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Showing posts from May, 2011

The most significant influence

Imagine a five-year-old on a beach, a child who picks up a stick and draws complicated designs in the sand, a child who gathers leaves and shells and rocks and carefully arranges and rearranges them. As you are watching this five year old child on the beach, you think: this child is destined to be an artist. And you feel that this is so true and so right that you want to help. But you have limited resources.

You have to make a choice. You could buy this child art supplies - paint and paper and clay and pencils. Or you could buy this child art lessons. You cannot do both because you do not have the resources to do both. Which would you choose?

When someone gives us lessons, we know that we are being influenced. When an artist becomes famous, their teachers may also become famous. People write books tracing the influence in colours and shapes and brush strokes and ideas. Teachers get credit, well-earned, for the way they shape and support the talents of their students.

But theirs …

Come sit with me on the front step

Not many offices feature a front step, but mine does. In all the world, it is one of my favorite places just to sit. I have a lot of memories here.

Today, I am sitting here with a large mug of tea, writing and waiting for my students to come back from their field trip. In a little while, they will start to arrive, full of ideas or full of conversation, but this is the time before. It is not quiet. The birds are especially loud, and the traffic is racing around the park. It feels like rain.

And I am sitting by myself, and I am sitting with all the people who have shared this front step with me for the past eight years. So many faces, so many voices, unwinding and sharing in this space between. It is a space that reminds us that the people moving by in a rush are part of our stillness, that nothing is owned or lost, that the city is full of energy and possibility.

If you are reading this, and you have shared this step with me, sit down for a moment and remember the park and the peopl…

Looking for the child in the grown up

I am in love with children, with almost all children. Every child contains so much resilience, so much wonder, so much determination. Whether I am holding a baby who is working himself up into a really good crying jag or watching a four year old with finger paint, I am watching a model of self-affirmation in the face of a very big world. There is no time when it is not useful to remember that we all start from the presupposition that we can take action to make life more satisfying. Sometimes, we can even make the world take note.

Often, I catch a glimpse of a child in the face or body of a grown up. I am looking at a colleague or client, and suddenly I am in the presence of a six year old exploring or a ten year old piecing something together. In that moment, I lose awareness that the adult is flawed or angry or hypocritical. I cannot, in one vision, hold both the brokenness of the adult and the wonder of the child. I get to choose the wonder, if only for a moment.

You might w…

The power of noticing

The thing that drew me into NLP first was that I met someone who knew how to get me on the radar. For no particular reason, I got a response to an email that I had sent to dozens of people, and that response was the beginning of the path I have been walking for the past nine years.

Since then, I have met many people, read many books, and explored many possible ways to get, shape and hold the attention of other people. The most powerful lesson for me remains that first lesson: there is immense influence in simply giving someone your attention and then sending a message of acknowledgement. We all long to know that we are knowable, to be recognized for who we are. Paying attention is a way of giving people what they want most: an acknowledgement that they are.

It's funny, isn't it? That last sentence sounds incomplete, as though it is missing an adjective at the end. But I mean what it says, that we crave acknowledgment of our being, separate from a recognition of the qualitie…

When was the last time someone let you copy from them?

It was often part of being one of the smart kids in a particular subject. Other kids would ask to copy your work - or might copy it without asking. Either way, it was generally seen as a form of cheating.

Maybe we should rethink the way we teach our kids to learn. The most effective way of learning in the workplace is to do exactly what you were taught was cheating - to copy someone who has more skill or gets better results than you do.

If you are blessed with a wonderful teacher, you enjoy learning and you get results. But most of the people who excel in the workplace are not wonderful teachers: they are busy professionals making the most of each of their days to get their own results. We can try to turn them into teachers, or we can learn to watch and listen and copy better than ever before. That way, the better their results, the more likely we are to be able to replicate them.

