IMG_9026I don’t know what made me think of Paul.

Well, I do actually. I was listening to Radio 3 when they played Musetta’s aria from Act 2 of La Bohème. As the music soared, I started reminiscing about the years I lived in Italy, and my mind drifted to the audition that had won me a scholarship to study at the Music Conservatory in Rome. Paul, who was a member of the small instrumental ensemble I sang with, had accompanied me on the piano for that audition.

Paul: eighteen or so years old at the time, younger than the rest of us. Skinny, quiet, unassuming; in my memory he lived solely on egg and chips. But also dependable Paul, Paul the fine musician, who could play anything you put in front of him, plus extemporise and write arrangements to suit our ensemble.

I idly wondered what had happened to him, and Googled his name.

Oh my goodness, there he was – with less hair and middle-aged, but unmistakeably the person I knew, still with that gentle demeanour. I then looked up his bio, and that’s when I caught my breath. As pianist and as conductor, he has accompanied some of the greatest and most famous musicians in the world, including José Carreras, Jessye Norman, Bryn Terfel, Sumi Jo, Lesley Garrett and Paul McCartney. He has performed piano concertos. He has conducted West End shows including Singin’ In The Rain, Barnum, Charlie Girl, The Phantom of the Opera and Carmen Jones. He has conducted the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Philharmonia, Royal Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestras. There was also a long list of recordings. How on earth had I missed it all?

Back then, there were five of us in our ensemble. What gave rise to Paul’s career? He was the unassuming, un-pushy one. He didn’t talk much. He wasn’t the ideas man of our music group; he went along with whatever was happening and then played whatever was needed and made it look easy.

When I think about him now, two qualities stand out.

The first is clarity. Music was what he was about. That’s what he was – a fine musician. He loved music and it absorbed his energies. As a result he became very good at it. That gave an impressive clarity to how one thought about him. You knew that if he was playing, you’d enjoy the music making, and the music would be wonderful.

The second quality is a lack of ego. He didn’t make a noise and a fuss. He didn’t promote himself – he promoted music generously, and music is about relationship. Many people worry about publicity, competition, self-promotion and all the rest. But when there’s a single mindedness and clarity about what you are and do, others notice anyway and want to join with you.

So I take this from my reminiscence:

Do what you love; love what you do.

Give it your wholehearted attention and energy.

Learn to do it well. Be always learning.

Enjoy generous cooperation in your chosen field.

Thanks, Paul.


Guildford Coaching Group

1 December in Guildford
I’m running a morning session for coaches on Unconscious Bias. We all display bias, but much of it’s unconscious – so what on earth can we do about it? It’s got me thinking, and hopefully will get you thinking too. Book early as these events are popular and numbers are limited.

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.


What holds you back? You might think that your own particular set of difficulties, setbacks and doubts don’t fit any coaching model. But you’d be surprised how a simple conversation with a coach helps you to get rid of obstacles and move forward to what you really want from life. Six months from now you’ll be saying, as other have, I don’t know why I didn’t do it years ago! 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.

Lack of ego – a poem

No one writes better on this subject than T S Eliot. Try this from his Four Quartets:

Shall I say it again? In order to arrive there,
To arrive where you are, to get from where you are not,
You must go by a way wherein there is no ecstasy.

In order to arrive at what you do not know
You must go by a way which is the way of ignorance.

In order to possess what you do not possess
You must go by the way of dispossession.

In order to arrive at what you are not
You must go through the way in which you are not.

And what you do not know is the only thing you know
And what you own is what you do not own
And where you are is where you are not.

Newsletter Archive

Look here for older blogs – just scroll down. Or click on one of the descriptive tags to sort the archive.



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,




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.


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.


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

What Does Success Look Like This Year?

Success and Keeping OnI bought Alan Bennett’s latest book last month. I’m thinking of using the title, Keeping On Keeping On, as my New Year’s Resolution, as in, “This year, I think I’ll ‘keep on keeping on’.”

It’s the time of the New Year Honours, and whatever the spread of gongs, we notice the famous in the lists. They were successful, and that’s the message: if you work really hard, you can be successful too and win your gong. Make your resolutions: be bold and ambitious; demonstrate toughness and resilience; meet the right people; go get that prize.

Most of us want to be special, and this ambition suggests that most of us deep down fear that currently we’re a bit ordinary. Funny that – I now prefer to put that the other way around – realising that we’re all amazing and special, and our better task might be to get rid of our ego and find the ordinary in ourselves.

Upside down that might seem, but it’s been an upside down world this last year. Events have frequently demonstrated the worst in our leaders, and the aftermath fills us with fear for the coming year. If the kind of leadership demonstrated last year is special – if egotistical power-loving behaviour is “special”, who wants it?

What about a different goal for an important year – the ambition to be kind, for example? Now that would really be something.

I see much that is kind in Alan Bennett. Not just that he moved “the lady in the van” parked in the road outside his house into his garden and didn’t even consider it an act of charity; not just that he donated his archive to the Bodleian Library as a gesture of thanks to the British welfare state that had given him educational opportunities that his parents would otherwise never have afforded. Not his northern ‘of the people’ accent. More that in his autobiographical books and indeed all his writing his humanity and kindness shine out on every page.

Maybe for many, your New Year resolutions this year are to achieve particular goals and targets. But for others, this may not be your year for reaching goals, but for keeping on keeping on. Maybe you have parents becoming frailer, children needing you more, friends who are unwell or distressed, maybe your own mind and body demand your attention? These don’t have to be impediments to your goals – maybe they contain the pearl of great price for you this year.

Or maybe, as you make your resolutions, you reflect that you have made these same resolutions before, even many times – you’ve travelled and travelled, yet you’re back in the same old place again.

There’s a thought-provoking poem by Denise Levertov, called For Those Whom the Gods Love Less. (Hear her reading it here.) The title comes from a Greek saying that those whom the gods love die young. So those who live longer … Anyway, the poem begins:

When you discover
your new work travels the ground you had traversed
decades ago, you wonder, panicked,
‘Have I outlived my vocation? Said already
all that was mine to say?’

Don’t panic, she reassures. You might feel that it’s the same every year, but even in repetition the light falls differently and “radiant epiphanies recur”. She urges, “You can, you must proceed.”

TS Eliot, whose complete poems Jeremy Irons (there’s a voice!) has been reading all this week on Radio 4, declares, “the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.”

