Archive for November, 2016

2016-11-27-15-09-21This note comes to you from Vleesbaai, where I am enjoying a short break with friends. One of my favourite spots here is “Blaasgaatjie” at Fransmanshoek.

It’s the place I like to visit when thinking about life – and also about death…  It’s a comforting thought that Blaasgaatjie will still be around until the end of the planet and will continue to provide the opportunity for happy experiences for thousands and thousands of people who will be visiting.

My daughter Lindie recently sent me a picture of her and her daughters’ shadows while they were walking.  We then got into conversation about “seriti”, a Sotho word for the metaphorical shadow humans cast, well explained by Colin Hall at “Learning to Lead”.   It’s about dignity and integrity.  About being real and authentic. About celebrating your uniqueness.  About leaving your legacy.

Blaasgaatjie also makes me think about the few years that I have left before I die (I am gunning for another 40!) and what I can do to cast a “stronger” shadow after my death.

You and I will have many opportunities to grow our seriti – day by day and interaction by interaction.  You may want to have a look at this 3-minute “Carpe Diem” video clip from the movie Dead Poets Society; make the most of opportunities that you create and that come your way.

And this goes not just for your personal and family life, but your professional life as well.  What is the legacy you can leave behind as sculptor, architect, doctor, financial advisor, teacher, CEO, professor…?  How will your team remember your leadership?

Why not ask them now, while you are all still alive?

Quote:  Enjoy the poem “The Dash” by Linda Ellis.

What’s happening

2016 public workshops (Click): “Productivity Breakthrough for Outlook Users: 8 Basic Work Habits of Exceptionally Productive People”.   The last workshops for 2016 happen on 14 December in Johannesburg and Cape Town.  If you would like to book and pay now for 2017 workshops, you will avoid our annual increase.

In-house Productivity Breakthrough workshops customised for your team (Click).  



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After the temporary death of the Cape South Easter on Sunday morning (it’s really an eerie of kind of silence, isn’t it, fellow Capetonians?), I felt like going to Kirstenbosch before working on some things I wanted to have in place for the coming week.

Then my context changed – friend/associate/sounding board Richard and I connected again about a conversation we had on Friday, and the upshot was that I “kept left” at Hospital Bend on my way to Kirstenbosch and went to Somerset West for breakfast instead.

On the radio, I heard Chopin’s “Fantaisie – Impromptu”.  Beautiful.  Watch and listen to it here played by an 11-year old if you have about 5 minutes.

And that’s when my day changed…

When I got back home, I went into a musical memory lane.

Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 5 (Emperor)  (soloist Krystian Zimerman, conductor Leonard Bernstein) gave me goose bumps!  Treat yourself to at least the last 10 or so minutes (from 30:00-ish) or if you really are in a rush, watch from 35:05.   Just see how much Leonard Bernstein enjoys his “job”!  Everyone WANTS to have fun and co-create a successful outcome – no hidden agendas and back-stabbing.  Just imagine that to be true for our country…

Thoughts that came to mind…

Bernstein was not a better pianist than Zimerman.  Nor was he a better at playing the violin, horn, cello or any other instrument.  That’s not his job.  His job is to add value to what the individual musicians can already to superbly well without him.

In your team/family, you don’t have to better at anything than your team members.  Your job is to inspire them to work together in harmony and produce outstanding and enjoyable results.

beetDifferent artists interpret the same sheet music differently, and that makes them unique.  In an organisation, even though the printed “job description” is the same for the same position, different people in the position will interpret it in their own way.  There is probably not “the one perfect way”.

Let’s leave room for others to interpret the same thing that we are looking at or experiencing with them, differently.  Lets’ understand “where they are coming from” and let’s make beautiful music together – like these 10 000 people singing Beethoven’s Ode to Joy.

Performances like these not happen “all by themselves”.  It requires hours and hours and yet more hours of practice.  The same in our lives… We must put in the effort to get the results we want – success will not just knock on your door and walk in.  You invite it in by practicing whatever you want to be good at.

