Get in your box, and stay there!

I’m very rarely shocked or “gob-smacked” but I want to share with you, something that took me by surprise at an event last week.

I was supporting a great group that were teaching groups of young school kids about Astronomy. Of course in the main, the youngsters were engaged and excited as it was about planets, space etc etc.

But then it came to the Q&A and a sea of hands went up. Several questions came, but then one little lad said (and I quote) “I don’t have a question Sir, but I do have some facts” – well, delighted, the presenter engaged the boy and a presenter / audience member dialogue ensued. I’m guessing the boy was about 8 years old.

After fact one (which incidentally was spot on and did help the presenter to add value) a young teacher interrupted and said – (and again I quote)

“please don’t give facts, you can ONLY ask questions”

To which, the boy (and I observed) several other children, meakly lowered their hands and retreated from the conversation.

The teacher then muttered under her breath to another teacher, “he’ll give loads of facts and we’ll be here all day!”

I wonder if that little, studious, inquisitive and engaged little boy will have that comment in his head as his “inner voice” as he grows, or will it evolve into an “I’ll show ‘em”?

How much of this drives modern day corporate behaviour?

This is why we believe in making learning fun, engaging and a good place for everyone!

Did you just call me “knot-arse”?

Are you keeping the Dodo alive?

Regardless of your views on evolution and / or creation, we all know that the Dodo is extinct. The evidence points to the bird’s demise gradually coming as it was what we’d now call an “endangered species”. It’s eventual disappearance was due to Dutch and Portuguese sailors eating the poor little suckers when they landed on Mauritius and found this cumbersome, slow moving, flightless alternative to chicken – with no apparent fear of humans or an inability to run or fly away!

So, no doubt the Dutch franchising entrepreneur of the time – Colonel Van Sanders – sealed the Dodo’s fate (along with the sailor’s rats, dogs and pigs of course, who ate all the Dodo’s eggs).

But, on a serious note – and easy with hindsight – had the Dodo changed, adapted, evolved, strategised, thought longer-term, been more agile etc etc, it may still be alive and Nando’s may have a more varied menu! Had a visionary entrepreneur seen the opportunity with the Dodo, it may have lived a bit longer than the 30 years or so that are recorded after the Dutch landings.

So, no I’ve not been on the sauce or smoking something funny, but it is an interesting analogy I think for the amount of conversations I have about businesses, teams and individuals that are stuck in their thinking and are unable to be “agile” and do their best to fight off innovation, new thinking, responding to changes in the customer journey etc and the work we do with frustrated managers to help them overcome it. As a metaphor, I’m really talking about beliefs, values, approaches, processes, thinking (it would be too emotive to suggest I’m talking about people!)

This leads me to the question then! In your business, how many Dodos are you keeping alive – and why? How often do you make allowances for dogmatic, stayed thinking because it comes from someone loyal or who’s been here a long time? How much time, effort and energy goes into battling against mind-sets that begin every sentence with “yes, but…..”?

For us the key is to understand; is the Dodo behaviour out of fear of the inevitable? Is it from a belief the change will go away? Is it purely defense? Or is it a cultural issue?

Food for thought perhaps (sorry Dodos).

Wikipedia Reference;

The word “dodo” itself has contestation to its routes. The three main candidates are either, the Dutch word “dodoor“, the Portuguese word, “duodo“, or our personal favourite, the Dutch word, “dodaars” which roughly translates as “knot-arse“. The other two words translate to “sluggard” and “fool” in their respective languages, but since sailors aren’t exactly known for the eloquence, “knot-arse” seems as likely as anything.

When “what” and “if” team up.

In a moment of unexpected chilling out the other night, I ended up watching a film called “Letters from Juliet” with my wife. I was, at first, happy to dismiss it as one of those soppy love stories, that’s easy to avoid and find alternative things to do instead.

But, my attention was drawn to a wedding scene in the film, where a main character was reciting a letter she’d received – the beginning of which was;

‘ “What” and “If” are two words as non-threatening as words can be. But put them together side-by-side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life: What if? What if? What if? ‘

Well it got me thinking and prompted this post. How many times have you, I or any of us looked back on decisions we’d made and compared the alternatives, in the context of “what if”?

