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

 

So, beyond protest, what?

The Washington Post contacted more than 400 charities with some ties to the current President of the USA in an effort to find proof of the millions he has said he donated to them. They were mostly unsuccessful. Here's one of David Farenthold's many checklists.
The Washington Post contacted 400+ charities with ties to the President to find proof of the millions he says he donated. They mostly failed. Here’s one of many checklists.

What can an ordinary person do about the extraordinary frightening state of the world? I’ve been struggling.

I started to write a newsletter a week ago, started another on Tuesday, found a new theme on Friday – but whatever I started turned into a rant connected to recent events in the USA. And what’s the point of ranting against a ranter who feeds on outrage and opposition? Moreover, everything I touched seemed to get more complex and difficult as I went.

What IS an issue?

I realised that whatever issue I chose, I didn’t know what I was talking about – I mean literally. What am I talking about – actually – when I talk about immigration, safety, terrorism, freedom, defence, abuse, Islamists, justice, populism, nationalism or even Brexit (I know, I know, it means ‘Brexit’ – that pretty much sums up the problem!).

What am I talking about for instance when I talk about immigration? It certainly sounds like an issue, but the word immigration covers too much – it might be summed up for one elderly person as a person with a disconcertingly foreign look; as someone escaping from terrible suffering abroad for another; as someone disgracefully driving wages down for an unemployed eastern-counties man; as someone heroically holding the care service together singlehanded for the family of an old person in need, or as an unrecognisable term according to an English person living in Spain (What immigrant, I’m an expat!)

That’s the problem with abstract terms: until they are further defined no one can know what exact meaning is intended. We put our own meaning to the word and fight our corner, but often people in the other corner are interpreting the word with a meaning directly the opposite of ours. This makes it impossible to understand each other. Or we can agree heartily, while meaning something very different. This happens a lot, and is what makes these abstract words powerful tools for cynical manipulators.  As we are seeing … and have been seeing for quite a long time.

Issues and Troubles

Almost 70 years ago, the sociologist C Wright Mills wrote about the important difference between issues and troubles. He said a trouble is a tangible problem that concerns individuals in their immediate experience – it has a story. An issue is public – some value cherished by the public feels threatened. An issue is always expressed with an abstract word. Sometimes an issue gains all the attention of people and press, propelled by particular interests, but doesn’t connect with the actual troubles besetting people in their lives. (Politics is traditionally very good at this.) Sometimes, it’s the opposite: common troubles fail to get surfaced and formulated as public issues, and so fail to be addressed at a level where change can happen. (With me so far? – stick with it!)

So, for example, immigration is a huge issue, but what are the troubles that people (often with considerable help from politicians) attribute to it? – lack of work, a money-starved health system, the yearning for simpler days before mass travel? There’s very little mention currently of the various troubles that bring people to support the issue because that doesn’t concern its political backers; and only by understanding the troubles can appropriate practical measures be taken to solve the problem. Child abuse in the Catholic Church was a grievous issue, but only when the press brought to the fore the individual troubles – the harrowing stories related by victims – only then did something get done about it.

Why all this now? I think we’ve been led astray for many years by too easy acceptance of these abstract ‘issue’ words; we’re too easily horrified and outraged as well; too easily grabbing meaning from a headline, a tweet, an image or our favourite news outlet (unheeding of who is the actual power behind it); when our job probably should be to look more at the actual troubles that lie behind the issues and look very carefully indeed at their connection with named issues.

Time to turn detective

That’s what David Farenthold is doing. This highly impressive and surprisingly humble American journalist has been quietly and doggedly investigating the truth of the Trump Foundation for the Washington Post – tackling the issue of the President’s truth and generosity. He’s been painstakingly uncovering facts piece by piece, involving the public through Twitter, and going to source – i.e. the charities supposed to have been helped – rather than beating his head against the wall of Washington politics. (Photo of one of the lists he tweeted above) He’s discovered many lies and misappropriations, and the sheer amount of detail from named people in hundreds of different charities makes his stories convincing. I like what he’s doing. He makes me want to be better at seeking out genuine information; to be much more careful and discerning, more ready to explore different sources, more ready to question my assumptions – like a chess player maybe, who needs to use all his careful intelligence and attention to lock that king in a corner and call out Checkmate!

