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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

Ginger and the Matrix

The ginger example Ginger

Odd encounters … visiting a relative recently, I discovered a foot high pile of large fresh ginger roots sitting on the kitchen counter.

‘Why such an enormous quantity of ginger?’ I asked.

‘Mmm, yes, er, internet mistake …’ came the slightly embarrassed reply.

I didn’t even know you could order ginger on the internet. My curiosity was rewarded with a gift, and I went home with a lovely plump root, keen to try it in some Thai cooking. What resulted was the best Thai dish I have ever tasted. I mean the best. I always use root ginger, but I had no idea that good quality fresh ginger could make such a difference. I mean, I don’t want to overstress the point, but I would have continued for the next thirty years to adjust the flavours of my oriental cooking seeking for better flavour without once realising that just because something is called ginger doesn’t mean that it’s the same as that something I used to call ginger.

… or that we always know what we are talking about when we use a word to talk about it. I’m referring to our tendency to stay inside the Matrix or system and a restricted way of thinking about things. As if that were all there were.

The news example

Take the Matrix called ‘the news’ for example: the journalist in the matrix knows that in their version of ‘the news’ the economy has a label called ‘problem’.

Being a problem, someone must be to blame, so he asks an economist whose fault it is.

That – even with its strong slant – being much too large a question for an 8 second sound bite, the economist replies that bonuses are too high.

Within a few days, there’s what Chris Mullin used to call a ‘feeding frenzy’ over bonuses, ‘symbolic’ stripping of knighthoods and the whole shebang -and we’re nowhere nearer to improving the economic situation.

We’re inside the Matrix – where ‘the news’ means problem and ‘problem’ means there must be a culprit, and ‘culprit’ for some reason is the main interest of the exercise.

The 17 camels example

Take the camels story as another example, do you know it? A man leaves 17 camels to his 3 sons. He leaves half his camels to his first-born, a third of his camels to his second son and one ninth of his camels to his third son. The sons are nonplussed, for the number seventeen doesn’t divide by 2, 3 or 9, and they can’t bring themselves to divide a live camel in pieces. They are stuck inside the dilemma.

But they step outside the dilemma and consult a wise old woman.

‘I can’t solve this for you’, she says, ‘But I could lend you one of my camels if you like.’

With 18 camels, the first son takes half – 9 camels, the second takes a third – 6 camels, and the third takes a ninth – 2 camels. That adds up to 17. There is one camel left over. So they give the old woman her camel back and everyone is happy.

Inside the Matrix of a particular way of thinking, it’s impossible. Step outside, or add something else to the mix, and it does become possible. It used to be called lateral thinking.

The problem person example

And finally a people example. I once had a real problem with a colleague. He was just difficult. I thought of many different ways to tackle the problem and improve my relationship with this person but nothing worked. I didn’t really expect it to because I was in a box which contained me and a ‘difficult person’.

That summer I went to America for a whole month, and broadened and changed my outlook in many ways. I had a wonderful time, and didn’t think once about my difficult colleague.

But on my return, he had changed without my doing anything. I wasn’t the person in that Matrix any more, and therefore he wasn’t the person of that Matrix any more.

In the NLP Diploma

One of the many things we examine in the NLP Diploma is systems theory -aka ‘escaping the Matrix’ – which enables you to debunk some current thinking around cause and effect and problem solving, for example:

  • Other people can make you feel bad – not true.
  • Trying harder is the key way to overcome lack of success – very often not.
  • Your problems are what they are irrespective of you – incorrect, you are affecting your problem by your relationship to it.
  • If you tackle a cause C, you can achieve an effect E. True, but you won’t do that without also causing possible negative side effects X, Y and Z, so it would be a good idea to discover what these might be before going ahead.

I sometimes ask myself when I encounter a problem, ‘If I were outside this matrix, what might it look like?’ You might like to try it if you get frustrated at some point later this week!

NLP Diploma

The NLP Diploma starts on 1 March with the first module, Communication & Relationships. The other modules are on 29-30 March (Leadership & Influence), and 17-18 April (Coaching & Change). You will pick up a load of useful leadership, management and relationship skills, plus invaluable personal gains including increased self knowledge and purpose, and a sense of ease and confidence in your everyday life. These are great tools for succeeding in whatever you dream of achieving in life.