Quote: “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.” ― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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I had the most unusual breakfast in the most unusual place on Saturday – crackling with thick slices of farm bread, butter and apricot jam with delicious coffee, at Dassiesfontein, just off the N2 between Bot River and Caledon.

One thing that struck me is the sheer number of items they have there – everything from coal stoves, leather products, chandeliers, antiques, wine, food, posters, boutique, Victorian fireplaces…

dassieAt times, I felt overwhelmed – just too much!

Nothing there of course just “arrived” of its own accord.  It was chosen and bought by the owners and added to the goods.

It made me think of our often “overwhelming” lives.  At out productivity workshops, we often hear that people feel overwhelmed.  By everything from their daily “to do list” to attending PTA meetings, playing sport, going to religious services, exercising, travelling…the list goes on and on.

If you think about it carefully, we allow these things into our lives.  Our commitments don’t just “show up” in our calendars as if by magic. We choose to live the lives we live.

Maybe it is time over the holidays to take a deep breath and reflect on your life, if you feel a bit overwhelmed by it all.  Pull out the pruning shears and get rid of things that keep you busy without moving you towards what matters most in your life right now.

Enjoy the following piece about pruning by Bernice Ross, Ph.D., MCC, and Byron Van Arsdale, MCC, with special thanks to Michael Skye of Austin Detailers and the National Arbor Day Foundation’s “Tree City USA” Bulletin.

Has your life gotten a little complicated? Are you engaging in patterns and habits that no longer support you?  Perhaps the people who study plants and trees can help us learn something about improving the quality of our lives. The concept we’ll be working with is called Pruning and is essential in maintaining a strong, happy, and healthy life

“The American Heritage Dictionary” defines pruning as “to cut off or remove dead or living parts or branches of (a plant, for example) to improve shape or growth.” Two additional parts of the definition include “to remove or cut out as superfluous” and “to reduce.” Pruning means to remove unnecessary, undesirable, or unsupportive parts of your life that are contrary to your values, integrity, and ethics.

Whether you’re pruning your trees or your life, you prune first for strength and second for form.

When pruning for strength, begin by looking for habits, patterns, decisions, and choices that rob you of your energy, confidence, or emotional well being.

For example, is there an activity you feel you “should” do, yet the activity saps your strength and no longer serves any useful purpose? If so, it’s time to “prune” it because it’s “dead” and will drain resources from what nourishes you.

Has your life taken a direction that no longer supports you? If so, it’s much like a large branch growing over the neighbour’s fence. If you don’t cut it off, eventually there’s going to be a problem. The sooner you take care of cutting away the “erring branch,” the less likely you are to have difficulties.

Pruning for “form” is the fun part. Here we choose what suits us in terms of our strengths. When we prune for “form,” we get to add space, beauty, and light to our lives by carefully choosing to remove our lesser traits in favour of our best traits.

Pruning is both an art and science. It takes time, patience and effort to learn yet once learned, can provide you with the tools to create and maintain a high quality of life for many years to come.

Quote: “Everything has seasons, and we have to be able to recognize when something’s time has passed and be able to move into the next season. Everything that is alive requires pruning as well, which is a great metaphor for endings. “- Henry Cloud

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Hi from Bloemfontein, where I have the privilege of working with a group of 14 people on Tuesday to support them in improving their personal productivity – and as a result, their happiness.  Looking forward!

Saturday saw me and my brothers and sister in Theatre at the Bay in Camps Bay to enjoy and share in the fun that Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat brings.  What a superb show!  (With our ages ranging between 66 and 80 we must have been the group booking with the oldest average age!)

