Category Archives: Resources

Facing the facts

Yesterday, inspired by my 14-yr-old, I wrote a post called “Facing the Fear“. Today I caught myself posting on Facebook that I was “making up stories in my head”. Then I remembered this quaint little acronym : “FEAR is False Evidence Appearing Real”. Meditating on that this morning has been helpful and led me to focus instead on facing the FACTS…

Business man afraid of his own shadow monster concept on grungy

We all have our monsters. Some of them exist in the real world and we are right to be scared of them. But many of them are just stories we have made up in our heads.

The Buddha is reported to have said that “all pain and suffering comes from attachment to desire and ego”. This is not to say that when you get burnt, the fire didn’t cause you pain. But to say that much of what causes us distress is our attachment to some story we have made up in our head (some form of “ego”) that we can’t let go of.

To better understand this, let’s take an example : Suppose you have a meeting to go to and on the way, your car breaks down. That little voice might say “Oh no, I’m screwed” or “This is terrible” or “There is nothing I can do about it”.

What is happening? You had a plan and something happened. In this new moment, you have a memory of the past planning you did and things you wanted (to have a meeting) and an idea about what you want to happen in the future (to go to the meeting). Neither of these things now correspond to the current reality (not going) and you get annoyed, stressed, worried etc… It is the separation between reality and story that causes the pain. It is the separation between reality and story that IS the pain.

If you think about this a little, you’ll see that much of what annoys you, stresses you, makes you angry (or even makes you happy!) is not “true” in the traditional sense.

 

So what is this ego? What are these stories? What does all this mean in REALITY and how can we get out of it?

If you want the Buddha’s answer, do the research. If you think you can turn off this “ego”, try meditation (good luck!). And if acceptance is your thing, thats cool too. But a little bit of “cheap psychology” and fact-checking might help too.

 

MANY of the things causing the fear we have are simply not based in reality. A voice in our head is telling us all sorts of things. Most people have a tendency to over-identify with that voice, as it were “me” or “the real me”. Others believe is is just a thing that happens in your body over which you have no control, just like your breathing or your hair-growing.

When this little worrying voice comes up, here’s how it goes: First, there is a thought that comes out of nowhere. You can’t help it, it just happens. Somehow, on autopilot, you compare that (random, uncontrolled) thought with your memories and/or wishes for the future. Then you make conclusions and predictions about “what IS”. This is all normal.

But, in the words of Mr Dylan “It ain’t me babe”. It’s just a thing that happens. A thinking habit. A PIECE of what you DO. But not you, and oftentimes, not true. And to be more philosophical, it’s pretty strange to attach oneself to all this non-existant stuff. The past is gone and the future doesn’t exist yet. In short: Right now is just right now: Stuff is happening, including a little voice in your head. That’s it.

 

So check the facts. Example in case: In today’s economic and health situation, I am (was?) today worrying about the future. I am capable of telling myself “I’ll run out of money” or “No-one can help me” or “This thing could go on forever and I won’t be able to be freelance anymore”. These are normal worries for everyone IMO. But they are not “truth”, in the sense that they are not current reality. They are that little voice thinking about a (thus far) non-existant future and a (gone) preferred past.

This is not to deny that things might turn out as I imagine. And IMO I would be naive to think it will all be all right out of pure optimism. That would be just the same functioning : more stories in my head.

 

So what DAN? What do you want to really say?

Check the FACTS. Anything that isn’t fact NEEDS to be accepted as no more than a story or hypothesis to test or include in risk-analysis. But not more. Not worry, not stress, not fear. If you can already separate for yourself what IS true and what is your own story, you are going in the right direction. Try it..

 

When I see things on social media about what might happen for the Corona virus, it can almost immediately create worry in me (without any effort from the real me :). What do I do? I check belgium.be for the latest facts. Everything else is conjecture, fakenews and fear-mongering.

When I worry about paying bills and wonder if anyone will help me, I check the facts. I heard something about loan repayments being put off. Research… call the bank.

How many times in your life did you worry about something only to find out if didn’t happen? And how many times did you think “Oh, I should have checked that, or thought about that” ? This is hard to do because we get swept away by the worry, the little voice.

