Archive for August, 2009

A lesson in public speaking

Monday, August 31st, 2009

I went to a Jewish wedding yesterday and it was very different in many ways from the weddings I’m used to, both Christian and civil.  Of course there were lots of common elements too, but the one that really struck me yesterday was the speeches.  There were many more than usual; the best man, the groom, the bride, the bride’s brother, the groom’s daughter all spoke.  They would have won no prizes at Toast Masters or any public speaking course, but all were memorable and moving for one very simple reason, they all spoke from the heart. 

There is much importance attached to,and training for, public speaking and you can certainly improve your technique, but there is absolutely no substitute for saying what you mean and letting your true feelings show.  We were moved to tears and laughter by these people sharing their feelings and hopes for the bride and groom.

Like they say, “When you can fake sincerity, you’ve made it!”;in the meantime, why not take the huge risk of saying what you want and what you feel…?

I’d be interested to hear about your experiences of doing this kind of thing

Further lessons from the kittens

Saturday, August 29th, 2009

Today was a big day for the feline residents of Cooke Towers as its two newest residents were introduced to the two sitting tenants.  We were somewhat apprehensive about how this crucial step would go as obviously we need there to be peace and harmony in the cat kingdom.  We brought the adult cats into the kittens room one at a time and just let them see each other.  Of course initially there was a lot of posturing, bad language and hostility, but this diminished quite soon when the youngsters didn’t threaten the status quo.  With appropriate body language signalling that they respected the existing incumbents’ positions things quietened down quite soon.  I’m sure we’ll all have to work at this but it seems to be going okay.

The thing is that when we introduce new people into a system, be that in a domestic situation when a new boyfriend or girlfriend is introduced, or at work a new person is appointed, people go through the same process of defending their turf and wanting their positions acknowledged and respected.  Unfortunately few induction processes acknowledge these animal needs and behaviours.  If you bring a new person into a system you change the chemistry and power balance, this affects all members of that system.  Allowing people to go slowly and make  peace at their own pace enables natural relationships to evolve and grow.

Go Pussy Power!

Lessons learnt from the kittens

Friday, August 28th, 2009

Some of you know we have just acquired a couple of little heart-stealing kittens, Rambo & Roxie.  In only two weeks they have gone from hiding when we enter the room to rushing to the door each time we go pass hoping that we will come and play.  They basically have have three phases:-

  • Sleeping
  • Eating
  • Playing

In phase three, they take turns careening round the room chasing after each other and reversing roles of aggressor and victim.  They leap up and explore every surface, climb everything climbable and practice hunting and stalking every manner of moving thing.  In other words, they are using every waking moment to practicing being the very best cats they can become.  I wonder what we would be like if we invested this amount of energy into perfecting ourselves… Saints?  Angels?  Gods??

They express joy in every movement and evoke it in us.  What a gift!  In seeking to become the very best us we can become, I wonder if we evoke anything like this?  

“Learning is finding out what we already know. Doing is demonstrating that you know it. Teaching is reminding others that they know just as well as you. You are all learners, doers and teachers.”  Richard Bach

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No way through

Thursday, August 27th, 2009

I was walking today south of Arundel, along the river Arun.  From that perspective you have the most incredible views of the castle which has stood there for almost a thousand years.  We had meant to do a 10 mile circle round the town, but 2 miles into our walk, where we had to cross the railway line, the footpath was closed and  there was no way round or across.  We had to turn round and go back.

Sometimes Life is just like that.  Sometimes the only way forward is back!  We’ll do that walk another day.   Today we had to console ourselves with other things such as fish soup and oysters.  The very best plans encounter this kind of thing and you have to adapt and make the best decision you can then.  If you are overly wedded to the original plan, you can get stuck and frustrated.  This kind of approach is how successful generals win wars by adapting to what they find on the ground.  Change programs, be they personal or business, need to adopt this approach in order to succeed.