So, maybe for you it’s your year to step aside from the Hero’s Journey for a moment; to draw back a little from the yoga stretch or your target in the gym, to go easy on your BHAG (big hairy ambitious goal), and find an “ordinary” resolution – maybe merely the resolution to be kind? (Or to be loving or peaceful or generous or grateful?) Now wouldn’t that be extraordinary? Special even.

Who of our politicians, business leaders, the great and the good, or celebrities famous for being famous is kind? Who would we choose for a New Year’s Honour if the criterion were to have been kind? Why isn’t there a Nobel Prize for kindness? The wonderful travel writer and human being Jan Morris in conversation with John Walsh from The Independent said,

Kindness is the ultimate path, the one thing that can stand up against all the shit, the ghastliness. It’s the ultimate human quality. I’ve often thought of starting a political party of Kindness, which would estimate the proportion of kindness there is in any policy. It would be the criterion for a whole system of government.

I really like that! So here’s the challenge: let’s look at the powerful this year and tweet any demonstrations of their kindness we notice. In fact, why just the powerful? Let’s all build a year of kindness. What kindnesses did you meet this Christmas and New Year? Today? It’s a way of perceiving that we all need urgently in these times, and I don’t think we’ve appreciated its full power yet.

PS – Kindness offers a bonus too. In a talk I attended last autumn, David Hamilton (author and former developer of drugs for cardiovascular disease and cancer for the pharmaceutical industry) explained  that research at Oregon State University has proved that kindness – whether we act kindly or unbelievably merely witness a kind act – activates our parasympathetic nervous system and causes our body to produce oxytocin that calms the heart, slows ageing and makes us happier. Oh, and it’s contagious. So kindness is good for us too!

Happy New Year!




Learning Public Speaking from TED

TED Talks are probably by now too famous to need explaining, and if you Google TED you’ll now find scores of websites offering you help in delivering the perfect TED Talk. I find this short talk, TED’s Secret to Great Public Speaking by Chris Anderson, the current curator of TED Talks, one of the most useful.


A few simple conversations with a coach can be life changing and worth the investment many times over. It’s not just about help with a to-do list, though it could be that too. It’s about getting to know yourself better – your skills, values and qualities – and discovering how to be the person you want to be. Then your way becomes clearer and smoother and you achieve more with less effort..  Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Performance Anxiety

Suffer from performance nerves? Read my book, Butterflies and Sweaty Palms. It’s full of excellent strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence, and dealing with scary gremlins. We’re all scared at times and need a helping hand. Here’s the proper link to my E-course, 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety. A couple of coaching sessions, face-to-face or Skype, can also make all the difference.

Speaking with Authority

Download my e-course, How to Speak with More Authority. Or read my book, Voice of Influence.  Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level. My ‘Dummies’ book, Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies is also full of useful tips and strategies.

Engaging in conversation with ease

Read The Art of Conversationand find out how to make connection with people on a deeper, more satisfying level. Start with my free E-course, 10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation, for some first ideas.


I’ve just added another favourite poem to my website collection. Slow Dance by David Weatherhead is a poem for busy people. Maybe that’s you?

Is change possible? D’you already know how it’ll turn out?

What’s possible?

What's possible in life?I often used to think of life’s progress as a parabola, with a curving trajectory rising and rising and then falling again. The rise would include learning, growing, achievement and success, and the second falling part would be – well, I didn’t quite know what, gradual decline and death I supposed. Only, now I’m definitely on that second half, I’m not so keen on the image and can’t help thinking that a different representation with more sense of the possible would be preferable.

The trouble is, the image of rise and fall is a self-fulfilling prophecy. From half-way, we look back on a set of memories – interpreted for many of us through negative internal dialogue – and then expect a future that repeats the patterns of the past with an added sense of decline. Not good!

That’s why I like the story of John McAvoy

John was born to be a criminal. His dad died when he was young; his uncle was a member of the notorious Brink’s-Mat robbery gang, his step dad was serving a life sentence for armed robbery, and the whole family was involved in serious organised crime. At 16 he owned a sawn-off shotgun and was aiming it at security vans across London. By the time he was in his early 20s he’d earned a life sentence for conspiracy to commit armed robbery and landed in Belmarsh high security prison where he shared a wing with such role models as Islamic terrorist Abu Hamza and some of the 21/7 bombers.

Reading so far, you wouldn’t guess at a happy outcome. Only you’d be wrong. Two things happened.

The first was a common one – most of us experience a version of it at some point in our lives – the rough awakening. He’d known plenty of violence in his life, but one day in prison, he saw on the TV news that his best friend had died, thrown out of a car on a roundabout in a police chase in Holland. Shut in his cell, John suddenly thought, “What the f*** have I done with my life? Nothing.”

The second was a rarer gift: another human being saw something possible in him he couldn’t see himself. What happened was this: like many another prison inmate he used to exercise hard in the gym just to get out of his cell. One day he was working away on the rowing machine and a prison officer, Darren Davies, was watching him. The next day the officer came into the gym with a series of rowing records printed out and casually suggested he look at them. John realised he could probably beat them, and for the first time for years felt a sense of excitement at what might be possible. The prison officer took steps to find out if official records could be officially broken in prison and then – with difficulty – obtained permission from the governor for John to make attempts on the records. John set to with all the focus and determination he had earlier used for crime, and broke the British record for rowing the marathon plus several other British records. He then smashed the world record for the distance rowed in 24 hours. Darren gave up his day off to sit with John for a day and a night while he cracked the record.

The happy outcome?

The records John broke while in prison coincided with raising money for charity and ultimately his sentence was reduced. He was put in touch with Putney rowing club and later, looking at what was possible for people his age in athletics, he changed discipline and opted for the Iron Man triathlon, consisting of a  gruelling 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km bicycle ride followed by the 42.2 km marathon. Previously, he couldn’t swim and hadn’t ridden a bike since he was 12, but that didn’t hold him back. He now has a personal coach and sponsors, and this year the probation service allowed him to travel to Frankfurt for his first European Iron Man Championship. He performed creditably, inching towards the European record. He’s thoroughly accepted in athletic circles and seen as a hero.

But of course, there’s another hero in his story: the prison officer, Darren Davis, the man who recognised raw talent in a hardened criminal, believed in the possibility of change, and then gave of his interest and time. He’s the man who sowed the seed of success, without whom none of this would have happened.

