Archive for December, 2007


Monday, December 31st, 2007

Today is a rather special day in the Cooke household, my first born daughter is 21, so New Years Eve always has carried some special memories. However, oddly one of the more powerful ones was I think the year before she was born I remember standing out on our doorstep under a cold, starry sky listing to the neighbouring church bells peal in the New Year and feeling a sense of peace and hope. Today is a special day for many people, for many reasons and will be celebrated in many ways too.

But as we stand balance between two years I’m in reflective mood again and those of you who have been reading these blogs will know that I see value in trying to read and learn from recurring patterns. So I thought I would share a thought or two on this with you today. One of my big decisions this year was to try and take steps to prevent me going round some of these all too familiar circuits yet again, like some kind of demented hamster on his wheel, and after about 6 months working with some ideas that tested even my sense of ‘reality’, I can report that it seems to be working. Though I still feel a bit like the kid who is trying to grow plants and wants to keep digging them up to see if they have grown yet, but some part of me also needs to know that something new is growing and another part knows that it is.

One idea that I’d like to share, and it isn’t an original one, but it seems timely is that of Response-Ability. Think about it… something happens that challenges our ability to cope or drives us crazy (it is often someone very close to use like a parent or a sibling or even a partner), they do or say that thing that sets us off (again!) and off we go in our triggered response, be that shouting, crying, attacking or evading. If you take a second you will know what I am talking about. So, it happens, this triggering event / behaviour and usually we react… POW! Just like that! Here we go again!! So what would it be like if we could break that cycle? You know a bit like one of those old cowboy films where the villain has lit the fuse and it races towards the gunpowder barrel when suddenly, at the very last moment, our hero cuts it and no Bang.

So here is the idea: the triggering event occurs, you choose to react in a way that serves you, in other words you develop the strength and capability to choose your response… you build your Response Ability. Breaking free from these triggers that detonate all those bombs in our lives is one of the most liberating things we can do. It is also just about the toughest challenge we face, but I urge you to try it and let me know how you get on. As for me, I’m just a fellow traveller on this road, and I’ll share with you how it goes as I learn more about it.

I wish you all the brightest and best 2008.

“We choose our joys and sorrows long before we experience them.” Kahlil Gibran

“You are the person who has to decide. Whether you’ll do it or toss it aside; you are the person who makes up your mind. Whether you’ll lead or will linger behind. Whether you’ll try for the goal that’s afar. Or just be contented to stay where you are.” Edgar A. Guest:

SEESAW… Or acting in the NOW

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

At this time of the year a lot of folks are looking back and reviewing the year just gone. This is a good thing to do; taking stock of what we have achieved, and perhaps failed to achieve is useful. However, if you think about it we are almost exactly evenly poised between 2007 & 2008; it is a bit like standing in the mid-point of a seesaw; one year behind us and one year in front. In many ways this mid-point is a place of huge power, because this day, this moment, NOW is the only time you can change anything!

Everything else is a dream, a plan, a memory, a regret, an excuse. So perhaps after you have done your review of this year, and patted yourself on the back for all the things you achieved, noted the things that slipped through the net of ‘good intentions’ and once you have given some thoughts to what you want 2008 to be like, you will take a moment to ask what you could do right now? It is easy to say that this isn’t the right time, or we aren’t ready, or we are too tired or too busy, but at some stage if we want to convert those dreams into realities we have to act!”

“What can I do now?” is always a much tougher question to answer than “What can you do now?” Part of my answer is making the time to write this blog. It would be very easy to grab a cup of coffee and switch on the TV and leave this till… When? And that is the point: Please give yourself the gift of enough time to ponder what you did and what you want to do, and then begin something TODAY!

Please do share what happens… Good Luck

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.” Anais Nin

“History is more or less bunk. It’s tradition. We don’t want tradition. We want to live in the present and the only history that is worth a tinker’s damn is the history we make today.” Henry Ford



Saturday, December 29th, 2007

At this time of year a lot of people are thinking about New Year Resolutions, and I have to say I am not very interested in them.  You may find this surprising for someone who is so interested in Change, but I don’t find that many of them outlast the hangovers that also are typical of this season.  I don’t think many of us change when we decide or want to, but rather when we are ready to.  It is more akin to plants shooting when the conditions are right than anything else, and like these tender buds we need the conditions to support us in our growth.  And as my very wise and beautiful wife reminds me, “Change can only germinate in the heart” 

So, I am not going to ask you to think about resolutions, but rather “Does it feel time for a change?  If so, what might that be?”  

