews, 
negotiations and raising your profile. It can ease your way in work, enabling 
you to build alliances, create strong relationships with staff, bosses and 
clients, succeed at interviews, motivate and inspire. But conversation is 
something most of us were never taught! Why is it some of us are stuck for words,
 but others blabber or can’t stop? What is it that some people have naturally 
which enables them to converse comfortably and easily, to engage people and build
 better relationships?
The Art of Conversation will show you step by step how to converse skilfully 
and enjoyably with other people, at home, at work, on the phone and in the street-
 even if you’re daunted now, discover the difference good conversation can make in
 every aspect of your life.

Download some of my E-courses

(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

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need a nudge? Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

 

The Big Breath

4b5e746ac1369668f22c8a6f199bda32--relaxation-quotes-relaxing-quotesI don’t think I’ve ever before understood so little of a book and yet been intrigued enough to carry on reading it nonetheless. I bought The Cosmic Hologram a couple of months ago after being captivated by a presentation given by the author, cosmologist Jude Currivan. Her story of our Universe ranges dizzyingly from cosmology to quantum mechanics, starting from the big bang.

Only, according to the latest cosmological evidence, it wasn’t big. And it wasn’t a bang. The evidence she cites suggests that our Universe is finite and that its original super-rapid expansion was exquisitely ordered and fine-tuned, more like a big breath than a big bang – which echoes nicely the ancient Vedic sages of India who envisaged the beginning of the Universe as an out-breath of the cosmic creator Brahma.

I like the image of the big breath. There’s a short poem by E E Cummings written during the 2nd World War whose image presages the scientific evidence too:

when
god decided to invent 
everything he took one 
breath bigger than a circustent 
and everything began

(Here’s the whole poem – the second verse pulls no punches.)

Everything starts with breath

If you’re curious about communication, expression, presence, connection or energy – any of these things – you can’t fail to be interested in breath. It’s the starting point of all our attempts to communicate with each other and indeed do almost anything. No work on voice projection and tone, body language or “getting your message across” bears any fruit without going back to fundamentals of breath – and not so much the physical act itself as the original impulse behind it.

Whenever you speak, before any sound comes from your mouth, your thought/emotion initiates a breath – not any old breath, but a breath whose energy and character exquisitely matches what you have to communicate and which is designed to create the particular sounds that express what you have to say.

You can hear this particularly clearly in the transparent communication of young children. However, as sound is so revealing of truth, most adults learn to interfere with the breath-to-sound connection, so that the resulting sound expresses habitual control and obfuscation (however much they paste expressiveness on top). But even then the breath tells the truth – in this case the truth of obfuscation.

If you want to communicate – genuinely communicate – everything leads back to how much you allow breathing to play its part.

Breath as a powerful support

Breath is your friend – it’s kept you alive till now! It’s especially your friend when you feel troubled or fearful. For instance:

  • An extended steady in-breath through the nose in its measured character invites steady expression, and thus gives you courage to speak or act.
    .
  • A feeling of excitement energising your in-breath gives your expression a power that a fearful breath lacks, and brings to your sound a sense of commitment and positivity.
    .
  • A huge in-breath – a breath “bigger than a circus-tent” – carries you over hurdles, such as making a statement that feels hard to say. If we took a breath that big, couldn’t you and I do anything?
    .
  • The out-breath too – when you sigh, your whole respiratory system is able to release and reset. If you were tense, you release. If you were stubbornly holding on to something, you let go. If you weren’t able to think before, suddenly on the next breath you can.

Breathing carries you through anything – fear, anxiety, pain. When things are bad, breathe! When you are tense, breathe! When you feel awkward, breathe! When a conversation falters, breathe! When you want to feel – joy, love, peace – breathe! And things become easier. A breath gets you into motion again, and in motion life moves on to a better place. And if you want to breathe, breath out.

Breath and intuition

Speaking-skills coaches who talk about breath at all often concentrate on the muscles required for the in-breath. But, as I was newly reminded at a yoga class recently, if you direct your attention to a full outbreath, the consequent in-breath takes on the nature of a release or surrender. It’s a powerful surrender however – a gathering up of energy – and on that in-breath any accompanying yoga movement that in the normal way might be effortful becomes light and easy.

