Here lies the body of Mary Ann Bent

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

What do people say about you?

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

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

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

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

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

The title of the story of your life

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

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

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

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

Attention

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

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

Time

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

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

Money

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

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

Energy

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

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

What’s your life’s story called?

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

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

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

Go well. Enjoy the promised spring sunshine!

Judy

OTHER MATTERS

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Books

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

Voice of Influence

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

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

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

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

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

The Art of Conversation

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

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

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

Coaching

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

The Miracle of Voice

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

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

 

Just Think!

http://relativisticobserver.blogspot.co.uk/

http://relativisticobserver.blogspot.co.uk/

How well do you think?

There’s thinking and there’s thinking …

 

Doing what you’ve always done

Old Farmer McDonald’s animals used to shelter in the old barn in the corner of their field when the weather was bad, but it was getting old and leaked badly. So old McDonald pulled down the old barn and built a fine new one in a different corner of the field. A few nights later there was a rough storm and old McDonald got up to check that his animals were all right. To his surprise he found the new barn quite empty. Using his flashlight he caught a glimpse of the old pile of remnants of the old barn, and there were all his animals, huddled miserably beside it (thank you Gene Rooney via Suzie Smith for the story).

Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted

When the Irish troubles were at their height and the IRA were threatening London (I beg you to remember those days, you buccaneering Brexiteers!), an IRA bomb secreted into the Tower of London – presumably in a “tourist’s” bag – caused many injuries and one death. About this time I used to take visitors to the Tower on a regular basis, and for months and years after the bomb blast tourists used to have to queue while officials implemented their new safety measure – to search every bag. Only bags though. You could have arrived wearing a huge coat with ample pockets like Fagin in Oliver Twist and they would still check only your bag.

The law of unintended consequences

Several years ago, the government brought in a new inducement for schools. Those that achieved good results were to be given extra funding. Those that did less well would be denied funding. As suspected by many, the thriving schools continued to improve and increase in student numbers, thus attracting further funding, while the schools denied funding declined even further and often ended up in special measures. “You could see it coming,” commented a teacher friend wryly. Not put off by the negative results of such a scheme, our current government has offered extra funding to hospitals that succeed in balancing their books. The hospitals in more needy areas that fail to balance the books are denied this extra funding, which of course makes it even harder for them to balance the books the next year, creating a continuous declining spiral.

Throwing out the baby with the bath water.

A farmer had a problem with pest insects eating the crops. She invested in some pesticide and – easy-peasy – no more pests. Only that isn’t what happened. The pests increased, and the more she sprayed the more the number of pests increased. This is because the pesticide was killing some of the problem pests, but also killing an even bigger amount of useful insects that would have eaten those problem pests. Moreover, her crops gradually became resistant to the pesticide, which necessitated a higher dose; and she and her family got sick when they ate the contaminated crops. In addition the local groundwater became polluted. One problem solved and ten new ones created.

Thinking skills

These anecdotes are all examples of linear thinking – from cause to effect; from problem to solution. It’s the kind of thinking that was positively encouraged in education when school exams began to include a large proportion of tick box answers. Problem à one correct solution. Sorted.

Such linear methods are not just one but two levels below the kind of thinking that’s always been needed and never more than today. With linear thinking we make interventions in the world that are ineffective, inefficient, or have an array of unintended, perverse outcomes.

One level up would be two-dimensional thinking, where there is some sense of a map, with the idea that intervention A causes effect B as intended, but also causes effects C, D and E, each of which needs examination and resolution. More a chess kind of thinking, which robots have learned to perform quite efficiently.

Two levels up would be three-dimensional thinking, illustrated by a globe, where an intervention in any part of the globe creates disturbances in other parts of the globe that in turn affect other different parts of the globe and so on in increasingly complex patterns. Thus, intervention A causes expected effect B, which causes anticipated effects C and D plus unanticipated effects E, F and G, all of which then cause numerous supplementary effects negative and positive, each of which causes other effects and on and on. One example of this is the butterfly effect, where a butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico may cause a hurricane in China.

