Meet Stephen Henderson…Ruach Music

If you’d asked him a decade ago when he was 13-years-old what he wanted to be when he grew up – he probably wouldn’t have said entrepreneur.

If you’d asked him where he wanted to live when he grew up  – he might have said right here.

That’s the joy of having watched the rise of Ruach Music.

Everything you need to know about him can be found both in the name of his business – Ruach means spirit, wind, breath or air and in his first product, the cajon – a drum, which in his words is

..such simple instrument but you can do so much with it.

And that he has!

His story can be heard here. He covers his journey from building his first cajon at 16 because he couldn’t afford it otherwise, through to customising instruments for other musicians by request.

He launched a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2014 to finance expanding production. Since then products have been added – all of which they manufacturer and export.

There’s now a team of seven – and even better they’re giving back!

In support of being “a brand at the heart of the music industry“, they’ve launched two initiatives.

The Ruach Sessions – supporting musicians in their early days with free videos and the Ruach Roster – the global family of artists they endorse.

In 2014, he was kind enough to present at an event in a series I was co-hosting with young tech entrepreneur, Chris McCabe. Newry Creates was designed to showcase the kind of innovation and regional economic impact that Ruach Music and so many others – have launched in South Down, across Ulster and around the island of Ireland. We can and do turn ideas into livelihoods.

Stephen Henderson inspired then – and continues to inspire now. Beyond telling the world about the latest products, this campaign will support the training of a student and further up-skilling the team in order to continue their commitment to craftsmanship.

So now we’re delighted to share the details of his latest Kickstarter campaign – The World’s First Pocket Guitar Stand.




That which abides… a barometer for love & startups

Coincident to marking a decade in Ireland last November, a colleague introduced me to a startup he’d joined as a co-founder.

Frankly, in spite of my longstanding enthusiasm for all bright and shiny new things – I was far less intrigued and excited – and considerably more cynical than I would have been ten years ago.

Okay, maybe more cautious than cynical.

I’m as committed as ever to building a dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem on Ireland’s border, as well as continuing to drive business and civic leaders to focus on a prosperity process. It’s key to ensuring the gains made in our now decades’ long – and Brexit-challenged – peace process.

That said – economic dynamism – like finding true love – requires kissing a lot of proverbial frogs. The failures are as important – if not more educational – than the successes.

Nevertheless, with considerably less of my three-score-and-ten remaining- I now apply the same criteria to investing my time in a startup as I do in relationships.

    1. Is its mission, structure and philosophy congruent with my authentic self?
    2. Does it support my commitment to gradual development and steady progress in work and life by simply maintaining momentum and focus? (In spite of my distractability!)
    3. Opportunities and possibilities are great, but is this one appropriate for me now?
    4. Nature requires beginnings and endings – will the abiding memory of having invested my time and energy be a good one?

It’s a lot to ask of a fledgeling relationship – and I agree – it’s a ridiculously high bar to expect a software platform to meet.

And yet –  I’ve found one that does. Meet Bizmerang!

Mission, structure and philosophy –

Empowering Change best describes not just my practice, but my way of being in the world. It has always been grounded in gathering tribes. I believe that we come into the best version of ourselves when we are surrounded by those who share our values and a commitment to serve each other.

First I gathered a family of choice when my family of origin dispersed. The next included my partners and peers in recovery and others came of the faith, business and civic groups I have built and rebuilt in a lifetime of too many relocations.

Bizmerang’s tag line is “Help Each Other Grow”. It’s move from a Facebook Group to this platform is grounded in wanting to improve the depth and quality of the relationships nearly 3000 people have already established – so we’re definitely on the same page!

Gradual development and steady progress to maintain momentum and focus –

The platform’s Circles exist as wholly autonomous groups, “Hosts” create communities of their own design, in an environment under each host’s control. Bizmerang is free of the noise, distractions and advertising otherwise present on platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn. It’s my guarantee that setting the group’s dynamic and pace is of my own doing.

An added advantage is that it has encouraged me to reconnect with both the people I have fallen out of touch with – and some of the networking groups and Chambers I no longer interact with frequently enough. Renewed relationships keep the focus of my work in Northern Ireland, the Republic and abroad – in balance

Is now the best time – and is this the best place?

Empowering Change – Personally, Professionally and Civically – requires both a seasonal restructuring of my program times and vigilance when it comes to not losing myself in the work of my practice when what I really need is a more consistent focus on the business.