That surrender is much more than a physical release. Breath is physical and mental – emotional and spiritual too. That relaxed in-breath after an intentional out-breath opens the unconscious mind with a wonderful sense of liberation to new clarity and lateral thinking inaccessible to the logic of the conscious mind. It’s the moment when “don’t know” gives birth to sound intuition.

Just a single breath? Well, yes. I’ve found, when I inexpertly practise meditation, that if I remind myself that, rather than a clock-aware 20 minutes, one single breath – this breath – is enough, then that breath has the quality and depth to illuminate (whether or not I then continue for more minutes.)

Breathe, breathe, breathe

So today – in the interest of business success, leadership, creativity, focus and better relationships, not to mention health, wealth and personal wellbeing and whatever else matters to you – pay attention to your breath. Try any of the following:

  • Take a moment to to breathe right out and, with full awareness of the experience, allow the in-breath to be a complete letting go.
  • Sigh out at any odd moment of pleasure and catch the often missed joy of the in-breath that follows.
  • Breathe-sigh out especially at any moment of difficulty – be it exasperation, worry, envy or boredom – and then witness the release on the in-breath, watching for any minute seed of insight that might pop into your mind. You’ll have to be awake to catch it though – it could be light as gossamer.

Then notice how life flows more, how your mind works better, how relationships are easier – how the quantum-smallness of a single breath is connected with the cosmic-vastness of larger purpose in your own life as well as in the broader scope of the Universe.

Just before posting this today I cycled into town along a country track by a stream. Suddenly, a heron flew up from almost under my wheels and I gasped with the thrill of it. What a large elegant bird close up! We talk about moments that take your breath away, and this was one of those, but in fact (and I’d never quite noticed this before), it was a sudden sharp intake of air – a beautiful release.

Sometimes it’s the same moments that take your breath away that breathe purpose and love back into your life. Steve Maraboli

Go well,

Judy

What Else?

Lots about breath in my books

Dip in for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! 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 – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 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.

Coaching

Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download any of my E-courses

(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

 

 

I’m Giving Up on Authenticity

Who are you?To spend a life time seeking for one’s authentic self, and then get second thoughts on the whole thing. How come?

I’m giving up on authenticity.

I know, I know – dear authenticity, you have been an aspiration of mine for quite some time. I’ve even sung your praises in print for goodness sake. It’s been a long time … right back to childhood even when my mother younger than I am now used to encourage me before an event, “Just be yourself, dear.”

I didn’t have the faintest idea how to fulfil her wish then, and I’ve been seeking how to ever since. It’s perhaps the quest of our times – find yourself, know who you really are. I’ve done the work like others have – the psychometrics, the MBTI, if you want the proof – and yes, I do know quite a lot about myself. I’m artistic – I know because I create things and people say they like them. I’m shy – because my whole family was shy. I’m quick – and that sometimes makes me ignore the odd detail. I’m kind, kind of, mostly…

But I’m not sure any more that focussing on what I already think I know about myself is helpful. When I say, “I’m that sort of person”, or more often, “I’m not that sort of person” I use it mostly as an excuse or a defence. As in, “I’m not the kind of person to sell myself” or “I’m not the kind of person to demand my rights,” for instance.

A great little book was recommended to me this month. The Path, by Michael Puett and Christine Gros-Loh offers a new way of thinking about ancient Chinese wisdom. The first philosopher discussed, Confucius, was a believer in tiny acts – or rituals – where you practise “as if” – i.e. you act differently to your customary way, and thus gradually habituate yourself to new ways of being and acting in the world. One section headed “The Malleable Self”, sounded like the opposite of “The Authentic Self”, and its ideas resonated with me. It suggested that by sticking to your self-definition of your true self, acting with your usual patterns and self-labels, you might actually harden them, and thus limit yourself.