Having written so far, I reflect on the difficulties of working with such complex influences and ask myself what on earth any of us can do that’s useful in the circumstances. I’m helped as often by serendipity – in the shape of this morning’s Desert Island Discs interviewee, Dame Manouche Shafik.

Dame Manouche Shafik

Manouche Shafik is the product of a loving home and a challenging childhood, a pretty good recipe for high achievement. When she was four, her well-to-do Egyptian family lost everything in President Nasser’s nationalisation programme and fled Egypt to start again from scratch in the United States. She became the youngest vice principal of the World Bank and Deputy Governor of the Bank of England before moving to her current position as Director of the London School of Economics.

What are her thoughts on thinking and decision-making?

  1. There’s never just one answer to a problem.
    Civil servants and politicians need to look at an array of options and the costs and benefits of each – i.e. consider babies and bath water, unintended consequences and the rest… three-dimensional thinking.
  2. We need to help the public recognise the difference between expert (3-dimensional) thinking and opinion.
    Experts’ work is backed by the rigours of peer review, the publication of relevant data and a declaration of conflicts of interest, whereas opinions on social media are completely unsupported.
  3. Experts need to be able to explain their views clearly and simply. Manouche Shafik with her colleagues at the Bank of England studied children’s writer Dr/ Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat in a push to make their communications more succinct and understandable for the general public! As Steve Jobs said, ” Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there you can move mountains.”
  4. There’s always an element of uncertainty.
    So humility is always a good thing. Beware people who are 100% certain!

Quite a useful list for any of us. It reminds me that there’s no point in shouting the views of my favourite newspaper against the views of someone else’s, and no point in putting my view more stridently than anyone else’s. That’s today’s political game, and to prevail we need a different strategy based on well-supported data. It means thinking better and teaching our children to think well. It has to include thinking from others’ point of view with emotional intelligence, thinking on different levels including time perspectives and decision-making that’s value-based as well as logic-based.

Elements of Good Thinking

Here’s my resultant checklist for good thinking:

  1. Look at the issue within a larger context – the big picture
  2. Look at the issue from the points of view of other people involved
  3. Examine it from a future perspective, and from past experience.
  4. Decide what matters – what really matters – in considering the issue.
  5. Take time out to allow time for deeper intuition to surface.
  6. Don’t insist on being right. There’s always more.

Whether you’re a leader, manager, consultant, coach, teacher or mentor – if you think better than others you hold the trump card … (Well, you know what I mean – not the same meaning as in to trump something up, which signifies to invent, fabricate, concoct, fake, cook up … funny that …).

Let’s celebrate our intelligent thinkers. Here’s a challenge. Who are the good thinkers of our day? In academia? In politics? In business? What’s your view? Let’s promote them! Who would you put forward?

Go well,

Judy

 

WHAT ELSE?

Winnie the Pooh’s thinking on thinking

(with thanks to A.A. Milne)

 

“Rabbit’s clever,” said Pooh thoughtfully.
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit’s clever.”
“And he has Brain.”
“Yes,” said Piglet, “Rabbit has Brain.”
There was a long silence.
“I suppose,” said Pooh, “that that’s why he never understands anything.”
.

“Sometimes I sits and thinks, and sometimes I just sits…”

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.

Coaching

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.

Newsletter Archive

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

 

 

 

 

Is Survival of the Fittest the Only Game?

sharks

“Survival of the fittest” is proved, signed and sealed. But are we ignoring an important part of the story?

Increasingly often these days the news bulletins have me scratching my head, furrowing my brow and muttering, “What!?” Most often it’s in the area of politics. One political “what?” this week was news that senior doctors from overseas who’ve been appointed to fill key roles in over-stretched hospitals around the UK are being blocked from taking up their jobs by the Home Office because their NHS salaries are too low under immigration rules. Work that one out!

