The Resplendent Quetzal

“The Resplendent Quetzal” … sounds like the title of a cautionary tale like “The Pobble Who Has No Toes” … But this is about national symbols. They tell you something, don’t they?

Britain has the lion – powerful king of the jungle; England also favours the bulldog – determined and unbudgeable; the United States has the mighty eagle – lord of all it surveys; the French rooster rules the roost; and many other countries signify their strength through animals such as the lion, the eagle and other predators.

The national symbol of the Indian people in Guatemala is a bird, the quetzal. It’s extraordinarily beautiful with iridescent green-gold and blue-violet feathers, and a long long tail. To see the resplendent quetzal in flight with its tail undulating behind is to understand how the bird signifies freedom to the people of Guatemala. In fact, if you try to keep a quetzal in a cage, it dies. It cannot survive in captivity. It has to be free. What a symbol.

Glorious freedom… We’ve just returned from a break in the northern Pennines, where I appreciated the freedom of space and quiet, the lonely fells and flower meadows – places where oyster catchers nest in peace and wild orchids proliferate undisturbed; and where we were free to drive without traffic jams, to walk across fields of sheep from stile to stile without hindrance and discover spectacular waterfalls without entry restrictions or queues.

Well, of course, it wasn’t the crowded south east of England. But it got me thinking about freedom, how we care or don’t care about it, and whether or not we’re losing it. I used to think of freedom – as on my holiday – in terms of escape, running away almost – days off work, riding up into the hills. But now, I often think about that essential freedom to be yourself – to be true to your own spirit – the kind of freedom that allows you to be free inside whatever circumstances you find yourself in.

That kind of freedom seems almost the opposite of escape. And takes courage – sometimes huge courage for the stakes can be high.

Well, courage can be symbolised by the fierce animals like the brave lion, but I like the image of the quetzal, insisting on living in freedom, and symbolising freedom for all.

The quetzal is in danger of extinction. Maybe human beings are also in danger of losing that freedom to be who we truly are – the global pressures to fit the mould and toe the line are beyond question powerful. But if we lose that freedom to be ourselves, we lose our spontaneous energy, joy and flexibility and over the years become rigid caricatures of who we pretend to be. No wonder old politicians so often end up looking like cartoons of themselves!

What to do in those moments when you fear to be yourself? My simplest and best strategy so far is to remember to breathe. Instead of using your legs to run away – which they’d probably like to do! – rather, take a long slow breath in through your nose and breathe the airl out again, to let frozen tension fall away and allow your deeper wisdom to flow.

Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall and falling, they’re given wings. Rumi

In letting fear fall away and being able to act and and say our truth, we’re truly free.

NEWS

VOICE OF INFLUENCE Workshop – 14-15 July – act now!

This month I still have space on the workshop on 14-15 July, so email me as soon as possible if you’re interested. The course has much in common with the subject of this newsletter. When you find your freedom to be authentic and speak with your own voice, you liberate the best of you, and become an engaging, even powerful, public speaker. I’ve watched it happen again and again in the two days of this workshop – some amazing transformations. Don’t worry if you feel daunted or scared now – that’s an okay place to start. I offer discounts at times to those who would struggle to pay the full fee.

BYRON KATIE: Who Would You Be Without Your Story?

Byron Katie’s personal change work has the appearance of utmost simplicity, but it can work brilliantly. She’s running a workshop on July 5 in London. Apply here.

Her workshop is one of many talks and workshops run by Alternatives in central London. Have you discovered them? They get some fabulous speakers, and charge very reasonable entrance fees for their talks.

Connect via Facebook and Twitter

I post voice and speaking ideas and tips – and generally good stuff! – most days.

My books – available in print and e-versions

The Art of Conversation      Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on – or want to make deeper more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material. It’s an easy read too. The book is going to be produced also in audio form through Audible.com, Amazon and iTunes – I’ll let you know when that format is available.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms       If you want to overcome performance nerves, this reader-friendly book offers 25 different strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence – and they work!

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies offers a comprehensive guide to voice and speaking – you can dip in anywhere and discover practical tips for developing a more robust and interesting voice.

Voice of Influence       Gets to the heart of voice – how to connect with other people and how to influence others through your voice. Lots of personal experiences and practical advice to make it a good read.

A poem

Some of the poets of 500 years ago really got the message. Here is Tukaram about speaking your truth:

I could not lie anymore so I started calling my dog “God.”
First he looked confused,
then he started smiling,
then he even danced.

I kept at it:
now he doesn’t even bite.

I am wondering if this might work
on people?

Have a wonderful July.

Go well,

Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Winning and Losing

Do you want the perfect formula for winning every time? I heard it from Tim Gallwey several years ago.