I’ve always liked the story in Tim Gallwey’s The Inner Game of Tennis about the tennis player with an inadequate volley stroke. Every time the player was at the net he reacted defensively and feebly. His coach asked him to demonstrate how he would like to be able to play at the net, without worrying whether he actually hit the ball or not. After an unsteady start, the player began to show some aggression in his play, and eventually hit a series of fine attacking shots one after the other. Speaking with Tim afterwards, the player said he wished he were able to play like that, but he wasn’t really that sort of person. i.e. The person who had played like that wished he could play like that! He couldn’t in his own map of reality because it wouldn’t have been true to who he was. Think about it.

Neuroscience agrees with the idea of a malleable self. We now know that genes can be switched on and off, and that it’s perfectly possible to create new neural pathways through the brain. We aren’t as fixed as we might like to think.

The idea of a malleable self turns our usual thinking on its head. Instead of a converging quest inwards to find the holy grail of the real genuine me, it suggests I might instead expand into the huge adventure of embracing every possibility of what I could be. What might I not do? Who might I not be!

Most of us are already different with different people (okay, I heard that protest, you may not be.) Have you ever found yourself talking to someone from one part of your life when someone from a completely different part of your life suddenly joins you, and you realise that your usual way of interacting with one is not the way you usually are with the other, and you find yourself nonplussed for a moment?

The ability to choose different ways to respond to people and circumstances is surely relevant to the job of the coach. (or leader, teacher, parent and human being). Our ability to enter the reality of the other person is a major element in connecting and building trust, and it requires us to be flexible – malleable. A coach needs a variety of qualities to be able to relate to and help different people at different times. At one moment the fierce volley shot is just right for a particular coachee; at another the high gentle lob is more successful. But we are only as different as we have the capacity to be, and like in tennis practice helps.

Two questions:

  1. Doesn’t being different things to different people mean you lose your identity.

Not at all. Doing what the occasion requires with flexibility strengthens you and gives you more influence. People feel even more strongly the core of you, which isn’t your behaviours, but the light of consciousness at your centre.

  1. How exactly do you create the possibility of acting differently?

By realising that you can learn to be any way you want to be. Every time you catch the thought, “People like me can’t do that” you can put forward a different thought, “If I want to and believe it’s the thing to do, I can do it.”

In the depth of winter I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

The other thing you can do is to find counter examples. E.g. maybe you’re too impatient to find out what’s wrong with your computer; but you have huge patience in working out a complex pattern in sewing. So patience and you are already well acquainted. You may not speak up when something is wrong at work, but when your child suffered an injustice you did speak up, so you have done it and know how to.

So three cheers for the great ocean of possibility today.

Okay authenticity, I know there’s a different side to you too – the ability to be real, not fake, trustworthy not perfidious, and genuine and honest, not disingenuous. I just thought there for a moment you were trying to box me in – when I’m ready to fly.

But, Peter, how do we get to Never Land?

(says Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan)

Fly, of course!
Fly!
It’s easy! All you have to do is to is to is to
Huh That’s funny!
What’s the matter?
Don’t you know?
Oh sure, it’s, it’s just that I never thought about it before
Say, that’s it! You think of a wonderful thought!
Any happy little thought?
Uhhuh

You just imagine you can do it.
Go well everyone,
Judy

What else?

Dip into my Books for help with communication, presenting and voice … life even …

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! 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 – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 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.

Coaching

If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Speak Easy: The essential guide to speaking in public

This book by my New Zealand friend, Maggie Eyre, gives you great tips on public speaking. Contact her if you’re down under and need help with public speaking – she has coached the best, including most notably former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark.

Download any of my E-courses

(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

 

Self-conscious, Unconscious, Conscious …

Hakuin

Hakuin’s circle

What’s the difference between conscious
and self-conscious?
And why does it matter?

Bulldozer

A couple of images stuck in my mind this week. One was the sight of he-who-shall-not-be named, the large American with yellow hair, bulldozing his way through the Prime Minister of Montenegro to get to the front of the group at a meeting of NATO leaders – and then adopting a ‘strong’ pose in the front with all the self-consciousness of my three-year-old grandson in his first nativity performance.