Another “What!?” was caused this morning by the excitement of BBC commentators at a demonstration of whales imitating human sounds. We already know that whales communicate in sophisticated ways with each other. So what’s so special about their ability merely to copy human sounds?

Blue Planet II was an excellent antidote to lazy human thinking. Time and again we were shown examples of underwater creatures demonstrating previously unseen behaviours of intelligence, subtlety and cooperation. Especially cooperation.

There was the clownfish, searching for a suitable surface for the female to lay her eggs, that received the assistance of his whole clownfish family to move a coconut shell into a suitable position. Different species were also observed to work regularly together. A coral trout would signal the position of likely prey to an octopus by tipping onto its head and flashing white, allowing the octopus to reach into a crevice and flush the fish out – after which either the octopus or the fish won the prey.

Blue Planet II showed behaviours never seen before in sea creatures and that was exciting. However, the commentary still expressed a kind of shock that animals could be witnessed working together at all, when we already know that animals work together. We know about lions and wolves hunting in collaboration; we know how animals stay in a family group to help raise siblings, we know about communities of bees and ants.

Is the shock because we are currently living on our planet as though survival of the fittest were the only story? It’s good to remember that even Charles Darwin wrote about cooperative and indeed loving behaviours in dogs, elephants, baboons and other species. He just concluded from this evidence that natural selection favoured groups who cooperated.

Not long after the publication of The Origin of Species, Peter Kropotkin, a Russian Prince, undertook an expedition to Siberia, and found little evidence of competitive struggle. He discovered human societies where people shared with each other and animals cooperated to find resources to survive. Where opinion was coming down heavily on the side of survival of the fittest, his book Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution tried to redress the balance.

I find myself wanting to do the same. Cooperation has often rung true for me. Many times career breaks have come at just those times when I was enjoying connection without thought of advantage … for example, the time I was sharing my excitement in investigating the concept of charisma with a new acquaintance – and was suddenly offered a whole series of work on charisma with the Cabinet Office … the time when I was able to help a colleague at a difficult time, and through that connection was later invited into a successful collaboration that has lasted … the time when I was bored in a conversation but decided to focus with interest on the other person and then suddenly learned something that was immensely useful to me … you’ll have your own examples.

Cooperation or survival of the fittest? Both clearly exist in nature. It’s not a question I can answer. Nevertheless, it’s a hugely important question for the world of work – for the world – if the balance today has shifted too powerfully in one direction. We still operate in a world of bonuses and competitive rewards as though they were the only game. Employees are still encouraged to see peers as competitors. Politicians all over the world are treating the survival of the planet as a survival of the fittest death game, or are merely playing an “I’m better than you”, “mine’s bigger than yours” game. Yet, sharing, creating and transferring knowledge between members of an organisation is known to be a model that works well. Shouldn’t we be exploring such options with energy or applauding those who do?

If you and I spend the rest of this week noticing examples of cooperation and applying the principles of cooperation in our work and home lives, I wonder what the results will be? I’ve a feeling we might find the experience energising and positive. If you try the experiment, let me know what happens.

Go well,

Judy

 

OTHER MATTERS

Help in my books for  communication, presenting, voice … life …

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.

Coaching

Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential.  Email me or call 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.

Enjoy any of my E-courses

They just pop into your in-box over 3-5 days. (I never share your email)

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

For Whom the Bell Tolls by John Donne

(familiar – and sort of topical)

No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a Manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

 

“The Blackest Month”

January!

Old Man's BeardThe blackest month in all the year
Is the month of Janiveer.

The beginning of the month came and I had nothing to write, not a single idea. It’s never been like that before. Okay, I’ve had a bad cold and feel a bit strung out, but even so.

In popped a favourite gremlin – that all or nothing one. “Ah ha, that’s it, that’s the end. Good while it lasted, but you’ll never have an idea again.”

It took me a while to dispatch that gremlin, but when I did, I then reflected on what the absence of ideas was about. And I realised I felt weary:

“Too many words” was the first thing to strike me. Too much said. Too many blogs, too many articles, too many opinions, too many solutions to life’s questions, too many huge promises, too many summons with peeps and tweets and alerts – I felt tired with it all.