Only when thousands and thousands of us can support our facts and assertions with convincing detail will we feel powerful rather than outraged. Then together we might present some sort of a force for good.

Well, that’s today’s thought anyway. What do you think?

What Else?

Feel like something uplifting?

I can recommend any of the following:

Alternatives

Talks and workshops at St. James’s Picadilly in London on holistic thinking and spirituality. An eclectic mix of speakers. They certainly contain names of authors who have maintained their place on my book shelves through the years. Coming up: Deepak Chopra, Julia Cameron, Marianne WIlliamson, David Hamilton …

Brahma Kumaris Courses

Learn meditation, Positive Thinking, Stress-free Living and more. Courses in London and other centres in the UK and all round the world. No charge and zero pressure, though you’ll probably enjoy the course and want to donate. They offer great sessions and conferences for coaches – some coming up later in the year.

Osho

I wanted to recommend Everyday Osho: 365 Daily Meditations for the Here and Now for a wonderful daily dose of good sense and inspiration, but it seems hard to find at a reasonable price. So I recommend any Osho – he’s written lots of books, just pick a title. Even my county libraries have copies.

Coaching

If you ever decide to be a coach – life coach, executive coach – you’re never going to wake up one day and think, Yes, I have arrived. Even for the most experienced there’s always something to learn . A current theme for me at the moment is how presence and detachment coexist. Only detached and you don’t really connect; bring your whole self into presence and there’s always the danger of introducing personal preoccupations and tugs on your energy. So we remain centred and earth based and at the same time dancing on the sharp edge of the mountain peak. We hope never to slide below a certain level, and every now and then, the results astound us all in their rightness.

Get a coach. Get a coach, it’s worth it. For sure you can be more, and you’ll gain so much in the process of becoming what you can be. People around you will gain big-time too. If you want to contact me to talk through what’s possible, email in the first instance.

I also offer coaching in all aspects of public speaking, presenting and voice. You can book up a single session if you want to dip your toe in the water.

Courses

I’m running in-house courses on Public Speaking, Leadership and Walking Your Talk, Unconscious Bias and more this spring. Do contact me if you’d like a personalised workshop on any of those or similar themes from a trainer who’ll understand the different needs of your delegates – it genuinely makes all the difference. 

As usual, my current books

The Art of Conversation
I gave an interview to Kinfolk magazine this week on silence in conversation – I found it a fascinating theme. The issue’s not out till summer apparently. The interviewer described the magazine as a high-end lifestyle and culture publication with a print readership of 170,000 people in over 100 countries. It certainly looks glossy!

Conversational skill does require ease with silence – it 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, but can overcome it.

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.

 

Spotted my first snowdrops in the wild this morning, peeping out of frosty grass. Good to see.

Go well,

Judy

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

ALSO TO SHARE 

Coaching

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,

Judy

Lesons from Fools

Screen Shot 2016-09-04 at 21.32.18I’m in my twenties, and I shout over the boiling kettle to my flatmate in the other room, “Where’ve you put the tea?”

“In my sock drawer,” she shouts back, her tone of voice also suggesting, “Der! Where did you think?”

Who says everything needs to make sense?

 

The BFG

Roald Dahl used to love the unexpected. The BFG (Seen the Spielberg film yet?) is a great example. He is satisfyingly scary – oh, that horrifyingly huge hand that plucks Sophie from her bed! (“Seriously, that book should be banned – it could cause children serious psychological problems.”) Yet, in a neat piece of shape shifting, we discover that our huge BFG is in giant-terms a runt himself, bullied by vastly huger giants.

Again, so ignorant a giant that he can’t even talk English properly (“Words is oh such a twitch-tickling problem to me”), he makes many of the wisest comments in the book.

“Yesterday,” he said, “We was not believing in giants, was we? Today we is not believing in snozzcumbers. Just because we happen not to have actually seen something with our own two little winkles, we think it is not existing.”

Shape shift again – he’s simple-minded, yet with special powers: “I is hearing all the wondrous and terrible things,” he tells Sophie, “all the secret whisperings of the world.”

But to be serious, seriously …

But to get away from children’s stories, do you believe in seriousness? The world divides into the serious – everything to make sense, and the non-serious – lightness and humour, especially for events and situations that are serious or terrifying or just plain paradoxical.

