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.

 

 

Gotta keep up! – Who Says?

Peter just hasn’t caught up with the 21st century. He’s never sent an email in his life. He’s never browsed the internet. He doesn’t possess a mobile phone and has never used one. He doesn’t even have a television.

Peter who?

– Peter Higgs, the extraordinary scientist who won the Nobel Prize for Physics at the end of last year, following the discovery of his predicted Higgs boson using the Large Hadron Collider at Cern.

Just 50 years ago, Higgs returned to Edinburgh University from a camping trip in the Highlands with some new ideas, and wrote a short paper that was published in a European physics journal, Physics Letters. A second paper he wrote that same year predicting a new massive spin-zero boson was rejected by the journal as “of no obvious relevance to physics.” Higgs added a paragraph and sent the same paper to another leading physics journal which published it. This was the basic prediction for what followed.

The particle to match these theories was finally discovered 49 years later in 2012. In those 49 years, Higgs published fewer than 10 academic papers. Every year the university would ask its academics for a list of recent publications, and every year Higgs wrote “zero”. “I’d have been sacked into today’s academic system, I wouldn’t be productive enough,” he asserts.

Yet his discovery of the Higgs boson marks a massively important break through, its full implications yet to become clear. Quantum mechanics – the last great break through – led to the invention of the transistor – key ingredient for all modern electronics, the laser and other medical technologies – MRIs, PET scans etc. Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web at Cern, another major transformation of our lives. Who knows where this latest discovery will lead us? – For sure it’ll be huge.

January is often a time when I resolve to be more up with the times. Perhaps you write similar hopes yourself? “Keep up to date with my FaceBook page. Twitter more regularly. Get more savvy about social media. Read the latest publications. Get into shape. Throw out my old wardrobe …”

In the middle of all this insistent self-bluster, Peter Higgs is a comforting figure. He’s 84, and will leave behind an outstanding legacy. But he certainly didn’t “keep up” – ever. His whole life he followed his own beliefs and did his own thing, often to the detriment of his position in academic life. He hasn’t been blown around by opinion or fashion or fame. He’s far from arrogant and doubts that he deserves the Nobel Prize: “I’m getting the prize for something which took me two or three weeks in 1964,” he commented.

Do you ever have an irrational fear of somehow not keeping up and getting left behind? But I ask myself: Will the world really come to a standstill because I didn’t check my mobile before I went to sleep? Will I really stagnate in obscurity if I don’t post continually on social websites or mix with the ‘right’ people? It’s a media-fuelled fantasy. I’ve a feeling that an awful lot of energy is dissipated in such activities, and this new year I have various good ideas about how I’d like better to use that energy.

I do usually recognize the difference in myself between the urgency of that inner push to get more busy with business and outcomes, and the energy behind a little inner voice that nudges me that a certain move is going to be exciting and worthwhile. The little voice is extremely energizing and always leads to something good if I listen to it; the urgent nagging to greater productivity fragments and exhausts me.

So, Peter Higgs, you’re my mentor – you’ve followed your inner voice in science and in life. I like the idea of a mentor who didn’t even know he’d won the Nobel prize till a woman stopped her car in an Edinburgh street and congratulated him on the news. “What news?” he asked her, looking blank.

Higgs, you’re my kind of human being!

 

MY LATEST BOOK

My new book, The Art of Conversation, comes out in April. You can pre-order it on Amazon here. It’s been a fascinating book to write – conversation is the basis of so much in our lives! I hope you’ll enjoy it. (Cool hard-back cover!)

 

VOICE OF INFLUENCE WORKSHOP

If you want to communicate more confidently, be listened to, speak with more impact, connect better with people and build your confidence generally, this is definitely the course for you. Have a look at the testimonials from former participants here. They are absolutely typical of the feedback the course receives.

The next workshop is on 27-28 February. Get in touch with me (or book online) very soon if you want to attend on those dates as I’ve had quite a lot of enquiries.