Too many adverts crowding the sides of my Internet pages purporting to know something about me. Too many ulterior motives – blogs posted in order to attract advertising, or to sell something.

Too many circular arguments such as “Brexit means Brexit”. Too many words distorted way beyond any sensible meaning – such as “freedom”, and “control”. Too many promises that eschew a large glaring part of the truth. Too much playing with language, like “bringing peace” through provocative acts of aggression. And little optimism on my part to do anything about any of it.

It suddenly struck me that the feeling was one of watching a theatrical production, where I was a spectator and nothing more. Several years ago, the novelist Elena Ferrante wrote in a letter to her publisher that to be an Italian in the Berlusconi years was to be like an audience rather than a citizen. Berlusconi, she said,

has completed the transformation of citizens into an audience, and is for now the most unprincipled exponent of the reduction of democracy to imaginary participation in an imaginary game. He succeeds thanks to his tendentious monopoly of the medium that best realises and imposes that suspension of disbelief.” (from Frantumaglia)

I recognise that feeling today. So what’s the answer?

I haven’t got one … or maybe just one tentative one today. After all, this world circus I’m talking about is a story, one version, chosen mainly by powerful interests, politicians and the media. It’s not the only story, and it’s certainly not a reliable one.

 

So, in the spirit of David against Goliath, here are specks of other stories:

The farmer John Leis Stempel writes about wandering as a child one day through high wheat that came as high as his armpits. (NB it’s in his beautiful book: The Running Hare). He suddenly spotted a corncrake standing silently close to him. For perhaps a tenth of a second their eyes met. The experience was so intense it was able to “expand and inform existence ever after.”

And another: Mary Oliver when she watched a white swan take off and stream across the clouds (from The Swan). “Did you see it?” she asks. “And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?”

Or myself, still a child, standing on Wittering sands at low tide one cloudy late afternoon when the wet sand reflected sea and sky, and feeling tiny, but glad to be tiny, a minute part of that immensity that stretched in every direction and tugged my heart with it.

Wordsworth wrote in The Prelude about “spots of time” that have a “renovating virtue.” What moments capture that sense of what matters for you?

A friend sent me a poem at Christmas. I’ve posted it on my website under Links/Poems. Frances Horowitz writes:

I shall not be careless this year:
I shall not forget to see the wild garlic blossom
-as I did last May, and the May before.

I don’t want to be careless this year. I want to capture those tiny moments of immensity – you know, those unique scraps of consciousness that make life worth living. Crazy maybe, but I think that with all of us in it together they have a power that we might need right now.

Bring it on, 2018. May it be an exceptional year for you!

Judy

 

ALSO …

NLP Coaching

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) still stands out for me as a repository of some of the most useful leadership and coaching tools on the planet. I have recently been coaching people – individually or in pairs/small groups – in some of the most exciting of these tools. 4 Sessions of 1½ hours would give you an excellent grounding. Email me or call on 01306 886114 for further information.

Coaching

New Year, new resources? You might think that your own particular difficulties, setbacks and doubts don’t fit any coaching model. But you’d be surprised how simple conversations with a coach help you to get rid of obstacles and move forward to what you really want from life. 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 … or not? 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.

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.

Newsletter Archive

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

Paul

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.

WHAT ELSE?

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.

Coaching

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.

 

 

Limitations and Mistakes

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

          At least 
        I didn't make 
        any mistakes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I like David Whyte’s words on the subject:

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

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

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

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

What might you not do?!

Go well!

Judy

 

OTHER MATTERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

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

The Art of Conversation
Change Your Life with Confident Communication

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

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

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

Coaching

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

The Miracle of Voice

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

 

Boxes

Stop putting me in Boxes

everybodyhasabrain.tumblr.com

I have this little half-jingle going round my head about foxes and boxes. I look it up. It’s from When We Were Very Young by A A Milne:

Once upon a time there were three little foxes
Who didn’t wear stockings, and they didn’t wear sockses,
But they all had handkerchiefs to blow their noses,
And they kept their handkerchiefs in cardboard boxes.