How to be a catalyst for change

One of the great things I learned from NLP and coaching studies was that we can all be agents of change. I found mentors who believed in me when I hardly believed in myself. Then in turn, students of mine have awakened others to possibility. One completely turned around a member of staff who was just about to be dismissed, through awakening a sense of the possible in him – the organisation had never seen anything like it. Another wrote to me after a gap of several years to say that the change process started back when she felt lost had led to an entirely new career as producer for the BBC.

Such stories are wonderful to hear, but mostly none of us get to know the results of seeds we sow – what exciting outcomes result from perhaps even a short moment of intense interest and caring for another human being. It happens in those moments when we see, not just the person before us but also the possibility within someone who doesn’t yet believe in that possibility for him or herself.

We all tend to look at other human beings and see what we already know. This other seeing views with fresh eyes, eyes that know nothing, and glimpses possibility. I say eyes; I might say heart.

Anyone who pays attention can do this. There’s an autumn story of an acorn who pays more attention than the other acorns. It notices that acorns that fall to the ground crack open and start to grow into oak trees. Most of the other acorns are appalled and disgusted with the idea that they might fall and crack open, and ridicule the acorn’s assertion. But the acorn looks up at the towering oak above them, and says to the other acorns in amazement and wonder, “Look! – We are that.”

Luckily, as John McAvoy would say with gratitude, it only takes one.

Everything possible to be believed is an image of truth. William Blake



When I talk above about “the man who recognised raw talent, believed that change was possible, and then gave of his interest and time”, I am of course talking also about coaching. 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 we have in our voice? I thought you might enjoy an article I wrote about this miracle. Click the link above.

Download some of my E-courses too (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 much more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have satisfying and buzzy conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
Subtitle: 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence. It’s about WHAT to do if 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.

Training Courses

Would your company benefit from a group session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? Get in touch. Read testimonials here.

TEDx Dorking

TEDx Dorking was a triumph last week. One of the speakers reminded us about the Ken Robinson talk on creativity in education – it really is good, have a watch … or watch it again. He tells of a six year old creating a picture in drawing class. What are you drawing?” the teacher asks. And the girl says, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” And the teacher says, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” And the girl says, “They will, in a minute.”

Oh what mighty oak trees might grow, how high would the parabola of life sweep, if children’s confidence and creativity were recognised and nurtured!

Go well,


Don’t like the atmosphere – not feeling so good

catWhen at last my parents were able to afford a mortgage, they looked at several houses. Finally, they found the house in which they eventually settled happily and spent the rest of their lives. The first moment my mother stepped over the threshold to view the property she exclaimed, “This house has a lovely atmosphere.” Perhaps you’ve had experiences of sensing atmospheres yourself? Or maybe you are already impatiently dismissing the idea of ‘atmosphere’ as utter nonsense?

It’s difficult to notice an atmosphere you’re very used to. It’s like smell – they say cat owners seldom realise that their rooms smell of cats and smokers don’t realise that to non-smokers their houses reek of cigarettes. Fishes don’t know they’re in water.

But go somewhere new, and suddenly you’re aware of differences in the water we swim in. I went to Rome and at first found people in the streets abrupt and impatient; but coming home a few years later, I found most polite English social smiles insincere. Travel can indeed open the mind – unless you’re floating in a tourist bubble. I’ve been stopped in my tracks sometimes by differences in culture – the helpfulness of people in Istanbul, the hospitality of the Nepalese, the positivity of Australians … “Oh my goodness,” it hit me once, “we English complain quite a lot, I didn’t realise….”

You go to work in one office, and people are friendly to you, but spend their time moaning about decisions and you sense the “us and them” culture. You work somewhere else, and there’s a bullying culture, or a spitefully competitive one. And then, working there for years, you don’t notice it any more – it’s become the water you swim in.

What about this last week? If you’ve been listening constantly to the news or checking in to social media, with so much content stoking flames of anger, have you felt the atmosphere? If you have, you might already find it’s getting you down, and that every further negative bulletin increases your anger and angst.

Atmosphere is like the food we eat and the air we breathe, and almost as important. If there’s a lot of negativity in your home or at work, it’s like carbon monoxide and everyone becomes ill, if not physically then mentally, and often both.

What’s the remedy? For many, the answer is to desensitise yourself, ignore it, live with it and finally fail to notice it. “What bullying?” says the ambitious executive – “that’s just friendly banter.” “What do you mean – this is a negative culture?” protests the public official. “The staff here aren’t under pressure.” And the poison in the system endures to hurt the business and the people in it.

Although cultures aren’t completely straightforward to change, there is something better we can do than grin and bear it:

  1. First, do not desensitise yourself: tune in and notice a damaging atmosphere. Become aware of what people are actually communicating – not just the words, but how they are saying what they are saying.
  2. At the same time, detach yourself from content. Just, merely, simply, breathe quietly; stop and be in this moment … n o w…. Become aware of the big picture and soak up the whole – holistic awareness rather than content awareness.
  3. From a quieter place, recognise your power to affect the atmosphere. Your presence is part of and affects the culture anyway, so use it to exert a positive influence. As we start to be more aware of atmosphere, we realise that a certain person brings calm into the room, while another creates tension. In certain meetings everyone feels dragged down by problems; in others there’s a sense of openness and possibility. Who’s creating that difference – and how? It’s not so much what the person does; it’s more how they are – the energy they bring into the room. Watch and listen to how others do it – negatively and positively – and learn.

If you walk into a room calmly believing in a positive outcome, just by your very presence you change everything. Your body language, tone of voice, the words you choose, your feelings: all are affected automatically by your mind-set and belief. And this positive change in you affects and changes the mood of others around you.

It’s about opening, rather than a shutting down – it’s a good way to be especially at present, when it’s tempting to screw our eyes shut and just wish that it would all go away – wish that we were still inside the egg, that the shell hadn’t irrevocably cracked.

It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad. C. S. Lewis

Mahatma Gandhi said, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” “Its people” – ah yes, that’s us, isn’t it?


What else?

Some Interesting Links

Landscapes of the Heart

The psychotherapist Juliet Grayson – an impressive woman if ever there was one! – has published “Landscapes of the Heart”, a beautifully readable book on her work.

Center for Transformation Presence

On the subject of being rather than doing,  Alan Seale of the Center for Transformational Presence has some interesting things to say in his blogs.

Coaching with Clean Language

For an good example of coaching using David Gordon’s Clean Language go to James and Penny Lawley’s Wisdom of Life video here.