NEW YEAR, NEW YOU

– and an event to recommend this week:

Thu 23 Jan, 7–8.45 pm, Global Cooperation House, London NW10 2HH. Meet two engaging and high profile women, Fiona Harrold, world-renowned coach and best-selling author, and Sister Jayanti, European Director of the Brahma Kumaris, international speaker and broadcaster. They will explore together how to energise and shift our way of thinking and being to be our best and create a better future. A free event, but you need to register herewww.bkwsu.org/uk/whatson/whatson

E-COURSES

Just a reminder that you can download my free e-courses on Dealing with Performance Anxiety; Raising your Profile; Speaking with More Authority, and an Introduction to NLP from my website – here.

Hope to meet some more of you this year!

Go well in 2014,

Judy

Tone Deaf?

Tone DearOnce, when I was teaching solo singing in a school for a while, I was sent a new pupil with a quiet warning: ‘Maddie desperately wants to sing, but we know she’s tone deaf – just see what you can do.’

So I met Maddie. We started our lessons and I did indeed find that she was unable to pitch notes that I played her on the piano. She would attempt to sing something and sound really bad. I’d suggest something to help her; she would attempt that and it was just as bad. On one second attempt, just to encourage her, I said, ‘Yes, that’s the idea.’

And then it happened – she caught my eye for a fraction of a second, and in that lightning glance far too short for words her eyes said, ‘You’re lying.’

She was right, I was.

But the glance, discomforting as it was, was also the message. I suddenly realised that if Maddie knew that the second attempt was no better than the first, she could hear that it wasn’t. So, what did we mean by ‘tone deaf’?

That did it. We set out again and several things were different.

  • Without anything ever being said we both knew that she’d seen through my deception, and from that point there was a complete honesty between us.
  • I now believed that she wasn’t tone deaf – that there was a way for her to learn to sing if we could find it together. So I believed in her possibility.
  • I realised I was in uncharted waters, so I was willing to try something new.
  • And what I did was take the lead from her.

She sang me a note, and we discovered it on the piano, and then little by little we explored together the territory around her note. The exploration eventually blossomed into a song with limited range, ‘Day by Day’. After that there was no holding her back, and at the end of the year she sang a solo in a school concert for which she was warmly applauded.

I wonder where you are now Maddie, I hope you are still enjoying singing. I was the learner that day.

I learned from you that truth is paramount.

I learned from you the importance of believing in someone.

I learned from you to go into the unknown.

And I learned that I’m not in charge of your learning; you are.

Coaching came into vogue several years later, but there are the fundamentals, picked up in a glance into someone’s eyes.

So I find myself writing this with two curiosities:

I wonder what you might notice today if you don’t know the answer before you begin.

I wonder too how an uncomfortable moment for you might be the very key to unlocking something that was stuck before.

I once asked the NLP pioneer Robert Dilts who his mentors had been in getting to where he is now. He looked a bit puzzled for a moment. Then he replied that though there had been some obvious teachers in his early years – like Gregory Bateson for instance – his main observation was that he learned most from students and people he met every day.

Just so.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms: 25 Sure-fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

My new book, comes out at last at the end of February – ways for you to beat fear of speaking even if you have always suffered intolerably from performance nerves. 25 ways to choose from – one especially targeted at you! Order it now on Amazon.

NLP Conference last week

It was a brilliant conference, the best yet, with several speakers I had never heard before and will now follow avidly. Book for next year if you can!

Voice of Influence Workshop

The 1-2 December one is full. The next is not till 17-18 May … unless someone twists my arm! Find your speaking voice – and your confidence.

NLP Diploma

The first module, Communication and Relationships is on 1-2 March. Book up now. I know this kind of training works for people because they tell me so … straight after the training and also months and years afterwards. It’s where they discover their inner confidence, and find the means to make important changes in life and career. I can’t really describe it – you just have to find out.

I’m away for a good chunk of the next month and a half, so contact me initially by email if you want to speak to me.

Be well,

Pathways

Path through summer woods with personI took a familiar walk through the Surrey woods near my dad’s house the other day, but the usual path had disappeared.  You’d think those ancient woods would remain unchanged through the years. But they don’t. Each season when the bracken pushes through the pathways shift and alter, and change the route from road to lake and lake to hill top.

It set me thinking to how we tend to assume that we too are unchanging – same old nose (not quite the right shape), same old legs, same old thoughts, same old me …

Same old blood pressure written in stone by the reading  in the surgery … though I know someone whose blood pressure hits the roof the moment they meet the doctor and is different as soon as they reach home!

