Archive for July, 2014

Making Change Permanent

Friday, July 11th, 2014

This another of our occasional guest blogs.  This one is penned by my brother Quentin, a 7th dan black belt in Aikido.  He is addressing one of the key questions in Change.

Most of us have been on a course at one time or another and learnt some really important things, only to find that by the time we reach the office on Monday morning, what seemed so simple at the time now looks rather more difficult. By way of example, I went on a First Aid course recently and as a result now have my certificate updated for the next 3 years, but in honesty, I don’t feel that much better equipped to deal with an emergency now than before the training and I’m hoping I do not have to find out for real, whether this is the case or not.  The truth is that unless you use it, you lose it. So the only real way to bring about a change in the way you think and act is to practice hard until the new habit is deeply embedded in your psyche and in your body.

One powerful tool for this is aikido, which many people think of as a martial art, but I prefer to think of it as a way for life that uses martial arts techniques, to prove that even when physically attacked, it is possible to manage stress / conflict peacefully and positively. The idea is not to hurt your attacker, but to blend with them, and to use the energy of the ‘attack’ to direct to a better place, whilst maintaining your own safety and integrity.  You have to see them not as an attacker but more of a partner.

Over the years, I have had many people come to my club, and pretty much without exception, they are amazed at how this can be done and they are genuinely in awe of the way in which it can be achieved so gracefully. Of course the truth is that it only looks this way, because I have practised regularly and studied deeply for some 30 years. This being said, I have had students come and go, and many report back that what I showed them on the mat actually changed their lives and helped them deal with some big problems. It is this that keeps me motivated. By way of example the following story comes from one of my students who has studied on and off for a couple of years

Oh Deer by Janet Shiel – Burwell Aikido Club – England – 5th Kyu

Sensei said to us,

“Eventually, you may find yourselves using aikido in everyday life in everything that you do.”      

Well, it was not long before I found out that this was true.

I was driving back from Cambridge in my little Vauxhall Tigra one foggy evening, with my partner, Chris, and two friends, Fred and Lucy. The visibility was very bad, and then suddenly through the dense, but patchy fog, appeared a very large deer. It paused on the grass verge to the right. Nothing fawn-like about this beast, it looked more like a blooming great stag.

RELAX! I thought – taking my foot off the accelerator. Lucy was screaming in the back seat, fearing we were about to crash. Fred in the front covered his face. FFF********!!!!!!

NOW BE AWARE OF EVERTHING AROUND YOU. Hedge to the left, deer to the right, road clear ahead. It was about to cross in front of us. No time to brake!

RELAX AND AVOID THE DANGER. I waited just a millisecond.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING. Then. at the very split second it crossed in front of us, I turned the wheel to the right. We missed the animal by a hair’s breadth and then I steered the car left, back to my side of the road. It was so close that we could see its white hairy belly, and the breath from its nostrils, as it seemed to fill the whole windscreen.

Waiting for the right moment to move meant that we avoided disaster. The deer was now safely on its way as were we, both parties uninjured.

With my sensei’s teachings ringing in my ear, the morals of this story were clear:

Avoid conflict whenever possible.

Whatever life throws at you, try to stay calm!

    Copyright © 2014 – Cooke the Books

This is just one simple story from a collection of over 80 stories from around the world, just published in a book that I have edited called ‘A Way to Reconcile the World’ that illustrate how people have taken what they learned on the mat to deal with problems they faced in life of it and managed to produce wonderful results.

Some of the stories come from immensely experienced practitioners and some from almost complete beginners, which given what I said at the beginning of this article about the need to practice new skills, is miraculous. I guess the truth is that people found that when they actually practised what they learnt on the mat in real life, that no matter what their level of experience, the ideas were so powerful that even for the beginner they worked.  So if you want to read some inspiring stories, and see some wonderful examples of change coming through practice then ‘A Way to Reconcile the World’ ( might prove a useful text.

For all you business coaches out there, you will find many ideas that are core to your work, and potentially a new way of embedding that knowledge in your clients. Just find an aikido teacher to work with. You can reach me below:-


  1. Quentin Cooke, Chair of Aikido for Daily Life & Director of Aiki Extensions

Clean communication

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014

Yesterday, a friend and colleague reminded me of something that I always advise others to do, thus reinforcing the observation that just ‘cos you know something doesn’t mean that you actually do it!  I had written a business letter about something that had got under my skin.  It had been on my mind for sometime and I had not had the chance to deal with it appropriately.  I had drafted a letter which I’d shared with a few people to check I’d made my points clearly and persuasively, and had had good feedback.  However, my friend spotted something the others missed.  The language I had used whilst clear and powerful was not ‘clean’.  In other words, the phrasing I had used had revealed my underlying feelings of blame and annoyance, and thus was likely to subliminally put the recipient on the defensive.  This is a good way of not getting what you want!  It is going to elicit a pushback rather than “I see your point.”  By using terms like “You will see..” rather than a more impersonal “It can be seen..” I had made it personal, therefore less likely to enable an objective consideration of the facts.

If you say something like “Any idiot can see that ..” you are clearly implying that if they don’t agree with your point of view they must be an idiot.  We tend to let this kind of thing leak into our personal communication, and it usually lands us in trouble, but in business it is definitely a mistake.

I cleaned it up and was very grateful for a timely reminder.  Either say outright what you think and feel and deal with the consequences of that conversation or let the facts speak for themselves.

Good news not only works but is required…

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014

Recently Facebook ‘fessed’ up to to manipulating some 689,000 users emotions in the name of science.  Facebook’s data scientists manipulated the news feeds of 689,003 users, removing either all of the positive posts or all of the negative posts to see how it affected their moods.  They wanted to see what effect the presence or absence of positive news had on people’s moods as registered via their posts and status updates.  Adam Kramer, the lead data scientist, said ““When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.  These results indicate that emotions expressed by others on Facebook influence our own emotions, constituting experimental evidence for massive-scale contagion via social networks.”

I think this confirms something we know intuitively, that people who are in a positive environment feel better, and perform better.  This means that one of the key jobs of a leader is to ensure that his messages are delivered in a positive fashion.  This does not mean ignoring problems or not addressing issues but suggests that the team will learn more and succeed more, if instead of asking “Who c*cked this one up?!”, they asks “What did we learn from that and how can we ensure that we don’t repeat it?”  This isn’t rocket science and I don’t doubt many of you know this, but the question isn’t “Do you know it?”, rather “Do you do it?” 

We all want to be successful and Change is inherently threatening; by communicating in a positive fashion, by not blaming, by focusing on the benefits of the goal to all, the leader can make the journey quicker, slicker and make arrival more assured.


  1. The Guardian