For those dogged moments when we just have to get things done

As Once the Winged Energy of Delight

As once the winged energy of delight
carried you over childhood’s dark abysses,
now beyond your own life build the great
arch of unimagined bridges.

Wonders happen if we can succeed
in passing through the harshest danger;
but only in a bright and purely granted
achievement can we realize the wonder.

To work with Things in the indescribable
relationship is not too hard for us;
the pattern grows more intricate and subtle,
and being swept along is not enough.

Take your practiced powers and stretch them out
until they span the chasm between two
contradictions…For the god
wants to know himself in you.

Rainer Maria Rilke

For the god wants to know himself in you

As we approach the end of the year, many of us will be trying desperately to clear our desks so that we can take a few days off to be with our families.

Many of our tasks will be tedious.   And our “to do” lists will be long.

This is the time to take each task “as it is”, one at a time, to do it with pleasure, not thinking about the other tasks, disregarding our fatigue for a moment, and to see the link between our task and our deepest dreams, not in a tortured way, but with the delight of a child.

We need to do the task with a caress and a verve “For the god wants to know himself in you.”

Don’t achieve your goals! Enjoy them. They’ll be gone far too soon!

I Want Rhythm Not A To Do List

When I was young, I loved To Do lists. What a buzz! I would list everything I had to do, set a priority and set about ticking it off!

I loathe To Do Lists now. I threw away my diary years ago when I worked on an MBA programme and the lecture times changed so frequently that my diary looked like a dog’s breakfast!

Now I like a rhythm. I like to sense the time during the week, the month, the day, the year that I should be doing whatever I should be doing!

Rhythmless Britain Where Seasons  Take Us By Surprise

It is difficult to dance through life in Britain. Bills arrive at odd times and are paid at odder times. The tax year begins on the 6 April – why? Who knows. There is no rhythm to anything. People even seem surprised when winter approaches. “It’s cold”, people say. It’s December. What did they expect? I know what I expect.  “Good!  It is cold.  Now I can  .  .  .!”

My Seasons By The Bottle

I want my life to be a dance with my goals. Like these bottles at the Vesuvius Cafe on Canary Wharf in London. 52 bottles laid out in 12 sets, I want to mark the passing of the seasons with the right wine and the right food. I want to celebrate the seasons of life by going to the market to buy food in season and cook it with a sense of adventure.

I want my head around learning to dance with life. I don’t want to spend my time chasing the clock and ticking lists. Lists and clocks lower quality of life as surely as squalid air travel and grubby packaging around supermarket food!

It is not only Luddites who like to savor life

Now believe me, I am no Luddite. Never have been. I like progress. I like thinking up better ways of doing things.

But I want to savor life. I want to have time to listen to people. I want to notice the seasons and enjoy them, not complain about them.

To represent the season of my life, I have a handful of goals

I’m not sure I have the system right, but at any time in our lives, I think it is good to have 3 to 5 ‘goals’. When I was in New Zealand, I had 3.  I had my rather large university course.  I had settling in a new country.  And I had departing from an old country. That’s enough! What didn’t fit into those three folders had to be put aside.

Now I have five ‘goals’ ~ I wish I had three but I have 5!

  • I have settling in a new country
  • I have my writing ~ this blog mainly
  • I have my community and town of Olney
  • I have my next website supporting career decisions
  • And I have the website I want make – a gratitude site.

My goals change with the season of my life

In due course, the season of settling in (another) new country will pass and my goals will change.

For now, I can ask whether what I am doing helps me learn how to achieve these goals. What do I learn about my own thinking? What do I learn about my overall story from each of these goals and the way they come together?

It is the way I explore these 5 goals that will give me the rich life that I take into the next season as surely as my summer harvest must be full to provide a good autumn and a good Christmas supports an energetic spring.

I’ll achieve my goals better if I slow down and explore them well

My goals are a framework to coddle my efforts and softly support the tentative explorations of the land in which I live.

The way I explore my goals determines how well I meet them.  To explore them well, I must make plenty of space for them and stop rushing around being in a hurry.