Anyone who has done a good NLP course raves about it, and with good reason. It feels like common sense – but that commodity is not quite so common as we might think!

Voice of Influence Workshop

This is my well-known course for confidence, speaking and presentation skills. You could just get onto the 9-10 February workshop if you apply today. The following one is on 17-18 May.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

25 Sure-Fire Ways to Speak and Present with Confidence

I’ve just sent off the final edits and checked the final illustrations. I believe it’s going to be an invaluable little book which you’ll want to keep by you every time you have to speak or present. Order yours today here on Amazon. It will be available on Kindle too – as is my first book, Voice of Influence.

Coaching Groups

Someone asked me about coaching groups. Three that I always find excellent when I attend are:

London Coaching Group www.londoncoachinggroup.co.uk
Next event 28 Feb.

Guildford Coaches Group http://guildfordcoaches.org
Next event 23 March.

Soul of Coaching Group www.alternatives.org.uk/Site/CoachingCircle
Next event 22 Feb.

Go well!

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,

The old words are best …

‘I train and coach people in leadership …’  Cupcake
(just practising a spiel for the next
networking event …)

We all specialise in leadership these days – us corporate coaches and trainers. Management has slipped down the list, but leadership has more models of excellence than cup cakes have decorative designs (not that they aren’t slipping down the list too …).

Ever on the case, I asked a young friend who especially admired his boss, ‘What’s so good about his leadership?’

‘He’s kind.’

Kind?! What sort of a word is that? I glossed over it.

‘Yes right, but what about his vision, his ability to be ahead of the curve, his authority, strength of purpose, decision making …?’

‘Yes, I s’pose …’ said the young person indifferently, ‘But some of the others have that too. He’s different because … well, he’s kind.

I asked him to tell me more, and he explained that okay this leader saw the big picture, knew where he was taking the company, was indeed tough at times and had made hard decisions, but he didn’t do it from a distance.

He tried to make it clearer. ‘You know how warfare works now?’ he said. ‘The attacker, way up in a fighter plane, sees the target in the cross-hairs of his sight and presses a button. Then far away some buildings fall and people die. Well, he’s the opposite of that; he gets up close and messy, and we all believe that he cares. He knows exactly how people feel because he talks to us, so although he’s tough sometimes I think that it hurts him when he makes a decision that’s painful for people.’

After we’d spoken, I reflected on his word, ‘kind’ and decided I liked its humanity. We are after all ‘humankind’ and ‘kind’ has its origins in ‘kin’ – family. Maybe if leaders got up close enough to be able to see their people breathing – see all their stakeholders breathing … After all, if results aren’t ultimately about people on the planet, what are they about?

I took a break from writing on Thursday and walked in a country park. Climbing up the hill to the summit I thought, ah yes, big picture – I don’t forget I’m climbing up to the top of the hill, but I also notice, look, a miraculous wild orchid – flowering impossibly in autumn just on my path – and I watch where I put my feet.

Maybe it’s time us English speakers took a fresh look at the words we use? I’m getting fond of our oldest words, those short ones like the one my young friend chose. Forget the lengthy words that belong to cross-hair vision – strategy, implementation, quantitative easing (‘shurely that used to be called something else?’ Ed.) or my favourite from an unfortunate political friendship this week, ‘income that is not dependent on any transactional behaviour’; I’m now raising a cheer for our ancient monosyllables like truth, like, fair, guts, peace and yes, kind.

What’s on the next few weeks

Voice of Influence Workshop

Learn how to speak with confidence and presence in any situation – 1-2 December.

The group is always small – 1 place left. More courses in 2012. The last workshop at the beginning of this month attracted this written feedback from the participants:

* Memorable experience! Enjoyable experience…
*Everything helped me (and others I am sure) to feel more confident and leave feeling we had gained something important. A great course! …
*I feel I have acquired a lot of tools to improve my public speaking and in addition am a lot more confident in myself…
*How happy your clients appear when they leave at the end of a course. They are invariably smiling …
*Every exercise had a purpose … It was useful for each to have their own feedback during tasks from the trainer. The course was set and planned in a way which made me very comfortable and interested in taking in more during each day.
*I am pleased to develop a more ‘can do’ attitude and not be afraid to get things wrong…
*Challenging but beneficial and rewarding… would recommend it highly. Was very nervous initially, but by the end felt more empowered. …
*I am very pleased about my growth in confidence… A refreshing break from the presentation skills course I have come to expect! … Great experience!

