Festivals and Flying-Foxes

Sydney FestivalA few days ago I was reclining on the grass enjoying a picnic (along with 200,000 others) as enormous flying fox bats wheeled overhead and the sun went down on a summer day in Sydney. It was the first day of the Sydney Festival. As tickets sell out so fast for the festival, the city now puts on a special first day for free, so that the whole city – families, young and old – can enjoy international singers and bands at half a dozen open-air venues, with free bottles of water and buses running late to take people home.

Now I’m home to January frosts, and experiencing those moments every traveller recognises on return home, when things seem less obvious than before. Do I still drink tea in the morning? Do I still prefer the Guardian or was it the Telegraph? The daily gloom and doom seems less necessary. The countless routines of life no longer take place quite as unthinkingly as before.

Then gradually, daily life enfolds you again, and that foggy moment passes. You’re back with the familiar frames and filters … back in the matrix … But you’ve glimpsed something else – that brief moment when things are no longer obvious is the great gift of time away.

On my travels I’ve been reading ‘The Master and the Emissary’ by Iain Gilchrist (a fascinating book if you can cope with print the size of washing instructions on a shirt label). It explores the latest neuro-research into the left and right hemispheres of the brain. In a more complex way than previously thought, the left brain likes precision and categorisation with language to express it. The right brain holds the subtler bigger picture which is less easily pinned down by rules and language, and this hemisphere plays a far more major role than previously thought.

It’s the right hemisphere that enjoys moments when nothing is obvious; for these are moments out of which different kinds of insight can emerge. Think of historic instances of creative genius – the idea that just popped in as the bath overflowed or the apple fell on your head or you dreamed of riding sunbeams …

We can step out of our frame in various ways; one is to fly to the moon in your mind and look at your life from a distance; feeling your relative size when you are in mountains works in a similar way. Another (and a good antidote this to left brain New Year Resolutions that have you slogging to maintain some new routine …) is to do anything different from the norm just for the sake of it – take a different route home, eat a different food, read a different sort of book or paper, vary the order of your daily tasks … Every time we do things differently it gives us new insights – and brings pleasure at the same time.

I wonder what you might do differently – just for fun, just for the wonder of the thing? Gerald Manley Hopkins in the Windhover … (incidentally, did you know that the right hemisphere, though not till now associated with language, lights up for poetry?) … suggests that wonder is found in the plainest things, provided we lose our sense of knowing the obvious. The whole poem expresses it, but here are the last lines:

No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.

NLP Diploma

You’ll explore filters, frames and different perspectives in this course – and much more besides. This training is such a life changer – I’m constantly delighted with what people go on to achieve in living the lives they want (and only dreamed of before). First module, Communication and Relationships,  is on 1-2 March, 2nd module, Leadership and Influence, is on 29-30 March, and the final module, Coaching and Change, is on 26-27 April.

Voice of Influence Workshop

This popular course on speaking, presenting, and self confidence gives you the opportunity to learn and practise in a small group. Don’t remain unsure of yourself; becoming confident doesn’t mean changing who you are, it just requires you to learn new skills and approaches. It’s also absorbing and fun – as previous participants will tell you; all that is required is for you to register and turn up! Next workshop 9-10 February. The one after: 17-18 May.

All details on the website, www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – also ask me about special offers if you do not have company funding.

New Books

I have two new books coming out this year. The first is Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence published by Crown House. Out in February – available to pre-order on Amazon.

The second is due out in April – more information very soon!

And if you want the low-down on voice, you can find my book, Voice of Influence on Amazon too. It’s also out in Kindle. Or I can send you a signed copy.

Hope to meet you this year – at one of my courses, or at some other event. Come and say hello!

Warm good wishes,

Judy

“… felt compelled to stop”

The location: Joshua Bell
Washington DC – a metro station

The spot:
the top of the escalator

The time:
7:51 am, Friday morning rush hour

The situation:
A man puts down his cap for money, gets out his violin and starts to play. He performs classical pieces for the next 43 minutes.

In that time, 1,097 people pass by, mostly on their way to work. Just about everyone walks straight past ignoring him. Of the people queuing at the lottery stand across the arcade not one person looks over at him.

The 64th passer-by is the first to turn his head towards the music, just for a second. After 4 minutes someone throws some money in the hat. After 6 minutes someone stops for a couple of minutes to listen, then walks on. After 10 minutes a 3-year old boy stops, but his mother pulls him along while he keeps turning around to look. In fact, every single time a child walks past it tries to stop and watch; and every single time, a parent scoots the kid away.

In 43 minutes, of the 1,097 passers-by in all 6 people stop to listen for a while. The man playing the violin collects $32.17 from his hat at the end.