Some examples of the divide:

Serious: Job interviews on the whole. Your reasons and explanations have to ‘make sense.’ When I had a job assisting in running job selections for one of the big accounting companies, the selectors mostly rejected CVs that didn’t fit a consistent pattern – for example, an unexplained career gap was considered a serious impediment to selection. By the way, just think of the people who wouldn’t be selected by such a ‘serious’ method? Albert Einstein – expelled from school, and in any case considered ‘slow’; Bill Gates – dropped out of Harvard; Stephen Spielberg – couldn’t get the school grades to get into University; and thousands of other remarkable people.

Serious: Politicians (many of whom have excellent CVs with not the tiniest chink of a career gap between Oxbridge and Political Adviser.) Most politicians like pattern and structure. They talk about “sensible people” as in “all sensible people will agree that I am right.” Oh and, “This is the right thing to do.” Very serious – very simplistic … very righteous …

Serious: a life that makes sense. Most people are reassured by a past that is coherent, even if it’s a complete shambles. Look out for the minute smirk of satisfaction when someone says, “I’m a failure because …;” (complete the dots: negligent parents, wrong school, bullying, unfair treatment…). Once they’ve made the past fit a pattern, it carries on just as coherently into the future: “I’m destined to continue a failure because I never had a chance because of _____” (same reasons). Seriously flawed thinking, but it “makes serious sense.”

What about non-serious?

Non-serious: “What I mean and what I say is two different things,” the BFG announces rather grandly.” Nonsense… funny … and true. Both humorous and profound in the same sentence.

Non-serious: Coaching – where humour is allowed to walk side by side with major life themes and difficult feelings – the humour doesn’t deny the feelings, it universalises them as a human condition and makes them less scary, allowing the work to be done.

Non-serious: Dancing, writing, running, painting, singing – ‘non-productive’ activities where joy underlines the energy, where results can be profound.

You get the idea:

Serious: You’re going to be a perfect accountant, your working life the perfect pattern of progression.

Non-serious: Well! They broke the mould when they made you! You’re unique, you’re original, you’re wonderfully, amazingly YOU.

In literature, wisdom often emerges from the mouth of the fool: Dostoyevsky’s Idiot, King Lear’s Fool, the wisdom of children, Winnie the Pooh – that bear of little brain, The Beatles “The Fool on the Hill” and on and on.

I have found that seriousness and rationalisation make me heavy, over-conscientious, detail obsessed and anxious. Lightness gives me energy, fresh ideas, and a better view of the whole, including other people. Anxiety shrinks and cripples; laughter releases and expands.

Life is far too important a thing ever to talk seriously about. Oscar Wilde

Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out of it alive. Elbert Hubbard

Lighten up and you lighten up those around you. Fear crawls away to trouble people who are more serious. In lightness you rediscover flexibility; rigid control becomes redundant; the mind begins to play and discover new patterns; relationships become fresh and interesting; grace returns.

Autumn, new beginnings … what about treading lightly for a while? You might find yourself laughing at how many good things happen and at how much you achieve.

Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically. Nelson Mandela

And the rest …

E-courses

Have you dipped your toe into any of my short chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website? Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

How to Speak with More Authority

Understanding NLP

Coaching

Coaching is for anyone and everyone. I hear from senior people in organisations who want to air ideas and solve problems, executives who wish to polish their skills, unemployed people who want to get back into the market, people who feel in a rut and wake up one day to make that first step – a phone call, people from all walks of life. Maybe it’s time for you to take that step? A few sessions of coaching are affordable and potentially life changing.

Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.

Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – London

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the depth and meaning of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process.  For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register here.

My Books

The Art of Conversation    No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms    The practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies     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.

Go well,

Judy

 

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

 

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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.

Coaching

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. lifecoach-directory.org.uk/member_2261.html

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,
Judy

What’s the Job of a Coach?

golden-statue-of-hero-riding-horse-2701x1986_101722 (1)When planning my old website my designer decided to make the subject headings gold – I quite liked it. When I tried to replicate the tone in my newsletters I discovered that the colour that appears as gold on screen is in fact a dirty yellow/ochre/brown colour. It just deceives the eye into thinking it’s gold.

When you think about it, even when you see a gold object in real life, its golden glitter is not intrinsic, but the result of reflected light – its glow is not inside it, as it were. If you want that, you need a source of light. Gold objects are not sources of light.