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy”  Colin Powell (or possibly General MacArthur)


No mobile signal at home? Try the Vodafone Access Gateway (now called Sure Signal)

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

For those of you who like us have a poor or non-existent mobile signal in your home, here is a possible solution, if you use Vodafone.  They have now released a box that acts like your wireless router, and plugs into that router.  It connects to your 3G phone and sends the signal out via your broadband network to the Vodafone system.  It effectively acts like a mini-mast in your home.  It is in fact a femtocell, and the first one on general release here.  If you are taking out a new contract or renewing you may get it for free; I had to pay £5pm for 18 months, but the online cash price is £160.  Vodafone, (and every other mobile operator) ought to be giving these away for free, but, if like me you are fed up with not being able to use your phone in your home, it may seem a great investment.  Doubtless in a year or so they will come up with one box that does both jobs for you and it will be a great way to hook us to buying our mobile and broadband services from a single supplier.

It arrived yesterday at around 9am, and I had hooked it up to the mains and the router in about 60 seconds; I then logged onto the Vodafone site to register its serial number with our mobile phone numbers, this took less than 5 minutes.  They warn it can take up to 24 hours to get the Gateway to see the internet, and to my disappointment, it actually did.  However this was more than made up for when I saw in the morning I had a full 3G signal in a room where I never got more than 2 bars on GPRS.

I’ll report back with any further news but I suspect it is just that simple.  I suspect we’ll save the cost of the additional rental on not making calls to mobiles from our home phone.

Click picture for the Vodafone link

Strategies for Success in this Recession – Part 3: Things to start doing

Sunday, August 23rd, 2009

This is the third blog in this series, and hopefully you now have the core idea that being proactive is the key to success in these recessionary times.  Yesterday we considered things that you needed to stop doing and today I’d like to consider those things that you need to start doing.  Things such as:-

  • You need to consider other businesses outside your own specialist area who might service the same clientele as you do, that you could form an alliance with or create new services that merge your two offerings
  • Think of sectors that you haven’t previously serviced that you have the skill set to work with
  • Ask some of your best existing clients for referrals and suggestions as to who you should be talking to
  • You should look at your staff and see who has the potential to develop new skills and offerings, and encourage them to do so
  • Make at least a couple of hours a week to focus on strategic issues, shut your door, turn off the phone and ensure that you give it your full attention
  • Look outside your own area for inspiration, be that books, hobbies, courses, other countries, innovate by cross-fertilisation
  • Identify things to stop doing.  A minimum of 20% of your time is wasted (probably a more!) and you should identify these activities and use that time to seed your Change programme.
  • Get the idea out there that you encourage and embrace Change
  • Make time for networking, you’ll be surprised where this takes you.  It isn’t about selling, it is about getting your ideas out there and listening to those of others and exploring areas for collaborating.

Like all lists, this one is far from complete, but it will get you started.  You should brainstorm others with your own team.  If you keep doing what you have always done, in a recession, all you can expect is less and less of the same thing!  Good Luck…

“I like my job because it involves learning. I like being around smart people who are trying to figure out new things. I like the fact that if people really try they can figure out how to invent things that actually have an impact.”   Bill Gates

Previous blogs in the series:

Strategies for Success in this Recession – Part 2: Things to stop doing

Saturday, August 22nd, 2009

Once you have accepted that you are best able to succeed in the recession by taking charge, a key question to ask is “What am I doing that no longer serves me?”  Things like:-

  • What activities are wasting my time?  Remember the 80:20 rule
  • Which customers are taking a disproportionate amount of time for increasing little reward?
  • What systems that I use are no longer necessary, or capture detail we don’t use?
  • What resources are we neglecting?  This applies to people, space, time as well as your other assets
  • What attachments do I have that keep ensnaring me?
  • What sectors am I focusing on that are contracting rather than growing?
  • What things am I doing exactly the same way as I have for the last 5 years that have not been reviewed to see if they are the best way to do things?

There are certainly many more good questions to ask yourself, but if you get together with your team and identify & challenge your sacred cows, you may be surprised by how much time and energy you can liberate to focus on things which will make a real difference.  Remember, if you aren’t changing, it doesn’t mean that your customers, your competitors and the market place isn’t!