I know that for me things are changing in many ways both subtle and otherwise.  My work seems to have entered a new phase; I am being asked to work with and for new people.  I seem to be spending much more of my time in 1:1 conversations with leaders helping them think things through.  Several initiatives that I ‘planted’ a long time ago seem to be bearing fruit.  My writing has changed a little and I am certainly doing more of it than I have for a long time (as this blog evidences!)

There has been personal stuff too, which for me is the essential kernel of all Change, as I have embarked on some rather esoteric explorations, which while defying all neat, rational analysis seem also to be working.  This in itself is an interesting little lesson for someone who likes to be able to analyse and understand before committing.  Sometimes you have to just try it, trust and see.

So what are you noticing that is changing in your life?  What old hurts are you now able to release and make space for something better?  I urge you to be brave, and against the urgings of that scared little cynic that lives within our brain, do it anyway!


“New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain

“A New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one year and out the other.”  Anon



Friday, December 28th, 2007

We spend a lot of time and money thinking about presents we will give at this time of year, and we may be lucky enough to even receive some that excite us too, but this got me wondering…. “What about the gifts we bring in who we are?”  How freely do we bestow them?  It is an exquisite irony that the thing we long to do most in life is to be is be fully seen for who and what we are; and yet the thing we most fear is revealing ourselves in all our nakedness.  It seems that we are so used to both judging and being judged that we daren’t do this most simple and natural of things… be ourselves.

This is a time when families come together and play their usual games (see yesterday’s blog) which of course include conforming to expectations, and seeing those things we expect to see in others.  Let’s make no mistake, and I’m as guilty of this as the next man, we are all doing it! 

My mother, bless her cotton socks, doesn’t get the ‘gift’ thing, so just to make sure I’m good and ready for her, I start dreading what she is going to ‘give’ me months ahead of the day, that way I can get my disappointment, hurt and anger ready good and early.  This year she did marginally better than she has in the past. However, when I unwrapped the pre-used paper and saw a second-hand, not-quite-clean decanter, up rushed many years of this stuff and I relive 40 odd years of my projections of what this behaviour must mean.  “You are not good enough etc” 

All of this is total nonsense of course, and even dafter, is I’m bright enough to know all this and yet…. Here I go again!

So if you find yourself trapped in a negative little eddy, how do you free yourself?  What helps you to see it and feel it differently? 

The worst thing is that whilst we are the victim of this syndrome, we are all also the persecutors in someone else’s dramas… isn’t that an awful thought!  Is there something we can do to help them too?


“Everyone wants happiness; nobody wants to suffer. Many problems around us are a mental projection of certain negative or unpleasant things. If we analyze our own mental attitude, we may find it quite unbearable. Therefore, a well-balanced mind is very useful and we should try and have a stable mental state.”   Dalai Lama



Thursday, December 27th, 2007

One of the games most loved by the Cooke clan is Charades.  It is not only highly entertaining but slightly more competitive than the FA Cup Final, and only a little gentler than the Coliseum!  I love how it illustrates how different minds see the same thing.  It is an amazing testimony into the brilliance of the human brain.  I also love all those times where someone does some stupid, little thing and the other person comes out with the exact title of some obscure Russian novel; two minds in perfect harmony!

However, there is another side to Christmas charades that is less positive.   This is when we fall into our assigned role in the group/tribe such as ‘joker’, or ‘dutiful son’ or ‘clever daughter’ or ‘Mr Fixit’ etc..  I talked about labels in an earlier blog, and one of their effects is to cause us not to see or relate to the real / whole person. 

