Showing posts from April, 2013

Anxiety between the covers

Were you ever dead tired and pleasantly sleepy just until the moment when you slipped between the covers? Suddenly or gradually, you realize that you are no longer sleepy. Your mind begins to work at old problems. Your muscles tense up.  You wonder how you have twisted yourself into such an uncomfortable position.

All day, you were busy and productive and mostly positive. Now you feel that your life is a snarl of unresolvable problems. Now you feel cornered and resentful and you wonder how so many people seem to be more capable of satisfying lives than you are. It doesn't make you feel better to know that many of those people believe you to be competent and successful and a model for good choices.

So you begin to tell yourself a story about how dumb it is to feel this way. Some part of you knows that the anxiety that is driving this is pointless. Some part of you wants to give up the old, old battles and rest to fight another day. But telling yourself to stop thinking is like tell…

So what do you want? Courage and Goal Talk

Would it surprise you that many of the people who lead others to achieve their goals have a really hard time creating compelling goals of their own?  I don't have research to back me up on this, but I have a lot of experience of people who are excellent coaches and who struggle with their own goals.  They may struggle more than other people.

The more we think about goals, the more we admire the courage it takes to own them.  Imagine that someone walks into the room where you are reading this and says "So... what do you want?" It's likely that there are not many ways to say this that don't sound like a challenge. Wanting something is challenging: it means:
1) taking some of the attention you use to keep yourself safe and putting it to work on finding opportunities instead,
2) admitting that if you don't get what you want, it's going to hurt,
3) deciding you are good enough to do what you want to do.

It's probably true that many people choose to work fo…

Integrated thinking: learning in corporations

I was at an event tonight where entrepreneurs "pitched" their businesses.  The lady who pitched her work as a corporate learning consultant didn't get much reaction for either her pitch quality or her business prospects. I sympathized.

Here's what I think is the most important thing that corporations need to know about learning:  your biggest challenge is owning the skills possessed by your best performers.  Corporations build results and resilience when they have a proven strategy for allowing everyone to learn to replicate the work of their best performers. If you could clone your best people, wouldn't you want to do that?

You can't clone them, but you can teach your people how to observe and replicate the behaviours that are making your top performers successful. This doesn't mean turning your top performers into teachers or mentors: you want them producing. It means giving everyone else a skill set for heightened observation and chances for systemati…

The ethics of trainers

Have you ever wondered what some people mean by words that seem familiar? Ethics is one of the words that is often puzzling in its application.

One of my competitors has registered my company name as a domain (my domain is - it's shorter and easier to use than People who know my company well have absent-mindedly typed in the longer URL and found themselves redirected.  The competitor is an IT expert (I'm not) and must have thought this was a good way to snatch some extra traffic.

That's okay. I'll go through the domain register and eventually he will not be able to use the domain to willfully mislead people. There are rules.  What won't change is that this competitor will continue to proclaim that he is an ethical trainer – he sometimes claims to be more ethical than other trainers. I do not know what he thinks that means. What kind of training relationships does he begin by misleading people to his site?

I don't of…

Integrating more of the world outside of you: "I'll know it when I see it"

You probably find it irritating. Someone close you to you - a friend, family, a work person - is clearly trying to find something. You want to help (or to stop the restlessness) so you ask helpfully "What are you looking for?" and the response is some variation on "I'll know it when I see it."

How can you look for something if you don't even know what you're looking for.  You can't.  That's why you can't help your "I'll know it when I see it" friend.  You can, however, look to find correspondence between a feeling you have and something outside yourself.  In fact, that unspecified drive can be particularly powerful.

There are two huge benefits to "I'll know it when I see it." The first is that you filter out much less information than usual. When you know what you want, everything is either "something like what I want" and "not what I want."  This isn't possible when you don't know what…

Were you a little scattered today?

It is the day after someone put bombs near the finish line at the Boston Marathon, timed to explode as ordinary people crossed the finish line, fulfilling dreams and promises. Their families and friends were waiting to cheer, not because they were the best at running, but because in some way crossing that finish line meant they were the best to someone.  It is the day after a little boy died waiting to be swept up in a hug as his dad crossed the finish line.

Did you find it harder than usual to concentrate today? Yesterday I was busy with work, on my computer but not on media.  I didn't know until I got into my car.  I hadn't heard the news.

Today I listened to part of an audio blog that argued that our job as business people and bloggers is to go on doing what we do.  Tragedy happens every minute to someone, somewhere.  They are all important and we cannot honour them all.  Boston is not my home. This is not my fight.

Today, my world was largely unchanged. I did what I do, an…

My tribe are people who want to know they are living their lives well

The people I teach at NLP Canada Training come from many different backgrounds, locations, and fields. They are therapists, entrepreneurs, managers, explorers, teachers and coaches. They are between 20 and 60 years old (mostly). They have been Canadian for many generations and they are new to Canada.  It doesn't look like they have enough in common to be a market or a tribe.
What makes them a tribe is that they really want to make a difference in their own lives. They don't want to shut down, opt out, or settle for less. They want to be able to end each day feeling that they made good choices and at the very end of the day, they want to know they lived a life that was satisfying to them and that they will leave a legacy that furthers what they value.
Some of them are highly successful and some of them are at a crossroads.  All of them believe that it matters that they want to feel good and to do good. All of them believe that our choices make a difference.  If they are winning…

Why don't people practice?

