Archive for October, 2008

"When you are down and troubled".. you’ve got a friend

Friday, October 31st, 2008

James Taylor once sung“When you are down and troubled, and you need a helping hand”, he advised “Close your eyes and think of me, and soon I will be there.” It was a bitter-sweet song that left a note of hope. So often, when we are feeling lost, we pull into our shell and wonder why we are alone and unseen. At times like this we need to reach out and let it be known that we’d like a hand.

Talking to friends, asking for help, praying are all valid responses, but if it was that easy there would be less people around who felt this way. The hard thing is to be seen as vulnerable and struggling and unable to cope, in need and worthy of help. We are brought up to stand on our own two feet and hate to seem or feel weak. And yet strength is like the tides, it comes and it goes; people’s luck and health and situations change. Think of some of those millionaire bankers who were riding high a few months ago.

Allowing oneself to feel these feelings and not to go out of one’s way to hide or deny them allows others in. Today maybe a good day to say, when asked “How are you?” to be a little more honest in your reply.


Eunoia = Beautiful Thinking

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Apparently Eunoia is the shortest word in the English language to use all five vowels (a nice little tip for all you Scrabble fiends!) It comes from the Greek, ?????? which means well mind, and refers to a healthy, normal state of mind, or feelings of benevolence and goodwill. Now I don’t know what it says about our society that I have lived a great number of years and never heard a word like this; a word that refers to good or benign state of mind. I know hundreds of ways of saying “Sicko…”

If we approach each other with a positive expectation, if we seek to see the good in others (which is always there), then normally we get a much more positive response than if we let our doubts and fears lead the way. Indeed Aikido (a Japanese martial art) bases itself on a primary requirement to have a positive mental state, and teaches us to extend Ki (positive enerergy) to others.

Here is a harmless and free challenge for you today, approach those around you with this state of Eunoia and see the difference in what comes back to you…

“Attitudes are contagious.  Are yours worth catching?”  Dennis and Wendy Mannering

“Every thought is a seed.  If you plant crab apples, don’t count on harvesting Golden Delicious.”  Bill Meyer



Don’t think outside the box!

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

We are so often exhorted to think “outside the box” and there are all manner of clever gurus like Mr de Bono who offer us tools to help us do so. The benefits are clear and have become almost axiomatic, so why don’t we do so more often? The thing is, not only is it a skill to leave behind our familiar patterns of thought but it is a challenge. A challenge not just to our capability and our intellect but also to the primitive part of us that is scared by the new. If I come up with a new way of thinking, then where will that lead me? Will it mean I have to do something different? What might that lead to? The primitive part of our brain that is programmed to help us survive will do all it can to protect us from this terra incognita. It will throw up a million reasons why there is no point, why it won’t work, why tomorrow would be better etc

Maybe today you are a little worried about what is going on in the global economy and how you can / should respond. You might be witnessing doors closing and opportunities slipping away and yet this bit of you will try to prevent you from trying something new. Being aware of this flight/fight mechanism, will help you fight its pull.

Maybe today is a good day to begin thinking outside the box!

PS>> I’ll shortly be posting a follow-up article to help you work though some of these issues

“I’ll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there’s evidence of any thinking going on inside it.” – Terry Pratchett


A five step plan to save you £5,000,000,000,000

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

Apparently the various world governments have now invested £5 trillion in propping up the banking system. That is a huge amount to invest in failure. I’m not suggesting that it isn’t required but would suggest that is worth pausing to consider that it isn’t only governments that can invest in failure, we all can. So often, when we have made a mistake, rather than seeking to learn from it and so avoid it in future, we can find ourselves justifying our actions, defending them and feeling that it “wasn’t our fault”, so we don’t need to change!

If you find yourself today, drifting down this path, STOP!

  1. Accept that we all make mistakes
  2. Forgive yourself
  3. Ask what can you learn from this
  4. Ask what steps you can take to ensure that you don’t need to find yourself here again
  5. Move on!


“Being happy doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. It means that you’ve decided to look beyond the imperfections.”

Reform Club

Monday, October 27th, 2008

Today I visited a bastion of the English establishment, the Reform Club, which is one of our original gentlemen’s clubs.  It was formed in 1836 for supporters of the Great Reform Act.  It is interesting that something which started as a cradle of Change, itself became such part of the establishment.

If something lasts long enough, then it  tends to lose its energy for Change.  We do it as people, businesses do it.  There needs to be some kind of either internal driver (such as a visionary leader) and external pressure (such as some of the economic upheavals going on now.)

So if your business has stood still for a long period, perhaps it is time to reconnect with its founding fervour and vision.

PS>>  I had a lovely meal there …

“It is the reformer who is anxious for the reform, and not society, from which he should expect nothing better than opposition, abhorrence and mortal persecution”  Mahatma Gandhi

Dealing with the Unexpected

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Last night up to 1,000 fell runners were unaccounted for up in the Lake District.  Torrential rains meant that for the first time in 41 years the race was abandoned but not before around 2,500 had already started it.

Now fell runners are a hardy breed and many of them would have been properly equipped

to survive a night out in poor conditions, but there is a limit to what one can prepare for.  Both the runners and the organisers would have invested a great deal in getting ready for an event of this scale and it is not something to be lightly abandoned.  However, you only have to check out this video to get an idea of how nasty it was and I suspect it, in reality,  was much worse than this!  At the very best they will have spent a very cold night out in some bleak conditions.