There is a lot of stuff in reality today that IS problematic for people. I do NOT deny it and I do NOT suggest ignoring it. I only add that there is also a lot of worry not properly grounded in fact. Go check.

Good luck to all.

 

More from me on this whole “stories” and “perception” thing:

2 of my short stories:

 

…otherwise, I would strongly recommend checking out YouTube videos or books from Alan Watts. I don’t want to start listing all my favourite links to this guy. Just know that he was the first (1950s) and foremost expert on Eastern Philosophy, including Zen Buddhism. If you dig anything I said above, you might like him too.

 

Facing the fear

I will admit it immediately: This post IS inspired by all the Corona mess. But I won’t talk about that any more.

I want to tell you what my 14 year old had to say about being “on hold” and not being sure how to move forward. With the innocence of a child and the natural creativity that goes with it, I think she made a great point : It’s scary to do the things we aren’t used to. And since the older we get, the more get used to, it’s only going to get harder unless something changes. It is time to face up to the fear and dare to do something different. And a change in point-of-view might help …

 

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It all started with cancelled training: Since no-one is in the office, a trainer like me can’t go in and teach about how to pitch an idea, or how to negotiate a deal, or how to manage people. My daughter asked me “Why don’t you do ‘tele-travail’ (working at distance) like everyone else?”

I had a whole load of answers from “Its not the same thing” and “My clients prefer ….” to “I need to be careful with my brand” and “I like to be WITH the people” and, importantly “I’m not sure I want to do that”.

Next daughter question (where does she get this stuff from??) : “Give me one idea of what you DO want to do today” to which I replied that I planned to work on fitness and fix a few things in the house. And then came the magic.. she said “Thats because you know how to do those things and you know what you will get” (!!)

Now, I’m not the guy who tends to, or likes to, think “It’ll never work” but this did strike a chord with me : If I’m truly honest, I have no idea what the future will bring and yes, like many a 42-year old, I may well be getting stuck in my ways. Underneath my “wait and see when this all stops” attitude, there has also been quite a bit of “… and I can’t do anything about it”. I felt silly. I know too much to act like that. (Or maybe I act like that BECAUSE I know too much!)

 

At this point in the story, I was already feeling inspired to get out there and make things happen. “Focus on what you CAN control” and all that. But I didn’t have a chance before she doubled-down and threw her next point into the mix. She said :

“Imagine you were a 25 year old just starting out and you wanted to help people get better at the things you teach. You’d be in THIS reality from the start and you’d be asking yourself ‘How can I set this up?’… So, ask yourself that: ‘How can I set this up?’ ”

What did I get out of all this? What do I really want to say? What is the lesson to be learned ?

 

Our experience and knowledge and “the way things are” puts us in the box. And when the box starts to change form or get broken, it CAN be scary. Looking outside IS hard. Being fresh IS hard. Not KNOWING how things are going to go means trying something new, taking risks, and the possibility of failure. And so its easier to just stick to what you know and hope for the best.

But if you can admit that MAYBE you don’t know everything and MAYBE you have a few assumptions, then MAYBE you can entertain a new point of view, even if only for a moment. It might be scary and it might not work, but there might be a chance for some new results.

 

“I can’t” and the amazing truth about us all

We say “I can’t” all the time: 

“I can’t come to dinner, because it’s my wife’s birthday.”

“I can’t stop smoking. Its too hard.”

“I can’t figure out why I’m so tired. I’m just tired.”

 

But its never true. Every “I can’t” is always an “I don’t want to”: 

“I don’t want to come to dinner because I prioritise my wife’s birthday.”

“I don’t want to have to deal with “too hard” while I quit smoking.”

“I don’t want to figure out why I’m so tired. I’m satisfied with ‘so tired’.”

 

If we can realise that “I can’t” is never an expression of ability, we will be more truthful about what it really expresses: Willingness.

If we can replace “I can’t” with “I don’t want to”, we will be more honest with ourselves and everyone else.

It will be hard, but we will be willing to do “hard”.

 

“Of course,” you will say, “there are limits to this denial of can’t.”

“OK, maybe I don’t want to go to dinner with you, but I can’t play anything on a violin! ”

 

But it’s not true. There are no limits.