My blog today speaks about how you are rather than what you do. For instance, you may wish that you could act more effectively in certain situations, speaking in meetings for instance. If you work with a coach on finding a sense of ease within yourself – i.e. on changing your way of being, not only will your performance in meetings improve, but every other situation in your life in which lack of confidence holds you back will be transformed. Good value!

If you want to find out more about executive or life coaching with me, email me or call me on 01306 886114 – just for a chat in the first instance. Even a single session can have a significant impact.

My books so far – buy them here

The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. This book is an easy read – highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

– How to Get People to Love to Listen to You. People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Training Courses

Read testimonials here. Would your company benefit from a session on communicating, presenting, NLP, coaching and more? Get in touch.

Finally, a poemby E.E. Cummins on being not doing

Poetry is being, not doing.
If you wish to follow,
    even at a distance,    
    the poet’s calling,
You’ve got to come out of the
measurable doing universe into
the immeasurable house of being.
Nobody else can be alive for you –
Nor can you be alive for anyone else. 
If you can take it – take it and be.
If you can’t – cheer up and go about
other people’s business and do or undo
till you drop.
Happy summer days!
Go well,

Let’s Talk of Dreams and Desire

Sea behind jpgBack in the day I appeared in a book. It happened when I was living in Rome in my twenties. Together with a great friend interested in such matters I attended a series of sessions given by the renowned and controversial Italian psychologist Massimo Fagioli, in a lecture room thick with cigarette smoke and jam-packed with university students and other hangers-on like myself. At one session in response to a question I recounted a dream, and it later appeared in Fagioli’s book La Marionetta e Il Burattino (The String Puppet and the Glove Puppet – the title suggesting how most humans struggle in their bid for freedom, held back by someone or something pulling their strings or directing them internally). It’s a fascinating book, republished in 2011 if you’re curious.

The dream? I dreamed that my parents were visiting me in Italy, and were complaining that the hotel I’d arranged for them was not near the sea. And in the dream I said to them with surprise, “But look behind you! The sea’s right there.” And to their astonishment, as they turned around, the sparkling sunny ocean was indeed there, right behind them.

All they had to do was turn around. Good metaphor, now I think of it. I sometimes think we live like trapped flies, forever pushing forwards to get through a pane of glass to freedom beyond, as if forwards were the only possible direction. And like flies, we can push till we die of pushing. Pushing for humans includes trying very hard, being super-conscientious, taking responsibility for everyone, obsessing over technique, working without a break, dissecting, analysing, rationalising, quantifying, over-thinking and much else besides.

So what to do when life’s not working for us, when it seems full of problems and stress, or flat and dull? Don’t we need to force ourselves into further effort and all the rest?

No, I don’t think we do – for lots of reasons. Here are just two:

  1. All this relentless pushing towards our future – working with effort, maintaining our position, feeling super-responsible – all these things take huge reserves of energy, leaving us drained and dreary.
  2. We cannot access our full intelligence by using force and effort of the kind that analyses, calculates and rationalises, nor can we produce a single creative thought in a state of tension and stress.

Of course, intelligence and creativity require knowledge and application, but they need ample space to daydream too. Archimedes shouted his Ureka while having a bath. Einstein concluded that the universe was finite and curved after fantasising he was travelling on a beam of sunlight. Marie Curie dreamed the solution to a mathematical problem that had eluded her for three years on the very night after she had decided to turn away from the problem. The idea how to build a laser suddenly popped into Gordon Gould’s head one Saturday night.

So take a moment to look the other way. For example, take one minute to watch your breath and quieten down. (Great one minute meditation here.) Feel the wind on your face at some point in the day. Look up and see the sky. Break your pattern; do something different. Do anything different.

It’s when we break the pattern and create a gap that we begin to notice a tiny tug of desire. Desire needs explaining – it’s had a bad press and become linked too closely with sex. Desire can be strong; it can also be the slightest yearning inside, a faint pull towards something – a bit like realising you’re thirsty. The hint of a thought emerges: “When did I ever see the sun rise? – What if I got up early tomorrow?” “I lost touch with my best friend, I wonder if I could trace him/her?” “What about this solution to my problem?” “I used to play Claire de Lune on the piano by heart – let me see if I still can.” The still small voice can dissolve again very quickly, so it has to be caught on the wing. Jack Canfield (in The Success Principles) suggests that recent research in neuroscience indicates that an intuitive insight or idea not captured within half a minute is likely never to be recalled again.

Desire … What about …? Could I …? It’s desire that gives the world colour again. Desire is the short cut to freedom. It lets you know when you’re on track in life by a slight pulsing within; when you’re not on track it disappears and the world seems dull and pointless. Desire doesn’t always seem relevant or make sense, but it’s what makes life flow again, what opens up new possibility, what leads you in the direction that gives you most satisfaction and happiness. And it energises. Suddenly you find that a small action taken as a result of desire leads to something else, and to something else again, and a way appears. You thought the challenge was about working ever harder, but it was about something entirely different.

When we stop bashing our heads against the glass like flies and turn around, look, there’s an open door. The sparkling sea is there behind us all the time. Why on earth didn’t we notice it before?

I know … you and me both?

Go well,


Judy Apps

What else?

You can find lots more in my books:

The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people. Check out all my books on my Amazon page.

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!


If you want to improve confidence, communication, speaking and presenting, or relationships, email me or give me a call. I have worked with people from many walks of life, from directors and senior managers to the self employed and those changing direction or who feel stuck. The work starts from where you currently are.

What might you get from coaching? You will think more clearly, move into action more easily, and gain solid inner confidence to serve you well in all situations. You’ll feel calmer, more in control and more able to meet whatever difficulties you may have to face in the future. You’ll feel lighter and energised.

You might want a coach for a good stretch of time; you might be looking for 3 or 4 sessions or even a single session – whatever your objective you’ll find it well worth your while. Contact me here or at 01306 886114 to talk it through.

E-courses to access now

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

Do you sometimes feel daunted when you have to get up and speak? TERRIFIED even?

Well you certainly not alone! Yet it’s a skill needed in so many contexts – not only the formal presentation, conference address or wedding speech.  You need to be able to communicate under pressure for meetings, interviews, key conversations, even ‘having it out’ with a colleague.  No wonder the effort, anxiety and sleepless nights!