A few thoughts came to mind, and Joseph indeed has some productivity lessons…

  1. Whether you are 18 or 80, when something has value, it transcends the “age barrier”.  Both young and old enjoyed the performance.  One is never too old or young to “live” principles – I’m sure having fun is a principle – including principles of getting things done with as little effort possible.  The principles we share in our programmes come to mind:
  • Productive mindset – don’t believe “lies” like “I don’t have the time”.
  • Clarity – Clarify up front and things just work so much easier.
  • Alignment – Make sure your daily actions are aligned with your current priorities.
  • Focus – Eliminate distractions and interruptions.
  • Adaptability – Things change; be able to change your plans accordingly.
  • Completion – Finish what you start and don’t get bogged down by perfectionism, and procrastination.
  • Slow down to speed up – Things need to be done at their appropriate speed.  Speed reading – yes.  Speed meditation – no.
  • Continuous improvement –   Learn from today to make tomorrow better.
  1. Watching the cast perform made me realise that an enormous of amount of time and effort must have gone into the preparation to deliver such an outstanding act.  How often don’t we want superior performance for ourselves, teams and companies, but are not willing to put the resources to become able to perform exceptionally?  You must feed the goose if you want it to lay golden eggs!
  1. Piggy-backing on last week’s theme:  The individuals in the show must enjoy what they are doing – it shows on their faces.  And if you were to take someone with zero talent for singing and dancing, the person would not be able to “deliver and enjoy” (I think), no matter how animalmuch training and extra classes they get!  Do whatever needs to be done as early as possible in life to find out “what makes you tick”, identify your “pattern of high performance”, or understand when you are “in your zone”.  It will pay off handsomely.  Along these lines, you may want to read the fable of The Animal School, where all animals had to take all subjects!

Quote: “In this world you’re either growing or you’re dying so get in motion and grow.” – Lou Holtz


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When the same message come to you from three different sources at pretty much the same time, maybe it’s time to listen…

I had the privilege of being at my granddaughter Carli’s birthday party in Singapore just two days ago – what fun!  I loved my daughter Lindie’s ingenuity of giving each friend who came to the party a small pot, soil and seeds of various plants and vegetables to plant – how can they ever forget the occasion?

While we were at the nursery to get these items, I noticed the “care instructions” labels attached to plants.

careFor this Zamioculcas it is:

  • Occasional watering.
  • Best in shaded conditions.
  • Dislike water lock.

It tells you exactly what it needs to be (“perform”) at its best.

Do you know the conditions under which you are at your best?  Do you communicate it clearly to family, colleagues and friends?

Do you ensure to the best of your ability that your “conditions of high performance” are kept in place so that your productivity can blossom?

If you are managing a team, do you understand the conditions under which each of your team members will be at their best?

How different could things be if we each had our own “CARE INSTRUCTIONS” label on our foreheads (metaphorically speaking) letting other people know how to treat us for best results?

I had the privilege of meeting with John Samuel while in Singapore.  He is author of the book “Living In Your Zone: Where Work Becomes Delight” (Check out Slideshare and Amazon or visit John’s web site).  This line from John’s LinkedIn profile captures the essence of this work for me: Helping individuals move from their “sweat spot” into their “sweet spot”.

My conversation with John took me back many years and made me think of the work of my friend and business associate, the late Dr Jerry L Fletcher.  Very similar to John, Jerry helped people identify their unique “pattern of high performance”: The Distinctive And Consistent Sequence of Steps You Naturally Follow When You Achieve Your Best Results. (You may find this site of value.)

When you know, and live your own pattern, you are in “high performance mode” (sweet spot), and not in “grind it out mode” (sweat spot).  To quote Jerry: “You can’t do anything well for a sustained period of time that doesn’t fit your high performance pattern”.

The plants’ care instructions, John’s work and Jerry’s work amplify the same message (as I understand it): Find your unique way of doing your best work, and let others know that this is what you do when you do your best work.

But in all of this, one should never allow your zone/pattern to lead to destructive behaviour in other areas of your life.  To paraphrase something that John said: It explains behaviour; it is not an excuse for behaviour.

How about a fun “assignment”: Grab a piece of paper, and call it “Care Instructions for “your name””.  And then jot down a few bullet points of how you like to be treated and also how you don’t like being treated.  Bounce it off someone you know, like and trust and enjoy their feedback!

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