Put that to do list aside!  What are your goals?  What are you learning about how to achieve them.  Enjoy!  In a few years, these goals will be gone from your life and replaced by others.

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Dissolve your recession blues with 3 questions (and a Posterous blog & camera)

The mark of a good businessman is that he can succeed in bad times

Anyone can do well in a rising market.  When an economy is doing well, people trade with each other.  I make bread and I swap it for your milk.  While I am making bread, you plough my field.

In a sophisticated economy, we make the exchange process easier by swapping goods & services for money.  It’s easier all round.  And the sovereign ~ the king, queen, president or government ~ demands their share.  That’s called taxes.

In good times, we simply slot into the system.  Its easy.  Somebody wants something done. We do it. We get some money.  Our options improve.

In bad times, everyone tries to do everything for themselves.  It is harder to specialize because no one wants to trade their speciality for yours?

Is it?  Why is it so hard?

Why not just walk up to the person who has what you want and make an offer. I can do this for you if you do that for me?

Why haven’t you just done that?

Some where along the line we’ve lost our ability to think for ourselves

If we intend to be successful, in bad times and good, we have to be a little clearer about what we offer.

Here are 3 questions to ask and answer.

#1   What do I really enjoy doing?

Think about when you experience ‘flow’, that wonderful feeling when you are so engrossed that you loose track of time (and are late for the next think.)  Young people often experience flow in sport.  Where else have you experienced flow?

Now commit yourself to doing more of that.  Commit yourself to remembering when you experience flow.  Commit yourself to experiencing more flow, more often, and very frequently (every hour?).

Good.  Now we are enjoying ourselves we help others enjoy their lives!

#2   When do I bring the light to other people’s eyes?

When you are in flow, it’s unlikely that you are looking in the mirror.  If you were, it is likely you would see a magnificently radiant and happy person.  You eyes will be alive and dancing.

Everyone wants to feel like this.  When do people around you feel flow?  When do their eyes light up?

What is that you do that brings the light to other people’s eyes?  Which things do you love to do and which of these make other people so happy that their eyes sparkle with pleasure?

Where does your deep gladness and the world’s hunger meet?

It’s a humbling experience to think of these sweet spots, isn’t it?  We don’t feel bold and brazen. We feel shy.  We feel hesitant.  We feel gentle.  We feel calm.  We know that this is our mission.  This is what we have been called to do in the ‘family of things’.

#3 Why do their eyes light up?

But we aren’t sure how to begin.  How do we grow this sweet spot where we are bringing a light to other people’s eyes?  We ask “why?”  When their eyes light up, what story are we helping them live?  What “flow” are they experiencing at that moment?  Who are they at that moment?  What is their purpose?

What essential information did we provide in that moment that helped their story come true?

We need to tell their story.  We need to take a photo and write a blog post.  Day-to-day, let’s document the place where we made someone’s story true.

That’s the point where we have something to trade

And to return from the poetic to commerce, it is at this point that we have something to trade.  We understand what we love to do.  We know when our pleasures are pleasures for others.   We understand their stories and we able to make them come true.  We can walk into someone’s shop or business and say to them, “I can do this for you.  Would you be able to do this for me in exchange?”

Capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

Now get on with it!  Opening a Posterous blog will take you a few minutes. Getting out your camera will take even less.  And send me your link!  I want to see you capture those micro-moments when someone in your life lit up!

1001 things we learn from live performers

#1  my career is a journey to find my people

A good performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “Here I am!”
A great performer jumps on stage, looks out at the audience, and thinks, “There you are!”

Steve Rapson from Art of the Solo Performer
contributed by DW from Connecticut, USA

and for #2 thru #1001 visit Music Thoughts

 

Exercise in extreme living ~ impersonate who you are not?

Extreme living ~ become a banker?

A few days ago, I suggested an experiment in extreme living: deliberately take a job you hate.  Why not?  Take a job you despise.  Become a banker or a politician.

Why would we want to live extremely?

A young member of the coaching world commented irritably – why would we want to do that?

Yes, indeed, all the the advice of the world of personal leadership is the same.  Be the person you want to be.