A single platform that allows me to deliver content, genuinely communicate with and not broadcast-to followers – while encouraging them to interact with each other, would have been enough.

The addition of features that allow me to offer courses, as well as create, promote and manage events – both online and in person, would have been enough.

The opportunity to experience a launch and learning curve in this Northern Ireland tribe of fellow “Bizmerang-ers” who have been generously sharing wisdom, experience and referrals since January 2017 – puts us all at an advantage!

Will will the abiding memory of having invested this time and energy be a good one?

Well, the Bizmerang project has three things going for it here:

  • As a Host of two Circles – Catalysing Connections and Ulster Connections – I’ve had occasion to revisit projects and relationships begun between 2009 and 2011 – which felt like they’d been left unfinished. I’m already thrilled to see a framework forming on those foundations
  • In launching the Circles, I’ve had the pleasure of introducing old friends and colleagues – as well as newer acquaintances with whom I’ve not yet worked. With each invitation and introduction, I’ve been able to express my gratitude directly for the many kindnesses shown me – and pay a few forward.
  • While preparing content for posts, articles and courses to upload – I’ve had quite a stroll down memory lane. It’s humbling to know that not a single effort, false start or amateurish attempt at building a network has gone to waste.

So that’s a resounding yes!

Beyond being confident that the time and energy invested has been well rewarded already – it’s been a joy to awaken enthusiastically. Not a single task has felt like work – it has just flowed.

Care to join the adventure?  Complete the form at the right – and I’ll send an invitation!

And while you’re at it – reach out and congratulate co-founders Shane McCann and Guy Bucknall who connected via the Co-Founders Programme at Catalyst.

It’s also my not-too-subtle reminder that networks are great – but it all begins with #ShowingUp!




Coffee Klatches, Consciousness-Raising & Water Coolers…

So what do they have in common? They remind us that there really is “nothing new under the sun”.

And the sentiment itself is ancient – Ecclesiastes 1:9 – written nearly a thousand years BCE.

“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”

Coffee klatches, consciousness-raising groups and water coolers were among the favoured gathering places in my lifetime. Humans are social animals, we thrive in community and whither in isolation.

And conversations drive change- whether it’s personal, professional or civic.

The gatherings haven’t changed much – but they have reflected changing times.

In my 1950s and ’60s childhood, there was the ‘Coffee Klatch“. Women gathered around kitchen tables with a comfortable camaraderie that helped them overcome the isolation of suburban lives. And while klatch literally translates into gossip, it was more than that. Problems were solved, wisdom was shared and comfort provided.

And lest you think that the amity of “kitchen table’ gatherings was the sole purview of women, ‘kitchen cabinet‘ was used to describe the informal group advising an American president a century earlier.

In the ’70s, coffee klatches evolved into living room gatherings – and consciousness-raising groups emerged. Those conversations made way for the second wave of feminism.

In the ’80s and ’90s, industrial psychologists described the “water-cooler effect” as though realising the benefits of engaging with colleagues and coworkers was a new phenomenon. By the early 2000s formalising this type of employee engagement was seen as beneficial – and cutting-edge.

Yet an 1850 Melville novel about life on a warship described a place where informal communication and rumour abounded. The “scuttle-butt” was the site of the freshwater pump and casks of ale where sailors of every rank would gather.

The 21st Century gathering places have changed. We’re spoiled for choice. Coffee shops abound along with coworking and other ‘3rd spaces’. The kitchens are gone – but the tables and the intimacy remain.

Our challenge is to imagine a new way of gathering. We’ve toyed with networks and platforms that serve the commercial interests of others. Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter etc – are great for connecting. But they fail when it comes to relationship building.

So what is next?

Well – watch this space – and if you’re interested in joining a dynamic community of changemakers at the next level of cutting-edge – get in touch!

 

 




Communication, Confusion & Irish-isms

The author, a fellow blow-in, and I have often discussed the challenges of understanding and being understood – even though before my arrival from America and his from England via Israel – we’d thought of English as our first language.

Lest you think we exaggerate – I refer you to this “So You’ve Got an Irish Passport Because of Brexit…” article.  My favourite observation by author, comic and playwright Mary Bourke is-

If you ask an Irish person to do something and they reply, “I will, yeah” with a downward inflection this is their polite way of saying “No”. Irish people never say what they mean because we always need a latex membrane of euphemism between us and the truth. This isn’t lying; it’s called being charming.