You want to win at tennis? he asks. Okay, here’s the thing. Never play anyone anywhere as good as you are. Preferably only play people under the age of 6 or over 90.

It is so easy to win!

His comment reminded me of a wobbly moment when our son was five. It was sports day at his infant school. The teachers lined up a few children at a time, and the fastest child in each race was awarded a winner’s rosette. In our son’s year, all the fastest liveliest children rushed forward to take part in the first race, he among them. He ran fast and came 3rd. The second race was much slower, but the winner still earned a rosette. The thought entered my mind – not my finest hour – “Why didn’t I keep him back for the second race? … he could have won!”

What is it about winning – and losing? It’s a competitive world out there, some say – you might as well get used to it; whatever you do, make sure you’re not a loser. Oh no, protest others, competition’s bad; everyone’s a winner.

But, as Gallwey pointed out back in the 80s, we love to win, but winning is pretty unsatisfying unless we value the contest. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi expressed the point eloquently a decade or so later in his book Flow. What we enjoy most, he says, is a good challenge at just the right level – stretching but non overwhelming – where we have a good chance of success. It’s a race all right – a really competitive one – but we’re actually racing to see if we can outdo ourselves.

If there’s no challenge, like in playing a 5 year old at tennis, winning holds no charms. On the other hand, to play tennis against Andy Murray and have every ball shoot past your racquet wouldn’t be much fun either. Csikszentmihalyi puts it like this:

The best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile. Optimal experience is thus something that we make happen. For a child, it could be placing with trembling fingers the last block on a tower she has built, higher than any she has built so far; for a swimmer, it could be trying to beat his own record; for a violinist, mastering an intricate musical passage. For each person there are thousands of opportunities, challenges to expand ourselves.”

It’s the stretching challenge – neither a walk-over nor out of reach – that is stimulating, exciting and fun. We WANT to have the challenge of testing ourselves, and we’ll create such opportunities if we can. Why climb Mount Everest? George Mallory was asked. “Because it’s there!”

Surveys have proved again and again that reward and punishment are not the biggest motivators for people at work or in society. We WANT to learn, and explore the edge. If you want your people to work their absolute best, give them satisfying, stretching but achievable, challenges – and, importantly, freedom to set about achieving them.

Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort. Franklin D. Roosevelt

In any case, winning – to beat others, rather than to achieve – has big downsides. When the reward of winning becomes more important than the pleasure of achievement, things get skewed. People cheat for rewards. They never cheat to achieve a personally-satisfying best.

Not winning also has significant downsides. When winning depends on others being worse than you, you lose sense of your real value. Many people brand themselves a failure if they don’t succeed at interview. Yet they often have no idea whether they lost out to a superb candidate, or against feeble opposition, so winning and losing are poor benchmarks of ability. Attempting to re-enter the job market myself after having children, I definitely thought myself a winner of the first order when I was offered the job after interview. It was a year or so into the job that a colleague-friend told me, “Did you know that when you applied, there was only one other candidate, spectacularly unqualified for the job? It was you or nobody!” Some win!

What satisfying challenges are out there for you? You can recognise them in two ways:

  1. First, you get completely immersed in the activity, and time passes without your noticing.
  2. You experience a feeling of spontaneous joy or excitement while you are in the midst of the activity.

It’s funny isn’t it? You might call that hard work, but it’s just not, it’s fun. Joseph Campbell called this kind of work “following your bliss” and if you do,

You put yourself on a kind if track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in the field of your bliss, and they open the doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be. 

And, as that phenomenal woman Maya Angelou said, “You have nothing to prove to anybody.” Just yourself.

 

 

NEWS

Google CEO Eric Schmidte says we all need a coach

Read about the value of coaching from Google CEO Eric Schmidt in this youtube interview. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVfeezxmYcA&feature=youtu.be.

Next Voice of Influence Workshop coming up on 14-15 July

Book now on-line here. Or email me to register your interest.

It often happens that someone eventually comes to my workshop having built up the courage to come over months, even years. So, if you want a more powerful expressive voice, if you want to greatly increase your confidence and skill in public speaking, let me reassure you that this is a non-daunting fun workshop. And in spite of (or perhaps because of!) the lack of pain and wearisome effort, it works brilliantly, and people walk away with all and more than they came for.

Find your authentic voice; uncover your confidence. Learn to speak in public freely and easily. Whether you already have a good level of skill or whether you are seriously daunted (scared witless), you will transform your speaking skills in these two days – and have a really good time in the process (ask anyone who’s already done the workshop!). Small group workshop in London.