Self-consciousness… The present is a great time for body-language-watching as politicians in our British election and on the world stage strike postures and struggle to maintain whatever mask of confidence, power or stability they are wearing. “I am this,” they declare. “Oh no you’re really not,” I smile grimly to myself, watching the numerous cracks in their armour.

Self-consciousness is the self saboteur. Coach Tim Gallwey used to say that the easiest way to put your tennis opponent off his stride when he was playing like a god was to make him self-conscious. Easy to do: all you had to do was praise one of his shots and ask him how he did it. He would then start to think consciously about what previously had been unconscious, and – pouf! – he became self-conscious, his 100% focus disappeared and his game fell apart.

The cat

My second image was the cat in Jane Hirschfield’s poem, Against Certainty. Reading it again this week I paused at the following lines:

When the cat waits in the path-hedge,
no cell of her body is not waiting.
This is how she is able to so completely to disappear

I could see in my mind’s eye that cat, one hundred per cent concentration – every part of the cat waiting, awake, alert – no striving for affect, no trying, just intention, energy and focus – pure consciousness. It would seem absurd to think of the cat observing itself, admiring, assessing or worrying about its performance. And if it did, all the pent-up energy of the moment would surely dissolve instantly.

All of us capture that focus at times for a moment or two – when for example we are arrested by something in nature – a cloud, a tree, an effect of sunlight or the sound of water. Our mind and sense is held for a moment fully in the experience and the self disappears – until we try to describe our pleasure or freeze it in a photo and so break the moment. Whenever you are wholehearted in your actions, you feel alert and alive and effort becomes effortless. Your entire focus is on the doing, and no single bit remains for considering who you are or how you are doing. You lose yourself. This doesn’t mean that your work doesn’t bear the mark of you – it does, 100%.

Artists recognise this state and sometimes talk about disappearing. Virginia Woolf wrote in her diary about disappearing when her creative energy was heightened, “where my mind works so quick it seems asleep; like the aeroplane propellers.” The composer Handel, after finishing his massive work, The Messiah, in an incredible 24 days, told a friend in wonderment, “Whether I was in the body or out of my body when I wrote it, I know not.” The Japanese painter Hakuin – a contemporary of Handel – said he was only able to paint a perfect ink circle when he at last freed himself from self-consciousness, that is, when his ego disappeared. “If you forget yourself you become the universe,” he said. “Not lose your self, just lose consciousness of self so that your intention fuses with the object of attention.” This was the theme of various “Zen and the …” books that appeared in the 1970s, on Archery, Flower Arranging and all sorts, starting with Robert Pirsig’s “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.” Good reads!

“If you forget yourself you become the universe,” said Hakuin. Pure consciousness is a joyful state. Ideas burst in, new, fresh, surprising and hugely satisfying. The heart is near to bursting with the excitement and joy of it. When I accompanied my daughter playing a new piece on her violin when she was a little girl, she would laugh at the end with the pleasure of it and shout, “Again! Again!” Beethoven would apparently laugh out loud with delight at the end of an improvisation, where melodies had just poured out of him without any thought of originality or effect.

We make better decisions and our work flows when we are free of self-consciousness and able to do something for its own sake. Pure consciousness (sometimes called the other-than-conscious-mind) takes over, we feel energised, in the zone, and achieve our best outcomes.

I witnessed the freshness of this state recently in the simplest of settings when a TV reporter interviewed a child living on an isolated farm in the Outer Hebrides. The child responded to questions articulately and intelligently without self-consciousness like someone well beyond his years. It was shocking really how unusual this felt – the transparency and power of it – without the usual hinders and sophistications we learn through early life experience and education that get in the way of authentic conversation.

If we are transparent, with nothing to hide, the gap between language and Being disappears. Then the Muse can speak.

(That’s a quote from Stephen Nachmanovitch’s excellent book on improvisation, Free Play.)

I think that most of the happy serendipities and opportunities of my life have happened when I – that is, me – disappeared and I was fully absorbed in the moment. As well as being creative and productive, it’s a state that inspires and attracts, and others want a piece of it.