We can do what we don’t like because we trust ourselves not to be seduced by it

But the hallmark of someone who is utterly self-confident about their ability to find their purpose and meaning in life is that they can acknowledge what they are not. And they experiment with what they are not without fear that it will take over who they are.

Try this as a weekend exercise in extreme living

First do the simple personality test based on Paulo Coelho’s Virgin, Martyr, Saint or Witch?

Before you click to the other post, here are the three steps.

  1. Which are you: Virgin, Martyr, Saint or Witch?
  2. Which are you definitely not?
  3. Be what you are not for 1 hour this weekend – just one hour.

And if you can’t do one hour, try what you can.  5 minutes?

Grow your ability to live extremely weekend to weekend

Over time, the time that you can be what you are not, should grow longer.   And your assurance about who you are (with all the ridiculousness and humor of who you are will grow).

Once a week ~ impersonate who you are not?

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CMT? Compulsive mind tidying!

Mind tidying

When you were a kid, did you clamor for the responsibility of untangling a ball of string, or a skein of wool?  I did. I always sort out computer cables too.  Do you?

It is not surprising, then, that I like coding. I like sorting out the logical flow behind a computer program.

The trouble, I find though, is that I can’t multi-task when I am writing a program   Trivial tasks can fit into breaks.  But “the balls of muddled kitchen string” begin to pile up.  I don’t have time to follow through and sort out the good ideas that are sparked by feeds and conversations.  Good ideas clutter my mind jostling for attention, and my brain becomes as jumbled as a kitchen drawer.  I begin to feel quite antsy.  I may have a whiz-bang computer program but the rest of my head is in a mess.

I need several hours a day to think and write.  I can’t live without it.  Even writing this has cleared my head.  Another good idea on the scrap pad beside me!  It may used. It may not.  I will only know when I’ve played with it a bit more.

How much time do you devote to writing each day? How much time do you need to keep your head clear?

Have a 4-Hour Workweek just like Tim Ferris

This post is a little presumptuous.   I have never met Tim Ferris, but like most people who spend a lot of time with computers, I have read his blog and watched some of his talks.   I want a 4-Hour Workweek too!

So what does Tim Ferris do?

As a trouper in first year lecture halls, you must forgive my penchant for turning everything into a 3 part list.

These are my thoughts.

1.   Tim’s sells “action art”

Tim decides to learn the tango, and wins the world championships.   He wants to gain muscle and he is The Incredible Hulk in weeks.  He learns to swim as an adult and is winning races in no time.

Whatever Tim does is breath-takingly audacious and gob-smackingly successful.

2.   Tim doesn’t just make art.  He packages it for sale through his blog & public speaking.

His big sale, of course, is his book, The 4-Hour Workweek.

3.  Tim also does his own marketing and he is his own agent

Tim has an active blog. He watches his numbers. And he manages the office for the “Tim Ferris” enterprise.

What Tim doesn’t do – is his own accountancy or his back-office operations.  He outsources the clerical work of his business to offshore firms offering clerical services.

What is Tim’s business model ?

1.  Tim centres his business on what he loves to do, what he does well, and on what we love him to do.

2.  Tim takes his work directly to the marketplace.

3.  Tim took the initiative to create a business structure around himself and does a fair share of the skilled and expensive management work himself.

What can you and I copy?

  • Do what we love, do what we do well and do what the world loves us to do.
  • Finish the task and go out to meet our audience.
  • Take the initiative and create and run the business we need to support the work we want to do.

Are you in a hurry?

Oh, we usually are!

So much so, we scamper over the first question.  Then we freeze in fright as soon as we think of selling our work for money.  And we never get round to thinking about business processes, let alone take charge of them.

Can I persuade you to spend 10 minutes trying?

Grab your favouite beverage, a pen and an old envelope!

1.  Of all things you do, what brings you that sense of deep pleasure of a job you know you do so well? Write down three things in 30 seconds!

2.  Done that? Now turn the envelope over and draw your value chain. On the left, put the raw material that you work with, draw a line across the page, and jot down all things you need to turn that raw material into whatever it is you make.