“I learned more about the voice from Judy in 2 days than in the last 8 years from countless sources.” Jenny C, Director, Member of Toastmasters, London

I offer discounts on occasion for worthy cases.

My book The Art of Conversation hits the shelves

My latest book has been on special promotion in Smiths Travel stores, and been talked about this month in the Daily Express, Red Magazine, City AM and other publications. (I say this to encourage you to have a look at a copy!) Whether you’re shy and don’t know what to say or feel you blabber on, or whether you want to make deeper more meaningful connections with people, you’ll find lots of helpful material. It’s an easy read too.

Browse my other books

If you want a stronger more expressive voice and better communication skills, have a look at Voice of Influence: How to Get People to Love to Listen to You, and Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies.

If you want to overcome performance nerves, have a look at Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence.

Spirit of Coaching Event – Inspiring Leadership – 15 June

Inspiring speakers too – Neil Scotton, Jackee Holder and Gopi Patel. Sunday 15 June, 2-5.30 PM at Global Cooperation House in north London. Read more here. It’s free to attend, but you need to register before you come.

Go well this merry month of June.

Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paying Attention

The cultural ecologist David Abram tells of meeting a man in the Pacific Northwest who could recognise the sounds of different trees. If you drove him, blindfolded, to any patch of coastal forest and sat him beneath any tree on a windy day – after a few moments he would tell you, by listening, whether the tree above him was a Douglas fir, a Sitka spruce or a western red cedar, or some different species. What attention …

The remarkable deaf professional percussionist Evelyn Glennie developed the ability to distinguish the smallest pitch difference in the sound of a drum through the vibration she felt coming up through the drumsticks into her hands and arms. Imagine that degree of sensitivity…

You’ll have your own examples of people using their senses exceptionally. To my mind they have something in common – they all share the ability to pay close attention without premature judgement – that is, they remain open to the experience for long enough to let insight steal up on them.

I’ve had a feast of the senses this month having seen the Matisse Cut Outs Exhibition at the Tate Modern twice. (If you haven’t seen it, go – it’s great!) Matisse started to work with paper shapes at the age of eighty when suffering from cancer and without the strength to use a paint brush. These late works are startling, original, energetic, and full of joy.

Matisse too remained open to his senses, and he had quite a bit to say on the subject of paying attention. Don’t think you know what a rose is, he says, just because you have seen roses before:

There is nothing more difficult for a truly creative painter than to paint a rose, because before he can do so he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted.

Look afresh and anew, he says.

I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it.

And, he says, don’t imagine that being attentive is easy:

To look at something as though we had never seen it before requires great courage.

“To look at something …” to really look … At one period of my life, I often accompanied tourists who were on the London leg of a European tour around the British Museum and National Gallery. I noticed how some tourists looked down at their guidebooks, and would tick off a famous painting by reading its label and then move on without more than a quick glance at the actual picture: “Van Gogh’s Sunflowers – tick, Rembrandt self portrait – tick, Constable’s Hay Wain – tick. That’s London ticked off; Paris tomorrow!”

I had a certain pleasure in my tour-guiding period in ridiculing the tourists’ behaviour, but I’ve realised since that most of us do something similar all the time, measuring what we experience with our senses against an internal tick-list of stored information, values and beliefs. For example, if you hold a belief that city kids mean trouble, you only have to witness a teenager laughing loudly on a train to tick that mental belief box, “Trouble!” If you believe your partner is irresponsible, you only have to see an unopened letter from the bank addressed to them to instantly suspect the worst and tick your belief box with the thought, “Irresponsible!”

There’s a world of difference between clocking something in this way and absorbing something through the senses. I can recognise the sound of a bird and clock “thrush” – that’s an act of recognition. If I hear the bird’s song and am truly open to it with all my senses involved – ah, that’s something else entirely, and allows something new to enter my consciousness.

The range of what we think and do is limited by what we fail to notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds. R. D. Laing

Paying real attention as we listen to someone requires us to absorb everything, take no short cuts, and refrain from certainty – even though our thinking brain is always looking for closure. This is partly for ourselves, so that we don’t jump to judgement, and it’s partly for the other person, as the quality and ease of our open listening helps them to think and communicate better.

It takes the whole of us to do that, not with any sense of effort, but in a gently absorbing way. Listening in this context consists of:

  • Hearing the nuances of voice tone beyond the actual sense of the words
  • Absorbing the nuances of facial expression, body language and breathing
  • Feeling the other person’s being empathetically – being touched by the other person
  • Allowing – letting things be as they are without seeking to interpret or change them.

