Archive for April, 2008

England expects

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Nelson famously signalled to his fleet on the eve of Trafalgar “England expects that every man will do his duty”. He was hailed as a doughty British hero for this, but most of us get into rather more trouble where our expectations are concerned. We have a world view that cons us into ‘believing’ that everyone is like us (or at least they should be!) We are for some reason constantly caught off-guard when this turns out not to be true, despite our many years of contrary experience.

Even when we have no conscious expectations they are still there beneath the surface, waiting to trip us up. Now I am not unrealistic enough to suggest that we are capable of totally disarming this mechanism but if we could move, even a little way, from expecting to accepting, the world would be a better place and we would be a lot happier.

One of the greatest gifts we can give another human being is our acceptance. We all worry about the burden of others’ expectations and judge ourselves when we believe we have fallen short. It is a blessed relief to know that we are enough, just as we are.

Expectations are also a major cause of stress in our lives. For some reason we expect that yesterday’s dirty, late overcrowded train will today will be on-time, clean and have a seat for us! Once we start dealing with the ‘real’ person in front of us, or the ‘true’ situation in which we find ourselves, we start to be more successful and a good deal more content. Of course, once we have started to offer this to others, we can begin to give ourselves a slice of the same cake….

“Truly loving another means letting go of all expectations. It means full acceptance, even celebration of another’s personhood.” Karen Casey

” Our entire life consists ultimately in accepting ourselves as we are.” Jean Anouth

Confessions of a Teenager Plucker

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

I have a deep, dark secret. Lurking beneath the pinstriped exterior of this ex-accountant lurks the soul of a secret rock ‘god’! When I was a teenager I had a guitar and spent many a lonely night plucking away, warbling along to my Leonard Cohen songbook… I even took lessons. I practised till my fingers were sore. I persevered. Despite my very best efforts, after several years I gave up, forced to agree with my family and friends that I was totally devoid of any latent talent in this area and as musical as a bag of spanners!

This was a bitter pill to swallow, but some 40 years later I have come to terms with it. I will never strut my stuff with a Fender… There are many things that come naturally and effortlessly to me, and some may even be things that others will look at a say to themselves “I wish I could do that!” but of course, human nature being what it is, one discounts these gifts, and takes them for granted.

Each of us is blessed with unique talents, but we can easily focus on those we don’t have rather than using and developing those we do have. Now, I have no doubt if I was Brad Pitt (and many people have noted the striking similarity) and I needed to learn to play the guitar for my latest blockbuster, then I could have been coached to point where I could fake it, but the truth is, love it though I do, I am not musical!

So, whilst I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t challenge ourselves to master new things, the truth is I think we are dealt the cards we need at birth, and the clue to our paths and happiness are there before our eyes. So if you are feeling a little lost and wondering what your path is, take a look at what is right in front, because the your destiny is probably ‘hiding’ in plain view!

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but almost always end up where I need to be.” Douglas Adams



What are you Watching…

Sunday, April 27th, 2008

I was out walking in the sunshine yesterday. I knew the time, in a Saturday sort of a way; It was somewhere between half past breakfast and quarter to lunch. We had been out for an hour or so and I was wondering what the time was and glanced at my watch as you do. I don’t know if you have noticed but we seem to be capable of looking at our watches, apparently reading them and yet not quite really knowing what they have told us. You know that you are doing this when a companion, seeing you do this asks the time and you have to look a second time to answer them.

So, there we were strolling in the woods, I look at my watch and am just covering up my watch again when I realise that I completely don’t understand what I have just seen. It takes a moment for me to realise that I was not able to read the time. I look again and it appears to be telling me that it is quarter past seven! After a few moments more confusion, all becomes clear to me… I have my watch on upside down! Reality is reasserted.

However, it occurs to me that we are so often in the auto-pilot mode that we have conversations, without really engaging any of our awareness. It is possible that the odd husband out here will recall being told that he is “not listening” and perhaps even, if he likes living dangerously, repeat back what has just been said. However, hearing and listening are not the same thing. Also, when we are truly engaged with someone we bring to bear so much more than just our hearing; we use our awareness. We can pick up so much more if tune in fully.

When we are on the receiving end of this kind of attention it is a very powerful experience. Flattering, a little intimidating, slightly disconcerting and seductive all rolled up into one. We all do it perfectly naturally from time-to-time. However, the impact of fully engaging with people and situations on your relationships, your business and health is astonishing. Why not give it a go…. Some people think that we get what we focus on. Who or what are you giving your attention to?


