Posts Tagged ‘Change’

Vote ‘No Change’

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016

eu flagYou might be surprised that an exponent of change would suggest voting for the status quo, but that is what I’m doing.  It seems to me that what ‘facts’ there are all point to us being better off inside than outside.  Whether we are in or out of Europe, no one is suggesting we can ignore it in the future and if we are trading with a big, powerful organisation, they get to dictate the terms, with no input from us, so our businesses will have to adopt EU standards if we want to sell our goods and services there. 

Britain is a mongrel nation made up of wave after wave of new comers to these shores, from the Romans to the Saxons, to the Danes, to the Normans, the Dutch, the Germans and then all the immigrants from the various colonies.  It seems to me that we have been enriched by these waves of newcomers, and if we examine our DNA most of us have threads from all over the world that makes us who we are. 

Getting out is neither a simple, nor instant nor pain-free process; there is no certainty of what life will be like on the other side of that decision.  We may not particularly like our neighbours, we may enjoy poking fun at them, but we are far better with neighbours than strangers.

You have to change things for the right reasons and not continuing because it is hard work, or occasionally frustrating is like bailing on your marriage the first time you have a row.  You work it out together, talk, listen and compromise and make a better future using each others strengths.  I think most of us agree that co-operation, communication and peace are better than their alternatives.

I think we should stay…

Silence your inner critic

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

If you are human, you usually have a small voice in your head telling you that you aren’t good enough.  Sometimes it is identifiable as the voice of a particular parent, teacher or coach.  Even if that isn’t quite you, then you probably have uttered phrases like “That always happens to me!” or “I’m never lucky..” 

However, there is a way to help deal with this kind of undermining.  Ask your self the 3 P’s:-

  1. Permanence: How long will this last?  It may feel like forever, but we know that usually isn’t true.  What is more true “I’m not good enough yet” or “I’ll never be good enough”?
  2. Personal:  Is it part of who you are or just something that happened?  “I’m never ready” or “I wasn’t ready this time?
  3. Pervasiveness: Is it happen everywhere, an unavoidable law of the universe?  “Good guys never win?” or “I didn’t win this time

The thing is if these are universal laws like gravity, or happening to everyone like the weather we don’t have to take any responsibility and there is nothing we can do to change them.  However, if this isn’t the case, then maybe we can dare to hope for something better tomorrow and more importantly, do something to make that more likely.  The key is believing that we can be better and investing in that idea.

Fitness trackers and positive, personal change

Thursday, June 25th, 2015

Regular readers will know that I have been experimenting with the use of a fitness tracker for the last few months, and finding them quite useful.  I came across an article which looks at why they work, or rather what they need from us in order to work.  The thing is that of themselves, they do nothing but measure; what they are counting on is that we will do something with that data… like change!  There is an old saying in Change Management “You get what you measure”.

So here we have the intersection of two elements, change and technology.  In order to work, they look to help us change our life styles and get more active.  Professor Andrew Lane, a sports psychologist at the Centre for Health and Human Performance says that habits are, “A learned behaviour or thought that occurs automatically.” On a neuro-scientific level, “the pathway for habitual movement involves consistent messages, these messages are strong enough to stimulate action.”

The process of forming new habits is extremely complex, but Duhigg writes that generally there’s a three step loop when it comes to forming a habit, “A cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode; a routine, which can be physical or mental or emotional; and a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular loop is worth remembering.”  In other words, the more a synapse in the brain is used, the stronger and more automatically we can use it, so that we don’t have to think, we just react.  The manufacturers of these trackers are aware of this and support their hardware with software that encourages us to act.  They send encouraging little messages, give tips, make it easy for us to compete against our friends or ourselves.  It may seem silly… I guess it is only I find that it works and you can’t argue with that. 

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

Have you got a flat battery too?

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

After the longest, coldest, wettest winter in living memory, and having had snow for Easter, today was the first day I have had both dry grass and a little sunshine.  I looked at it and thought I ought to try to give the lawn the first cut of the year.  A perfect opportunity: I was mentally and a physically ready, had nothing more pressing to do and the weather Gods were on my side… Great!