Only the foxes aren’t in boxes. It’s handkerchiefs. Boxes though. I get the feeling that there’s a lot of stuff in boxes these days, and not only peaches and chocolates or even handkerchiefs. People too.

Do you know what boxes you are in? I filled in a preferred supplier form the other day: “What is your ethnic group?” There was a list with 18 choices, and my group had English, Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish all lumped into the one box – boxes within boxes: tick.

“What is your religion?” The box is much too small for me to write what I’d like to write: “Catholic in a Salzburg Baroque church last month listening to musicians from Munich, Muslim for one day a while ago at an amazing lecture on mediaeval Islamic astronomers, rooted in the Church of England one quiet moment in an English country church; Buddhist that peaceful time in the ashram – and those Methodist hymns …” Run out of space, what next?

“What is your sex?” “I’m a woman.” Yes, but what kind of woman are you? Hetero? Gay? Lesbian? Bi-sexual? Trans? Pansexual?

Even as I write these words I feel myself losing you. Talk about boxes seems a bit dangerous. Might I be displaying prejudice here? Did I get the labels correct? Am I anti anything I shouldn’t be anti?

Alright, I’ll try to explain better. First, there is a huge amount of sorting into boxes in our current world. Sorting gives us information; information allows us to make decisions and decisions are useful if not necessary. Also, sorting gives us straightforward decisions, so that saves money. Think of the difference between marking a public exam paper where you have to assess the merit of a piece of reasoned thinking and one that has multiple-choice answers. The latter is much easier – and cheaper. (“Here’s an idea! We’ll make it more accurate by increasing the number of boxes. What about 1 to 9 instead of E to A*?” Yeh, right …)

With the best of intentions we do this stuff in business too. Whether it’s MBTI, FIRO, DISC Personality Testing, Keirsey Temperament Sorter, INSIGHT or one of numerous others, we categorise people. I know, I know: it’s useful. With the best of intentions also we test for health and social care, “Can you fill a kettle?” “Can you pour boiling water into a cup?” “Can you safely climb stairs?” Now we know what help you need.

Now, apart from the fact that results are not quite as cast iron accurate as we’d like to think (a nonogenarian I knew with dementia had an amazing ability to perform like someone 20 years younger just and only on test days), my question is this. Maybe we begin to believe that knowing people and getting the best of people is that simple? – That once you know that (in a self-reporting questionnaire) they come out more as a thinking rather than a sensing person you have all the information you need to know them and what motivates them. I don’t think I’m that simple. Do you?

In addition, I suspect that the more we divide people into boxes, the more we focus on people either being in our box (one of us) or being different from us (alien, not one of us).

Arundhati Roy in her second novel published recently introduces us to a mishmash of different characters deliberately hard to define or categorise. Roy confesses that she just loves “all this kind of lovely muddle of stuff.” For all that, her purpose is highly serious. Describing the situation in India, she writes,

Caste is about dividing people up in ways that preclude every form of solidarity, because even in the lowest castes there are divisions and sub-castes, and everyone’s co-opted into the business of this hierarchical, silo-ised society. This is the politics of making a grid of class, of caste, of ethnicity, of religion. And then making the grid ever more fine is very much part of how you rule the world, saying, ‘You’re a Muslim, you’re a Hindu, you’re a Shia, you’re a Sunni, you’re a Barelvi, you’re a Brahmin, you’re a Saraswat Brahmin, you’re a Dalit, you’re gay, you’re straight, you’re trans –”

There are many, many boxes and, as she says, putting people in boxes doesn’t help world peace.