I was pondering this after coaching someone the other day. Sometimes, as coaches we are asked to polish a person’s golden image – i.e. to enhance their persona.

Let me explain. The client tells you that he (or she of course – I’ll carry on with ‘he’ for now) wants to achieve a particular outcome, and seeks your help to achieve it. The GROW model of coaching describes the process quite well – here’s one version:

What’s your Goal?

What’s your current Reality?

What are the Obstacles stopping you from reaching your goal? And then, what are your Options for dealing with these?

Finally, what is the Way Forward? What Will you do, by when?

Let’s say the client has come to me with the goal of ‘walking his talk’ as a leader – of coming across more powerfully. People who have inner power and confidence tend to speak in a deeper voice, stand tall and balanced, and look at their listeners. So – to put it simply – I help the client with voice, deportment and eye contact. He then looks and sounds powerful enough to convince quite a lot of people quite a lot of the time. But not all the people all the time. It’s hard to put your finger on it exactly, but there’s something artificial about the image – exactly that, in fact – it’s an image.

In working in this way, I’m helping the client to polish his personality and make it glitter like gold, rather than helping him shine with his own light from within. In so doing, I’m short-changing him.

Let’s imagine that this client – this leader – had a father who always told him he wasn’t good enough. Now in adulthood, however much he is promoted and treated with respect, there’s a small voice inside him that continues to whisper, “You’re not good enough.” That’s a pretty common scenario – you might even recognise it yourself. I can help him burnish his golden image till we’re both blue in the face but it won’t send the small negative voice away, and so he’ll never quite convince people of his leadership qualities. We see this in public figures all the time – the EU debate is a great place to look at the moment – there are those who play the role of powerful leader and those – far fewer I might add – who radiate moral power and genuine authority from a source within.

In order to do the latter, our client requires something different. I need to help him find his confidence and integrity inside, like a light within. And that means that I have to be capable of seeing the potential existence of that light within him, even when it’s obscured by a glittering reflection.

And for the client to see it too, it’s necessary for him to look beneath the glossy exterior and come face to face with himself – face to face with timidity or vulnerability or fear. Once that demon is faced – and incidentally it’s scarcely ever a real demon but only a shadow on the wall – then the person is able to step up to real authority and leadership, and convince with his authenticity. As wise old Rumi tells us, “The wound is the place where the Light enters you.”

What is the glossy exterior, this glittering reflection that wants to create smoke and mirrors and reflect glory and power? It’s the ego.  But as coach, I know that a person’s real power – their source of light – is revealed when in coaching we go underneath the gloss to their authentic values and knowledge of self.

We coaches don’t achieve that aim all the time. When we do, that’s the real deal; that’s what we’re here to do.

Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion. Rumi

 

Coaching

Have you thought about finding a coach? If you haven’t experienced good coaching before, speak to someone who has. It’s extraordinary how in a surprisingly short time you can achieve results that transform your life, and stick. Whether you lack confidence for an interview or change of direction, are stuck in a work or close relationship, can’t find your way forward or want to be more effective in your work and relationships, coaching can achieve successful lasting change for you.

I offer one-to-one coaching both to executives a senior level and to people from every walk of life. It’s quite usual to book a series of 6 coaching sessions, either face-to-face or by video or Skype. I also offer one-off sessions to boost your confidence and skill for a particular conference speech or an important interview.

Don’t hold back if you’re looking for support in some area of your life – I can probably offer a solution that will suit you.

My books

Why not start off by buying one of my books – widely available – and then contact me with any questions you may have.

The Art of Conversation

– Change Your Life with Confident Communication. 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 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!

Speaking and training

Though not running my open courses this year, I’m still public speaking and training, so do get in touch under either of those headings.

Other Links

The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Western World by Iain Gilchrist is a startling and important book – several centimetres thick! – that describes the tension between two fundamentally different ways of being and thinking in the world today. Iain has now brought out The Divided Brain and the Search for Meaning – a 10,000 word summary of his original book – fascinating stuff, easily accessible and well worth a read.

Another interesting read for coaches – and others – is Insight Dialogue: the Interpersonal Path to Freedom by Gregory Kramer – brings insights from interpersonal meditation that can prove valuable in coaching.

A Poem

Finally a poem by D H Lawrence on the subject of ego.  You can find other favourite poems on my website here.