What would it be like to know that it is possible for you to be an accomplished speaker? You will learn step by step how to stand up and feel confident and in control. Judy has for many years studied the secrets of the best performers and offers you some of the key skills for presenting with ease.

You will receive 2 secrets a day over the next 5 days. Practical, useful and illustrated with real examples of what to do.

Other Free E-Courses to Download

How to Speak with More Authority

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

How to Raise Your Profile

Understanding NLP

Blocking and Yielding

Business has SO much to learn from improvisation!

"Look ... bla bla bla"

“Look … bla bla bla”

When someone attacks you in the martial art of Aikido, you never meet the attack head on and block it (that’s painful!); instead you swiftly move to go with the line of the attack – travelling with the other person’s energy – and then, from moving together, you influence the outcome with minimal energy on your part.

That’s a principle method in the art of improvisation too. Business – and life – has so much to learn from impro. Keith Johnstone is a renowned teacher and author of books on the art of impro. He gives his students a basic rule to accept any offer made by another improviser – i.e. give their idea credibility – and then offer something in return; in this way they move the action on. Saying no on the other hand blocks the action, like meeting an Aikido attack head on – ouch! End of story.

That sounds good sense to me. But sometimes life drives you mad, doesn’t it? Last week, the day after re-reading parts of his book Impro I made a special effort to visit a relative who frustratingly was neither happy to see me nor in a good frame of mind.

Nobody visits me, the relative complained.

Well they do! I’m here aren’t I? – my defence was on my lips all ready to shoot out. But Johnstone’s recently read suggestion to accept and say “yes, and …” sprang to mind, and I went with it:

Nobody visits me, the relative complained.

Yes, and when nobody’s here you feel lonely? (going with)

Mmm – nodding. It is nice to see you.

Wow, my relative had started unconsciously to play the impro game with me. How cool and surprising was that?!

If you want to play too, here are the rules:

Go with what’s coming at you, then take it somewhere (perhaps with “and”).

ATTACK: “Why didn’t you remember to do it?!”

“It’s so strange that I didn’t remember to do it! And …”

Give something away

ATTACK: “This isn’t good enough!”

“I want it to be amazing! – Please tell me your ideas for improving it.”

Remember to match the energy of the attacking statement so that you’re moving at the same speed as your attacker at the start of your response (think of passing the baton in a relay).

Johnstone holds that saying yes takes you to interesting places, and that by our choices of whether to block or yield we create our own lives of adventure or tedium:

There are people who prefer to say ‘yes’ and there are people who prefer to say ‘no’. Those who say ‘yes’ are rewarded by the adventures they have. Those who say ‘no’ are rewarded by the safety they attain. … People with dull lives often think that their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding.

‘Fear crouch’

“Blocking and yielding...” If you watch a politician being interviewed you sometimes catch a gesture when both hands come up, fingers up and spread, palms outwards, in self-protection – often in sync with that familiar truncated interrupt word, “Look …” bla bla bla. The uplifted hands raise and stiffen the shoulders and the upper body curls forward – it’s the ‘fear crouch’ position our caveman ancestor adopted to protect himself from a man-eating tiger (it never worked even then – end of story).

In such moments the politician is blocking. The result of course is self-defence and entrenchment. It goes nowhere; the politician is unchanged, the interviewer is unchanged, and the viewer/listener experiences irritation or tedium.

But say yes to life, move into what is, and the result is very different. It doesn’t mean giving way on your principles; it means regarding more closely the people you are dealing with and maybe letting go of some control, even permitting a degree of vulnerability. Then, there’s a genuine exchange. Keith Johnstone suggests that it’s good to be altered by the experience of human interchange. He wants others to have an impact on us and us to have an impact on others, rather than both parties to remain exactly the same. The exchange then goes somewhere; it’s more creative, more generative, and a whole lot more interesting.

NB, this is not about becoming a “yes-man”. “No” is good too, when it has something to offer back.The Aikidoist sometimes responds to an attack with a loud NOOO! – and then follows through into a further response. This is a proactive “no” that takes you somewhere, rather than a “no” that retreats inside and slams the door shut.

Cherub Posture

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 16.21.38In Johnstone’s thinking, the opposite of the ‘fear crouch’ is the ‘cherub posture’, which opens all the planes of the body, head turned to expose the neck, shoulders turned to expose the chest and spine arched to expose the belly – a sign of openness, vulnerability and tenderness.

What! Shall we all be cherubs now? Well, yes, that is what strong leaders do! The next time you feel that closing down blocking feeling, think cherub – soft, open and available – and allow a yielding. Dangerous? Not really, there’s no collapse, there’s no denial, no pause in breathing – just a going with what you’ve been offered and allowing yourself to be ‘touched’ by the exchange even as you play your active part.

Funny thing is, people who embrace this yielding realise that this and not the other is the full expression of their power. It’s a great thing to witness.

Always say ‘yes’ to the present moment… Surrender to what is. Say ‘yes’ to life – and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you. Eckhart Tolle

Vulnerability is the birthplace of connection and the path to the feeling of worthiness. If it doesn’t feel vulnerable, the sharing is probably not constructive. Brene Brown



The best of NLP, in three themed 2-day modules

If you can recommend this training, please let your friends know about it – thanks!

Module 1: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct,
Module 2: Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov,
Module 3: Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.

One more time this autumn, an amazingly good offer of NLP training from a highly regarded, experienced, effective and intuitive trainer (yes, that’s me:-)) at unbeatable value.

Pay What You Can. Very modest registration on-line, followed by a voluntary donation (at least equal to the registration fee if you want to pay your way, but up to you). See more here.

Why do NLP? Anyone working or living with other people needs knowledge of self and of how others tick. Brilliant for confidence and leadership of self and others – for leaders, coaches, managers, parents …

NLP Practitioner Completion

Just had three awesome days with a brilliant group – you know who you are!

Voice of Influence Workshop

Next workshop in the New Year – worth the wait! 2016 dates will be announced shortly.

Spirit of Coaching International Retreat

If you are a coach, you may just be in time to secure one of the last places on this beautiful retreat in the Oxford countryside, Fri to Sun, 4-6 October.

Through a mixture of talks, coaching exercises, workshops, inner reflection and meditation, we will:

• Explore the synergy between spirituality and coaching
• Deepen our experience of the space within and between us
• Discover new ways of enhancing and applying our coaching skills for the benefit of ourselves and the world.