I’ll tell you where I find this hardest – with people I know really well. Do you too? And that’s the very place, I realise, where seeing with fresh eyes is particularly productive. It’s one thing to notice something new in a child as he grows and develops. But adults don’t remain the same either – every single cell in our bodies is replaced every 7 years. A friend has just sent me a photo of me 40 years ago – I can follow the thread from that time to this, but I’m not the same person, and wouldn’t want to be treated as such.

So adults deserve our fresh attention too. I do think Matisse is right: to look at something as though we have never seen it before does indeed require courage. But the very act of doing so with people, allows the other person to change shape in our presence, to become more of who they can be. That’s the miracle of it.

The moment one gives close attention to any thing, even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome, indescribably magnificent world in itself.  Henry Miller

<^> <^> <^> <^> <^> <^>

Voice of Influence Workshop

– Coming up on 14-15 July in London, and again in October. You can book directly online here, or email me for invoiced company bookings or special cases.

This two-day course will give you the skills and confidence to speak with ease and connect with your audience – even if you are seriously daunted now. And it’s an enjoyable experience too – people often comment with surprise on the fun they have in the workshop. Two days from your life – think how many scenarios will be different in future when you feel at ease …

To those who sign up this month for the workshop I’m offering a free copy of my new book:-

The Art of Conversation

– It’s just out. It’s to be promoted from 15 May to 4 June at Smiths in airports and train stations – let me know if you spot it – I’d like a photo! The book takes you from first principles of starting a conversation cold to the subtle art of creating deep connection – it’s been recommended for people on the autistic spectrum as much as for those who want to connect with others on an intimate – even spiritual – level. Writing the book has been fascinating –  we engage with each other all the time, and these connections matter to us – but how we do that is under-examined.

If you enjoy the book, I (and especially my publishers!) would greatly appreciate a short recommendation on Amazon. The same goes for my other books if you’d like to recommend them – just a sentence or two to guide other potential readers would be great.

Find all my books here.

I’m spending a day this week with Nancy Klein – author of Time to Think and More Time to Think – she is a great advocate of paying attention to what people say. Wonderful writer, great books.

Speaking tips and inspiration

Useful daily speaking tips and inspiration on my Facebook page here.

Tweets too here.

For more help with voice and speaking download my E-courses on Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with More Authority and Raising Your Profile.

Coaching

One-to-one coaching offers you the opportunity to make significant changes in important parts of your life. It’s a practical and effective way to grow into the kind of person and the sort of roles you can maybe only imagine now. The one-to-one approach enables you to develop exactly the areas that will be most meaningful and impactful to you. It’s open to anyone – you don’t have to be already sorted to seek help from a coach!

I run my coaching business here in Dorking. I can also visit your business. Contact me for more information.

That’s it! Have a good month.

Go well.

 

 

A cat tied to a pole

Cat tied to a poleHave you seen the film “Eat, Pray, Love”? In the original book Elizabeth Gilbert tells a cautionary tale heard during her time in an Indian ashram.

The story tells of a great saint who was always surrounded by his followers, with whom he would meditate for hours everyday.  The saint had a young cat who used to bother them all during meditation by walking through the temple meowing and purring. So the saint came up with the practical solution of tying the cat to a pole for the duration of the meditation so that people would not be disturbed. Every time they meditated they would first tie the cat to the pole, and this became a firm habit, and no one thought of beginning to meditate without first tying up the cat. It began to seem part of the ritual. So when the cat died, the saint’s followers were panic-stricken and a major religious crisis erupted: how could they possibly meditate now without a cat to tie to a pole? How would they reach God now?

How many daily rituals stem from forgotten and obsolete reasons? I have a sneaking feeling that probably an awful lot more than we realise …

 

I heard about someone who regularly used a delicious chicken recipe passed down in the family from her great-grandmother. One day she questioned her grandmother about it. “The chicken tastes so good,” she said. “The recipe says always to chop the chicken in two – is that the secret?” “Ah, no,” said the old woman; “my mother always did that because her cooking pot was too small to hold a whole chicken.” And everyone had just carried on doing it without question.

“Say please, say thank you,” I parroted to my children, or even, “What’s the magic word?” (pause while I cringe) as if that was the point. What I occasionally got instead was anger: “Thank YOU!! for giving back MY TOY!” when the original point behind the word was to feel and express gratitude. I saw a politician say “Sorreee!” in much the same way once … twice actually. It’s a bit like chopping the chicken in two; the word completely lost its original purpose.

Organisations spend considerable effort on “behavioural training,” such as the customer care instruction to say, “Have a nice day,” or “Enjoy your meal.” I would love to compile a video of the times those statements have been delivered with boredom or even resentment! But sound-bite ritual is satisfied: the cat has been tied to the pole.

I wonder how much of this behaviour without meaning stuff we could let go?