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego

When we get out of the glass bottles of our ego,
and when we escape like squirrels turning in the
cages of our personality
and get into the forests again,
we shall shiver with cold and fright
but things will happen to us
so that we don’t know ourselves.

Cool, unlying life will rush in,
and passion will make our bodies taut with power,
we shall stamp our feet with new power
and old things will fall down,
we shall laugh, and institutions will curl up like
burnt paper.

Do contact me at info@voiceofinfluence.co.uk if you have questions or comments about any of the above.

Enjoy the long June days,
Go well,

Judy

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

Judy Apps
judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

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!

Coaching

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

Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

FANTASTIC E-BOOK OFFER

 – this week-end only, 11 March to Mon morning 14 March

Just £1 for each of my books published by Crown House – for this week-end only, available from today, Friday till Monday morning, 14 March.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms offer here

– 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with 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, Compassionate Coaching

Voice of Influence offer here

– Get People to Love to Listen to You.A book on speaking which focuses mainly on a person’s confidence to project themselves through the power of speech. The “blurb” promises a lot but I can assure the reader that the book delivers exactly what it says “on the tin”. Judy’s work is worthy of the greatest attention. Just love it! ” Ronnie Steele

I want to spread the word of this great offer, so feel free to share my messages here on Twitter or Facebook, or forward this newsletter to your friends. Thanks!

 

 

Lose Yourself to Find Yourself

IMGP1427

Last summer I wrote down
some words from Thomas Leonard
that caught my attention. 

This spring, I began to
understand them.

What happened in between?

What happened? Well, certainly no study of the words – I didn’t look at them again till just now. No, life happened.

The life that happened was a lot of back and leg pain over six months – bad enough to cause me to cancel almost all work. Looking back to last autumn, I was feeling angry about certain things and anxious about others. Then work stopped, life stopped, and I had plenty of time to ruminate – think, feel, meditate, whatever you might call it – about all sorts of things.

One of the first things I was reminded of was how much life is coloured by your state of mind. Life looks dark when you feel bad, just as it sparkles when you feel happy. Or, as Anaïs Nin and others before her have said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”

I was familiar with that concept, but I was completely dumbfounded by the obvious corollary – just how much everything can change in every way when you are different. During my ‘inactive’ time I started to think and feel differently, and then awoke one day to realise that my anger had entirely gone, and that I wasn’t anxious any more, even though the triggers for those feelings hadn’t gone away.

I have to tell you that this isn’t my normal modus operandi – I’m well schooled in the idea that change doesn’t happen without conscious effort, and I don’t include doing very little in that phrase.

What I found was that the more I did ‘nothing’, the more my negative feelings dissipated and the more I felt myself. It was that old story mentioned by wise people through the ages – of losing yourself to find yourself. I’d read it and understood it, but nothing really comes home till you experience it yourself, does it?

So, Thomas Leonard … ? A remarkable coach and human being. He founded the ICF – the International Coach Federation – though most members of this august body have probably never heard of him. You can still get his early fascinating book, ‘The Portable Coach’, out of print now. He died in 2003. When I came across his writing again recently, I realised that he were saying in a different way just the same thing I’d been struggling with over the months. So here are his words – he entitles them “Absence of You”. I hope you like them as much as I do, challenging as they are.

          How does one become transparent?

  1. Stop seeking approval, acknowledgement, validation, reinforcement, agreement, respect, appreciation, self worth or self esteem from anyone for any reason.
  2. Stop trying to impress anyone for any reason
  3. Give up any notion that you’re an expert at anything
  4. Be interested instead of interesting
  5. Live well above the mundane matters of life (all the stupid little agros)
  6. Stop letting risk and fear limit your life experience
  7. Lighten up how you learn
  8. Have very few needs, financial or otherwise
  9. Simplify your life, perhaps dramatically
  10. Stop needing outcomes 

Go well!

Judy

judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

Same ol’ New Year … what would make it new?

The Emperor's New Clothes

The Emperor’s New Clothes

Will you make the same ol’ resolutions this year?

A New Year! I expect I’ll do the same Old Thing – make a few resolutions, decide to start afresh on various projects, create new regimes and disciplines – yes, same ol’ new …

I’d like to do something properly new. So what would be truly new? And would I even recognise it if it hit me in the face?