As with all events organised by the Brahma Kumaris, there’s no charge for the weekend. However, contributions towards costs are welcomed. Email me, or John McConnell if you are interested. See you there.


One of the most satisfying things about my work is to see coaching clients grow into larger confidence and bigger roles. If you’re in a rut, or struggling, or feel you may have more potential than you’re currently using, don’t hesitate to get a coach – a few sessions can make a huge difference to your self concept and confidence. It is truly worth it. Have a look at my thoughts on coaching, and email me, or give me a call (01306 886114) to have an informal chat about it.


My four published books, available in print, audio and Kindle, have helped many improve their communication and speaking skills and build their self confidence. Check the links below, and or look them up on my Amazon page.

The Art of Conversation: Change Your life with Confident Communication

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Communicate with Confidence

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

Free E-Courses to Download

Current titles:
* How to Speak with More Authority
* How to Overcome Performance Anxiety
* How to Raise Your Profile
* Introduction to NLP.

Daily inspiration and ideas on Facebook and Twitter

Hope to talk to you there!


That’s it! Happy new academic year – new starts, new opportunities.

Go well,


Dog Days

NB Book Autumn Courses in London now!

Voice of Influence Workshop – 24-25 SEPT
Find your powerful speaking voice. Connect with confidence

NLP Diploma – Starts 19 October
Powerful communication skills – successful relationships, leadership, influence, coaching. Three 2-day modules over 2 months
Details below

Summer time and the livin’ is easy … ♬ 


Warm days, long days, dog days …

I associate August days of my childhood with kicking a ball idly in our road with the dusty smell of privet hedges in the air. For many of us summer’s a dull routine time at work, a period when people take a holiday if they can, or if they can’t – or want to avoid school holiday periods –  just carry on.

Last year I had a lively August with interviews and article writing following the publication of The Art of Conversation. This year, it’s quieter, and in the less urgent pace of this time of year age-old questions find gaps to creep in: “What am I aiming at?” or “What should I do next?” or “What am I doing with my life?” You know the kind of question, that brings with it a dissatisfaction with the status quo, a discordant sense of un-channelled energy and an inability to settle to things; so that the easy-livin’ time of year gets to be the most disturbed, even as the sun shines and nature looks at its most beautiful and inviting.

Now you’d think urgency might be good – that it might make something positive happen. But I’ve found this kind of urgency to be exactly the opposite: there’s nothing worse than that speeded-up “gotta do, gotta do, gotta do” feeling for achieving anything useful.

  • “Gotta meet people” – and your vibe puts people off
  • “Gotta get work” – and your desperation repels
  • “Gotta do something important/worthwhile” – and your jittery energy scatters your thoughts and produces confusion and hopelessness

Yet, remembering back a few years, it was in just such a slump time of year when I created the bulk of my first book. It was autumn. Paid work had dropped off and I was feeling, if not exactly a failure, very far from a success. I didn’t realise at the time what a fertile period it would prove to be.

So I’m thinking now, how did that happen?

Very simple really, I found a way to accept that it was the way it was. I’d just read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, that probably helped. For once I stopped fretting and accepted that this quiet period was how it was and this was where I was. It was the absolute opposite of “gotta do gotta do”.

So, looking back from now, I’d say this is what helps:

  1. Accepting that things are as they are as they are …
    not trying to change reality, and not taking anything in life as a personal affront. Knowing that nothing is more important than whatever I’m doing now. Telling myself, it’s okay; there’s a time and season for everything; a pause is good too.
  2. Finding joy in simple things, birdsong at dawn, sunshine, a tree, daisies at the roadside, a kind word – pausing for a moment to appreciate
  3. Focusing on this moment – watching my breathing and witnessing it slow down as often as I remember during the day. Telling myself, breathe, just be; everything’s okay; all is well.

And then, from this space, to notice any inner touching – any tiny thread of intelligence/desire/intention as it arises. For me it was, I wonder if …?” “What if I just write some of these thoughts down…?

Occasionally I do things against my inner voice, but you really should go for the thing that touches you most – even if you don’t quite know why it does. Alan Bates

In that state of ‘non-doing’ seeds had time to germinate and an idea matured without conscious pushing. I look back on the time with gratitude now, as that writing was the beginning of much good stuff that followed.

I wonder what might touch you or occur to you in odd idle moments this summer?

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy long days!

Go well,




Naomi Woolf wrote in an article last week in the Guardian that “When people feel from your voice that you are confident, they will believe that you are smarter, and that you are better at what you do – even when you are saying the exact same thing.”

It’s true – people immediately think they know what you’re like, just from listening to your voice. If your voice doesn’t work well for you it’s really worth doing something about it.

The next Voice of Influence Workshop in London on 24-25 September is a great way to find your voice and confidence in a small group. Don’t put it off if you feel a bit daunted – every bit of feedback I get after this course confirms that it’s friendly, supportive and highly effective – even transformative – so what better time than now?

I also offer one-to-one face-to-face or Skype coaching on voice and presenting. Email me if you might be interested.


The new NLP Diploma starts on 19 October. NLP training is surprisingly effective. What will you get from it? Powerful communication and better relationships, confidence in all situations, more focus and clarity about where you’re going, surer decision making, leadership and coaching skills … and much more. Past delegates’ comments.

Module 1: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct,
Module 2: Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov,
Module 3: Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.

Never has quality NLP Training been so accessible! – Pay What You Can system for self-funding applicants. The very modest registration fee is for the basic venue and material costs, and the voluntary (but necessary!) element payable anonymously at the actual course according to what you can pay is for the NLP training and coaching you receive. More here.


The NLP Practitioner qualification is widely recognised professionally as a mark of your ability to resolve problems, achieve successful outcomes and lead others with skill and emotional sensitivity. Personally, you will find that your relationships improve, you achieve your life goals more easily and you ‘find yourself’ in all senses of the term.

If you’ve completed my NLP Diploma you can be certified as an NLP Practitioner. This includes attendance at the 3-day intensive NLP Practitioner course.

NB!  If you have already completed the NLP Practitioner Module you are welcome to repeat the 3-day training completely for free. Email me very soon if you’re interested.

Spirit of Coaching Retreat in Oxford

The Spirit of Coaching next international retreat for coaches is at the Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre in Oxford from 2-4 October. Other retreats have been rich and rewarding for participants. If you are a coach and would be interested to attend this ‘by invitation’ event, email me and I’ll pass your name and details on. It is free, though contributions are always welcome.