 

Many of us are self-conscious much of the time as we try to measure up, differentiate ourselves, create impact, or even just gain lots of ‘likes’ on Facebook. There are innumerable ways in which we self-consciously control our actions to obtain reactions we want from others. They are all crude efforts though when compared with the workings of our other-than-conscious mind and, as the man with yellow hair is finding, others tend to notice the coarseness of such attempts.

Pure consciousness can’t be bottled though. Hear this, oh eager organisations and corporates that want to quantify, prove and put it in a box – it can’t easily be measured, only nurtured. Handel had no idea how to measure what he had done in those twenty-four days – his touchstone was the huge excitement and joy of it. Measure that if you will.

But – being ultimately about lack of ego – I think pure consciousness – where we tap into the other-than-conscious – is something to aspire to, in business as in life. Its wisdom might even save our civilisation that’s currently swinging from crisis to crisis as the world’s protagonists strain for effect or short-term gain. (I’m writing this on the day of America’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord.)

I certainly want to tap such moments of wisdom more. But how?  I’m thinking about the subject quite a bit at the moment, and there are various elements. An important element is to LET GO, and especially let go of ego control. Your other-than-conscious mind serves you well when refrain from forcing things from your own small corner of existence, and especially when you step off for a moment and allow your intuition to flourish.

Sometimes, (as wise old Pooh tells us) if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

My last aspiration for today is to be like the cat in the poem, which ends:

I would like to enter the silence portion as she does.
To live amid the great vanishing as a cat must live,
one shadow fully at ease inside another.

What isn’t possible then?!

Greetings everyone! Go well.

Judy

 

What else?

My Books

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! 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 – pure consciousness even! Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 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.

Coaching

If summer-time is a bit quieter at work for you, use the opportunity to get a coach for a month or two. Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. How you come across depends on your voice and non-verbal signals, and especially on issues like self consciousness. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses

(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

The Double Bind of Performance Anxiety

Performance AnxietyDo you ever suffer from performance anxiety? Most of us do at times.

It seems to me that people’s communication difficulties can quite often be summed up as follows:

  1. They hold a fixed image of what excellence looks like – a platonic ideal if you like.
  2. They have a negative image of their own performance that doesn’t match up to the ideal.
  3. They have decided that their performance has got to look like their ideal of excellence – only it doesn’t.

Result: Impasse. They’re stuck.

People tend to express stuckness by freezing. They are literally petrified (turned to stone). When you’re petrified, your body becomes rigid and unbending; your voice become inflexible and monotonous, and your brain becomes inelastic and turgid.

Many react to freezing by trying very hard, but the effort results in stiffness and rigidity nonetheless. Their over-reliance on preparation and control always produces a predictable and inflexible delivery.

What do the best performers do?

So what might we learn from the best performers? Well, let’s acknowledge first of all, they’re not immune to fear – far from it, there are innumerable examples of brilliant performers who suffer from severe stage fright – I recount some of them in my books. But they don’t insist on a particular ideal of perfection, so they’re not caught in that double bind of gotta/can’t.

The best performers leap into their fear, which means letting go of expectation, and accepting that today’s performance – however it turns out – is today’s, maybe the best or maybe not, but unique and unrepeatable.

So, for example, Dame Judy Dench doesn’t have a set prepared way of performing and prefers live performance to film just because it isn’t fixed. An interviewer suggested to her that the secret to it all is preparation, and she disagreed:

No, I like to feel real fear. … It’s to do with freefalling. I think that’s exactly what it is.

She added,

I find it too hard to cope (in film) with that idea that you can’t change it. I love the way in theatre that you can change it every night. (from an interview with Rim Adams in The Observer)

In my book Butterflies and Sweaty Palms, I record driving some actors to a filming session and watching Monty Python comedian John Cleese record a business video for Video Arts. The same short scene was repeated several times, and each time Cleese played his part a little differently, every time wonderfully funny. His variations kept the rest of the cast on their toes, and at times they struggled to keep a straight face as he produced an unexpected comic twist or trick of timing. On one take, no one could hold it any longer, and the scene collapsed into general laughter. They achieved some great takes that day.