In the middle ages, craftsmen learned for many years before they became masters of a craft.  It's likely that by the time they did become masters, the habits of practice and improvement were so deeply ingrained that they continued.  Our most famous writers and artists have also continued to work to get better throughout the whole of their careers.  Do you know this quote, attributed to Michelangelo at 87 years of age?
I am still learning.
Somewhere, the idea that we should practice to get better got lost along the way. Continuing education came to mean sitting in a room while someone did their best to make an entertaining presentation of techniques and ideas, almost all of which would be forgotten or abandoned within weeks (or hours). We came to accept that if we were being paid we should already be our best: practicing would somehow suggest that what we had been selling to that point was not our best.  Who wants to go into surgery with a surgeon who is still learning?
I do.

Owning your history allows you to move forward in interesting ways

"But in jazz music, there’s no escaping what came before you. Each new player does their best to understand the contributions made by others before them and to expand, reinterpret or say something new with that knowledge in hand. History is vital to jazz music."
Chris Ferguson, SteelCity Jazzfest

Full disclosure: I take some credit for this quotation because I raised the guy who wrote it.  And I am very proud that I raised someone who is immune to the opportunism and amnesia that plague both our businesses and our self-help movements.  Every day I see Facebook memes that suggest dumping anyone who does not seem to be immediately useful to you. They do this in the name of owning your energy and developing personal power.  It's nonsense. Power comes from congruence and congruence comes from owning your situation.

Some of your situation is the history you carry within you, the accumulation of events and beliefs that your past has given you. Some of these are old news: th…

Replace advice with curiosity when you want to make a difference

One of my favourite things about my work is that it frequently reminds me that the best thing I can do for other people is to help them connect with their own best selves.  It's a little paradoxical: even when they come with questions for me, what they really need is the answers they will generate themselves. It's always easy to give advice: after all, any question will launch us on an internal search for an answer.

And that's what we need to remember most of the time that people seek our advice.  We can give them information but the information we give will rarely give them any real help.  It can be a good way to keep a conversation going until we locate what they really need: a memory, a model, a hope that is within their experience and precisely what they need in the current situation.  They can find it more easily when they come to us, because we can ask them questions. And they, like us, find questions almost irresistible.

In my personal life, when I am not in fully c…

What are you doing to be mentally prepared for your day?

Some people have a routine for getting up in the morning that includes some time to prepare mentally for the day ahead. They pray or meditate or workout because they find that starting that way often leads to a better day.  You might think about that and instantly feel even more stressed because you cannot imagine how to fit yet another half-hour into a day that is already much too full.

Even people who prepare for the day need to refocus during the day. Their concentrated practice does set them up for success, but it is not enough to carry them through a day of encountering other people and difficult ideas. Even people who start the day right need to be able to refocus more or less on the fly.

I'm going to suggest you test just two things today. You don't have to believe they will work, but they will take only a moment and (if you remember to check in after) you will be able to tell within a day whether they are making an impact.  Deal?

The first thing is to take three breath…

The most important tool for reading other people

NLP (neurolinguistic programming) gained fame for two things: the promise that you could achieve anything you could clearly imagine and the promise that you could read people accurately enough to detect deception or perform amazing acts of covert influence.  It seemed like magic, and people flocked to it to find out how to become magicians.

When I started in NLP, I was the smart, conventional one and my partner was the one with the magic: he was the one who could freak people out with mind-reading and hypnotic presence. Over the years, as I began to work on my own more often, I learned to do a little quiet magic of my own.  Sometimes now, the magic is less quiet, more - well, more magical.

But I am a teacher, not a magician. So I will tell you the one thing I think you need to learn to do magical acts of reading and influencing other people.  The secret is: metaphor.

In case you've forgotten your high school English course, here is how Wikipedia defines metaphor:

metaphor is a fi…

How do you respond to people who aren't paying attention?

On Wednesdays, I teach from 3pm to 6pm. It's a terrible time slot: students are tired, distracted, and when the sun is shining outside, a little hyper. They care enough to show up, but once in the room they can have a hard time tuning in for more than a few moments at a time.

I love it. It reminds me that this is the world into which I am sending most of my words. The people who are looking at my emails (and deciding whether or not to open them) are just as busy and distracted and, I think, just as well-meaning and energetic as my classes.

Here's what I do with my class: I pay a lot of attention to them. I move to them instead of waiting for them to look up and find me. I repeat things in different ways. I spend much less time than I used to worrying about information and much more time working to give my students incentive to uncover and own information.  Most of my words are spent persuading them with my tone that what we're doing is worthwhile and that I believe they ar…

How to make a decision (ask lots of questions)

Have you ever been astonished by a decision made by someone close to you? You know this person well. You respect them. And then - apparently out of the blue - they make a decision you didn't see coming.

Sometimes, of course, the person who makes an astonishing decision is even closer to us: we all surprise ourselves from time to time.  As much as we gather information and perspective, as much as we truly believe that it's important to think things through, as much as we are committed to living smart, intentional lives: we surprise ourselves.

There's actually quite a lot of information on how people make decisions. Daniel Kahneman's book, Thinking Fast and Slow, is likely to be a classic on the subject for some years.  For those who prefer a little less density and a more direct line to application, there's Decisive by the Heath brothers. There's no reason for someone who is involved in motivating, coaching or managing not to have at least a little familiarity …