More importantly, how many times has the fear of the “what if” driven us to NOT make a decision or stick with what we know. I met a great guy earlier this week who is planning to leave his corporate job, because he knows he can do well in his own business and doesn’t want to get to retirement without having tried running his own show and then say “what if”?

However, conversely, the fear of losing all the comfortable trappings in his current job, is causing a different kind of “what if” process to occur also.

So, it’s true – that those two innocuous words, “what” and “if” – when they team up, they really can have the power to destroy our dreams, haunt our being and encourage our inner voice to tell us all sorts of things, both before and after the event.

Therefore, for me, the moral of the tale is to grasp the moment, seize the day, live in the now, follow your heart, listen to your gut feel and instinct – and if it results in any kind of regret, make sure it’s for the things you did, not for what you didn’t do!

At the end of that film, I said to my wife (of 27 years this year), that had I not married her, I would have spent my life wondering “what if”. To which she said, “what like I have, you mean?” – Thanks a million!

“Get out of my way, Pleb!”

Over recent months I’ve been taking part in a coaching programme aimed at getting my thoughts, actions, aspirations and life to all line up. There have been downs and ups, but this week the group session helped me to make a major breakthrough – I realized, I’m a Pleb!


I’ve known and felt for some time and had many conversations with friends and family that we all seem to live our lives increasingly in fear – fear of the unknown, the future, the economy, retiring impoverished, becoming ill, global security, climate change, pace of technology, rough towns on a Friday night etc etc etc.


This fear element quite often manifests itself in our thoughts, beliefs, opinions and behaviours – and this can drive our decisions and actions – especially in our professional lives.

E.g. 1, fear of the unknown or running out of money keeps us in that boring job, because we fear the alternative.

E.g. 2, not making a difficult or radical decision in our comfy corporate role for fear of “putting our head above the parapet” – and getting it shot off!


I’ve been there, done both of them!


So, how does that make me a Pleb?


Well, the definition of a Pleb is an ordinary person, mainly from the lower classes. In no way am I intentionally being judgmental here, and it takes all sorts to make the world go round, but I did come from and was brought up by a family that had fairly low aspirations, just about practiced survival and didn’t take the opportunity to broaden their horizons. As such, life always seemed like a battle with money and holding down low paid work. Added to that, to a large extent, they actually looked unfavorably on people who were “successful” – a kind of inverted snobbery if you like. Unfortunately, with narrow horizons their viewpoints were also very fixed and fuelled by the kind of UK tabloid that persists in pulling down anyone who’s trying to better themselves – so, all in all, the ingredients were there for me to follow suit and in line with my own internal dialogue – not deserve to be successful.


I actually had a quite vocal Aunt say to me fairly recently, that “it’s ok having a nice house and a flash car – but don’t forget where you came from!” A friendly attempt to keep me grounded and humble – maybe! Or, an attempt at keeping me in the same family box as they’re in? Hmmm.


Now, along with trying to not be judgmental, I’m also really not blaming anyone else – least of all my parents – this is just about sharing the breakthrough I had in understanding what “hidden commitment” or internal tape I’ve been keeping that unconsciously is was holding me back.


So, the crux of this then. As I had this hidden commitment or internal dialogue playing away in the background going “you don’t deserve it” – what do I fear the most? Success! The fear of being successful beyond my known success has been holding me back. My inner Pleb – through the practice of Plebism, Pleberty or Plebology (or whatever) has been literally “in my way”!


How ridiculous – because in many ways I’m already very successful – a beautiful wife, two great kids (grown up now), a nice house, nice car, house abroad etc etc. But the big fear that’s been playing away in my mind – that’s caused indecision, bad decisions, fear of losing money, fear of running out of money, procrastination and lethargy – is the totally irrational fear of being a success!


What would the family (not my direct family) think if I was a multi-millionaire, had a yacht and drove a £150,000 car? Because after all, I’m just a Pleb and I don’t deserve it – right?


Well in that instance I’d help them – help them to understand not to make judgments or comparisons based on the choices you’ve made in life, whatever the intention. Understand that mine, as did their, parents did everything they knew how, to get you participating in life on this planet.