How do we know this?

Because the event was being monitored by the Washington Post. A famous violinist had agreed with the newspaper to play in the underground as an experiment – would people respond in that setting, or not?

The violinist was Joshua Bell.

He is one of the finest classical musicians in the world. He’s in the news this week having just taken over as music director of the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields orchestra in London. On the occasion in the metro he was playing some of the greatest music ever written on a Stradivarius violin worth over 3 million dollars. He had played in Boston’s stately Symphony Hall three days previously to a packed house with people paying $100 plus per seat. Hundreds had crowded round the stage door afterwards for a glimpse of him. The newspaper in setting up this experiment was prepared for crowd problems, people flocking to the scene, traffic backing up …

The actual results shocked them.

To get feedback they took some people’s telephone numbers during the experiment telling them they were going to call later about the subject of commuting. They then followed up on 40 people the same evening. Most people hadn’t even noticed a violinist on their way to work. Only one person mentioned the violinist spontaneously: “It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day.” he said. One other had recognised him “It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington,” she says. “Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking.” Bell himself, watching a video of the event later found himself mystified less by people being in a hurry than by the fact that most people paid no attention at all as if he were invisible. “After all, I was making a lot of noise!” he said. Interestingly the children noticed – they were all affected by Bell’s violin playing.

One person who didn’t miss the treat was project manager at the Department of Energy, John Mortensen. He heard the music as he headed up the escalator on his way to work. He didn’t have more than a couple of minutes to spare. On the video you see him get off the escalator and look around. He sees the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his mobile then settles against a wall to listen for a few minutes. He knows nothing at all about classical music but for the first time in his life he stops to listen to a street musician and gives him money. Asked about it afterwards he said he felt compelled to stop because the music made him feel at peace.

The thought springs to mind – if we miss one of the best musicians in the world playing some of the finest music ever written on one of the most beautiful instruments ever made … then what else might we be missing?

When in my teens I read W H Davies’ poem about having time to stand and stare, I used to think that noticing things was a matter of having enough time or indeed nothing better to do – okay if you’re a wanderer like Davies, you have all the time in the world, but not if you have a busy job.

I don’t think that any more.

I now think it’s not a time issue; it’s about being open to it – which means not just seeing and hearing but feeling too…

  • Like really hearing a blackbird one morning just for a few moments, the same blackbird you’ve heard countless times before, and thinking, wow, that’s truly amazing;
  • Like stopping for ten seconds to realise you are happy at a moment when you are happy
  • Like being with someone and suddenly feeling how great it is to have this person in your life just this moment now.
  • Like feeling the warmth of realising that this decision is the thing to do.

Few are those who see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.
Albert Einstein

The trouble with busy-ness is not so much that it takes up time; it’s more that it hides something from us. In busy mode I feel so pleased with myself that I can do two things at once – use the internet while I’m travelling by train, text as I walk from the station or speak to someone on my mobile while I’m clearing kitchen surfaces, putting clothes away or even … don’t go there. But in busy mode I’m just that. Busy.

Maybe we don’t need more time; but just need a different way of looking – a way that opens us to the miraculous – and better judgement too.

“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.”  William Blake

When I’m training, a great excitement is being there when a participant has an “ah-ha” moment. Suddenly they notice something that has always been there but not been seen before, and everything shifts. Coaching too is often about noticing things you haven’t noticed before. If someone can help you learn how to do that, go for it. It’ll transform your life and work and take you to some miraculous places.

The W. H. Davies poem? Here it is.

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare

NLP Practitioner, NLP Diploma

I’ve just finished my new book on overcoming performance anxiety. Look out for it in the autumn. And that’s when my workshops start again. You have the opportunity this autumn to do the NLP Diploma and then continue to the full NLP Practitioner finishing in January.

Have a look at the website for dates and read the testimonials … people get a lot out of the short modules – if your experience so far is company training courses, think again – these workshop days are enlightening, confidence building, full of useful tools and good fun. People often say that life and work seem easier afterwards.

SPECIAL VOUCHER CODE for NLP Diploma- £850!
Book each of the 3 modules individually but at the same time. In the Voucher box, insert VOI SPECIAL. That will bring the price of all 3 workshops booked together to £850.

Voice of Influence Workshop

My Voice of Influence Workshops start again at the end of September. Learn how to connect confidently with an audience – and much more.

Sign up for these workshops now.