IRISH-ISMS

Many Irish people share a powerful belief that they are the world’s best communicators. While foreign visitors are encouraged to kiss the legendary Blarney Stone in Blarney Castle if they wish to become more eloquent, the Irish are reputed to have a natural way with words and a natural gift of the gab.

But do they?

As a veteran 20-year blow-in, I have noticed a distinct gap between what many Irish people say, what they really mean, and what the listener interprets.

For example,

  • if you are told that you are “brutally efficient,” you are not being given a compliment. It is being intimated to you that your efficiency is putting others to shame.
  • if you are told that you are very decisive, do not be tempted into believing that you have just been complimented. You are being told that you are too pushy.
  • if you are told in a meeting that you should feel free to ask further questions, be careful. The real message is that you shouldn’t ask any annoying or embarrassing questions.
  • if someone giving a presentation asks for honest feedback, your honest opinion is the last thing they want to hear. All they are asking is for you to go easy on them. And
  • if someone describes your presentation as “desperate,” it does not mean that the presenter was in despair. It means that the presenter was rubbish.
  • Be careful when someone tells you “I am a little disappointed.” What they mean is that they are mightily disappointed.

You have to learn to interpret what might sound like encouraging feedback.

“I’m interested in your idea,” “Could you please expand on your idea?” and “The jury is still out on this” all indicate that the other person thinks that your idea is rubbish.

When someone says to you, “I didn’t understand”, don’t make the mistake of believing that they did not understand. You are being told categorically that you don’t understand.

You might be tempted to interpret “Don’t get ahead of yourself” as advice to slow down. In truth, you are being told not to be such a big-head.

If someone is being described as “bold”, the intention is not to praise that person’s bravery. It is to indicate that the person is brazen and cheeky.

And do not be confused when someone asks you, “What’s the story?” or “Anything strange?” All they are asking is “How’s things?

If you are told that something is grand, do not expect anything large to appear. It’s the Irish way of saying that “everything is fine”.

And do not expect a technician to come around to check your gas meter when you hear that someone is a “gas man”. It simply means he is funny.

“Oh, stop!” is not, as it sounds, a request to stop talking or to stop what you are doing. It simple means “Don’t go there”.

If a person is described as thick, it is not their physical girth but their (lack of) mental faculties that are being described.

And if you hear someone being described as giving out, do not wait around to receive a free lunch or a free anything else. It means that the person likes to complain.

A person who is described as being on the pig’s back is not participating in a strange race, and a person sucking diesel is not really indulging in this dangerous pastime. Both expressions mean that a person is doing very well.

My examples so far involve possible misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

But there are also plenty of Irish-isms where the visitor has no inkling of what the other person is saying.

It is quite a stretch of the imagination to realise that an eejit is an idiot, that the jacks means the bathroom, that banjaxed means ruined and that ‘a cute hoor‘ is ‘a chancer‘ or someone Americans would say was “unqualified” or “pushing his luck

My favourite impenetrable Irishism has to do with compliments.

Most people in Ireland do not know how to take a compliment. It makes them uncomfortable. Often the body language that follows is to actually push it away.

If you compliment a woman on the dress she is wearing, the stock response you are likely to receive is, “I got it at Penny’s.”

Instead of simply saying thank you.

The wearer will ward off the compliment by claiming that the garment was purchased at discount clothes retailer Penny’s.

What follows is comical – if not sad: A newcomer to Ireland, and to English – anxious to sound like the locals, was told that her hair looked nice. She answered, proudly primping the new do and responded: “Penny’s”.

In addition to authoring business books and articles- Yanky is available for training – for both corporates and individuals new to Ireland in both our nuanced language and our comfort and facility with “Constructive Ambiguity”.

Yanky Fachler is a copywriter, author, corporate trainer. He has written literally millions of words for his clients, thousands of blog posts, ads and articles. He has authored and ghostwritten dozens of books; 200 business book reviews, speeches, articles and newsletters. His way with words also extends to the spoken word: he has made dozens of appearances on TV and radio; he gives motivational talks and keynote speeches; he delivers communications skills training, and he has given over 100 history talks. Yanky’s speaking engagements outside Ireland have taken him to the USA, UK, Poland, Canada, Israel and the Czech Republic. Yanky brings oodles of imagination and his own brand of infectious enthusiasm to everything he does.




Nothing changes until we do!

In a recent LinkedIn article, Ready for a Change? – I made the case for choosing change. On one level it’s selfish – I work with people and small businesses when they’re ready for a change.