Performing well is very different from getting it right. It’s an act of creation – re-creation if you like – and however consistent the content every performance is different. Top musicians understand this well. There’s no definitive performance; today’s performance is today’s; tomorrow’s belongs to tomorrow – however familiar, it’s all exploration; it’s all play.

Stuckness in life

Now that translates into life too. In the charming novel The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George, the protagonist Jean Perdu remains stuck for 20 years, unable to love again because of a disastrous love affair  in his youth. Things change only when at last he’s able to look at what happened in the face and therefore let go.

An impasse is like a syllogism that doesn’t work:

I left my boyfriend for my career, and good people don’t do that.

I’m a good person.

I did that.

Just another variation on gotta/can’t.

So long as we cling to certainty about the rightness of our thinking, the logic doesn’t work, and we can’t look at the situation square on without confusion and suffering. So we don’t look, and a part of us numbs down, which means one part less for loving and caring. Such a situation can endure for decades – even a lifetime – until we dare to look it directly in the face.

No wonder fairy stories and legends abound with themes of being turned into stone or killed by looking – Medusa, the basilisk … We are terrified to look at our thinking.

So, what’s wrong with the thinking that gets us stuck?

1. Dead seriousness – I/we take ourselves too seriously.

Lighten up – it definitely won’t hurt, and it’ll probably greatly improve your every endeavour. “The only difference between a wise man and a fool is that the wise man knows he’s playing,” said Fritz Perls.

2. Insistence on perfection or rightness

The king of pianists, Vladimir Horowitz, said that perfection itself is imperfection. If perfection is just getting the right notes or words in the right order, of course it’s imperfection; it’s only a fraction of the story when you’re communicating – and living. Concentrate on the rest – energy, feeling, connection, desire, empathy, understanding… anything but correctness in fact!

3. Clinging on – to control, practice, preparation, consistency, the idea that it’s got to be a particular way for whatever reason

Let go – accept whatever transpires; get your ego out of the way. Or as Brene Brown, who often puts things well, says: “What’s the greater risk? Letting go of what people think – or letting go of how I feel, what I believe, and who I am?” Better a vulnerable living-breathing-human-being than an error-free-robot every time.

Enjoy the dance!

Go well,

Judy

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Voice of Influence Workshop

Over the years this 2-day workshop has made a big difference to people.  I found the course fabulous, probably the best course I’ve been on. Got so much from it. wrote Susan Nimmo RBS.  Numerous other testimonials here. I continue to get enquiries about the course and would like very much to run it again, but need someone to get people together and organise it. If that’s you, let me know! If you want to express your interest in attending the course, likewise let me know.

My Books

If you’ve found today’s blog interesting, you may like to follow up the topic in my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms in book or e-form.

All my books are about communication, so here are the rest!

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.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into 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.

(Un)Stuck

By the way, there’s a free download for educators of a neat 9-page story book called (Un) Stuck here – probably not intended for the general reader but relevant to many of us just the same.

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Need an impartial listening ear?Decision time? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

The Miracle of Voice

Is your voice too quiet, boring, untuneful or effortful? It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Presencing Institute

Have you heard of the Presencing Institute, based at MIT? Some great resources, courses, videos, ideas – have a look.

Download some of my E-courses

(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

Did you ask a good question today?

Snow Leopard from National Geographic

Snow Leopard from National Geographic – video link below

When I was living in London years ago, a man in his fifties approached me for clarinet lessons. He wanted to take up the instrument secretly to be in tune with his 10-year-old son who’d just started lessons. It turned out that this man was Associate Editor of the Sunday Times, and during several years of lessons I got to know him quite well.

There was one thing that surprised me about a man in his position, and that was his willingness in any context to ask questions that I sometimes thought were rather dumb. It made me realise how often I myself held back from asking questions in case they sounded stupid. When my Sunday Times pupil asked naive-sounding questions, little by little he got at the truth. If he could ask dumb questions, why couldn’t I? Coming as I did from a family who didn’t ask for help even when hopelessly lost, this was somewhat of a revelation.