Special Free Event:
Finding Your Voice – The Power of Authenticity

19 June in London with Judy Apps, 2.00 – 5.30. Details here.

Also at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk – some great articles and free e-courses on NLP, Overcoming Performance Anxiety, Speaking with Authority, Raising Your Profile and more, newsletter archive, my book Voice of Influence and information on coaching by Skype, telephone or face-to-face.

Do get in touch if you have any comments or questions or want to know more.

June already – height of summer!

If you have just one moment today, what will you notice I wonder? …

Go well,

Playing with words

Language shapes our thinking – can you only think what you have words for?

 SnowmanWhat times we live in! I am struck by the contrasting ways in which human behaviour is described. That useful magazine “The Week” publishes extracts from newspapers of every complexion, and repeatedly you can find a single topic described in wildly different ways. “Hurray for openness!” says one commentator; “Terrible leaks!” wails another. “Personal responsibility”, states one; “savage cuts” complains another. “Freedom of self-determination” shouts one; “Terrorism!” proclaims another.

Abstract nouns! NLP has quite a bit to say about these. It calls them ‘nominalisations’ and nominalisations are famously slippery, elusive and vague.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things
.”�
                                                                                                     Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass.

Well, you certainly can if you use abstractions!

“Love” is a particularly vague abstract noun as it makes do for such a cornucopia of different emotions: parental love, sexual love, love of chocolate brownies, love of taking long lunch-breaks in the pub … Two thousand years ago the Greeks gave us a wise lead by employing four different words for love –  agape–affection, eros-desire , philia-friendship  and storge–family love. But the English language did not go the way of the Greeks …

Nor of the Eskimos: the author Edward De Bono describes the rich vocabulary of love among the Inuit people who use subtle distinctions to manage relationships in the confinement of their long snowy winters. He refers to one of their words for love that translates as “I like you very much, but I would not go seal-hunting with you”. Now that might serve as a useful comeback at a party this Christmas!

One suggestion NLP makes to help unravel the meaning of abstract nouns is to turn them into verbs or “action words”. Our “love” then becomes the process of how we love each other, and our “relationship” becomes the process of how we relate to each other. It’s often easier to understand the meaning of a situation when an abstraction is turned into a process.

The linguist Benjamin Whorf argued that the fact that the Eskimos have 200 words for snow indicates that they have a much richer thinking on the subject.  So what about our more limited language for the idea of love – or indeed, given the season, love, joy and peace? Are we impoverished by having “one size fits all” for such concepts?

When we turn these abstract nouns of love, joy and peace into processes (noun into verb) we can see more clearly their limitations. It involves a bit more grammar but for a purpose!

Verbs are either transitive (which means they have an object; for example “I hit you”); or they can be intransitive (which means there is no object – for example “I sleep”; “I sleep you doesn’t make sense). An intransitive verb describes a state of being rather than something that is done to someone else.

So love, joy and peace

If we play a little with these words as processes, love is already a transitive verb:  “I love you. I love my fellow man.” But there is no intransitive equivalent to describe loving as a state of being – “I am loving” gets quite close to it, but a verb meaning “I am love-ful” would really good to add to our vocabulary.

What do you do, where do you go, what do you remember in order to enter the state of feeling “love-ful”?

For joy, we can “enjoy”, but it would be useful to have the more generative verb meaning “I am joy-ful”. And it would also be good to have a transitive verb “to joy” to express the concept of spreading or extending joy to someone.

I can “hurt you”. What would it mean for me to “joy” you?

With regard to peace, we can express a state of being in the three words “I am peace-ful”. But what about a transitive verb “to peace someone”, meaning to spread or extend peace? As of now I can “fight” “attack” “assault” “combat” or “assail” you, but I have no verb to affect you with “peace”. The media use battle words constantly: to fight terror, fear, poverty, injustice, extradition, apathy, disease …

(Who said “Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist persists”? Ah, that was Eckhart Tolle.)

If we use war-like words we are liable to see life as a battle.

What would it be like to have an active sense of “peacing” the people you spend time with?

If we are missing the language does it matter?

Does it matter that we don’t have words for things we might want to say? Yes, I believe it does, because language shapes the way we think just as much as the way we think shapes language.* If we haven’t got the words for it we are unable to think it.

So what about going about your business in the next couple of weeks and having fun with made-up words: use love in the intransitive – to love, be love-ful, and joy and peace in the transitive – to joy and peace each other.

Love-ful, I joy and peace you all!

* (If you are interested in the concept of language shaping our thought have a look at Lera Boroditsky’s article, “How does our language shape the way we think?” at http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/boroditsky09/boroditsky09_index.html)

E-zine Articles – a wealth of interesting short articles can be found at www.ezinearticles.com – you might like to type in “Judy Apps” for a few of mine!

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!