On another level it’s in service to those clients, neighbours and friends who require change in their wider worlds. More on that later.

Navigating change, personally, professionally or systemically, requires safe spaces.

So whether that involves creating a safe space personally – by throwing off old habits, distancing yourself from the crazy-makers in your life or quieting your undermining self-talk (all three?) – the work begins when we make up our minds that the pain of changing outweighs the pain of staying stuck.

Or more eloquently – as pictured, it’s time to blossom.

Change in our work lives is no different, although creating this safe place is somewhat more fraught. It requires us to bring equal parts of self-confidence and humility to the process.

Unsafe at work may look like

  • the boss is mad
  • the workplace is intimidating
  • I’m a payday away from disaster

Let’s accept that every situation is “out of our control” and all we can control is our reaction to it.

What if we agree that-

  • the boss is mad! We might ask ourselves: Am I bringing my best self to each encounter? Am I consciously or unconsciously pushing his/her buttons? Have I even asked what they might be?
  • the workplace is intimidating! Does my demeanour (fear, lack of confidence, reticence) inadvertently contribute to the dynamic? What changes in my response might change my experience of it?
  •  am a payday away from disaster! How can I manage money more mindfully, get out of debt and expand my options?

What’s going on here is a kind of archeology. Or as it’s called in 12 step rooms – taking a searching and fearless inventory. We’re not judging or chastising, we’re observing our patterns. Not for anyone else’s purposes – just our own.

Because-

  • Every insight is power
  • Every repaired or rejected relationship emboldens us
  • Every safe place we create empowers us

Empowers us personally, professionally and should we choose to widen that sphere of influence – civically.

Back to what I meant by service.

Typically my clients (and often I) am stressed by failures in systems meant to support.

  • Caregivers waste time, energy and resources navigating the social service and health care delivery systems. Should it require a whole day off to take you ageing mother or child to the doctor, or for a scan? Should you have to go on a day that suits the health service or on an appointment day of your choosing?
  • Healthcare professionals are faced with uprooting themselves and their families while retraining or emigrating because working conditions have become too stressful, chaotic and in many cases dangerous.
  • Financial institutions insistent that they “owe no duty of care” to their clients – exacerbate homeowners attempts to renegotiate indebtedness – causing unimaginable pressures on families.
  • A culture of silence renders workplaces and schools inherently unsafe. Our default to, “sure you can’t change that”, “it’s always been that way” – allows for bullying, sexual harassment and exploitation.

Collectively more confident, we would be willing to speak out against systemic ills – without worrying about being labelled bold or cheeky.

Choose change, find your voice and take care to create safe spaces for yourself. Ask for help if you need to – just don’t go it alone!

Finding our voices simply means we willing to tell the truth. For more on what that would look like, I’ve profiled some ordinary citizen-activists doing just that in a blog post On Echoing Irish Voices Congruent with Irish Values.

The systemic abuses I was addressing were unique to the Republic of Ireland. The call to action is equally relevant to my Northern Irish, British and American colleagues where we face different, but equally concerning failures of leadership and governance.

Change is hard, #DontGoItAlone.

If supportive peer groups, workshops to help you gain clarity personally or professionally – learn more.

If you are passionate about driving civic and political change in service of the common good – get in touch.

 




A Collage, A Vision Board & Action…

“It works if you work it”

Simple tried and true – it’s an adage heard often in 12 Step fellowships.

So what is a “Vision Board”? It’s a tool for creating authentic outcomes in our own, ideal life. And yes, they work.

This Huffington Post article got my attention in early 2015: “The Reason Vision Boards Work and How to Make One“.

The term “Vision Board” was new to me. Somehow I’d missed the years of evangelising by Oprah, Ellen DeGeneres, and other celebrities – and I was skeptical.

Yet, I knew they worked, I’d actually been doing them for years.

It Works…

Twenty five years ago, I discovered the book and 12 week The Artist’s Way program.

This was long before ‘vision boards’ existed.

There was a “collage” assigned during Week 7, and it opened the door to a career change and more lucrative work; five years later a second collage inspired a major shift personally. Fifteen years ago, another collage catalysed a move from America to Ireland. 

Twice yearly now, I usher Artist’s Way groups through the process of making their own – and often, I join them.

Updating the images provides an insight into the effectiveness of your efforts. It’s like the infernal voice emanating from a GPS after a wrong turn: “Recalculating“. It’s a call to action. Re-route and get focused on the path of your own choosing.

Clarity about and a focus on your destination, keeps the chaos, distractions and busy-ness of life at bay.