If I want to play a violin, I will play a violin. It’s as simple as that. We are all amazing. We are all limitless. And we are all able.

If we want to be.

 

“No, no, that’s enough,” you will say, grasping at straws. “There are still some things I can’t do :

I can’t jump over a tall building without any aid from technology.”

And you will wait for me to say that you could try if you wanted to.

But I won’t. Because that’s not the point and not the truth that gives rise to the point.

 

Yes. There are some limits in physical ability.

I could not go out today and complete an Iron Man faster than anyone ever did.

I can’t jump over a tall building.

 

But that is not a reductio ad absurdum to the real point.

Because the point is not about physical limits and you damn well know it.

When did you ever say “I can’t jump over a tall building” until today ?

You are just looking to argue your way out of hearing the truth about how we all speak all the time.

And the truth about who we really are.

 

The point is about being a lion, not a victim. 

We all have amazing ability.

We all have dreams.

We all have a “real me” hidden behind the bullshitting victim that other “me” is trying so hard to cling on to.

We can all be decisive and take ownership for whatever action we choose to go out and get.

We can all dare to announce to the world the limits we choose to place on ourselves.

And we can all believe in and be willing to be who we really are and do what we really want.

 

Sometimes I don’t want to.

And that’s OK.

 

But I always can.

And that’s the amazing truth about us all.

 

 

A 5-step process for handing-over work to other people

We all have things to do. Some of us have lists and lists of things to do. But that doesn’t mean everything on the list should be done by us, ourselves, alone. Before you take any action, slow down, look at your to-do list, and consider the following process for handing-over work to other people…

 

STEP ONE: Figure out what is for you and what is not… Ask 3 questions

What must I do myself?

  • These are the things that it would be wrong to give to anyone-else. This is your core functional and personal business. You can’t hand-over a personal medical check-up to someone else and you shouldn’t be handing over strategic decision making either.

What could I give to someone else?

  • Strictly speaking, this is everything left over after the first question. But its worth asking again as it gets you thinking about why you could hand it over. Sure, I like the grass to be cut in nice straight lines and sure I enjoy making that report, but I certainly could ask someone else to do these things.

What should I give to someone else?

  • Depending on your vision of work, your answers may vary. If you are the “Tim Ferris type” you might think that everything that could be handed-over should be handed-over. If you are feeling guilty about workload, you might feel that you should be doing it all yourself. This question is about the reasons why handing-over work could be the best thing for you, for others and for the organisation. Of all the things you could hand-over to others, what things should you give away so you can focus on bringing more value to the organisation? What jobs will give someone else the opportunity to grow and bring more value to the organisation?

 

Possibly, as you tried to answer these questions, you were thinking: “But there is no-one else!” and so the answers went as follows: Everything, nothing, not-applicable.

To really use this process, you need to forget all of this during step one and just move forward. Imagine a perfect world where you were surrounded with opportunities to hand-over work. Now go back and answer the questions!

 

STEP TWO: For whatever tasks you have decided should be handed-over to someone else, define the competence required for the job

Now you have listed tasks/jobs that you ought to give to someone else, answer the following 3 questions for each of them:

  • What knowledge is required to do this job?
  • What skills are required to do this job?
  • What attitude is required to do this job?

 

This step is all about defining requirements for the job. There may be other requirements like time, resources, specific environmental requirements… but right now, we are trying to imagine what competence someone would display in doing the job. Don’t worry yet about who does or does not have this knowledge, skill or attitude. Just name it.

 

STEP THREE: Think about the right people for the work

This is usually the point where people say again “But there is no-one!”. And telling you again to “imagine a perfect world” is too much to handle. So let’s get realistic about people with the following 5 questions. Answer them as they appear. Don’t get stuck on asking whether those people want to do the work or not…

  • Of the people who work for you, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of the people in your immediate surroundings, team or department, who could be good for this job and why?
  • Of people in any part of your organisation, who could be good for this and why?
  • Of anyone else you know outside the organisation, who could be good for this and why? (yes, ANYone!)
  • Of anyone anywhere currently unknown (!?) who could be good for this and why?