There are two thoughts that interest me about this.  Firstly the very ‘can do’ attitude that allows these people to cope with the pain and suffering inevitable in this kind of sport is the very thing that would put them at risk in this kind of situation.  I suspect that mere mortals would have taken one look at the conditions and said “No way!”

The second thought is that being well prepared can be both essential and also make it harder to come up with new, unprepared responses.  In other words they had prepared for all manner of contingencies but not for saying “Let’s not do this..”

I’m in awe of these people and what they can do, but there are lessons for all of us about listening to our inner voices, scanning all options and being cautious of over relying on our strengths.  I hope they all find their way safely home to a warm meal, a roaring fire  and and pint or two!!


A little perspective

Saturday, October 25th, 2008

I was out walking today along a little bit of the North Downs Way.  The initial path had fabulous views to the west over open country, but a cold wind really chilled us down.  On the way back we had moved a few hundred yards to east and we came back through the trees where it was much warmer.  No surprises there, but isn’t it interesting how moving such a small distance can make such a difference one’s experience?

We were talking to a friend who was having a few problems with their love-life, and they were stuck in a place where they felt they had made a terrible mistake.  I tried to explain that, as far as I could see, that they had made a wise and brave move in the right direction.  They just needed to shift their thinking a little to get a more positive perspective. 

Both physically and mentally, sometimes a little shift in position can make a big difference to your experience.  If things don’t seem to be working for you, try and find a different way of looking at the situation, and sometimes physically moving can help you shift your mind too.  Moving your body can help move your mind.   I hope, that today, you too can find a resourceful place out of the wind…

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” ”  Abraham Lincoln

Recession… breathing out and breathing in

Friday, October 24th, 2008

Recession is defines as “a decline in economic activity in at least two consecutive quarters”. Clearly we all prefer it when we feel the ‘Good Times’ are rollin’ but I find it odd that we are act as if we are surprised to learn that growth isn’t an infinite and constant process. Our economy is a living breathing organism and all living things go through cycles. No one worries that the trees aren’t in leaf all year round; that the leaves drop in autumn. We recognise the rightness and value of each season and whilst we (being British) might moan about the weather, we can enjoy a bright golden autumnal day as much as a beautiful spring one.

If we stop acting scared and just adjusted our activities to those appropriate for this economic ‘season’ there is no reason why anyone should worry. Change is a constant and wears many faces, if she doesn’t smile all the time, then that is ok too because we don’t trust people who walk around with a perpetual smile do we?

May Dame Fortuna smile on your endeavours.





“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” Kahlil Gibran

“In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.” William Blake

What it takes to be a leader…

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

“A young, newly appointed company executive was told by his seniors that although he had a great business reputation, he should now concentrate on his Leadership skills.

He read all he could from Covey and Robbins, attended workshops and seminars but he couldn’t quite grasp it. He decided to seek out a reputable Guru in an Ashram in India.

During his brief audience he explained his problem, and by way of advice the Guru told him to return to him only when he had a true follower, not someone paid to be with him. 

Again he began to work on it, and still it eluded him.  Throughout this time he’d settled into married life and had fathered a little girl, now four years old. He decided it was time to return to his old Guru.

When he arrived he began to tell the sage that he had tried so hard to become a good leader, the old man looked at him in surprise.     He asked “Did you bring a true follower?”
The execs reply was, ” I’m not sure… this is my daughter and she follows me everywhere.”
The Guru asks “Why does she follow you everywhere?”  The exec replies “I guess because she loves me”  The Guru then says “Why does she love you?”  The exec replies ” I guess because I love her.”  And the Guru says ” My dear man, there is nothing more I can teach you about Leadership.” 

Author unknown…

I came across this today, and whilst it is easy to dismiss it as corny, I think it contains a nugget at its heart.  Too many people in leadership positions are just bosses rather than leaders.  Too many leaders think that everyone else is there to support and serve them.  If you want people to follow you then you have to give them a reason to trust you and there is no better reason than knowing that you have their best interests (truly) at heart.

This kind of thing has to come from who you are, and is an expression of what is important to you.  Like they say, you can’t fake sincerity…

Hatred & Diversity

Monday, October 20th, 2008

I was listening to an article on the radio this morning about troubles in Eastern India where radical Hindus are are apparently attacking Christians, have burnt down churches and even got involved in gang rape.  Elsewhere Jews are persecuting Muslims, nominal Christians are anti-Semitic and militant Islam seems to hate everyone else!

It seems that there is quite a deep need to feel superior to others, to believe that there is only one ‘true path’, to distrust and fear those who are different from us.  The odd thing is that no matter how we change the badges, we always seem to recreate the ‘Us & Them’ thing.  Within a group or organisation there always seem to be factions.  Think about  the divisions within the Christian church.  I was deeply shocked to discover that even within my own family that two cousins were now no longer speaking to their nephew because his wife is from the wrong sect… How’s that for loving thy neighbour?

These days we are all supposed to be respecting diversity and enjoying the multi-culturalism.. and yet… and yet we fear those who are different rather than being enriched and stimulated by them.  If we aren’t secure in ourselves we are far more likely to be judgemental of others’ choices.  We would never suggest that everyone should eat only one sort of cuisine; why do we expect others to agree with all our other choices and views?

We need to find ways in which it is safe to disagree and explore those ideas, that is where progress comes from…

“Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”   Mahatma Gandhi

“Our greatest strength as a human race is our ability to acknowledge our differences, our greatest weakness is our failure to embrace them.”  Judith Henderson