I don’t think my education has taught me to notice what’s new – the reverse in fact, I’ve learned to recognise patterns – what fits – and to follow procedures. In business mode I sometimes find myself doing the exact opposite of noticing – pretending not to notice – so as to obey the norm, be politically correct, or whatever.

Someone was trying to identify a mutual colleague.

“You know, she said, she’s the woman who … well she dresses quite smartly, medium height. Her hair? Well it’s sort of short I’d say; dark. Her voice is, well sort of ordinary I guess.

I’m still looking blank.

“You know, she comes in by car, has a black laptop, often stays quite late?”

“Are you talking about Gloria, the Ugandan lawyer?” I ask with a flash of inspiration.

“Ugandan? Oh yes, can’t say I noticed … yes, er … yes, Gloria, that’s right.”

Have you ever worked in a business where one manager presents huge problems for everyone, but everyone pretends not to notice in order not to be the one who rocks the boat? Or a company that is acting unethically, but no one wants to be the one to point it out? “We are only as blind as we want to be,” says Maja Angelou.

How many things do you just ‘not notice’ because they don’t fit, or would present a problem to your view of the world if you did notice? It’s the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes of course and the whole world of politics and public life encourages us to ‘not notice’.

Most of us listen to others just long enough to determine whether we agree with them – to see how they fit with our views.

So when a little-known Moravian professor, Gregor Mendel, spoke at the Moravian Natural History Society about the results of his studies in crossbreeding 29,000 pea plants to favour desirable traits, no one listened long or hard enough to realise that his work established many of the rules of heredity, the basis of modern genetics. It took another 3 decades for his ideas to be noticed. He didn’t fit people’s idea of a ground-breaker, and peas didn’t fit their concept of a ground-breaking study.

William Chester Minor was a significant contributor to the making of the Oxford English Dictionary, only because the Dictionary authorities didn’t know about him. He responded to an appeal for readers and added significantly to the dictionary project for the next 21 years,working with unerring accuracy as one of its most important and useful contributors. Editor Murray finally met the man in 1891, and discovered that Minor was a US Civil War survivor with serious mental problems, who had shot a man to death in Lambeth and ended up in Broadmoor asylum for criminal lunatics. He certainly wouldn’t have fit anyone’s idea of an important contributor to a prestigious literary project or been allowed within a hundred miles of it had they known who he was!

Seeing only what we are capable of seeing, Jimmy Saville in his heyday just couldn’t be suspected of wrongdoing, and the priests in the Catholic Church continued for years to be seen as innocent in the face of damning evidence because they just didn’t fit the image of paedophiles.

I recently read “Family Album” by Penelope Lively. It’s about a large family where everyone knows the dark family secrets, but no one tells any other family member that they know, or that they know they know. They all act as if they don’t know. How many things do we know in life and shut our eyes to knowing? How much do we know about ourselves, but don’t let on to ourselves what we know? – partly because we’re far too busy? – and keeping very busy is a very good way not to know.

One of the reasons we don’t notice and miss what’s in front of our eyes is that for many of us much of life is one big overwhelm, in which individual elements fail to stand out, and the mind, lacking focus, goes into overdrive. (Remember Christmas?!) Imagine some of us back at work on Monday: “Here we go, a million emails; and I’ve got to sort out that tricky problem today; important meeting tomorrow; oh it’s B’s birthday tomorrow, too late, have to send an e-card; must contact F – don’t think he likes me much, why do I always have to deal with him? Traffic bad this morning, that road’s getting impossible any time of day, why don’t we move? Didn’t see G over the holiday, I’m a rotten friend (son, daughter etc.) – too much to do…”

So, this New Year?

Mattise once said that he’d like to “recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.” I think that’s what I’d like to do too. Entrepreneurs, pioneers and prophets aren’t renowned for setting new disciplines and structures. No, they break rules and waste time. Jesus worked on the Sabbath and took time to talk to people no one else would. Einstein daydreamed to make the epic discovery that time isn’t fixed. Whereas people who become “experts” have a vested interest in applying the rules they’ve learned to others. Experts are certain of their answers; masters of each discipline judge by their own rules – all stale stuff.

Next year I’m going to practise knowing nothing. I think I’d prefer to come at things afresh. No new disciplines. No new structures. No new behaviour regulation. Just the thought that I’d like – at least sometimes – to see the world and people in it as if I’d never seen them before. Especially the people and places I know well. Imagine what I might discover!