Same old eyes, as the optician recommends set lenses … though I know that they improve with muscle exercises and are in any case more effective when I’m not tired.

Same old genes … as assumed by genetic research which tells me that this and that is to be expected because my genes say so. I almost bought that one till I heard about genes that switch on and off!

Same old brain; just so many cells – even if they gradually die off as you get older (abandon hope all who enter here).

Ah, but now we are learning that the brain is more plastic than previously thought. Cortical remapping occurs in response to injury. People with  strokes, cerebral palsy, and mental illness can train other areas of their brains through repetitive mental and physical activities. Life experience changes both the physical structure and functional organisation of the brain. Musicians develop stronger neural pathways that support musicality and dexterity. The brain waves of professional jazz players become more synchronised as they jam together. World-class athletes develop stronger alpha waves to cope with the ever-changing mix of intricate challenges they face. There is no doubt now –

thinking changes the brain.

If we keep thinking similar thoughts we are carving out neural pathways that make it increasingly easy to pursue those same thoughts next time… and next time … So constant negativity carves out a negative pathway. And self-believing thoughts carve a positive can-do pathway.

(Incidentally, what are you thinking NOW…?)

I’ve just finishing reading Bounce: The Myth of Talent and the Power of Practice by the international table tennis champion, Matthew Syed. He tells how just one street, Silverdale Road in Reading where he lived, produced at least 10 international and national table tennis champions in the 1980s, more than the rest of the UK put together. How on earth did that come about?

Syed explains that the enthusiastic local primary school teacher was a top national table tennis coach and a senior figure in the English Table Tennis Association, and any local kids who showed potential were persuaded to take their skills forward at the local club, Omega – open 24 hours a day – where they were given plenty of time, excellent coaching and  self belief.  A combination of opportunity, enjoyment, purposeful teaching with productive feedback and many hours of practice produced champions from a relatively small pool of young people.

This all points to the conclusion that nothing is just made that way, nothing is fixed, nothing is ordained. On the contrary, everything is plastic, everything is changeable, anything is possible. As in Silverdale Road, even neural pathways can be changed and new ones developed – if we do the work of activity and repetition to make it happen.

So when that moment comes – perhaps after you have been to the gym a few times, or eaten healthily for a week or so, or meditated or done early morning yoga for a few sessions, or walked to the station instead of taking the car once or twice, or sent out a dozen CVs with no reply, or phoned a few potential clients with little response – when that moment comes – when something inside you says,

“There’s no point in this, I’m not the sort of person who succeeds at this stuff”,

then you can know that yes, you are that sort of person – you are currently and always in the making – and that every bit of purposeful practice is taking you in the direction you want to go and will take you to where you want to be if you continue.

And, after all, life is not fixed like a noun. It’s not “arrival”, “success” or “achievement”. It’s always a verb – doing, moving, achieving, succeeding, becoming, being…

… and the neural pathways growing, shifting, changing, and finding new ways to the top of the hill! (your particular hill …)

Happy walks in the woods!

“… 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,

Gannets

In this newsletter

  • A Gannet Story
  • New excellent funding stream for training
  • Book for autumn now – New NLP Practitioner opportunity!
  • Recommended books

GannetsGannet

Gannets are on my mind this week. Sometimes a bird just gets a bad press. Until a few days ago I thought I knew all I needed to know about the gannet; i.e.

gannet – ˈɡanɪt/ – greedy bird (what my own mother called me when I purloined chocolate cake) which breeds in overcrowded quarrelsome colonies of hundreds of thousands on remote island rocks off Scotland.

That was before I saw a film recently of gannets diving for fish. Suddenly I was witnessing something astonishing. A handsome bird with an almost 2 metre wingspan hovered a 100 feet in the air like a kite or an eagle and then performed a spectacular nosedive at 60 miles per hour into the sea, becoming streamlined like a torpedo just before entering the water. Somehow it then turned again from torpedo into bird to beat its way out of the water into the air again with a fish in its beak – Watch it here.

What grace and power! Completely awe inspiring to watch.