 

Reading these questions, some people will find them ridiculous. But taking the time to ANSWER them often provides new insight. You might realise that this thing should never have been on your to-do list in the first place. Or that its time to recruit. Or that you have a bigger network than you thought. Or that your lower-level tasks can actually be awesome motivating work for someone else…

 

STEP FOUR: Take care before you take action

If by now you are ready to hand-over work to someone, just take a moment to define the risks associated with that:

  • How could this all go wrong? How likely is it that it will go wrong?
  • What will be the impact of this work not being done well?

 

Be careful with these questions. If you are into controlling everything or worried about letting people down, its very easy at this point to just think: “The risk is too high – I’d better do it myself”. But by now you should have realised that doing everything yourself is not the best solution ..or simply not possible.

 

STEP FIVE: Hand-over the work in the right way

Now it is time to actually give this work to someone else, take one last moment to consider the following 3 questions:

  • When is the right time to hand-over this work?
  • What support do you need to help you get the support you need?
  • How will you communicate the job hand-over?
  • How will you follow up on the work?

 

If you have followed the 5-steps and actually answered all the questions above, you might have realised a few things about yourself, the people you work with or your organisation. You might even be ready to hand-over some work.

 

Good luck!

 

 

The depressed inventor

The depressed inventor hadn’t always been depressed.

For most of his life he had been really happy.

As a little boy, he loved to invent clever ways to fix problems. Once he invented a cat flap to feed the family cat when she came home in the morning. And to get to school more quickly, he invented a really big catapult to throw him from his house to the school yard (although Mummy said “No” to that one).

 

For every problem, he invented a solution.

And that pleased him very much for many years.

 

Until the day he ran out of problems to solve.

At first, he thought it would be a good moment to take a holiday. Surely when he came back, he would find lots of new things to invent?

But when he got home, he still couldn’t find anything to work on.

Until he had an idea: He would invent a problem!

For days and days, he worked very hard at inventing his problem.

No time to eat, no time to sleep. So much work to be done!

 

Finally, he was satisfied: He had a problem to solve!

So he set to work to invent a solution.

No time to eat, no time to sleep. So much work to be done!

He read lots of books and talked to lots of people. He made lots of notes and did lots of sums.

 

But after lots of time, he still hadn’t invented a solution.

And so he started to get sad. And sadder still. And sadder still, under he was completely depressed.

For the first time in his life, he didn’t know what to do.

So he went to bed and slept. And slept. And slept some more.

 

After a few weeks, the doorbell rang.

The depressed inventor dragged himself downstairs.

At the door stood Benny the Baker, who wanted to know why he hadn’t come to buy any bread for so long. And his little girl Jenny, who asked “Why do you look so sad?”

So the depressed inventor explained. He told Jenny how he loved to invent things to fix problems and how he had always worked hard to make everything work just so. When he told her how he had run out of problems, little Jenny started to smile.

As he started to explain how he had invented a problem, little Jenny started to giggle.

And when he said he was sad because he couldn’t invent anything to fix his problem, she just burst into laughter!

The depressed inventor looked at Jenny all seriously and asked: “What’s so funny?”

 

And so little Jenny told him:

“It’s so silly. You can’t fix your problem because you just made it up! And the more you work on it, the worse it gets. But it doesn’t even exist, because you just made it up! Your problem is that you had no problems and made up a problem so now you have a real problem because you can’t solve your problem. But there’s still no problem. It’s so silly!”

 

All at once, the depressed inventor understood.

Little Jenny was right.

And he started to smile again as he remembered he had made up his own problem.

And that’s not really a problem at all !

 

THE END

You can make comics for learning too!

Brian Melvin has filled his room in the last #ATD2015 session (W315)And once again, I cheated. Backdoor. Feel bad for the queue. But I’m here, so let’s go!

According to Melven, we have a choice for presenting information to our people: Words or images. Images work better. But we aren’t all graphic designers, so what do we do?

Follow this process:

  • Get your story and characters straight.
  • Decide what kind of style you want. Today, we are looking at comic styles.
  • Find someone who can draw something. Melven suggested not going to a design agency, but just getting online and finding freelance people or student that can help. It’s really not that expensive to get a character like the one below gin 15 or so poses you can use in your materials) for about $200
  • Script out your story and get that script sign-off BEFOREHAND you go to the drawing board
  • Put a storyboard structure in PPT.. keep it simple, just a few boxes
  • Add some text!