I learned NLP from a wonderful teacher who seldom taught at all: he just let me pay close enough atte…

My favourite teacher

I read my horoscope this morning, and it asked a question about the quality that made a teacher my favourite. The suggestion was that I take that quality into my interaction with a group of people.

Paradoxically, perhaps, this is one of the few weekends this spring when I am relaxing with my family and not teaching. But I have been thinking about this question, and focusing on one of the teachers who got the best out of me.

Here's what I believe, and it's not really a good fit for our test-monitored, credential-rich model of education. The quality shared by all of my best teachers is the ability to be curious about how I will encounter a subject or solve a problem. Whatever the subject matter expertise or technical skills of my teachers, the difference that made a difference was a curiosity about how I would learn.

I think we often miss this piece. It's easy to mistake it for a curiosity about the subject or a general "passion" for learning. These are both g…

Energizing a room

While presenting at ProjectWorld yesterday, I was reminded again that energy in a room does not require extraordinary presentation skills or deep, wide information. Whenever people have a chance to make positive connections, to other people and to hope for the work they do, energy thrives.

Think about that the next time you are looking at a room of people on another rainy day during typically difficult circumstances. Most of the time we are not in crisis: we are just tired and grumpy and frazzled. Most of the time, we have spent too much time away from the sun and too little time feeling engaged. We mean well, and we lack energy.

The best way (I believe) to start is with a story. Stories are a beautifully inconspicuous way of waking up the senses and making connection feel like a good thing. A roomful of people listening to a story unwind some of the tension in their minds and find themselves strangely relaxed and focused.

Follow this up with a chance for people to share their own…

Farewell and good bye

It's never easy to say goodbye. We find all kinds of way to avoid the word - to get off the phone or away from the meeting with any phrase that doesn't bring us smack into the reality of separation from someone whose welfare matters to us.

Goodbye comes from "God be with you" or - if you are not a believer - 'good be with you.' Farewell or fare thee well - means "I hope things go well for you." Think about that. Both words mean I care how you will do and be and I cannot go there with you. It's no wonder we are careful about saying it.

And yet, these are also words we use without much thought. Maybe that's because thinking about them is scary and it hurts. People come and go in our lives, often unpredictably. As much as we live in the present, there comes a time when we are on the edge, when someone is about to go. So we tell them "Go and be well."

My partner Chris is leaving the business he founded. He has given me new ways t…

Why do I write sad things in an NLP blog?

Sometimes I am asked this question directly, sometimes it is just implied by the context. If you check the twitter feed, you will find dozens of NLP "experts" writing cheery motivational sayings. They imply that you can out-think your life: that you can set goals and focus on them and build rapport and be happy all day, everyday.

I write what I write because I believe NLP and enriched communication help us build better lives. And I think we have to live those lives - not out-think them.

This spring, something I love and trusted and believed is disappearing. It's possible it is making way for something better. I have strong moments when I believe that. Not all of my moments are strong.

I am writing this for people like me, people with strong, bright goals and good heads and hearts who are struggling with something they didn't expect. Some of them have been blindsided by relationships, some by illness, some by changes in their work. Some of them are my clients and…

The waves in Varadero

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I have just returned from five days on the beach at Varadero. I have never been in the ocean that far south, so this was my first experience with relatively warm ocean water (our Cuban tour guide told us that it is still much too cold for Cubans to be in the water). I am also used to the cooler colours of the ocean farther north.


The waves in Varadero are the most brilliant turquoise. Well, they are a lovely turquoise, but through the lenses in my sunglasses, the colour becomes really spectacular. There are bands of a bright dark blue that cross the bands of lighter and deeper green, and all are flecked with white tops here and there. It is lovely and inviting. The waves while we were there were gentle: they moved in and out with just enough force to move us and with less force than the winds on the beach.

Rob and I arrived in Varadero late on Saturday night. Sunday, we went to a meeting with the tour rep, so we were later getting down to the beach than we would have liked. Our pr…