Going All Out

Autumn Workshops – sign up now

Voice of Influence24-25 September

NLP Diploma: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct, Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov, and Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.  Special “Pay What You Can” terms.  More below …

Going All Out

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 16.18.23I put in lots of effort to do a good job. I’m sure you do too. If a job needs strength, we go all out to be strong. If positivity is needed, we go all out to be positive.

Surely? But life often laughs at us.

Here on the left is one of my favourite photos. On the left of the picture you can see pallbearers carrying a coffin out of church after a funeral, watching appalled as simultaneously the hearse they are making towards is loaded onto a tow-truck to be carted away for having contravened parking restrictions.

Good job, traffic warden!

There’s another story about an old lady billed for late fees by her bank for months after her death in spite of her surviving relative telling the bank again and again that she’d died. The bills kept on coming month after month.

After months of wrangling with the bank the frustrated relative finally snapped,

“How can I say it? She’s no longer at that address!”

“So do you have her new address?” asked the bank official.

“Her current address is Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Plot Number 69.”

First sign of life from the official: “Sir, that’s a cemetery!”

“Exactly! What do you do with dead people on your planet?”

The bank was very consistent. Well-done, bank official!

Jobsworths rule okay! There is no one who pursues their job more single-mindedly, no one who is more consistently consistent than a jobsworth. A vehicle parked in the wrong place? Remove it. No ifs and buts; no special circumstances. Someone hasn’t paid a bill? Pursue them … to death and beyond!

Of course we like such stories, but how often do we pursue some end ourselves with everything we’ve got and somehow miss the point?

At yoga this morning I wanted to bend further towards my toes, but with my best efforts always reached an edge, beyond which I couldn’t go. But then, listening to the yoga teacher, I withdrew a little from that edge and let go on achieving the outcome. Result? Letting go, I found myself actually able to bend further than before and without strain.

That’s a good metaphor for what happens in our dealings with people. Have you ever had a situation where you are adamant about something and the other person is adamant too, and you both push and push to get what you want. Then one of you draws back and gives way, only to discover that the other person all confused becomes more compliant and you find a happy solution.

This is how life works. When we go all out rigidly towards a goal we go against life and create resistance. Life is never rigid. When we look for flexibility and balance we succeed.

If you don’t, if you insist rigidly on certain outcomes, you’re in for trouble. You go all out for happiness and fail to find it. You push for your children to succeed and they protest and fail. Or you do everything to avoid pain and end up suffering. ISIS goes all out with rigid certainty for god and creates the devil. Governments go all out to ensure the freedom of the individual and put many in chains of misery. A politician shows strength at every turn and fails to influence.

I recognise that all-out mood in myself when I get a pressing feeling that I ‘gotta do, gotta do gotta do,’ or experience that urgent insistence that something has to be right at all costs. It’s always counter-productive. I’m noticing it in certain Wimbledon tennis players too – that desperation to win a point that so often loses it. In a favourite book of my youth, Zen and the Art of Archery, the Zen Master says:

The right art … is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen. Eugen Herrigel

Our real strengths are found in balance. And what I find fascinating and paradoxical is that it’s not a matter of finding the happy mean – you know, not too strong and not too vulnerable, or not too happy and not too sad. It’s about both coexisting. Authentic strength coexists with vulnerability. Communication is most powerful where there is high energy and peacefulness. The truly happy person knows sadness – in fact, happiness needs knowledge of sadness.

I’m just beginning to get it – two sides of the same coin. If you insist on just one side you lose the other too. When you are aware of both, you can have one and both. Both and: life all of a piece.


Sign up now for workshops this autumn:

Voice of Influence24-25 September.
Go beyond performance anxiety to powerful performance. Use your voice to influence with presence and connection – even if you are seriously daunted now! 2 fun-filled days that will make a profound difference to your confidence and authenticity and impact on every part of your life. Small group coaching at its best. Many enthusiastic testimonials here.

NLP Diploma: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct, Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov, and Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov. You can register here. 6 days in total of great communication and personal effectiveness learning, or sign up for individual modules.

Once again, I am broadening the reach of the NLP Diploma with a Pay What You Can system based on trust for self-funding participants.  The registration fee is for the basic venue and material costs, and the element payable at the actual course – voluntary according to what you can pay – is for the NLP training and coaching you receive. More here.

Spirit of Coaching

The conference on 27 June was an exciting and meaningful event which witnessed some magical conversations that went beyond the everyday – video available soon. The Spirit of Coaching next international retreat is at Oxford from 2-4 October. Other retreats have been rich and rewarding for participants. If you are a coach and would be interested to attend this ‘by invitation’ event, email me and I’ll pass your name and details on. It is free, though contributions are always welcome.


One of the most satisfying things about my work is to see coaching clients grow into larger confidence and bigger roles. If you’re in a rut, or struggling, or feel you may have more potential than you’re currently using, don’t hesitate to get a coach – a few coaching sessions can make a huge difference to your self concept and confidence. It is truly worth it. And if you think that I might be the person to help you, have a look at my thoughts on coaching, and email me or give me a call (01306 886114) to have an informal chat about it.


My four published books, including the most recent, The Art of Conversation, have helped many improve their communication and speaking skills and build their self confidence. Read more about their content here, and or check them out on Amazon.

I’ve just finished Jackee Holder’s 49 Ways to Write Yourself Well. I can thoroughly recommend it for anyone who’s ever kept and journal or might think about journalling – it’s a rich source of treasures and practical tools.

I’ve also been listening again to the CD of Eckhard Tolle speaking at Findhorn – Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat: Finding Stillness Amidst the World  – peaceful listening for long summer days …

Right, back to Wimbledon!

Go well,


Are you becoming a caricature of yourself?

Screen Shot 2015-05-30 at 17.50.56How truthful do you allow yourself to be?

And does it matter?

Maybe more than you think it does …


We’re in a coach driving past a particularly lovely country mansion on our way to Stratford-upon-Avon. I’m the tour guide. It’s the ‘80s. A woman from Texas asks, “Who lives there?”

“Oh,” I reply. “I don’t know. It’s grand, isn’t it?”

My answer goes down like a lead balloon. The questioner pouts, shrugs and turns to look out of the window.

A month later, a man from Wyoming asks exactly the same question as we pass the very same house.