People change and grow as they age, and things which were appropriate at one stage of their lives become restricting and uncomfortable.  One of my issues is when I/we conspire in this process for the sake of ‘not rocking the boat’.  Yet we all need to be seen and accepted by those closest to us, and this kind of behaviour prevents that from happening

So this year at the Cooke tribal Xmas we played both sorts of charades, one of which brought me joy and brought us closer together, the other left me feeling sad and diminished….

What games have you been playing this Xmas?


“Take a look at your natural river. What are you? Stop playing games with yourself. Where’s your river going? Are you riding with it? Or are you rowing against it? Don’t you see that there is no effort if you’re riding with your river?”    Frederick (Carl) Frieseke



Wednesday, December 26th, 2007

Part1[Christmas Day am]:

I usually write about things that need changing but there is another side to the Change story, those things we want to preserve. Time and nature erode most things if we don’t work at them, so they too change.

This is a special time of year for many people and whether you are a christian, from another faith, agnostic or pagan, there is, for many, something to celebrate. Things like our families (warts and all!), the traditions that grow up around this time, the things we do to give pleasure to those we love.

These things tend to be an expression of who we are and what we value (even when we do, for the very best of motives, often take them too far!) We are a complex mixture of our own unique characteristics, our upbringing and our societies. It is a great time to offer the best of ourselves to those that we love, and everyone else too.

So, in a changing world, there are some things we don’t want to change, and that is a good thing.
However, inevitably some things will and that is good too.

Seasons greetings and a very happy New Year to you all.

Christmas, my child, is love in action.” Dale Evans

Part2 [Boxing Day am]:

An interesting day to reflect. Yesterday we changed a recipe for our family Christmas which has been mostly fixed for some 20 years, with a few gentle adjustments for the changing ages of the family. Instead of spending Xmas at home with just the immediate family, we travelled to my mothers and shared it with her, and my brother and sister’s families, some 16 of us. We had a nice day and it was great to catch up with various nephews and nieces who are now of in the world at various universities. However, as we drove home I think we all felt that our Xmas had somehow been diluted. Certainly there were new and nice additions, but overall we seemed to have had less of a magical day of it.

So, is this a good change or not? I guess our lives are made up of this kind of judgement. There is no one route through the ‘swamp’ of Change; there are many ways to navigate this, each with their own treasures and torments. I just feel that I/we have to stay in touch with how I am feeling, reviewing what I/we are gaining, what I/we are giving and what we are paying for that experience and make the best decision we can.

Good luck to you all and let me know how you get on….

“You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.” Steven D. Woodhull


Monday, December 24th, 2007

Someone asked me yesterday why I often write Change with a capital C? It is a very good question and I have never spelt it out before.

I believe that the reason we are all here is to change, grow and become the people we were born to be. That implies a journey of Change, growth and transformation. I refer to that process as Change, and it is made up a series of smaller events and changes.

I suppose I could get very deep here and it probably is neither necessary nor appropriate on Xmas eve, but one of the reasons I am so committed to this work is that we all need a little help on the way, a midwife if you will, to ease the traumas we all go through as the Universe challenges, shapes and moulds us.

We spend roughly 20% of our lives at work. For many of us it is an environment that we don’t control, and even if we are at the top of the stack in our own little company, there is always the big, bad Economy out there to knock us into shape! This makes our working lives a rich place for personal challenge and growth.

We all need a job that pays our bills, we all want a job that we find rewarding, but I would suggest that we also need a challenging and supportive environment to grow in. When companies encourage and enable their people to grow, the company grows too. That is how Change happens

It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new. But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful. There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power. Alan Cohen


Sunday, December 23rd, 2007

At this time of year with all the office parties and jollity, I was reflecting that amongst all the undoubted fun there is a lot of stress. The madness of the shops, queues at the supermarket at 7.30 am, the pressure of trying to find the right gifts…. It is enough to drive you to drink! Come to think of it, maybe that is why this is the most alcoholic time of the year?

However, amidst all this rushing around, there will always be some people, perhaps even a lot of people who secretly suspect that everyone else is having more fun than them, and that this is a reflection of their worth. The Samaritans always found this to be a pretty busy time, and I always used to go in for an hour or so on Xmas day to hlep out.

The thing is stress comes in many forms, the stress of expectations not being met, the stress of trying to do too much, the stress of all that over-indulgence.