–        this week’s politically correct word for instance – I can’t keep up and surely it’s the attitude that counts?

–        parroting the ‘right’ words as if that’s alright then. Ditto when someone says the wrong thing and motivation isn’t taken into account – whatever the red-tops assert!

–        behaviour “management” – people can’t be “managed” into thoughtfulness or any real learning – they can only be motivated.

–        complex bureaucracy that has lost its original purpose

What would you let go of?

 

Monkey and banana experiment

Even our fear responses are behaviours with lost meaning if they belong to an outmoded story or someone else’s experience. Why take on inherited fears when we don’t even know what the cause was? Most of the “stuff” that sabotages us comes into this category.

Robert Dilts told me the story of the monkeys and the banana (taken from an experiment by G.R. Stephenson in 1967 I believe) which illustrates the point.

There are some monkeys in an experimental cage. The researcher hangs a banana on a string at the top of some stairs in the cage. Whenever a monkey climbs the stairs to get the banana he sets off a cold water hose which drenches all the monkeys in the cage. So, pretty soon, the monkeys prevent any single monkey from climbing the stairs and setting off the hose in an attempt to reach the banana.

The researcher turns off the water so that it is now safe to approach the banana. But the monkeys continue to stop each other from approaching the stairs.

One by one the monkeys are replaced by new monkeys. As each new monkey enters the cage it is attacked by the other monkeys when it attempts to climb the stairs, so it learns not to. Eventually, every monkey in the cage has been replaced, so no monkey now has ever experienced the soaking. But no monkey ever approaches the stairs again. That’s just the way things are. Another ‘religious’ ritual is born; another thought virus.

Achieving what we want is as much and more about letting go as about go-getting.

 

We’ve just had the latest two-day NLP training on Leadership and Influence. The distinction between behaviour and the values and beliefs that run that behaviour is a vital one. Yet the two are confounded constantly. I love the way NLP clarifies human action in so many ways and helps us get to the point. It stretches our ability to think and experience; participants love the challenge and grow in awareness and genuine confidence. It’s also wonderfully liberating to let go of stuff that gets in the way of success and happiness.

 “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” Lao Tzu
 

 Coaching and Change – 14-15 April 2011

My next 2-day NLP Workshop is Coaching and Change on 14-15 April.  Coaching – conversational change – is one of the best developments of the last twenty or so years. It is awe inspiring to witness the life changes that people achieve through coaching. Come and enjoy two days of some of the best coaching-learning. More information at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.

Voice of Influence – 31 March-1 April

And before that in the calendar, the next Voice of Influence Workshop is on 31 March – 1 April. This small-group-coaching course will take you from performance anxiety or a mild discomfort about presenting to inner confidence and assured delivery without notes – plus you’ll get excellent voice coaching. We already have a great group this month but there is still space for you, so look on the website for information. If you feel daunted, don’t let it put you off – you’ll find what you are looking for – and people who arrive scared always say they enjoy it.

If you are self-funding, work for a charity or are in genuinely difficult circumstances feel free to ask about special deals.

If you are looking at the website, take a glance at the testimonials. Most people come to these trainings through personal recommendation.

How to Raise Your Profile – NEW E-course on my website

to download at http://judyapps.co.uk/web/index.php/e-courses/how-to-raise-your-profile/.

Do you sometimes feel invisible and unappreciated? People don’t seem to listen to what you have to say? What seems to you the natural way to behave just doesn’t seem to be what is wanted around here? Or you’ve been told you need to raise your profile a bit more?… Whatever the reason, this e-course will show you that it is completely possible – for you – to be listened to, taken seriously, respected and remembered positively without changing the fundamentals of who you are.  Hope you enjoy  it!

Warm good wishes,

 Judy

Prime Numbers and Incurable Deviants

Prime NumbersHere we are at the beginning of 2011 – a special year: 2011 is a prime number (divisible only by one and itself) – a ‘one off’ number.

According to the psychologist Steven Gilligan we are all ‘one offs’. He says that we are all “incurable deviants” -using the merry phrase to celebrate our individuality as people. However much we might attempt to fit in to an environment that may not suit us, he suggests that our health and happiness depend on our being able to express our individuality as the “incurable deviants” that we all are.

So one good New Year resolution might be to be more ourselves – in all our individual ‘one off’ness.

But thinking back to the Christmas holiday, I often didn’t feel like a ‘one off’ or one anything. It seemed that there were different parts of me that turned up to different occasions. I don’t know if you share this sensation of being different people with different colleagues, friends and family? A friend tells me that when she and her adult siblings meet with their parents back in the family home at Christmas they slip back into the way they used to relate as children. “It’s so weird,” she says. “Here I am – a middle-aged responsible professional, but back in that context I’m a child again with all the old competitive pressures and resentments.”