“The greatest gift you can give another is the purity of your attention.”
Richard Moss

Genius is nothing but continued attention.” Claude Adrien Helvetius


You Must

Saturday, April 26th, 2008


  • modal verb (past
had to or in reported speech must) 1 be obliged to; should. 2 expressing insistence. 3 expressing an opinion about something that is very likely.

  • noun
informal something that should not be overlooked or missed.

  — ORIGIN Old English.

I woke up this morning feeling better rested than I have all week, the sun was shining, and I awoke to an empty day. I lay there contemplating what it might offer, and then that little phrase “I must…” started to swirl round my brain. I decided that for my own sanity, that today was no day for ‘musts’, “I assert my right to ignore you!” I cried (silently.)

It occurred to me as I lay there in a blissful moment of silence and sunshine that our lives can so easily be taken over by these little voices demanding our attention. I know that all adults have things that they need to get done. Hopefully some us have made choices in our lives that we are happy with that also have consequences; things like kids and jobs. However, we do have much more freedom that we normally tend to exercise, and I would contend that it is in these little ‘clearings’ that we really live.

So I formally declare today World Mustless Day, and I offer you its freedom to step into and enjoy…


Two truths

Friday, April 25th, 2008


Buddhism states that there are always two truths, the personal truth and the absolute spiritual truth. I would suggest that in this world, we are not likely to have much experience with the latter. However, I think that the former is also worthy of further thought. The thing is, when we use the word “truth”, we mean that we are not consciously distorting our knowledge and understanding. Let us suppose that we are individuals of high integrity, and that we are not being ‘economical’ with our truths. However, that is all we can offer, our truth.

This represents the sum of the knowledge and understanding that we have at this moment; tomorrow it may change as we learn more or interpret what we know differently. Of course, this is true for each person. So if you have two entirely honest people, who wish to be totally candid with each other, at the very best all they can do is swap their own version of their current truths. This process is further diminished by the fact we use language differently and can easily misconstrue what another has said. Is it any wonder that people can argue about who is telling the truth? I think it is all together more remarkable that we ever agree!

Who is telling the truth about what is happening in the Middle East the Islamic Jihadist or the right-wing American Christian fundamentalist?

I think the truth is a destination that we are unlikely to reach in this life time. The best we can offer each other is our open understanding, a little humility and a good listening. So if you find yourself in conflict today, try listening a little longer, questioning a little better and doing so with an open heart.

“Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods.” Albert Einstein

“There are no whole truths: all truths are half-truths. It is trying to treat them as whole truths that plays the devil.” Alfred North Whitehead




  1. The Whole Truth (an earlier blog)



Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Isn’t interesting how sometimes it is the little things that irritate us that can help to cause Change. Think about how that tiny bit of grit causes the oyster to produce the pearl. It sits inside its shell constantly abrading its delicate flesh, so naturally the oyster needs to protect itself against this and starts to encase it in nacre.

If we don’t like something or someone, firstly we usually try to ignore them, and if that fails we tend to attack them. If they still don’t go away, sometimes they can become our very best friends. If I think about the flavours I enjoy most today; all of them were unpleasant to me initially, things like chilli, black coffee, whisky to name a few.

Somehow, with some of these foods, I always suspected that I could grow to love them. Not necessarily so with some of the people I later became fast friends with. There are interesting lessons in irritants. What / who is bugging you at the present moment… and more interestingly, why do you really find them an irritation?

“My ultimate vocation in life is to be an irritant.”  Elvis Costello

Is it Time?

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

I was thinking about Time and how we think of it and use it. I guess most of us were brought up with the idea that it was linear and flows in one direction at a uniform speed very much like the hourglass that we used to use to measure it. Then clever people come along and tell us that it is relative to the position and speed of the observer. I’ll make no attempt to explain this as I don’t claim to understand it. All I gather is that even our brightest brains can’t really agree on its nature, but we may be able to reverse it and travel in it.

However, according to my entirely subjective experience it seems to move more like a river, and to move at different speeds at different times. Sometimes my time seems to be moving much slower than every one else’s around me especially when I get absorbed in something. There are periods when I can’t seem to stop and yet don’t seem to make a great deal of progress on a series of simple jobs that are waiting on a little gap to attend to them.

I have been on the Time Management courses, and am generally pretty disciplined about being ‘on time’, but my subjective experience of this ‘resource’ is very different from this rather pragmatic, western view of it as a business resource that we can trade and sell. If you think about plants and animals; they are just as subject to Time as we are, but they seem to do things when it is the ‘right time’. I have yet to see a robin with a tiny little watch or a buttercup with a clock! They just know that they are now ready to move forwards.