“Oh,” I reply, put on my guard by my previous experience and getting creative on the hoof. “Great question! It’s the country residence of the Earl of Wigshire. He used to come down from London by horse and carriage for country weekends. Quite an eccentric character by all accounts, pretty wild parties … and he bred potbellied pigs!”

“Wow!” responds the questioner, looking pleased.

That’s one kind of untruth. And if I’d cared enough about creating that happy response, I might have made a career of it.

That’s not what I think!

But what’s much more common is distorting the truth without meaning to. Have you ever had the experience of saying something in conversation and then thinking after you’ve said it, “That wasn’t really true – that’s not really what I think at all”? It happened to me last week, when I felt under pressure to say something. Some words came out of my mouth, and I realised that I didn’t really think that at all – I was just saying what people say in such circumstances.

In this way, we parcel bits of our lives, our thoughts, beliefs and feelings, into bite-size pieces, so that we can speak them. They’re not exactly untrue; but they’re not true either. Most of the time we don’t notice such lapses, we just assume that what we speak is what we think. But then, if we don’t notice, what we speak becomes by creeping stealth a substitute for truth.

The author Tim Gallwey – always a rewarding thinker to listen to – talks about the images we cultivate, and how the job of a coach is to see through veils to the person underneath all the acts and posturing. The hardest acts, he says, are not the bad self-images that mask a worthwhile person, but the good self-images people assume to make people believe they are wonderful, which actually cover up their real wonderfulness. “An image is an image,” he says. “What about the thing being imaged – you?”


When we converse with people and don’t feel entirely comfortable, most of us tend to put a gloss on our words to preserve our self-image. With ‘glossing’ our stories take on a life of their own, and they grow and change with each telling. Our first stab at expressing an uncomfortable truth may come out as:

I’ve just lost my job – a new cut-throat boss was appointed…

For the next occasion this develops into:

Oh, my company were downsizing the workforce by a third – I took the chance and grabbed redundancy.

which later becomes:

Oh, I decided to start my own business – corporate life had got a bit stifling.

which arrives at:

I run a business consultancy. Working for yourself is the only way I think.

What’s wrong with this? There are times when words are expected of us, and it isn’t always easy to find the best words for the moment, particularly when we feel vulnerable. However, what can happen, I think, is that bit-by-bit we buy into our own edited stories, and as a result lose a layer of self-knowing and live a little less authentically. Eventually, we become caricatures – ‘spitting images’ – of ourselves. Watch it happen with politicians!

Funnily enough, the truth almost always offers a much better story than any anodised version and demonstrates a more powerful version of ourselves. For example, maybe I lost my job as in the example above, and was shocked, angry and defeated for a while. Maybe I struggled for years to find anything to take its place. Yet somehow, out of despair I dragged myself together, discovered resilience and courage, became innovative and created purpose for myself. In so doing, I learned about myself, and found qualities and strengths I didn’t know I had. Now that’s a much more interesting and human story and more worthy of respect than recounting that I’ve always been unfailingly wonderful and am endlessly wonderful now.

There was never a better opportunity to get real than in our own times. Most of us are getting pretty fed up with word-manipulation and spin, and there’s a new wave of dissatisfaction creeping into media headlines.

Call me naive, politicians, but how about saying what you really think?” challenges journalist Sophie Heawood.

By God, believe in something,” actor Michael Sheen tells politicians, describing today’s political climate, “where politicians are careful, tentative, scared of saying what they feel for fear.”

Successful entrepreneur Martha Lane Fox expresses shock as an MP at the artificiality of the Westminster world, “this suffocating implausibility, where nobody except mavericks will say what they mean.”

Why the fuss about driverless cars,” says journalist Marina Hyde? “We already have robot politicians.”

If you want to get real, start with speaking truth to yourself. How to tell if you’re doing that? Pay attention not just to your brain, but to your visceral awareness too.

For example, let’s imagine that at a party someone asks what I do, and I reply, “Oh, I’m at home with a baby; I’m planning to start my own business as soon as he sleeps through the night.”

What am I aware of? A feeling of awkwardness, of defensiveness, lack of congruence, a sense that what I’ve just said is not authentic. I’ve blurted it out because I’m feeling inadequate in this company as a still-at-home parent.

So I ask myself, what is the truth here – for me? Maybe that I’d love to be able to talk about business success and the world out there, but that in actual fact – even as I worry that others won’t see it that way – I’m currently doing the job I’ve wanted to do all my life, and it’s tough and rewarding in equal measure.

Much better story. And without doubt much more likely to build human connection the next time we dare say it as it is.



Courses start up again in September, with the NLP Practitioner Completion module at the beginning of the month for those who have completed the NLP Diploma. Meanwhile …


Saturday 27 June, 9:30am – 4:30pm

Contributors include Judy Apps and Jackee Holder, coach and author of Soul Purpose and other books.

An uplifting day exploring ways to create conversations which open the mind and heart to a world of new, unlimited possibilities. For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development. This day is free. Registration essential by Wednesday 24 June: Click here to REGISTER


(All dates waiting for final confirmation)

Voice of Influence Workshop

24-25 September

Find your voice, confidence and ability to connect to any audience with confidence. Group coaching at its best.

NLP Diploma

Module 1: Communication and Relationships – 15-16 October

Module 2: Leadership and Influence – 5-6 November

Module 3: Coaching and Change – 26-27 November

Modules may be taken separately.

Register for all courses here.

Join me for ideas and tips on Facebook and Twitter!


If you’re wondering about next steps in work or in life, feel stuck or don’t find satisfaction in what you do, coaching’s a great way to find confidence, purpose and direction. It can also be very reasonable in terms of cost. Email me or give me a call (01306 886114) if you want to know more.


Current titles:

* How to Speak with More Authority

* How to Overcome Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP.


Available in print, audio & e-versions.

The Art of Conversation

If you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on, or want to make more meaningful connections with people, this is for you. Great for coaches too.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms 

If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work! It’s already published in Italian, Malaysian, Arabic and Thai as well as English, and I’ve just received the Polish edition.

"Butterflies & Sweaty Palms" - in Polish!

“Butterflies & Sweaty Palms” – in Polish!

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies  

A comprehensive guide – dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice. Includes my audio CD.

Voice of Influence 

Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect and influence others through your voice. A good read with plenty of personal experiences and practical advice.

Do get in touch with me if you have comments or questions, and please feel free to pass this newsletter on if you’ve enjoyed it.

Go well,