From Seeing is Believing: the power of visualisation:

There’s ample science to support the fact that “Mental practice can get you closer to where you want to be in life, and it can prepare you for success!”

If you work it…

Doing a collage or a vision board just didn’t seem like work, so I was skeptical.

And thankfully it’s not! But occasionally, we need reminding: work isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

Work is our linear, thinking, logical brain, in action. And our logical brain is our “censor”. In the “Basic Tools” of The Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises: “Logic brain was and is our survival brain. It works on known principles. Anything unknown is perceived as wrong and possibly dangerous…the brain we usually listen to, especially when we are telling ourselves to be sensible.”

Creativity resides in our “Artist Brain”. It’s our inventor, it’s childlike curious and apt to take chances – collecting images, being present to possibilities while silencing the “censor” is what’s unleashed while we’re creating the boards.

To quote Stephan Spencer’s article –  Vision Boards, Because New Year’s Resolutions Were So Last Year

“Vision boards help make all of the jumbled, abstract feelings in your head into a foreseeable future. If you’re skeptical about making a vision board yourself, ask what you really have to lose by trying it. Not really much. But perhaps it makes you more in tune to the repercussions of your choices and how they align with getting what you want.”

Images are powerful. This photo taken by Riley Robinson  during a 2005 course we attended in Ireland became my screen saver . Three years later I was living in that very village.

Action

Aligning our intention with our values, staying tuned in to the repercussions of our choices, and focus, is what ultimately determines whether we can sustain the changes we “think” we want to make. Let’s get back to that Logical Brain and the Artist Brain. Creating the vision, imagining what is unknown – requires turning off the logical brain and tuning in to the associative and freewheeling nature of our ‘Artist Brain’.

Keep the vision board up – and return to it’s message frequently, because –

“It’s like selling our own ideas to ourselves.”*

Now you have to close the sale. And I advocate doing that with support.

To that end I’ll be delivering a series of Vision Board Workshops. in 2018. They’ll provide a full day immersive experience during which you can achieve clarity in the company of like minded people. Groups challenge each other. On the day, you’ll find you dig deeper and are supported. Later, should you find your enthusiasm is waning, your peers are there to reflect back the best of what they’ve heard you commit to.

A goal is a dream with a deadline- let’s get dreaming!

The next workshop is on Saturday, 12. January 2019. Interested in laying a foundation for your best future? Click the link or leave your details to the right.

*Lucinda Cross




Embracing Uncertainty, the space in-between

OptimistAdjustSailsNavigating the space in between what was, what is, and what will be, can be daunting.

Yet, in those days, weeks, months or years, we conceive and create our future.

“Choose to live in the present moment” is fine advice. Living mindfully, embracing self-care and a sense of prosperity requires skill building and support. But where to begin?

Might I suggest that we take a lesson from the business world. Just for a moment, let’s not think in terms of a therapeutic or spiritual journey. Consider it a “personal change-management” program.

“The Quest for Resilience” (Hamel & Välikangas), got my attention a few years back. Originally published in the Harvard Business Review (2003), the paragraph headed, “Zero Trauma” was captivating. This followed:

“The quest for resilience can’t start with an inventory of best practices. Today’s best practices are manifestly inadequate. Instead, it must begin with an aspiration: zero trauma. The goal is a strategy that is forever morphing, forever conforming itself to emerging opportunities and incipient trends. The goal is an organization that is constantly making its future rather than defending its past… In a truly resilient organization, there is plenty of excitement, but there is no trauma.”

Now try re-reading it. Substitute “individual” for “organization”.

The human condition is unlikely to allow for “no trauma”, but when one frames this process as the “avoidance of pain”, we’re returned to the discipline of living one day at a time, mindfully and to its fullest.

The article continues:

“Sound impossible? A few decades ago, many would have laughed at the notion of “zero defects.” If you were driving a Ford Pinto or a Chevy Vega, or making those sorry automobiles, the very term would have sounded absurd. But today we live in a world where Six Sigma, 3.4 defects per million, is widely viewed as an achievable goal. So why shouldn’t we commit ourselves to zero trauma?” 

6sigmaPyramidAnd in the business world  the SixSigma process is the gold standard.

What would a “Personal Six Sigma” process look like? Pretty much the same.

Existing interventions and methodologies such as 12-Step Programs, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and self-help programs all employ similar methods.