I had had the battery for the mower on charge a few days ago, so it ought to start shouldn’t it?  I sat on it and turn the key and was greeted with …silence.  The mower had a mind of its own and it wasn’t firing just because I was ready!  It was a  frustrating waste of time.  However it put me in mind of lesson, which I’d like to share with you.

It turns out that lawn mowers and your staff have something in common; they don’t start just ‘cos you are ready.  You need to prime and prepare them, to look after them during the periods when you don’t need them to do anything special if you want them to perform for you when you need them to.  In fact, I suspect lawn mowers are a little easier to to get going than staff morale.  They both  need the right conditions to work for you. 

You have to approach them in the right way; explain what you are trying to do and why it is important; and why it is important to them too.  You have to ensure they have to skills and bandwidth to perform and protect them from criticism whilst you get the program moving forward.  Like cutting the lawn, you perhaps won’t find the best way to do it first time round so you need to learn from your experiences and keep making it easier to do the job.  And once the job is done, you need to ensure they are looked after till the next time you need them!

3 years on… the journey continues

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I thought that I’d write this for those who took an interest in our story and those who might be in a similar boat and let you know where we are now, three years after Carys died.  It does seem remarkable that it is three years already.  Life has a habit of keeping on keeping on even if you don’t feel ready for that!  A friend of mine recently lost his wife in similarly tragic circumstances and that made me review my journey too.

The children have moved on with their lives, two have now moved out and started the next phase of their lives as independent ladies, my son has nearly completed a degree.  They are all still feel very raw at their loss.  I’m clear that for them it is something they will never get over but they will get better at dealing with the new shape of their lives.  I have done my best to fill in some little part of the void she left for them but it can never be enough.  Meanwhile I set about rebuilding my life.  I seems to me that one of the key lessons is that you must not let your tragedies define who you are or you will hold on to them rather than moving beyond them.  Things like this are an end of something special but they create space for something new that can also be special and good.  I think that the word rebuilding is very apt because it is a job of work like creating a building and you have to put in the effort if you wish to see the change.  You can bury yourself in something familiar and safe but  that is a recipe for every day being less than before and that isn’t how I choose to live my life.

I think there is also a lesson here.  How do we define ourselves?  Who do I think ME is?  If I define myself as the job of work I do, or as someone’s partner or someone else’s parent, then my identity can always be taken away from me.  I have to find a version of me that has its foundations solely built on who I am. I also have to recognise that I change day by day.  I get a little older each day, my shape changes, as does the colour of my hair, but I’m still me. 

One of the real challenges is how you fill your days and nights.  If you have a regular job then a big part of your day is filled for you, but then you come home to an empty house and an emptier bed.  That is tough.  In many ways I think this filling your time is the toughest challenge.  Some of that time will be spent doing jobs that your partner did, jobs you might feel you don’t have the skills to do or that you don’t feel a man (or a woman) should be doing.  I think again this kind of thinking or labelling really makes moving forward tough.  I found myself having to assume all my wife’s household chores, luckily having lived on my own before we got married I knew how to do most of these.  My mum had a rather different experience when confronted with all the practical, ‘manly’ jobs that my dad always did.  I think it is a case of adapt and survive… or fail to do so and die a little bit every day!

Every Dog has it’s Day

Monday, January 14th, 2013

It appears that Apple’s time as the unchallenged ‘cock of the walk’ is over.  They became the most valuable company ever with a value of $622 billion last year.  People queued for days to pay premium prices for their every new offering, it was a gold mine!  However, although the iPhone 5 still sold well and was acknowledged as “The best iPhone ever”, it was not met with unalloyed praise.  It was felt that they had launched a very safe, conservative phone.  The success of other companies with 7” tablets forced them to go back on Steven Jobs decision never to make one “7-inch tablets are tweeners: too big to compete with a smartphone and too small to compete with the iPad. ….7-Inch tablets are dead on arrival.” [Steve Jobs]  And when they brought the iPad mini to market, although once again it was a product which sold well, critics again criticized them for the low resolution of the screen and it is believed they have a new, more competitive version coming out in the Spring. 