  

Other (book) references that may help you on your visual journey:

Step-by-step guide to making infographics

Having snuck through the back doors I am in the 2nd ATD2015 session to be sold-out (ask me which was the first 🙂 where our speaker Mike Parkinson is here to help us do a good job faced with two simple truths: Most of the information we process and things we do happen intuitively. And visual cues always win.

(My apologies In advance for the lack of visuals in this post … jump to the end if you are impatient!)


A successful graphic is defined as one where the target audience gets the intended message (quickly). If you (or your subject-matter-expert) doesn’t like the graphic, that doesn’t matter. As long as the audience gets it.


To make good info graphics, we need to first have a good conceptual approach to communication: Think of your audience, define your message and then explain or prove your point.


As any presentation skills trainer (hopefully) knows, a good message has to have a blend of benefit and required action. For example: “Define a good message to be sure your audience gets the point.” (See also my little video on: “Creating Strong Messages“)


And that’s why you need to know your audience. Example: I buy a drill because I want to make a hole. But someone else might buy a drill to be sure that he never has to ask his Dad for a tool, because that would show dependence on a parent (!)


If you have your message clear, you need now to answer 2 more questions: “What do you mean?” and “How do I do it?” According to the speaker, these 2 questions are basically always the same. And that’s what we need to put in our infographic: First chunk the information, then assemble it in the right order, then visualise it.


To chunk the information, look at your message (its “what” and “how”) into the smallest possible parts. Then you need to assemble it into to a story. This doesn’t have to be a full story. Just a simple pitch which puts things in the right order. At this point, we haven’t yet visualised anything. We are just trying to get the right things in the right order.

When it comes to visualising your message, we need first to know what “kind” of message we have:

  • Process graphics tell us what has to happen in which ord
  • Graphs and charts tell us how number fit together
  • “Dashboard” images, analogies and metaphors tell us the state of something


OK, now we have our message, which is relevant for our audience. We have chunked it down into parts and made sense of the story. And we know which type of infographic it is.


We just need some images and a little creativity.
..and maybe some of these resources: 


…and now, for that magical moment: My first (prizewinning!) infographic on … wait for it … how to make infographics, made with penultimate (without a pen!) on my iPad in less than 5 minutes following speaker Mike Parkinson’s process.

 Edit 

 

“Who taught the termites civil engineering?” (Sugata Mitra reminds us how we are all wired to learn by themselves)

In a true lesson of what keynote speaking should be, Sugata Mitra has taken the stage at ATD2015 to talk to us about how our world has changed and what this means for education. A funny, charming, entrepreneurial raconteur what he has to say is possibly the most important lesson for people in the world of education. Really.


The history of education

It’s only been a hundred years since we lived without telephones, computers and rapid transport. And that was the world for 100s of 1000s years before. How that world operated defined how we develop people.

Before we lived in today’s technologically enabled world, people needed to obey, repeat and not be creative. They needed to be able to sit still to read and write on paper and they needed to be able to do arithmetic in their heads. They needed to be able to stand still and do the same thing over and over again according to the rules.
In that world, there was a system whose sole job was to produce those people: School. The role of the school was to create this vast empire of conformity, knowledge and industrial repetition by telling people what they needed to know and making sure they did it right.

That world is gone. One day, our grandchildren will ask us “Hey grandpa. What does ‘knowing’ mean?”

How do children really learn today?

Mitra told us about an experiment he ran in an Indian slum in the late 90s: Placing a simple internet-connected computer in a hole-a-wall 3-feet from the ground, he waited to see what happened. 

Children arrived. They asked “What is it?” He replied “I don’t know” and left them to it, giving no support at all.

8 hours later, they had figured it out, were browsing and 8yr-olds were teaching 6yr-olds how to do it.

After more research and observation, Mitra concluded that unsupervised children anywhere in the undeveloped world given access to an Internet enabled computer will, without any training, in 9 months get to the same computer-literacy level as an office secretary in the West.