So, Xmas is all about people; stressed people at that; and that makes it a bit like Change which is about the very same things. Perhaps if we approached Change a little more like we approach Xmas we might be a bit more successful? What do you think? What Changes would you like Santa to bring you?

Here are a few other people’s thoughts on this season:-

“What is Christmas? It is tenderness for the past, courage for the present, hope for the future. It is a fervent wish that every cup may overflow with blessings rich and eternal, and that every path may lead to peace.” Agnes M Pharo

“Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas.” Calvin Coolidge


Saturday, December 22nd, 2007

A client commented to me the other day about the importance of recruiting people who share your values, and another one talked yesterday about how do you spot the leading edge of Change? These comments got me thinking.

I have always been something of a trailblazer both in my private and professional lives. I’m a keen walker and I’m the guy who has to navigate us round the route and find the car. At work I have always been interested in new ideas and I that is how I-Change was born. However, it is also true that in corporate life was sometimes regarded as a bit of maverick. They seemed to think I was good for something but they could never quite figure it out! I think those less kindly disposed towards me might even have seen as a bit of rebel.
I suspect the only real difference between a rebel and a pathfinder is how well you are able to use them. If you are able to harness those drives that they have to blaze new trails then they are gold-dust; if those energies are not well focused then they can be hard to handle and uncomfortable.

I suspect every organisation has people a bit like this… how well are you using yours? Perhaps the other more important question is that every label we stick on people usually is reversible and regardless of whether it is positive or negative side up, it is wrong. What we are seeing is the result of a trait properly (or improperly used). It is all very yin & yang when you think about it. The dark contains the light and vice versa. We need labels, they help keep us from going crazy, but they also mislead us almost every time. When you engage with someone, engage with the person, not you label.

“ A name is a label, and as soon as there is a label, the ideas disappear and out comes label-worship and label-bashing, and instead of living by a theme of ideas, people begin dying for labels… and the last thing the world needs is another religion.” Richard Bach


Friday, December 21st, 2007

It was odd that that I was writing in yesterday’s blog, Patterns, about not feeling a victim of ‘cruel Fate’ and later that day the Universe conspired to give me an experience that set off a whole series of related thoughts.

A ‘friend’/colleague of long standing called to tell me (on the QT, “just marking my card”) that I had apparently given someone else we knew a wrong impression. Now in general, and in principle there is no bigger fan of the old Feedback sandwich than me. However, like all things, the art is in the doing, and as any of you out there who have let your kids wild in the kitchen know, you can make some pretty foul-tasting sandwiches!

Another key thing which changes the flavour of almost everything is the intention behind it. We take things from people who love us that we would never take from others because we know, fundamentally, they are on our side. When messages are delivered contaminated with ego or personal agendas, they become less palatable.

However, I am the sort of person who always tries to pan for the nugget of gold in the sewage and wanted to try and extract any value there was from this conversation. I wanted this new relationship to work. I hate miscommunication, and will do almost anything to ensure that it doesn’t happen.
However, he failed to show any interest in finding out the facts (he only had, at most, half of them), he just wanted to tell me how it was (or rather, how he saw it). All that was required of me was to listen for half an hour to this lecture.

Now, going back to the theme of yesterday’s blog, I was keen afterwards to examine what I might have done to bring this about, but after much reflection and discussion, I honestly felt this was much more about him than anything to do with me. I could learn a lesson about the order in which I give my responses, but none of them had been inappropriate.

Interestingly, I heard from the other party to the original conversation today and took the opportunity to make sure that we were ‘okay’ and there was no problem.

So, what do I take from all this? It seemed to me that:-
· He wanted to cast me as the ‘villain’ (or victim) in this drama
· I felt I was being attacked for the crime of being different. Which I know is a primal herd instinct, but not very pleasant
· I don’t have to accept his picture of the world
· I do have to decide how I chose to go forward with our relationship and decide if this was just a stress based reaction (
a flight fight response) or evidence of a fundamental mismatch in values…. Food for thought

“Men rise from one ambition to another: first, they seek to secure themselves against attack, and then they attack others.” Niccolo Machiavelli