In 2013 Samsung & Google with its Android offerings stole some of Apple’s success.  Samsung sold 30 million of its S3 Galaxy.  Android activations back in July were 1.2 million per day, with 3.7 million over Christmas alone, it is expected that they will reach a billion soon.  It has 80% of the important Chinese market. 

It seems to me no matter how good you are you will hit a phase when others catch-up  and set the pace.  What you do then is very important.  Do you copy them, or hold true to your previous ideas?  Knowing what to change and when to do it is the true mark of business genius.  I can’t offer a golden rule but will say that if you aren’t continually re-evaluating your path and practices then you will be less successful.  Challenge your assumptions, ask daft questions, ask “Why not?” rather than “Why?”  You also know what makes you different and special and if you don’t then perhaps the answer is “Nothing”.  In which case, then you need to decide if you live with this and the risk it represents or if you can create a niche for yourself.

Some things just shouldn’t change!

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

It is really worth taking the time to watch this video.  It is a beautifully edited, wonderfully shot film.  It shows some of the most beautiful places and some incredible people who show just how inventive and indomitable we can be as a species.

I guess that sometimes the latter is a threat to the former but we really do need to preserve this kind of beauty for our children and their children.

Some things are just meant to be and not be changed by man interfering, using or despoiling…







Radical change at the Bank of England

Tuesday, November 27th, 2012

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, yesterday appointed Mark Carey as the new governor of the Bank of England. He was previously the governor the Canadian central bank, but also worked in the private sector for Goldman Sachs.  So he is a man with a serious background in the banking but also an outsider.  He studied economics at Oxford and spent a decade in London, so he has some insight into our ways.  He comes with a relatively unbesmirched record as Canada was least affected by the world banking crisis.  So he represents a new broom, and a fresh set of eyes.  He is someone with no vested interest in the past and only interested in setting Britain’s financial house in order.

Sometimes it is necessary to just cleanse the Augean stable, and whilst one can never truly start over, having no past mistakes to defend can make it much easier to do the right thing.  In my experience, the wisdom often exists in a company to know what needs doing, what is more often lacking is the political will to take that path.

So if you are not in a position to bring a world class outsider to run your business perhaps you should start with a blank sheet of paper, forget all the reasons why you can’t do things and ask some fundamental questions:-

  1. What is it we are trying to achieve?
  2. What are key drivers?
  3. How do we measure success?
  4. What is required to make this equation balance?
  5.      … Then ask “Are we willing to do what it takes?”

The Animals… a different spin on change

Saturday, November 17th, 2012

The other night I happened to discover the Animals… yes the original 1960’s pop band were playing not far away, so I thought it might be interesting to check them out.  I was pretty apprehensive that it would not be the ‘real’ band, I knew that Eric Burden, their singer and frontman, was not with the band.  However, they had the original drummer and one of the keyboard players who joined after Alan Price left in the 60’s.  The audience was made up mainly of people with grey hair and memories of seeing the band on Top of the Pops, back in the day, but they had all arrived prepared to have fun, and there were however a few relative youngsters. 

The band launched into a series of songs including predictable old favourites like ‘We’ve got to get out of this place’ and ending with the ‘House of the rising sun’.  They sounded great and the audience had a great time, singing along with them.  The band enjoyed it and a good time was had by all. 

The interesting thing is, here were a bunch of guys, one of whom had been in the same band for over 50 years, they had done the whole rock and rock thing, and here they were, old to enough to be collecting their pensions doing the same old thing and playing the very same songs.  There are two ways of looking at this.  If you don’t make a change you’ll stay in exactly the same place as you are today (although the world will change around you!)  The other side of that coin is that if you are happy there, then why not?


  1. The Animals.. a potted history