Which makes a powerful case for skill building in support of well being. Particularly when taken out of the realm of pathology and treatment, while delivered as fitness training and education. To begin –

Define the problem

Consciously or unconsciously we have all adopted rituals and habits in our daily lives that either support or undermine well being.

  • Perhaps there isn’t a problem that is easily named, just a sense of wanting more, a feeling that we’re not “firing on all pistons”.
  • Perhaps we are struggling with a weight problem, issues around drink, gambling or drugs.
  • Perhaps we are in transitional relationship, work or academic situation or a life stage.

Measure

As you map your current processes, ask yourself:

How are you sleeping?

How stressful is everyday life?

Are you living within your means?

Are you satisfied with your career?

Are you passionate about your work or your hobbies?

When was the last time you found yourself “the zone” – entirely immersed in an experience?

Analyse

Choose to identify the cause of the problem. Don’t go it alone!No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it. copy

Ask for help. Join a group, find a coach, a trainer, a therapist or consult your GP – because analysis requires perspective.

Going it alone means you’re working with an often undermining ‘committee in your head‘ .  It repeats and reinforces your doubts and your negative self-talk.

To quote the linked article:

“Like any healthy organizational board, you should consider a term limit and invite new members to the committee.”

Asking for help is not about diagnosing a problem. It is simply about defining and isolating causes and effects.

Begin by asking yourself: What pain am I self-medicating when I’m over (or under) eating, sleeping, exercising, drinking, drugging, spending, etc.?

Improve

Implement and verify the solution in a supportive environment. One process at a time. This does not involve grandiose schemes or major life changes.  Isolate a single sentiment – “I’m miserable, I’m going to quit my job, leave my marriage, or move or whatever”.

Then isolate a small, simple, discrete change. It will make a difference. Choose one – or suggest another.

            • I’ll take to my bed at 9pm with a good book, leave the phone and tablet in the next room and get more rest.
            • I’ll reduce my caffeine, alcohol, drug, and or sugar intake.
            • I’ll monitor, chart or list my eating, drinking, gambling or spending.
            • I’ll keep a mood chart and note my periods of irritability, exhaustion, high energy, sadness or lethargy.
            • I’ll walk for 20 minutes three times a week.

Control

If an intervention or changed behaviour works, map it out, monitor it, make it a habit, and embrace a new ritual.
1

Then start again. You’re training for resilience.

Nothing succeeds like success with each incremental change you’ll be energised.

That’s it, simple but not easy, and achievable.

If Personal Change Management seems like a good approach, get in touch.

Introductory sessions, six and twelve week groups are forming to help you navigate the process.




Personal Change Management; the tools

A post entitled, Embracing Uncertainty, suggested an alternative description of the practices often recommended to support resilience.

It has become clear that the language helping professionals use, is often one of the most significant obstacles to supporting significant life and career change.

So, if you’ve embraced mindfulness, a daily meditation practice or have already found your way into a supportive recovery community – this post is not for you.

If you’ve explored mindfulness, worked with a trainer, have made multiple attempts to adopted a healthier and more balanced lifestyle, yet find it is difficult or impossible to maintain – this post is for you.

If you’re struggling with periods of malaise, outright depression, anxiety or physical symptoms which might be stress related, or if you have a sense that your work/home life could be better – this post is for you.

And if you’re living well, but have a niggling feeling that something is missing – keep reading. It can’t hurt.

Personal Change Management

Change management has been formally studied and implemented in business and industry for over half a century. In the early days it was characterised by a top-down exercise in defining goals and strategies; in recent decades the focus has moved toward ‘stakeholder-driven’ change.

This shift is important to note. Industry has determined that sustainable change and innovation follows bottom-up management by individuals, team leaders and ‘change champions’.

Boss yelling imageOur personal top-down change management system appears to need updating as well. New Year’s Resolutions are a great example:

  • I’m going on a diet
  • I’m looking for a new job
  • I’m training for a marathon

Good in theory, but arguably top-down. There’s a ring of “the boss says I should” to it.

Personal Change Champion

What would bottom-up personal goal setting look like? How different would it be when you, the ‘stakeholder’, is in charge?

  • Would you decide to diet, or would ask yourself what pain you are medicating by overeating or not exercising?
    Ask
    : What feelings are you shovelling down or numbing with sugar, carbs, drink or drugs?
  • Should you get a new job, or could you confront the stressors at this one?
    Ask: Are you bored? Is it the right field for you? Do you ask for what you need? Do you bring your best self to the workplace – or simply punch a clock?
  • Planning to train for your first or fifth marathon?
    Ask: Are you doing it to benefit from the exercise, discipline and camaraderie – or are you running away from something or for the sense of accomplishment? “Accomplishing” seems more like work than self-care.