That wasn’t the end of my gannet week though. The next gannet event was ridiculous. I saw a clip of young gannet fledglings on the high rock where the birds breed. At some point the fluffy young bird had to summon up the courage to jump off the cliff. It was too heavy to fly, so it half fell, half fluttered, banged itself on rocks, miraculously got up again, fell again, hit rocks again and bounced, got up again, fell again, and eventually dropped into the sea hundreds of feet below. How it survived I have no idea. What a scene of tragic-comedy!

So three different views of a bird:

  • On its breeding cliff greedy and everyday-quarrelsome
  • Diving into the ocean – powerful and extraordinary
  • Jumping/falling off the cliff – vulnerable and absurd

By the way, re the last clip the bird commentator added the postscript that the young bird – afloat for the first time in its life – would now swim to Norway – swim to Norway? – and when eventually it had the strength to take off in flight (another new skill!) in a couple of weeks it would migrate thousands of miles south, even as far as West Africa…

It struck me reading the week-end papers at leisure last week-end how much we are presented with just one view at a time. A while ago we had pictures of a strong leader with statesman-like pose meeting other world leaders at an international event. This week-end the news is of an evil tyrant and every photo shows the man with an evil expression – same man, different moment, different view. It’s the stuff of soap operas of course, perfect for keeping a story going. We thought she was a ‘goody’; but oh no! she’s a ‘baddy’ after all!

People protesting in the streets wear identical face masks of a certain politician bearing the same fixed expression – just one view. There you are, you can see that he’s not to be trusted, he has the ‘not-to-be-trusted’ expression fixed and unchanging on his mask of a face!

Great for soap operas and Mills and Boon; not so good for understanding people well.  When I’m coaching someone, sometimes they present to me an image of ‘vulnerable and absurd’ and tell me silently to believe it. But I don’t, because I know that hidden in them somewhere is also ‘powerful and extraordinary’; I believe in its existence even if they don’t themselves quite yet – and bit by bit, being seen, it finds the space to emerge.

I was inspired by the coach Tim Gallwey one year when he spoke about this very thing at the ICF Conference:

“The person is much bigger than what you see.  As a coach I believe in the existence of potential beyond what I see.  I see withdrawal, shutdownness, but I do not believe it.  You can’t do this just mentally. You’ve got to look for it, see it through the veils, through the acts people have on them to make us believe they are wonderful that’s covering their wonderfulness.  Good self images are the hard ones – an image is an image.  What about the thing being imaged.  You?”

ICF Conference Speech 1999

I like the last bit about images of being wonderful hiding a person’s wonderfulness – I know people who do that, don’t you?

I experience within myself too this limitation in viewing. One day I’m struggling with a fault on the computer and my overwhelming feeling is ‘vulnerable and absurd.’ I shout downstairs for assistance with helpless sighing and blue language…

The answer comes back up, “Just take it easy, I’m sure you can solve it.”

More blue language; more helpless sighing. ‘Vulnerable and absurd’ feels like the whole of me, I’m quite incapable of seeing beyond it.

And then – sometimes! – I look inside and discover ‘powerful’ and a whole new way of feeling and being. This allows me to take heart and proceed resolutely to resolve what is only a technical blip after all.

We are people of parts. There’s almost more – beyond what we believe to be there.

Wouldn’t it be great for the media in the 21st Century to mature into a greater appreciation of the multi-dimensionality of people – less of the cut-out 2D image, more of an exploration of the amazing amalgam we all are? They might think we’d hate it. I think we’d find it riveting.

Media are you listening?!

There’s always more …

Me and you – are you listening!

New funding for training

Check out this new funding stream if you are interested to apply for my NLP Diploma, Practitioner or the Voice of Influence course next autumn – it could save you considerably. The new Government Leadership and Management Advisory Service is offering funding for leadership and management skills for small businesses. Further details here.

NLP Diploma

The next NLP Diploma starts in October. Please see ‘Testimonials’ on my website for some of the comments of recent recipients of the award.

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 – a multi-dimensional package!