You may have noticed these different parts of yourself in other contexts – you are asked to present yourself to the head of your organisation, and suddenly you feel like a schoolboy summoned to the headmaster’s office and your voice becomes uncertain and your shoulders shrink. Or you are at a celebration where all are loudly and rowdily enjoying themselves and you suddenly feel like a stiff spare part with no sense of humour and not a single interesting thought funny or otherwise in your head.

“One man in his time plays many parts”, pronounces Shakespeare’s Jaques in As You Like It. Most of us are this way. I have occasionally met a person who can assert stoutly, “Take me the way you find me. I call a spade a spade. No nonsense about me, I never change;” but that’s usually because they have so perfected that role that they are unwilling to hazard any other. The rest of us find that particular contexts bring out specific parts of our make up – and not always the parts that would be most helpful. In one context we sparkle and feel interesting, in another we feel lumpish and inadequate.

One of the brilliant things I learned from NLP was that we have a choice in the matter. We can actually learn the skills to summon the parts of ourselves that are going to be most useful in a particular context. For instance, we can bottle our sparkling, interesting self to open at the very time we feel most inadequate.

– in the spirit of which, let me make some new year resolutions:

Use the following this year:

When next faced with a household disaster perpetrated by one of my elderly relatives, let go of the sarcastic crone within and access that part that used to laugh spontaneously at my 10 year old’s jokes. (Did I really? That’s amazing!) 

When next faced with a self-important professional using obfuscatory business language, abandon the attempt to look intelligent, and use the 20-year-old part of myself  that sweetly, smilingly failed to understand anything at all when shouted at by an Italian traffic policeman.

The next time something fails to work on my computer, instead of hurting my vocal cords with cries of frustration, tune into the part of myself that enjoys a 1000 piece jigsaw (even if only at Christmas!) and loves nothing more than a really slow challenge.

What follows from the discovery that you can choose which parts of yourself to employ in different contexts is the earth-shaking realisation that you can simply choose how to be

– and the limit is merely the limit of your imagination.

One-offs we certainly are, but we can also choose to be just the way we want to be. So prime year number, prime year of your life, what can you imagine for this year? How bold might you be?!

NLP DIPLOMA
confidence, composure and effectiveness

The ability to choose your response described above is one of the competences offered to you in the NLP Diploma. You will learn fundamental (not simplistic) skills of relationship and influence which will impact positively on all aspects of your life.  You’ll make a step change in your ability to make things happen and to steer your life in the direction of success and fulfilment. If you are looking for one self-development course that will enable you to step up to the next level, raise your profile and radically build your self confidence then this is the one.

Modules and dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk 

Communication & Relationships          17-18 Feb
Leadership & Influence               17-18 Mar
Coaching & Change                           14-15 Apr
– all at Hammersmith, London

VOICE OF INFLUENCE
– brighten up the room, delight your audience

The two-day Voice of Influence Workshop will give you the tools to give an accomplished formal public speech and beyond that the confidence to speak out spontaneously in any context of your life – whether in a meeting, a negotiation or a ‘difficult’ conversation with colleague or boss. If you look at any successful person in business you will find that they have excellent speaking skills, and you can have them too. It’s not about being someone different either – you will find the way to be powerful and authentic in your own way in this supportive small-group course.

Dates – sign up today at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk.    

4-5 Feb 2011         – Hammersmith, London
30 Mar–1 Apr 2011 – Hammersmith, London

1 TO 1 COACHING 
– fast positive change

Skype, telephone, face-to-face – great for growing in your job and growing into the next one, wonderful for an emergency, brilliant for general self confidence, balance and control. Speak to me about it today – it’s a fast way to learn. Try one session at reasonable cost to experience its benefits at first hand

Lots more information on my website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – or contact me for a chat.

Happy New Year 2011!

Warmly

Judy

Focusing on the extraordinary

Never underestimate…

bowerbirdHave you come across the bowerbird of Australia? It’s a dull-looking species, fawn-brown in colour. The male bowerbird builds a nest surrounded with a variety of brightly coloured objects he has collected which may include hundreds of shells, leaves, flowers, feathers, stones, berries, and even coins, nails or pieces of glass. But the most remarkable part of the construction is a grand avenue of sticks leading to the nest. The sticks are arranged with precise care so that those closest to the nest are the smallest and those farthest away are the tallest, which gives a false sense of perspective so that when the bowerbird stands at the entrance to his nest he looks enormous and impressive to the female. Researchers have tried interfering to change the order of the stick heights, but when that happens the bowerbird painstakingly over several days restores its original configuration. Does the bird understand perspective?!