I’m attracted to people who don’t easily fit the boxes. Arundhati Roy herself was the daughter of an explosive relationship between a high status Syrian Christian mother and a low-status Bengali Hindu father. Yanis Varoufakis, Greek ex-Finance Minister whose excellent latest book I read last month, was son of an equally unlikely pair. His father, George, was a communist, imprisoned and tortured for his beliefs, and his mother was a member of a paramilitary right-wing group (“Stasi stuff”) tasked with ‘keeping an eye’ on George. Children outside the grid of boxes have to find their own way and grow up to think for themselves.

It’s easy to despise or hate people who are in a box you’re not in, once you’re able to label the box. As Mathilda’s father Mr. Wormwood (thanks Roald Dahl) shouted at his daughter, “Listen, you little wiseacre: I’m smart, you’re dumb; I’m big, you’re little; I’m right, you’re wrong, and there’s nothing you can do about it!” We could add: I’m Remain, you’re Brexit; I’m well-off, you’re on benefits; I’m English, you’re an immigrant; I’m fit and healthy, you’re disabled; I drive an eco-car, you drive a four-by-four; I’m Labour, you’re Conservative; I went to private school, you went to a local comprehensive. And vice versa, and on and on, even to the extent of, I love my kind, I hate your kind; I’m good, you’re evil: I deserve to live; you don’t deserve to live.

But even our current tyrants were babies once. Could we rein back on boxes? In times of crisis we manage it. Men in the trenches, rich and poor, educated and ignorant, were forced by the constant presence of death to remember that we are all human. Sometimes when children die, as in the Manchester bombing, we all suffer together in mutual recognition of childhood – through our own childhood or through having children of our own – and we come together through that common link.

I realise that each one of us is at the centre of our universe – every single person in the centre of their world, making their own sense of experience with the hand they’ve been dealt, not immune to vulnerability or heartache or moments of joy. It’s hard to realise though – to really get it. In those moments when we do get it – when we think of others as two-legged, human, complex, unique, strange, just like us, then, and only then, we have a chance of connection. And boy, do we need human connection on our planet right now.

Let me try that form again:

BIRTHPLACE: Earth

RACE: Human

POLITICS: Freedom

RELIGION: Love

That’s more like it.

September feels like a new start for many. Have a great month.

Go well,

Judy

 

What else?

As always – my books – translated into ten languages:

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

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 will help 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.

Newsletter Archive

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

David Thompson

David Thompson helps people communicate with clarity, creativity and confidence – much what I do really. He writes some good blogs on his website – have a look here. I once heard David recite some Shakespeare and was electrified.

A poem about connection

I like this poem by Hafiz on connection. Written over seven hundred years ago but the humour’s still current. What do you think of it?

With That Moon Language

Admit something:
Everyone you see, you say to them, “Love me.”
Of course you do not do this out loud, otherwise someone would call the cops.
Still, though, think about this: this great pull in us to connect.
Why not become the one who lives with a moon in each eye,
that is always saying,
with that sweet moon language,
what every other eye in this world is dying to hear?

There are various other poems that are favourites of mine on my website. Have a look here.

The Big Breath

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

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

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

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

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

Everything starts with breath

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

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

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

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

Breath as a powerful support

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

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

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

Breath and intuition

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

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

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

Breathe, breathe, breathe

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

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

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

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

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

Go well,

Judy

What Else?

Lots about breath in my books

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching

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

Voice and Communication Coaching

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

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

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

 

 

I’m Giving Up on Authenticity

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

I’m giving up on authenticity.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Two questions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

So three cheers for the great ocean of possibility today.

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

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

(says Wendy in Disney’s Peter Pan)

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

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

What else?

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

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

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

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

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

Coaching

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

Voice and Communication Coaching

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

Speak Easy: The essential guide to speaking in public

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

Download any of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

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

 

Self-conscious, Unconscious, Conscious …

Hakuin

Hakuin’s circle

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

Bulldozer

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

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

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

The cat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What isn’t possible then?!

Greetings everyone! Go well.

Judy

 

What else?

My Books

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

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

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

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

Coaching

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

Voice and Communication Coaching

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

Download some of my E-courses

(I never share your email with anyone):

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