Out of the mouth of babes

Another ten-year-old, Hannah Bradshaw, leaped into the limelight this week when she asked a couple of questions of American Congressman Jason Chaffetz at a town hall meeting in his home state of Utah. Chaffetz, together with over 56% of congressional republicans is a climate-change denier (yes, I know, 56%). Hannah asked, “What are you doing to help protect our water and air for our generations and my kids’ generations?” … followed by the simple question, “Do you believe in science? Because I do.” Out of the mouth of babes – what a beautiful question! Chaffetz blustered for quite a while with political inanities and people started yelling at him, “Answer the question!” But he couldn’t find a satisfactory response, and eventually boos and outbursts from the crowd ended the town hall meeting in chaos.

Inventing dumb questions

I think it might be appropriate in our age to bring back more dumb/naive/simple questions. Randomly, I’ve just thought of:

Why do weather forecasters describe sunshine as beautiful weather and rain as bad weather? (My Ugandan friend finds it most puzzling! She says rain means glorious green fields, food crops and water to drink.)

Why do we talk about glorious war, but not glorious bullying?

Why is pleasurable extended endeavour called ‘hard work’?

What ‘dumb’ questions can you think of? Children tend to be best at this:

Why is the sky dark at night?
What holds the universe up?
Where did your life come from?

Einstein was pretty good at it:

What if I could ride a beam of light across the universe?

The best questions

Naive questions can work brilliantly in meetings – for instance,

Why exactly are we doing this particular thing?

when everyone is rushing headlong into the what and how of an initiative.

Have you ever been at a conference or seminar where someone asks the dumb question everyone wanted to ask but didn’t dare to? As people hear the question, you hear a tiny sigh of satisfaction around the room. So maybe it wasn’t a dumb question after all?

Another crucial dumb question is the one asked by someone who is new to an organisation. “Why do we do this particular task?” “Why do we talk about our clients (or women, or management) in this way?” they ask, cutting through the company culture and organisational bias, forcibly struck by injustices that everyone else has become blind to through familiarity.

Beginner’s mind

When we get used to something, questions stop. One of the secrets of creative thinking is to come at everything without preconceptions – with “beginners’ mind”, approaching everything with clear-eyed wonder as if we have never encountered it in our lives before. For when we are fully awake and attentive, we have never encountered it before; nothing is already known and many questions arise. (By the way, I used the snow leopard for the picture above because the animal in this National Geographic silent video seems to portray brilliantly clear-eyed wonder that reaches every fibre.) Henri Matisse as an old man said his aim was still “to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.” In this state, questions are simple and profound.

Maybe dumb questions asked by geniuses are what we desperately need more of in our world today? Nobel laureate scientist Isidor Isaac Rabi’s mother used to ask her after school each day: “Issie, did you ask a good question today?”

So what are the questions for you? I know we all have our own personal filters, that we see the world as we are rather than as it is. But what are you not seeing, or refusing to see? What’s staring you in the face? What simple naive question might jolt you into a moment of realisation? What is the question you need to ask? – that is the question.

 

OTHER THOUGHTS

Coaching

Feeling stuck? Don’t know what questions to ask yourself? Decision time? Need an impartial listening ear? A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Jason Harrison

I attended an interesting workshop with Jason last month. His thoughtful article on confusion links quite well with my theme this month.

The Miracle of Voice

It’s not just what we say, it’s how we say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource we have in our voice? If you don’t like your voice, you can change it; you’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. . Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

Download some of my E-courses

(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

My Books

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
25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. Discover how to perform brilliantly when you’re scared. And don’t worry – we’re ALL scared at times.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to dip into 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.

Workshops

Want some help in your organisation on communicating, presenting, voice, confidence, NLP or coaching? My workshops are practical, energising and highly effective. Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

In England this week, we’re loving the spring sunshine.
Happy times wherever you are.

Go well,

 

Judy