So, with that in mind, my breakthrough is this; I’m aware of my hidden commitment and the effects it’s had on me – but now it’s my time to exercise a moral obligation to be increasingly successful, because what I stand for is simple;


To help everyone to be the person they want to be!


What’s your internal, hidden commitment (mine was “I don’t deserve it)? What’s your inner voice saying to you as you read this – or as you move on to your next task? I wonder???????


The next step for me? To channel the energy of caring what other people think into greater empathy – as the ability to be empathic is one of the most powerful traits of being a leader!

Are you in your own Goldilocks zone?

goldilocksScientists often refer to the area our planet occupies in space as “the Goldilocks zone”. This is the area where the exact distance from the Sun is just right to sustain liquid water and therefore, life. I.e. Our planet (and its myriad species that occupy it) survives because it’s neither too hot nor too cold – it’s just right.

In the Goldilocks story, the little girl eventually settled for the “just right” – porridge, chair, bed – because the others were outside of her comfort zone. Too hot or too cold, too hard or too soft!

So, here’s my challenge! How often do we as individuals, businesses or employees get ourselves into the just right area or comfort zone but wish or wonder what it might be like if we just moved into the areas just outside it? The phrase “out of our comfort zones” is done to death on training courses and presentations – it’s a metaphor for change, doing something different, trying something new.

But, how far are we really prepared to get outside of our own Goldilocks zone – because that really does mean adapting, changing, looking in the mirror.

Imagine space travel – why have we only (so far) sent men to the Moon (assuming it happened of course!!)? Apart from the lack of resource, budget and technology and the distances, is it because we’ve not yet evolved or adapted the attitude to try it? I wonder what would happen if the Earth shifted and we were in danger of drifting out of the Goldilocks zone? The stuff of Sci-fi movies maybe, but what if….. what would happen then?

As a species our survival instincts would kick in and we’d adapt, we’d change and we’d want to! We’d need to!

Hmmm! Is that the issue? Our desire to move outside our comfort area is directly related to how much we “want” to or sometimes, how much we need to. In a compliance world do we adapt to change because we need to, in order to not fall foul of new rules. But, in our own worlds (or the business part of us) how much do we want to change?

So, if you’re happy in your Goldilocks zone, stick with it, keep doing that stuff. But, if you’re not………….

I’d say I love you, but I’m stuck!

When we use the word “love”, in the developed world we’re stuck – because in English, we only have one word for love, it then has such a broad range of feeling and belief attached to it, that it’s very use is easy to take out of context – so much so, that you’re probably already thinking Ahh wow, what a sentimental person, or Ok a bit of a hippy or maybe even “you great soft Jessie” (sorry if you’re name is Jessie – it’s just a phrase I’m using) Take your pick – which will no doubt be based on your many and varied perceptions, but “love” is the central premise of a book I’m starting, which explores how much “process” halts, slows or interferes with our caring sides and our natural instincts as humans.

I’m pondering a) how to bring back care and compassion into the harsh world outside our own personal bubbles, especially if process, legislation and rules etc have created boundaries and b) Is it possible that humans haven’t developed a process for “love” yet, as it comes straight from the gut, the instinct – the heart!

In our business transformation and change work – nearly everyone, at every level loves the mind-set and psychology stuff and “getting back to who they are” far more than they do anything to do with processes. It’s even true of project managers, believe it or not!

So, first chapter has been written and sent to my mentors – I’d love your views on this subject to help shape chapter 2! Take a look at this;

Sanskrit has 96 words for love; ancient Persian has 80, Greek three, and English only one. This is indicative of the poverty of awareness or emphasis that we give to that tremendously important realm of feeling. Eskimos have 30 words for snow, because it is a life-and-death matter to them to have exact information about the element they live with so intimately. If we had a vocabulary of 30 words for love … we would immediately be richer and more intelligent in this human element so close to our heart. An Eskimo probably would die of clumsiness if he had only one word for snow; we are close to dying of loneliness because we have only one word for love. Of all the Western languages, English may be the most lacking when it comes to feeling.” – Robert Johnson, “The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden

Thanks a million!