You can make a fish bone diagram with fish bones coming into a spine. My fish bones included headings like “access”, “willing people” “time”, “credibility” – all the deal breakers if I don’t get them right.

3.  Now you have your fish. On the tail at the left is your raw material. You probably have five or so bones coming in from either side. And the head to the right is the finished work.

Let’s finish off.

Draw some more lines (3 to 5) parallel to your fish’s spine. Label each line with things that need to happen for you get the resources you need.

It is quite likely that each of these represents a learning curve for you.  Which one’s can you get help with, and which one’s will you take responsibility for?

Do a quick cross-check that you have covered all the functions.

CEO: You

Operations: The work you love

Marketing: How you build connections

Sales: How you close deals

Buying: The source of critical physical resources and knowledge

Technical: Any equipment and technical skills you need

Accounting: Keeping count and keeping the taxman happy

HR: You

One more business model for a 4-Hour Workweek done-and-dusted!

Does this work for you? Did it take you closer to an action plan?

Do you feel you could surround yourself with the business you love?

Can you list what you need to learn to do and cheerfully put your learning goals in order?

Can you identify what you need to learn and throw the questions at Google?

I hope so. I made progress once I could get myself to pick up the envelope and the pen.

Apologies, Tim. I don’t know how much I’ve distorted your business but this is what I learned from you. So thanks.

What about your work is important, valuable and innovative?

Day One at Xoozya (cont’d)

“So what is my first goal”, I said to the HR Director.  “The amount of work on my desk is expanding exponentially and I’ve only been here a few hours.  I must find an avatar, explore the communication system, and map my skills set.”

What are your priorities?  I know you will say get settled, but all employers say that, and they don’t mean it.  What do you want done by when?”

Kick the habit of looking to managers for goals

“Well, Goal One” Peter said, “is to kick the habit of looking to managers for goals.  We are not here to set goals. We provide an arena or framework for you to work, alone if you like and with other people if you wish.  We are a huge company and you can work with whomever you choose and with whomever chooses to work with you.”

Acknowledge your own judgment

“That’s stressful at first because it feels as if you have no boundaries.  And to feel oriented, we all need boundaries.”

“But you do have boundaries.  You’ve made choices all your life.  You’ve attended to some things and ignored others.  In your judg                    ment, some things are important and command your attention.”

“We will ask you to do a third task.  We will leaving your avatar to the end of the month.  In addition to exploring the communication system and thinking about your skill set, you have a third task, which is this.

What it important, valuable and innovative about your current project?

“Write down what you are working on now.  And then tell me

  • Why this project is important to you
  • Why you think is is valuable
  • Why you think it is innovative.

Why do you feel vital and alive when you are working on this project and why do you believe it adds vitality and quality to the way we live?”

“Let me give you an example.

Today, a young post-graduate in Sydney, Marsha Gittens,  published a post in Brazen Careerist on what she wants from work– her career must-haves.  She wants money, good leadership, perks, etc.  We all want the same things but right now the financial benefits of the corporate world are uppermost in her mind because she is making the change from being a student, with all that entails, to being a member of the corporate world, and all that entails.

But financial rewards are not her project.  The move from the student world to the corporate world is her project and we are all better off if we acknowledge that openly.  She will spend the next year or two finding out where she fits into the corporate world and she wants to know how roles are structured, what these roles involve, and how important they are to other people.  At the end of the year she will have done well if she has gained this knowledge that she does not have now.  Much of this knowledge can only be gained from the inside.  From being in a company. From working on a team.  From doing a job and getting her hands dirty.

“So she will not move as a spectator.  She moves as a player and she is looking for assignments that will give her the combination of overall understanding and hands-on experience consistent with her skills.

“You sought membership of Xoozya for reasons you told us when we recruited you, and for reasons you’ll have kept to yourself.  Whatever has been put on the table, at this juncture in your life, there is something you want to achieve and you believe that we are the tool for you to achieve it.  There are resources you expect to find here and that you will look for.

The young Australian post-graduate wants to find her toe hole in the corporate world.  To do that she needs to understand the corporate world.”