The price is again just £850 till September! To get this full 40%+ discount when booking on-line proceed as follows:

i. Book each of the 3 modules individually but at the same time (the discount only works if you book all three at once). Booking all three automatically triggers a 30% discount to start with.

ii. In the Voucher box, insert VOI SPECIAL. That will give the additional discount, bringing the price of all 3 workshops booked together to £850.

Alternatively, just fill in the booking form and email to me!

NLP Practitioner – register now

New opportunity! People have been asking me if they can continue on from the Diploma to the full NLP Practitioner and the answer – this year at least – is yes! If you already have my NLP Diploma or plan to take it this autumn, with three extra days of training in January 2012 plus a coaching session and individual study you can become a qualified NLP Practitioner through group coaching by February 2012. It’s an exciting course and probably the best value Practitioner you can do anywhere!

If you are interested please let me know immediately at judy@voiceofinfluence.co.uk.  I will send you further details for your final decision very shortly.

Voice of Influence Workshop

Book early for the next one – 30 September to 1 October.  More details at www.voiceofinfluence.co.uk

Books for Dummies

Finally, I’d like to highly recommend two fascinating books in that great ‘Dummies’ series by friends of mine.

Happy summer days to all!

Go well,

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

Travelling to a different emotional space …

walkaloneA story of walking out

I was feeling unappreciated and misunderstood. “I’m going out!” I announced with an air of finality like a teenager, and I stomped out.

Down the road, cut down the alley, across the main road and down towards the farm on the other side, then up the track that crosses the railway; finally up the steep hill through woods on the other side. I was puffing slightly when I reached the path along the downs at the top. I struck out further north, beyond our normal walking tracks into less-known territory, seeking to get as far away as possible. Soon I was a few miles from home, walking briskly along a woodland path through beech and chestnut. The signs around me of the dying year suited my frame of mind.

It was a beautiful autumn day, and I strode out, enjoying the rhythm of my steps and the energy of the exercise. I walked for a good hour and didn’t see a soul: surprising  how much space there is in the countryside – even in the south east! In the solitude I glimpsed a young deer which emerged from the trees up ahead, crossed the path calmly and disappeared into deep undergrowth. I felt pleased that it hadn’t panicked: silence, space, me and a deer.

By the time I found myself walking towards home rather than away from it, two hours had passed and I was deeply absorbed with an idea in my mind for a new project. By the time I reached home I was all eagerness to write it down.

My earlier mood? I could remember the earlier spat, but was in an entirely different place mentally and quite happy about the way forward. Plus, there was that warm creative glow…

Sometimes, all that is needed is space to free up and think; and the mind frees up as the body frees up. Nancy Kline in her excellent book Time to Think suggests that we all function immeasurably better when we have time to think for ourselves. Independent thinking is a rare commodity in the workplace. You might say that you are thinking all the time, but being engaged on a problem and thinking for yourself are different. Thinking for yourself requires space and attention. You can give that attention to yourself or someone who knows how can hold that listening space for you. Time, space and attention are the sponsors of creativity.

At my courses, when I observe participants happily engaged in an exercise, I realise that an important element of this kind of training is the space it gives to minds freed up by enjoyment to think independently and creatively. The changes that are born in that thinking space are often transformational and extraordinary.

What better time for thinking and creating than these shortening days of late autumn as nature settles down for its quiet season? – Nature has its time off too to prepare for spring. Farmers wanting the best from the land leave fields fallow some years to restore nutrients. People need breaks to restore mental fertility and balance. I wonder what will come into fruition for you in this “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”?

… and what space you will give it to allow it to emerge? 

NLP Conference – London, 12-14 November 2010

The NLP Conference has an especially impressive line-up of speakers and topics this year. It’s always a great opportunity to hear some of the best NLP trainers and developers in one place.

My own session – “Hypnotic Voices” – strays into the area of psychotherapy. Successful  hypnotherapists use the voice with particular skill and provide excellent models of vocal magic. But their techniques will also be of great interest to coaches, teachers, public speakers and all who use language to ‘take people to a different emotional space’.

I talk about techniques – but it’s more than that. The spoken voice has a considerable effect on other people, more than we are aware of consciously. To make vocal connections on a subtle deeper level requires physical, emotional and holistic alignment. This is what makes the learning so fascinating and the ability so fulfilling.