Setting achievable goals and ultimately moving from knowing what you don’t want to what you do want, begins with more than a few tough questions.

It requires us to fine tune or re-calibrate our ‘receivers’.  Specific obstacles that have undermined us in the past, become apparent when we learn to listen in a whole new way.

Fine Tuning Receivers

Bandwidth. It’s a perfect metaphor for our attention span and focus. It’s not limitless. Which station are you tuned into? Favourite programme on 88.5? you can hear it on 88.6 or 88.4 – but through some static. In re-calibrating our receivers, it’s the static we’re out to eliminate; the noise characterised by that judging voice and negative self-talk that reinforces the message: why bother?

step.staircaseThe Method

Take one small action every day on your own behalf. The tools outlined below are designed to be adopted into your daily life and routine.

The process is fundamentally the same as the  “DMAIC” model used for Change Management in industry – Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve and Control.

If you’re in “I’ll do it myself” mode, we’re inviting you to embrace one small change at a time!

The Tools

These are modified slightly from their source for introductory purposes, links to the original work follow.

Morning Pages

The best case I can make for adopting this practice is laid out in journalist Oliver Burkeman’s 2014 Guardian article.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised at how powerful Morning Pages proved, from day one, at calming anxieties, producing insights and resolving dilemmas. After all, the psychological benefits of externalising thoughts via journalling are well-established. And that bleary-eyed morning time has been shown to be associated with more creative thinking: with the brain’s inhibitory processes still weak, “A-ha!” moments come more readily.

Julia Cameron, who devised the practice, calls it “meditation for Westerners”. Absent our habit of embracing stillness or silence, three pages written in those early moments of wakefulness between dreams and consciousness, we can achieve the same effect. In her words –

“They are a trail that we follow into our own interior…”

After nearly two decades of doing them, I can attest that the days I write them go far better than the days I do not.

Simply put they are three hand written pages of whatever comes to mind – think of it as a stream of un-consciousness. Some mornings they flow, other mornings they look like a petty list of gripes, a to-do list for the day or a silly unreadable scrawl. They are meant to be private and not shared. They are rarely even re-read.

There is no wrong way to do them. Put your inner critic to the side, take pen to paper and focus on the fact that “done is better than perfect”. Perhaps you can consider them “mourning pages” –

“…a farewell to life as you knew it, and an introduction to life as it’s going to be”

Still skeptical? For more in the author’s own words you can listen to a brief description on her site .

It may just be simpler to try it!

Walking

Introduced in Cameron’s subsequent books, with this tool, she reminds us that

“…walking is a time-honoured spiritual tradition. Native Americans walk on vision quests, Aborigines go on walkabouts…Walking brings a welcome sense of connection…optimism and ….a sense of health and well-being.”

Make it a point to take a walk of at least 20 minutes, twice a week.

“Walking is a luxury, an escape from our frantic pace. When we walk, we experience the richness of the world”.

Time Out

Relax. It’s doable – it’s only five minutes!

Once in the morning and once at night – sit quietly for five minutes. Check in with yourself. It’s an opportunity “for self-appraisal and self-approval”.

Set a timer, make an appointment, silence your inner critic and listen. Simply ask yourself, “How am I feeling and why?”

Play DateCoasteeringPlay

Yes, I know Cameron calls it an “Artist Date“, but it is the single most resisted tool, usually while clients are emphatically insisting they are not “artists”. We’re taking liberty in describing it, as even Cameron calls it “assigned play”.

And to make the case for calling it a “Play Date”, consider this:

“What you begin to see when there’s major play deprivation in an otherwise competent adult is that they’re not much fun to be around,” he says. “You begin to see that the perseverance and joy in work is lessened and that life is much more laborious.”

That from Dr. Stuart Brown, founder of the U.S. based National Institute for Play.

Once a week, imagine “what sounds like fun?” – then allow yourself some time alone to try it. Focus on the word “date”.
Cameron’s genius is never subtle – she is inviting you to “woo” yourself into doing something fun.

“Artist Dates fire up the imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play.”

And they need not be adventurous – a hour or two at a gallery, take in a film or a play, head off to an antique show, gaming convention or go berry picking. Just a few hours away, on our own and without a phone or technology is good for re-charging.