“You are mid-career and you want . .  . what?  Describe what you came here to achieve.  What are you working on and why did you believe that we have the resources you need.”

“What we suggest you do is write down your current project and answer those three questions.

  • What about the project is important to you?
  • Why do you believe it is valuable?
  • What about the project is truly innovative?  Why is it so important to be doing this work now and what about it is so special that it cannot be ignored?

Then we’ll talk again.  How about this time next Friday?”

And if you are enjoying this series, please do feel free to join in!

  • Leave your thoughts in the comment section
  • Grab the RSS feeds for posts and comments top right
  • If you comment on this post from your blog, please link back to this post from the words Jo Jordan, flowingmotion, or Xoozya
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  • Stumble the post

And PS, if you are new to this blog, Xoozya is an utterly fictitious organization. This series began on the spur of the moment as I started to explored the principles of games design and Ned Lawrence of Church of Ned mentioned how much time people put into designing their avatars, or online identities. Xoozya is an attempt to imagine what an organization would look, sound and feel like if it were run along lines recommended by contemporary management theorists.

And PPS Ned is an online writing coach and is available for hire.

Tip 3: find your future now not after the recession

Male and female ostriches "dancing".
Image via Wikipedia

Don’t ask who will be employed now

Today I commented on Jon Ingram‘s post about the way HR managers are responding to the recession and remarked that we should not be like the proverbial ostrich – head in the HR sand, butt in the breeze, where it is likely to be shot off!

Ostriches can run really fast (I’ve ridden one). A kick from them will also de-gut you as effectively as a kick from a giraffe.

So why don’t they run or attack, which they sometimes do?

Well, partly, they are none to bright (easily dazzled and then captured by reflecting the sun off your watch into their eyes).

But they are hoping that if they are quiet, that they will be safe.

So I am not going to be quiet.  It does not make me safe.

But I’ll also be kind, and tell you why I am blathering on about the wild animals of southern Africa.

Is the knowledge I acquired in southern Africa of use here?  Well, some is and some isn’t.

The point is that the competencies of yesterday are not necessarily valuable tomorrow.

We must distinguish what of yesterday we can take forward to the future.

We can respect the rest.  We can reminisce about it. But some belongs to the past and will not contribute to the business models of tomorrow.

Don’t bury your head in employment sand!

The questions we have to ask, and should ask each year in our strategy review are:

  • What competencies is this business or my career based?
  • How are these going to change? Incrementally, or suddenly and discontinuously requiring radical back-to-school training?

And in a bad downturn, we should also ask:

  • Can I use the slow time of the downturn to re-train and get some early experience in these new technologies?

Strategies for employers and employees

Employers should be actively building their team around the technologies of tomorrow.

Employees who have switched-off employers should be networking hard to find and build the team that is coalescing around the markets and technologies of the future.

Ask who will be employed in the future?

Here is a simple procedure

1  Grab an old shoe box

  • For one month, on an A5 envelope, every day write down one url to the future of your field with some notes about why you think it is important.  Date it!
  • For one month, on an A6 envelope, write down the contact details of a person who seems to be heading towards the right future and the nature of your contact with them.  Date it!
  • On the back of some other suitable scrap, jot down a daily diary of “what were the main events of today and WHY DID IT GO SO WELL”.  Keep your rough-and-ready diary in the box.
  • Print out a calendar.  Mark off each day and “don’t break the chain”.  Get the creative thinking charged up and humming.

2  At the end of the month, review and repeat

  • But this time discard one of the A5 and A6 envelopes as you add a new pair each day.
  • Keep the rough-and-ready diary going and remember to end by asking the question “WHY DID THE DAY GO SO WELL?”
  • And remember “don’t break the chain”.  Do this exercise daily however roughly.

You’ll be in the future before me!

Now, you’ll be in the future before me, so let me know how it goes. I’m particularly interested in how many months it takes you.  My guess is three at the outside.

And when you’ve done this,  we’ll “make a plan” to come back to rescue the ostriches!  We’ll have a figured out a role for them by then.

Right now, lets go out,  scout the future and be there when it happens!

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