Never underestimate nature!

Eileen NearneAnd humans? I read about Eileen Nearne who died at 89 this month. You’d never heard of her? Neither had I.

Eileen Nearne was just an old lady who lived alone in Torquay. The most that neighbours had to say about her was that she used to enjoy talking about her cat.

Yet after her death officials found in her flat an amazing treasure trove of war-time papers and medals, including the MBE and the Croix de Guerre. It turns out that she had an extraordinary history no one knew about.

In 1944, aged 23, as a member of Winston Churchill’s secret Special Operations Executive she was parachuted into occupied France, where she passed on intelligence and arranged arms drops as the only British agent with an operating transmitter in the Paris area. She operated during that crucial period until she was arrested by the Nazis in July 1944. She was tortured, then sent to the notorious Ravensbrück concentration camp where thousands were executed or died. But she managed to escape and was able with help from a French priest to stay in hiding until rescued by the advancing allies. Her bravery contributed importantly to the war effort. Not ‘just an old lady’ after all!

Never underestimate people!

 Tim Gallwey, often called the ‘father of coaching’ by those in the profession, talks about his profound belief in the inner intelligence and wisdom in each one of us, in human life itself.  He says that a person is much bigger than what you see. As coaches we believe in the existence of potential beyond what presents itself.  We may see withdrawal or the sense of something shut down but we do not believe it. We manage to see through and beyond the acts that people put on either to seem less capable than they are or to make us believe they’re wonderful but which actually cover up their true ‘wonderfulness’. 

I have been surprised more often than I can say by how people can be unexpectedly extraordinary. And it tends to happen when you don’t criticise them internally or consider them small.

 The other side of this is:

Never underestimate yourself!

It is so easy to ignore and deny what is in us. We are capable of being exceptional. The skill lies in discovering how to allow that to happen …

“The whole point of being alive is to evolve into the complete person you were intended to be.” says Oprah Winfrey

Curiosity and playful experimentation are effective approaches. Criticism, self-labelling and a rigid outlook block it. The best place to learn is in interacting with people – which is why workshops where you have the freedom to interact, investigate and explore with others are so productive and energising. They are often the place that gives birth to the extraordinary in people.

Sometimes it just takes someone else to see the exceptional in us before we can see it ourselves. They ‘know’ it is there and that becomes our realisation of a truth. As the pianist Claudio Arrau once explained about his performances, “I don’t know what’s going to happen but I know it’s going to be something wonderful.”

So, what are you underestimating about yourself?

Feeling the Fear

Feel the FearSummer ending. This morning I hear the rumble of passing cars as the school at the top of the road gets into action after the holiday. It’s a time of beginnings for all ages: starting school for the very first time, entering secondary school, getting ready for college or going back to work after the holiday break.

Rested, refreshed?

Rabbit in headlightsActually, for many of us what actually arises at this moment of new beginnings – even if we don’t tell a soul – is FEAR.

We don’t want it to be so but there it is, and there doesn’t seem to be much we can do about it. Are we alone in this? And what is this fear feeling? Are we saying to ourselves that we’re not going to cope? We’re not good enough? We’re found wanting? Are we thinking the world’s a dangerous place? We are not sure, the feeling is so nebulous.

What we do recognise is the effect: a blocked sensation, a stiffness taking over the posture, a shrinking within, a weakness, a hesitation to speak. It says “I can’t” as surely as Sir Winston Churchill’s “black dog” of depression.

Many people at work have such symptoms every day – especially currently when they feel especially vulnerable to reorganisation and cuts. The fear saps vitality, stifles creativity and makes the person feel small – like a rabbit caught in the headlights, frozen in a moment of impending doom! – even as they increase their efforts and double their stress.

The instinct is to force control on the situation – to spend extra time, prepare more carefully, look both ways before proceeding, micro-manage, make extra efforts to get things right, check and double check, to watch other people’s reactions, calculate risks …

 – and surely that’s good. Yes, it surely is …

And yet, and yet …

What if life is less like a crossing the road and more like white water rafting?

When I’m hurtling down the river rapids of life what is going to help then? Very different skills: steering rather than trying to put a brake on, looking the way I’m going rather than at my fellow passengers’ reactions, opening to currents of opportunity rather trying to get the paddling correct, freedom rather than rigidity, breathing rather than stiffening, exhilaration rather than holding.

It’s going with what is happening as it happens.

In terms of moving beyond fear, it means as a first step movement with and breath.

So, at this moment of new starts, it’s the perfect time to take a deep breath, and the time to get moving. A brisk walk gives us more energy than internal dialogue as we enter the workplace. The voice comes out stronger when we fill our lungs first. Singing a song at full volume in the shower gives us more courage than giving ourselves a critical lecture. A short amble up the hill produces more good ideas than two hours facing a screen.