Coaching the Human Spirit

Brahma Kumaris, Spirit of Coaching residential weekend for coaches – Fri-Sun, 28-30 October near Oxford

This was a beautiful and inspiring event last year. It’s waiting list only for this year, but book early for next! www.globalretreatcentre.org

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms:

– 25 sure-fire ways to speak and present with confidence

My latest book, illustrated by Rosie Apps, comes out in January, a month later than I said in my last newsletter, but worth waiting for. You can still pre-book it for a Christmas present! It’s direct and practical – based on the best of what people discover in my courses and coaching – invaluable to keep beside you if you have to speak in public. Available to order on Amazon.

NLP Conference

I’m speaking at the Education Conference and the Main Conference on 18-20 November. This is a great event to find out more about NLP and hear an interesting variety of speakers from over the world. Hope to see you there! More details at www.nlpconference.co.uk.

Go 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!

Rosie the hen went for a walk…

Rosie the hen

across the yard,

around the pond

over the haycock,

past the mill,

through the fence,

under the beehives,

and got back in time for dinner.

–    –    –

Do you know the picture story “Rosie’s Walk” by Pam Hutchins? The delight of it is that the pictures tell a different story from the words. Rosie the hen takes a happy little walk, but in the pictures we the readers spot the wicked fox tailing Rosie. He pounces on her and misses, landing on a rake and knocking himself out. He tries again by the pond and falls in. He tries repeatedly to catch her – each attempt a disaster – until finally he lands in a cart which runs out of control into a beehive, setting off an angry swarm of bees.

Meanwhile Rosie, serenely unaware of these catastrophic events, trots contentedly back into the hen house after her walk. …

I know people that trail disaster in their wake blithely unaware just like that, don’t you?!

But how many times does any of us flap our butterfly wings and cause a hurricane elsewhere? Hard to tell! – we all wear filters. Becoming aware of these filters – and expanding our awareness – is one of the most useful insights I’ve gained from NLP.

Bird’s eye view

“Rosie’s Walk” already offers one excellent method to expand awareness – get a bird’s eye view. When you have an issue, rise above it in your mind – way up as high as the moon if you want – and witness yourself and the elements of the problem from there. Seeing the picture as a whole like that often gives you new insights. Crucially, it enables you to view the whole system – and that allows you to recognise more complex relationships between the elements and see beyond the obvious sequence of A causes B, or A means B.

In my own life, when I suffered terrible performance anxiety and failed an audition in a grand Italian opera house it seemed an utter disaster at the time. I gave the event a meaning, “Failure.” (capital F!)

But the bird’s eye view of a couple of decades later – seeing the event in context – makes me realise the wealth of learning I’ve picked up from that experience – about performance anxiety, resilience, humour, compassion, understanding of human nature and more. I use the rich learning from that “failure” positively every week. “Failure” has in fact become “Resource”.

If you stick to one view like “Rosie” or a single label like “Failure” you often miss the bigger picture. Some people do that with their whole life by giving it a label such as “Life of a Victim” or Life of a Loser;” and rather than gradually growing a fresh wider perspective, life events are instead forced to fit the constricting old label.

So how can you adopt the bird’s eye view?

For some it comes naturally – they take different views of a situation as a matter of course. They are the people to model!

For me, it’s about deliberately making space every now and then and stepping out of the fully absorbing colourful business of living.

A friend of mine just says a loud internal “STOP!” ever so often, and this makes him pause to look at the system that is his life. He says his life is like a tangled ball of string, “But tangled or not, on those occasions I look at it as a whole and see that it is a perfectly shaped ball!”

Useful insight!

Play

If you took a large sheet of paper and ‘put’ your life on it – filling the page freely with pictures or words to illustrate all the different parts of your existence  – and then, having put it away for a day, looked at the whole paper afresh – bird’s eye view – I wonder what connections would occur to you …

… quite a few I would I imagine …

Perhaps you’d like to let me know!

Hottest day of the year since 2006 this week – wonderful summer,

Go well!

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,

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,

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