What do you think? Do you like the idea too?

Go well,

Judy

 

If you do, you might enjoy these quotes:

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities,
but in the expert’s there are few.”

Whatever happens. Whatever
What is is is what
I want. Only that. But that.
Galway Kinnell’s ‘Prayer’ – the famous three “is’s” – quoted by Coleman Barks

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands
but in seeing with new eyes.
Marcel Proust

You have a king inside
Who listens for what delights the soul.
That king’s wakefulness
cannot be described in a poem.
Rumi

Oh, and this too – if you like the idea of looking at things with a fresh and simple mind, you’ll enjoy this 7 minute talk by Adam Savage on how simple ideas lead to important scientific discoveries: https://www.ted.com/talks/how_simple_ideas_lead_to_scientific_discoveries

 

IN THE NEW YEAR

Voice of Influence Workshop – 3-4 March 2016, London

Take this opportunity once and for all to become a more confident and powerful speaker. These two days out of your life are a great investment to last you a lifetime – the skills you learn you’ll use again and again. Find your voice; turn nerves into useful energy; learn how to engage and influence your listeners. I take only a small group so your personal needs are met, and you’ll find the experience safe, friendly and energising.

The course is half-full as of today, so book here online as soon as you can to secure your place, or send the booking form if you wish us to invoice your company.

Coaching

If you have issues with confidence, communication, speaking and presenting, or relationships (for instance when moving into more senior roles.),I might well be the right coach for you.  I have worked with people from many walks of life, from directors and senior managers to the self employed and those changing direction. 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-course – 10 Tips For Having a Great Conversation

  • Overcome your nervousness with other people.
  • Find out how to break the silence and get a conversation going
  • Learn how to get on someone’s wavelength in conversation
  • Find out how to make more intimate connection in conversation
  • Learn the secret of enjoying chatting to people.

Over the next 5 days you’ll pick up 10 valuable tips for improving your conversational skills. And over the next months you’ll notice the difference in how people respond!

Other Free E-Courses to Download

* How to Speak with More Authority

* 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP

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!

I’m off to Australia in 5 hours – see you when I get back!

Judy Apps
judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk

 

What do you want to be remembered for?

Henni copyHenning Mankel, author of the Wallender mysteries, died a few weeks ago. You know, Henning Mankell, the Swedish Crime Writer …  It’s interesting isn’t it how we shoebox people with our brief descriptions? – Swedish Crime Writer … bestselling author …

Mankell’s Wallender mysteries have sold over 40 million copies, but Mankell’s life was more than two-thirds over before he published the first of these novels when he was 49; many exciting experiences of his life were already behind him.

At 16 he dropped out of school, left home and travelled to Paris, and then went to sea working on a freighter, an experience he’s said to have enjoyed.

(Henning Mankell, young adventurer…)

Returning to Paris, he worked as a stagehand in Paris, set out to become a writer, and took part in the student unrest of the late 60s.

(Henning Mankell, Bohemian ...)

The proceeds from his first published play financed a flight to Africa, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He was proud of his theatre work – he wrote over 40 plays, and spent many years as the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique. He built up his own publishing house to support young talents from Africa and Sweden.

(Henning Mankell, playwright and theatre director ...)

Yet, asked where his heart was, he would probably have said he was most invested in social and political change. He used the crime genre as a means of critiquing politics, big business, social unrest and corruption. In Africa his outrage at the inequalities of the world grew and deepened. He campaigned against Aids and landmines. He endowed a children’s village in Mozambique and gave much of his fortune to charities he believed in. He sailed on one of the ships that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010 and was seized by Israeli commandos.

(Henning Mankell, committed political activist …)

Always questioning, in almost the last article he wrote before his death from cancer he asked, “What happens to people’s identity when they are stricken by a serious illness? … Have I changed …?”  Knowing the end was near, I wonder what he would have most liked to be remembered for? What epitaph would he have chosen for himself?

(Henning Mankell, himself …)

Autumn sunshine and the dying year – perfect weather for wandering around churchyards. It’s got me thinking about epitaphs – a whole life in a handful of words –

“HERE lies the body of Daniel Saul,
Spitalfields weaver, – and that’s all.”
(St. Dunstan’s, Stepney)
HERE lies poor, but honest Brian Tunstall;
he was a most expert angler,
until Death, envious of his Merit,
threw out his line, hook’d him,
and landed him here the 21st day of April 1790.
(Ripon Cathedral)
A TENDER mother and a kind neighbour
(Stock Church, 1845)

Isn’t that one of the best? I wouldn’t mind that one.