“Stop the mindless wishing that things would be different. Rather than wasting time and emotional and spiritual energy in explaining why we don’t have what we want, we can start to pursue other ways to get it.”  Greg Anderson

Previous blogs in the series:

Strategies for Success in this Recession – Part 1: Change how you see things

Thursday, August 20th, 2009

The world is in global economic melt down .. right?  And yet I am sure there are many people and businesses that are doing very well in today’s marketplace.   Of course there are practical difficulties with getting credit (if you need it) or perhaps with clients who lack liquidity.  However, if we give away our power to these external factors, we inevitably cast ourselves as victims of circumstances.

It is far better to recognise these changes as the opportunity that they undoubtedly are and begin to think how we can change to take advantage of this state of flux.  In a steady state market, the big boys always win as they have the resources and the reputation.  When things become turbulent, there are opportunities for smaller, more nimble, more inventive  businesses to steal a march on them.

Martial artists train so that when they need to use their skills they don’t become paralysed by fear.  It is easy to feel scared by all that is going on, but recognising the upside of this situation helps us to move forwards, and approaching things with a positive mindset helps us be creative. 

Being the same as everyone else and conforming is no longer the safe option.  Differentiate yourself: find or build a niche.  What element of the market particularly interests you or are you particularly good at?  What hasn’t been tried before or what classic ideas and techniques could be adapted today’s circumstances?  What techniques can be ported over from another area or discipline, such as what could a boat builder teach a house builder?  What ideas could be transferred from one part of the world to another one?  What is traditional in one place is innovative in another.

So Step One is to change how you look at things….

Steps Two & Three will follow shortly.

“Perception is strong and sight weak. In strategy it is important to see distant things as if they were close and to take a distanced view of close things.”


Wednesday, August 19th, 2009

Regular reader will know that I have been fiddling about with my ponds recently, and one project was to increase the flow of our waterfall, by installing a second pump.  This arrived yesterday, and I duly installed it.  Imagine my surprise when I woke this morning to find we had lost hundreds of gallons of water over night.  Apparently not all the water was falling back into the pond and the accumulation of all these ‘spilt’ drops was a a 6” drop in level! 

I think there is a parallel both in our personal and business lives.  When our enthusiasm drops or morale falls, initially you can’t see any difference, but over time, it becomes very apparent.  It is strange how a series of seemingly tiny events can have such a profound impact.  I was lucky, as I had quite long time between my before and after pictures.  If you don’t have such a clear ‘picture’ that things have changed for the worse, but none-the-less feel that things are not as they should be, assume that you are right and look for your ‘leak’.  We are much better at spotting this kind of tiny change using our intuition rather than our brains.

I’d be interested in any examples you have of this kind micro-change and how you spotted it and what you did.

“Should you find yourself in a chronically leaking boat, energy devoted to changing vessels is likely to be more productive than energy devoted to patching leaks.”   Warren Buffett



Monday, August 17th, 2009

I have had a life long love affair with waterfalls and though I have seen relatively few in real life and  with  the notable exception of Niagara, none of the biggies, I am without fail moved whenever I see one.  For me, even the smallest waterfall is a thing of beauty & magic.  Of course, I’ve wanted to have one but it has always been too much of a project to try.  However, today, everything came together.  I had been given another pump and filter, had half the required electrics (but more importantly now knew how to complete them) and some time off.  So today, I made a life long dream come true.  It is only a very little waterfall but I guess it was a bigger dream…  Of course it isn’t fully completed yet; the landscaping still needs doing, but it is functioning.

Dreams are powerful things, and all the more so when you act on them.  I hope the rest of you don’t wait over 50 years to make your come true!  I’d love to hear some stories of what you have done to make your dreams happen, and what happened next…

Believe in your dreams and they may come true; believe in yourself and they will come true”

“Happy are those who dream dreams and are ready to pay the price to make them come true.”  Leon Joseph Cardinal Suenens