In short: Children don’t need teachers.

All they need is broadband, collaboration and encouragement!

  
Closing and reflections from a father

There is nothing else I want to say about Mitra’s keynote content right now. Nothing could do it more justice than saying that the answer to the above photo question is a resounding “Yes”.

But as a father of 3 small children, I do feel obliged to say something more. If children can do all this (and they can!) what is a risk if we don’t let them? If we keep telling them the answers, where will they end up? If we keep testing them to standards we have invented for ourselves, how can we expect something new? If we stifle their innate creative drive to figure things out, follow their own path and invent their own answers, where will the joy be? How will they find their passions? How will they innovate?

And sure, if we do keep telling, testing, standardising and stifling, everything will be “safe” and I won’t have to worry about “where they end up”.

But maybe I should just let it go?


See also:

ATD Keynote: Andrea Jung and 5 things leaders must remember today

Day 2 of the ATD2015 ICE is buzzing like 10,000 learning bees as delegates stream into the opening keynote session. Despite rumour that Mickey Mouse will be opening the conference, it’s Tony Bingham that takes the stage to introduce Andrea Jung for her talk. Former CEO of Avon, Jung was named one of the most powerful women in business by Forbes. She is here today to get us thinking about the 5 most important things leaders must remember in today’s global context..

 
 

The first thing Andrea Jung told us was about the importance of vision and values. She says that leaders have to ensure that vision and values are a real global language. Having spent the day yesterday with Jim Smith and Rick Lozano thinking (among other things) about personal mission, I am not so cynical about mission + values statements today. Often, as a employee, we see them as only words on a poster. But Jung believes that if we really mean it and really live it, it can make a real difference. I think it’s all about aligning the right people to the right passions and motivations and it starts at recruitment: Get the people in who really want to live this particular dream. Then help them to do it.

If the vision and values are sorted, then it’s all about influence. Jung says that leaders today are not about power. Cultivating motivation and engagement is key. And for this, you will need the competence of communication.

So, we have vision and values and we are influencing with communication. Now what? According to Jung, there are 2 special ingredients left: Innovation and women. As a board member at Apple, it’s no surprise to hear the word “innovation”, but what is the story with women? 

According to Jung, women are still the great untapped potential. Despite 51% of the population being women, most leaders, lawyers and business people are still men. This needs to change. She does not advocate filling the board room exclusively with women, but she does make a call for change. Considering her last messages about “being nice and kind”, I would say that’s not a bad thing. 

(But that could be a little sexist, right? 🙂 )

Jim Smith on letting go of your fearful boxes

ATD2015. Session SU304 is underway. Jim Smith says it’s not good enough to think out of the box. We need to get out of the box and act out of the box. 

To do that, you need to keep your personal power. You need to be able to be vulnerable enough to be yourself and not cater to the opinion of others.

But it’s not easy: There are many ways that we lose our personal power, from having fear of failure, to wanting to be liked, being overly-critical of ourselves or being perfectionists…

 

  

 

If you (like me) recognise any of these things, what can you do about it?

In short: Let it go. (I knew that was the theme song for ATD2015)

Really, that’s the whole message: Dare to live in the moment, stop worrying and believe in your personal power.

 

Want to see it in action (that sounds arrogant!) ? Here is my improvised mini-presentation from Jim’s session…

 

As I said to Jim later on, I think the key message here is far important than this post gives credit. Probably, I am not the only person with “self-esteem issues”. Lucky is the man who can say he is really in the moment, not caught up in what is “good” or “bad”, what has always worked in the past, or what “should” be done into future. Many of us worry (Are we doing OK? Will it work? Will people approve?). And caught up in the worry (box) we try desperately to keep doing the same things we always did in the hopes of getting the same satisfactory result.

But is “satisfaction” what we want out of life? Or do we want more? Do we want joy and awesomeness? If the answer if “yes” then it can’t be about staying in our boxes and conforming (to our own self-image or that of other side). “Awesomeness” is not a thing you can put in a box, measure, write and run a process for. It’s a “way” and a “being” that has to be felt. You have to trust in it. And that requires a little faith.

 

Let it go.

 

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