Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Models of success

This morning I read a study in the Harvard Business Review that said that most companies that have been held up as models of success were actually probably just lucky (HBR, April 2009, p. 18). My daddy always said, "I'd rather be lucky than good."

I am curious about this because it often seems like business people wear blinders: they listen to anyone who has been successful and they are not often open to thinking until it has been "proven" by success. This seems sensible - until we look at different sources (include Gladwell's Outliers) that suggest that much success depends on context (another word for luck). This may be especially true in business. Certainly, given the incentive to produce replicable models for success and the number of minds at work at the problem, it is interesting that we have still have so little information about how to succeed in business.

The question I will ponder today is: where in my life do I see models of success and how do I know them when I see them?

And, since I'd rather be lucky than good: how do I increase the odds of being lucky?

Monday, March 23, 2009

The reason for bumpers

Our cars come with bumpers. They are built that way despite the fact that no one is supposed to bump into your car. It's clear to car-makers and car-buyers that life does not always work the way its supposed to. Accidents happen. It's best to be prepared to handle some bumps.

My bumper is broken today - which is a sign of how well it works. The rest of the car is just fine. The bumper took the blow and now it needs to be repaired before I can count on it to take another hit.

Are there people you depend on to be bumpers in your life or your organization? People who run out and buy your medicine when you get sick or who take the hit when someone else applies pressure in the wrong places? When people get too close to you, do they run into someone else first?

I wonder who's been taking bumps for you - and I wonder if you've noticed. I bet you would notice if they stopped.

Bumpers do their job so well that most of the time, we assume there's nothing bumping up against the other side. Most of the time, it's hard to believe that bumpers are doing anything at all. And because it's hard to believe, we can be really annoyed when we finally do feel a blow - when the car behind us connects and the bumper breaks.

We never think about resilience until we bump into its limits - and there is no bumper there to keep us safe.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St Patrick's Day

What's your favourite weekend thing to do. Today of all days I am tempted to say that I'd love to start Saturday morning with coffee from a little cafe in Temple Bar, shop Grafton St., visit my favourite paintings at the Municipal Gallery, walk through St. Stephen's Green, and sit in a pub and watch the world go by. . . spring is a terrific time to be in Dublin.

What I love to do in Toronto is work. That's because the training I do recharges me the way my perfect day in Dublin would recharge me. I connect with the parts of me I like best, and I connect with great stuff in other people. If I begin with a scratchy throat, it disappears. If I am tired and stressed on Saturday morning, I am tired and relaxed on Sunday afternoon. I love to train.

It's often true that our training leaves people feeling like they've been on a really good holiday - the kind of holiday that mixes familiar pleasures with new places and new pleasures with familiar places. It's hard for people to understand. Too few of their school experiences charged them up and sent them out, ready to take on the world. It's a pity. I teach young people in a college and just a little support, a little enthusiasm, a little rigour goes a long way.

St. Patrick didn't get support. He was captured by the Irish, made a slave, and set to tend sheep on a very lonely hillside. In the silence, he listened until he heard what he needed to get up and get moving.

Travel changes people. Training changes people. It creates a space for listening (and it's much nicer than tending sheep in the rain).

Happy St. Patrick's Day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Sunshine on a really cold day

Here's a question for today: what's the difference between a mixed message and an integration of different perspectives?

As I write this, the sun is shining very brightly but I know (I was out early) that it is very, very cold out there. The sunshine makes the cold easier to manage and it also seems like a bit of a tease. It would be easy to run out without gloves and then feel somehow like even the weather was tricking you into something. Human beings often handle such contradictions easily: we just move back and forth between the two positions.

Can you move back and forth so quickly that you see the sunshine and feel the cold at the same time? Of course you can.

So why do we get so frustrated by the mixed messages that mixed (and mixed up) human beings send us?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Sleep well

Today I had a session with Kathleen Milligan of Action Hypnosis. It was an excellent example of how to let an articulate, analytical mind become quiet and focused and relaxed. This is really the purpose of hypnosis.

Hypnosis confuses people because it looks, from the outside, like sleep. Inside, it is quite different. In sleep, we are often subject to a certain amount of chaos. We rest, we fidget, we dream. We do a lot while we are asleep.

In hypnosis, we do just one thing. The camera in our mind moves purposefully; the sounds and kinaesthetics are subject to a kind of aesthetic: we are aware that we are filtering. We are not unconscious but differently conscious, expecting the best from ourselves. It's quite different than a waking state - and also quite different than the way most people sleep.

The answers that come through hypnosis are as simple and as layered as other symbols. They mean precisely what they mean. Getting to them is not work, but rest.

Imagine that. You can get to what you want by resting appropriately.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Not complicated, just powerful

When I say that each person is one tightly integrated system that includes mind, body and language, most people nod. They intuitively understand that every part of their experience flows into every other part: they know themselves as just one being and they know that it feels good when mind, body and language are all working on the same thing.

It's not really a complicated idea, although it represents a tremendously complex system. It's an idea that we all know to be true because it describes the experience we all have of being human.

It's important to take the idea and use it. What I mean is this: if you want to make a difference in the way you write, you need to change the way your writing combines mind and body. This means altering the physical reality of your language (the way it sounds and, if written, the way it looks) and altering the way your writing appeals to sensory experience. Less often, it might mean altering the balance by adding more thought to the mix of sensory representations in your language.

If you want to make a difference in the way you think, change the way you talk to yourself and the way you treat your body. The way you eat, sleep, and move (exercise) influences the thoughts you can have. So does the way you talk to yourself and other people. You can have new thoughts by changing your words and by changing your body.

And. . . when you want to change your physical experience (whether to lose weight, get in shape, or heal) you can influence the process by changing the words you use to talk about it and the thinking you do.

We are each one tightly woven system of mind, body and language. Changing any one elements changes the whole system.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Longer, brighter days

Yes, I know. It's still really cold outside most of the time. And I know: the news is full of dark thoughts. The world is a scary place and it is hard to look forward and feel good.

Still: it's light by 6 in the morning and it's still light at 6 at night. Quite often lately, the roads have been dry and the sun has been shining. You can't help but feel - at least for a moment - that things are getting better and spring is really going to arrive. Not today or tomorrow and probably not (as scheduled) on March 21 but it is coming.

Long before spring arrives, you have a choice. Notice the cold or notice the sunshine. Notice where you are right now.

We don't live in the present - we only get to visit it briefly. We live mostly in our memories and often in our musings about things that haven't happened yet and might not happen ever. Now is happening. This is the moment you have.

It's a present.

Open yourself to it.