So I breathe out the old air and take a good in-breath. I shake myself loose, start to move, and something shifts.

White Water RaftingSuddenly I’m enjoying the late summer sunshine, feeling optimistic, thrilling to the next challenge and all set to surf the rapids as well as move in quiet waters –  ready for the world again.

Happy river running to all of you!

– and many quiet waters!

Confidence Connections on the Website

 1.  “10 Secrets to Overcoming Performance Anxiety” Download free e-course.

2.   The “Voice of Influence” workshop has some powerful resources for going beyond fear – the next course is on 30 Sep – 1 Oct. As a previous participant said:  “It’s fabulous how these two days transformed my fear into real FUN! Can’t wait to do some more speaking.” Alex S  

3.  NLP Diploma: NLP is the great confidence builder – the Diploma offers six days of rich practical learning over a couple of months. People find it difficult to put NLP in a nutshell, but what you will certainly get out of the Diploma is the ability to be a more effective communicator and get on better with everyone, surer direction in your life, greater self awareness – including liking yourself better! – more influence and increased success at work and outside.  This makes it a great leadership course.

 

Carmen Herrera

Carmen1Carmen Herrera is a highly successful minimalist artist. Her radiant geometric paintings are on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington DC and the Tate Modern in London as well as commanding high prices all over the world.

Originally from Cuba where she studied architecture, she moved after her marriage to New York where she took a course in art. Subsequently she and her husband spent some time in Paris and it was here that she discovered geometric art at an exhibition. She was immediately consumed with passion for this kind of painting and knew it was the path she wanted to take. It meant changing her whole way of thinking and learning how to paint again. Gradually she refined and distilled her art, paring things down to their essence; she began to find her unique voice.

Her big break came when a friend put her name forward as a replacement when one of the artists in a New York exhibition of female geometric painters suddenly had to drop out. A collector bought five of her paintings and word quickly spread to other collectors. Before long her work was being snapped up all over the globe.

It’s the kind of rags to riches story you are probably familiar with …

… until we fill in some of the dates.

Carmen Herrera was born in 1915. She started to paint seriously in her late twenties. Her lucky break came just five years ago at the age of 89.

89! So what happened in the intervening 60 – 60! – years?

– Looked at from the outside, not much. She didn’t sell a single painting. Most days her husband would go off to work in the morning and she would get the housework out of the way and then paint; for hours and hours. Every now and then they would move to cheaper neighbourhoods so that she could continue to paint. Year after year she struggled with her art and her own limitations and found the way to move her passion forward.

Now Carmen Herrera is not your typical leader – a solitary woman artist, an immigrant, someone born before her time – but there is much about her that teaches me about the art of leadership:

–        she focused on what mattered

–        she started again when she needed to

–        she showed considerable personal strength

–        she displayed strong self belief

–        she worked extremely hard

–        she found her own voice and was finally heard by the world

–        and she is a magnificent example of the sheer indomitability of the human spirit!

We often think it’s all ‘out there’ – the challenges, difficulties, blocks, stuff to get done. But time after time history shows us that the real struggle is internal. The leader finds their true voice deep inside and is thus able to walk their talk on the outside.

Can you learn leadership and self-leadership? Certainly, though it will be different for everyone. It’s important to build your own awareness and find the space to look at your own practice. It doesn’t always take 94 years!

Horse Riding

Horse ridingMy sister and I were very keen on horses when we were younger. We even started to save our pocket money towards buying a horse – the fact that it would have taken us till we were 70 to save enough somehow didn’t deter us. I loved the whole idea of riding and was fervently longing to try it properly.

One day while on holiday with our parents we passed a riding stables and I could see the heads of horses looking out from their stalls. I so much wanted to have a ride – I don’t think I’d ever longed for anything more. My parents said that if I went into the yard and found out how much it cost I could have a ride.

But I couldn’t. I was too shy.

I just couldn’t will myself to walk into that stable yard, find someone and ask the question. It was just asking! I stood there for ages struggling with myself. How on earth was it not possible? But I couldn’t. And I didn’t get my ride.

This is just a little anecdote about a child and a horse, but have you ever had that feeling or voice inside that says, “I just can’t?”

By the time we are adult most of us have quite a few areas that we have shut off as being not possible or ‘not me’. We have different gremlins but their power is always destructive and their hidden existence continues to sabotage our success in all sorts of subtle ways.

What I began to learn is that this state of affairs can change. And when it does all sorts of possibilities come into focus that just weren’t there before, and with them appear the ability and courage actually to go for what we want.

But that’s for another story! …