Epitaphs are mostly composed by others, like an end of term report. Not many marks for the next!

HERE lies
Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good Die Young.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia

Geoffrey Chaucer became the first poet in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey when he was reinterred in a grand tomb by one Nicholas Brigham 150 years after the poet’s death. The engraving tells us – in letters the same height as those used for the word CHAUCER – that “BRIGHAM paid for this at his own expense.” thus getting Nicholas Brigham remembered as the person who muscled in on Chaucer’s fame and mentioned money!

Jo Rowling was asked how she would like to be remembered, and she answered, “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

When Hilary Mantel was asked which book she was most proud of, she mentioned neither Wolf Hall nor Bring Up the Bodies, her Booker Prize winning books, but said, “A book I wrote in my twenties called A Place of Greater Safety about the French revolution. It wasn’t published as my first book but as my fifth. I wrote it against the odds as nobody except me believed in it.” She was more proud of her self-belief in hard times than of the fame that came later. Jo Rowley would probably have empathised with that.

The brave young Pakistani woman, Malala, shot by the Taliban, said, “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”

Rosa Parks (famous for sitting down) said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free … so other people would be also free.”

So here’s a coaching question for you and me:

How do you want to be remembered?

And (following your answer), that being so:

What are you investing now on this legacy?

How much of your time?

How much of your energy?

How much of your money?

And – given that information:

What do you intend to do about it?

The fact is, that many (most?) of us don’t spend our time, energy and money on the things we would claim to be most important for us and that we would want to be remembered by. For example, a study was done on teachers who were asked to list 25 value words in order of importance, and then to describe three examples of how they put their number one value into action in the classroom. Most teachers in the study had great difficulty in providing even a single example of how they put their most important value into action. No wonder they were stressed.

Ask yourself the question in your own line of work. How much of your time and energy are you spending on what’s most important to you? Happiness is about spending most time with things that you value most, and least time with what you value least. If you find yourself doing the reverse, you’re out of tune with yourself.

A self enquiry for this week perhaps? November’s a good time to plant bulbs for flowering in the spring. What do you want to be remembered for?

Have a good month,

Go well,

Judy

Of interest …

Coaching

Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You feel a bit stuck – in your job, or a relationship, or in life in general.
  • You’ve some ideas you’d like to follow up, but you never quite get round to it.
  • You lack the confidence to do certain things – including maybe contacting a coach!
  • You guess that coaching is quite a major undertaking – in terms of time, commitment and cost.

What to do?

Jot down first thoughts about your issues and what you want in an email and send it to me, judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk. Then we can talk it through on the phone. If you wish to proceed with coaching, you can start with a single session with no expectation or obligation to continue. Costs are surprisingly reasonable.  If you go for Skype coaching – which works brilliantly – you can learn in the comfort of your own home.

Workshop – Voice of Influence

Gain this important life skill once and for all – the confidence to get up and speak with authority and influence in any context. Is the next workshop going to include you? Email me now to register interest. Groups are kept small. Next workshop February 2016 – I hope to meet you there.

Event – What to Say When you Don’t Know What to Say

A coaching event to watch out for, with Jo McHale. I love the title – it should be an inspiring session – and it’s a great group, open to all: Guildford Coaches at Trinity Centre, Guildford, 27 November, 9.30 – 12.30.  More info and register here.

E-course – 10 Tips For Having a Great Conversation

  • Overcome your nervousness with other people.
  • Find out how to break the silence and get a conversation going
  • Learn how to get on someone’s wavelength in conversation
  • Find out how to make more intimate connection in conversation
  • Learn the secret of enjoying chatting to people.

Over the next 5 days you’ll pick up 10 valuable tips for improving your conversational skills. And over the next months you’ll notice the difference in how people respond!

Other Free E-Courses to Download

* How to Speak with More Authority

* 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP

YouTube video –  the excellent Brene Brown again

Excellent as ever in this short talk about what gets in the way of your doing what you’d like to be remembered by.

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!

Daily ideas and speaking tips on Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy the tips! Join the discussion!