Despite our cleverness and our courses, I think we have much of this awareness within us and it then has to struggle against our wristwatch mentality as to which one controls when we move. When working with Change, I have no doubt that the natural clock is the one that controls us. So if it doesn’t feel like the right day to move forwards, chances are it isn’t! Try listening to yourself, and where possible arranging your diary round your inner sense of rhythm and time. I think you will find it is much less stressful!

“Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in.” Napoleon Bonaparte

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” Albert Einstein

Open Minded?

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

I attended an Open Space1 day today with a networking group I belong to. The idea behind this approach is it enables large groups to discuss complex issues in a self-organising way and handle complex issues without having passions take over. I thought that it had some interesting lessons for life.

This approach allows people to talk about what is on their mind. In order to do so, they announce the topic they wish to discuss and if others finding this interesting they come and join in. At the point they lose interest, or find they are not making the progress they hoped, or simply something else seems more compelling they are free to go and join another parallel group discussing another aspect of the issue.

In other words, you can only discuss areas that are sufficiently interesting to all parties to secure their attention. So often in life there are these one-sided conversations, and people will mentally dial out long before the other has stopped talking.

The other interesting aspect of this is whilst person A might have proposed the topic to be discussed; the dynamics of the group will often take the conversation into different areas. Traditionally person A would have to try to drag everyone back to the topic under discussion. Using this method, whatever emerges is okay, so no one has to get defensive, and therefore no one needs to get aggressive either.

I wonder if we had more conversations which were a genuine exploration and where the power was equal, how might this affect our lives?

“An open mind leaves a chance for someone to drop a worthwhile thought in it”


  1. Principles of Open Space:
    1. Whoever comes are the right people
    2. Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
    3. When it starts is the right time
    4. When it’s over it’s over
      Plus the Law of Two Feet…. “If you find yourself in a situation where you are not contributing or learning, move somewhere where you can.”

Are you a complainer?

Monday, April 21st, 2008

I don’t mean about things that you should raise your voice against such as poor service etc, rather are you inclined to find yourself telling someone how everything would be just perfect if it weren’t for [blank….. insert the name of the person or thing that you’re a railing against]? My wife drew my attention to this quote from Chuck Spezzano1
“Complaining is an attack on your self-image … you are denying your personal Power.” Not being very bright, I had to think about it for a while, and then I got it.

He is reminding us that if we make others responsible for our lives not working then we are effectively saying that we have no power to improve things. In denying our own contribution to whatever is going on in our lives, by being attached to both ‘being right’ and ‘being a victim’, we can do nothing but complain.

The alternative is to say that I can change. I can change how I feel about this; I can choose a different response; I can communicate in a way that will be heard. In the end, I can always walk away.

I thought that this was thought worth sharing……….

“Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses” German proverb

“Man spends his life in reasoning on the past, in complaining of the present, in fearing future.” Antoine Rivarol


Achtung Minen!

Sunday, April 20th, 2008

Helping others to move forwards is always a tricky proposition. Just because we made it across the ‘ravine’ doesn’t make it any easier for them to do so. In fact, it can make it scarier for them because they are now alone on the far side! Telling them it will be all right achieves nothing either. In fact this reminds me of a time, many years ago, when I was taking our bouncy, friendly English setter for a walk. This dog never growled at anyone. I went to cross this river via a slatted wooden bridge, and we proceeding normally until I suddenly came to startling halt. I turned round and discovered the dog had braced all four legs and refused to move another step. I couldn’t figure it out till I realised that now when he looked down he didn’t see ground, but water. Tug as I would he wasn’t going anywhere but back. I tried every tactic I could think of but in the end, we had to walk back home the long way.

Inside each of us there is a something very similar and just as resistant to moving forward into situations it has labelled ‘dangerous’. It would sooner keep us in our current pain, regardless of the cost to us, as it understands the rules of the current game we are playing.

You can’t reason with someone in this position, you can’t bully them, you can’t bride them. In the end you have to just be with them as best you can. You can offer your love, your support and your truth… and that is about it.

One thing to remember is that at the moment I am talking about others, tomorrow (or some tomorrow yet to come) it will be us! We all do this, we all have out ‘no go’ zones. If you can’t see them then, that is just a measure of how effective this little inner censor is in keeping you away from this ‘danger zone’. God Bless.

“The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.” Michelangelo