Techniques

The process is simple, but not necessarily easy. So choose one of the tools above and try it. If it serves you well, make a habit of it and add another. If you are struggling with one, add a different one and come back to it. And don’t go it alone!

The method, tools and techniques described are outlined in a series of books on creativity, resilience, perseverance, writing, abundance, money and starting over. Published over the last 3 decades and grounded in Julia Cameron’s own recovery, the techniques have evolved over the years, been embraced by millions worldwide and reflect much of the mindfulness based interventions for emotional well being.

You can find all of them from her first, The Artist’s Way to her most recent It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again online and in most bookshops.

Her intention was that small groups would come together into “creative clusters” and work through one chapter a week for 12 weeks at a time. There is information available on forming a cluster, joining a facilitated group, or individual coaching here.

For inspiration you can follow the hashtags #morningpages #artistdate on Twitter.

Thank you to our friends at CoasteeringNI and Firewalking Ireland for challenging us to play and push outside our comfort zone.




Tangible Leadership

  Where we’ve been and where we’re going!

challenge-1024x576

In 2009, David Allen Ibsen
published, “Leading your way out of the recession”.

It was a recipe for what it would take to survive the global economic crisis.

The ingredients included:

• Self Confidence
• A clearly articulated and broad vision
• A willingness to be flexible
• The skill to act upon intuition
• A talent in mobilizing resources (the right type, at the right time)

The skill to act upon intuition” was evident here in Ireland when, in January 2009, Raymond Sexton convened what he imagined would be a “one-off” session to bring a group of colleagues together. The meeting was designed to kick off the New Year and attend to:

• the move from despondency to a sense urgency and passion which would lead to focused actions, individually and collectively
• rediscovering the basic elements of success, in his view- Time, Treasure and Talent
• providing each other with needed inspiration, encouragement, and support
• curating a body of knowledge which would provide participants access to mentorship, connections and empathetic financial resources

The enthusiasm generated that day resulted in a call to “do this again”. In April, they convened Limerick. An ancient city and home of Shannon Development, created by some of the most forward thinking and action oriented change-makers in Ireland. Their initiatives from the 1960s forward have made Ireland the commercial gateway to Europe it is today.

In the three months between those the Howth & Limerick meetings, attendees at the first had launched nearly a dozen positive initiatives. Clearly, Tangible energy was catalysing change.

The momentum generated in Limerick drove the initiative forward to New York City in May. Scheduled on the morning of the annual Ireland Funds Gala, it was enthusiastically received. A July seminar followed in Sutton, Co Dublin and the leadership series was born.

As the series enters its ninth year, with over 60 seminars behind us, it includes 7 annual sessions in Ireland. Thanks to the enthusiasts, ambassadors and conveners we have met along the way, the global outreach now extends from New York to Sydney, and London to San Francisco.

We’ve proven that resilience is born, as the Irish proverb puts it, Ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine, “In the shadow of each other, the people live”.

You are welcome to join us in Oranmore, County Galway on 6. October or in London on 17. November for the remaining #Tangible16 seminars.

In 2017, alongside our “events as usual” we will begin to deliver a structured programme designed to offer continuing professional development.

Next year’s events begin as we “Bring it On” in Howth, Tangible’s 65th event in it’s ninth “new year”!

Oranmore, County Galway

Oranmore, County Galway

 




Why Write? “…it is human nature to write”

So says Julia Cameron in her introduction to The Right to Write.

We should write because it is human nature to write. Writing claims our world. It makes us directly and specifically our own. We should write because humans are spiritual beings and writing is a powerful form of prayer and mediation, connecting us both to our own insights and to a higher and deeper level of inner guidance as well.

Cameron’s best know tome is The Artist’s Way and it is regularly referenced in lists on the best books on writing. “Show up at the page” is the message – both in pursuit of your art and in the discipline of the “morning pages“. She uses the habit of three long hand pages of writing every morning on awakening as a means to clear the mind of distractions and anxieties, freeing up space for creativity to flourish.

She concludes her introduction to the Right to Write with:

It is my hope that this book will help to heal writers who are broken, initiate writers who are afraid, and entice writers who are standing at the river’s edge waiting to put a toe in.

I have a fantasy. It’s the pearly gates. St. Peter has out his questionnaire, he asks me the Big Question, “What did you do that we should let you in?”

“I convinced people they should write,” I tell him. The great gates swing open.

I share her fantasy.

Show up at the page. If it’s hard, get in touch!  eve@eveearley.com