Archive for December, 2016

Are you listening?

This morning I went down to Three Anchor Bay and took time to just sit on a bench and observe what was happening.

I closed my eyes and for maybe 15 minutes just listened to the sounds around me to figure out what was there and what was happening.  Seagulls, a helicopter, people huffing and puffing as they jogged past, waves crashing, people talking and laughing….

It’s amazing what I could learn about what was going on around me just by listening.

It brought one of the habits that Stephen R Covey popularised to mind – “Seek first to understand, then to be understood”.  Does it take more time to really understand someone?  Of course. Does it save time down the line because there is more clarity?  Of course.

Relationships are not about efficiency, as Carl Honoré (author of “In Praise of SLOW”) reminds us with this story about wanting to be efficient when putting his son to bed (see the TED talk with transcript here):

“And this went on for some time, until I caught myself scanning a newspaper article with timesaving tips for fast people. And one of them made reference to a series of books called “The One-Minute Bedtime Story.” And I wince saying those words now, but my first reaction at the time was very different. My first reflex was to say, “Hallelujah — what a great idea! This is exactly what I’m looking for to speed up bedtime even more.” But thankfully, a light bulb went on over my head, and my next reaction was very different, and I took a step back, and I thought, “Whoa — you know, has it really come to this? Am I really in such a hurry that I’m prepared to fob off my son with a sound byte at the end of the day?”

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions, but I would like to see in 2017 how much more I can understand about what’s going on around me – just by listening.

I wish you a happy, peaceful and safe transition into 2017, and wish you many hours of “listening and learning” with your family, friends, team members, business associates, and even strangers in the new year.

Quote: “You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time.”  ― M. Scott Peck


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On Sunday, strolling past Rocklands Beach, I noticed two guys sitting on the rocks, looking out over the ocean.

2016-12-18-06-38-18I did not hang around long enough to find out what they were talking or thinking about.  If it was me, I would probably have reflected on the year that’s just slipped by, and spent some time thinking about one or two important projects for next year.

The rhythm of life and of business is pretty much like the rhythm of the ocean.  There are periods of calm and there are periods of chaos.  You experience low tides and high tides – each with its own unique opportunities.  And over time the one changes into the other.  It does not remain high tide or low tide forever…

I wish you a great festive season, and if you are taking it a bit slower now than during the rest of the year, enjoy this time as you prepare for your next “high tide”, and take your life out on the ocean.

Quote: “A ship in harbour is safe — but that is not what ships are built for.” — John A. Shedd

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Cracking a problem

On Sunday morning, the Sea Point promenade had many lessons to teach!  It was such a glorious morning and it was fun to see everyone just doing their own thing.

(I was saddened by the idea of someone who recently said to me that he “does not have the time” to get out over a weekend because of too much work and deadlines to meet – “I have to” thinking is maybe not the best way to go!)

Anyway, I had a marvellous time and once again, it was a seagull that made me think…

dropIt was struggling to open what looked like a mussel or a crab for breakfast.  It kept working on it very hard, without cracking it.

Then it took the breakfast-to-be, flew up maybe 5 or 6 metres into the sky and dropped it on the rocks below.  This happened a few times, after which whatever it was, broke open and breakfast could be enjoyed.

How often don’t we keep struggling with some seemingly insurmountable problem without making real progress?  We put in more time and resources at the level we are currently working on the problem.

Maybe not such a bad idea to take our thinking about the problem to a different level, “drop it” and see what happens!  Maybe it splits open and we can see what’s really going on inside.  A very useful tool to trigger creative thinking at a different level about something is to use mind mapping.  I can strongly recommend that you download the free version of XMind at their web site.  It’s easy to use, and you can use it with the “project trigger list” developed by David Allen to break it down into smaller bits.

You may recall the exercise where you are given a small block of wood with a hole in it and 19 nails (about 10 cm long) and your challenge is to balance 18 nails on the head of one nail at the same time without using anything else than the nails and the wood.  The “problem” or “challenge” of this exercise is the nails.  The solution to the problem is “in” the nails (You can see a video of the solution here.).

We often spend lots of energy and money searching for external solutions instead of understanding the problem better.  Often the solution to the problem lies within the problem.

Take it to a different level, think about it differently, and “crack” it!

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2016-11-28-14-12-52During my Vleesbaai break last week, I was given a few “seagull moments”.  The first one came while having lunch at the Sea Gypsey Café in the Mossel Bay harbour area.  I still do not understand why people feed seagulls chips and other food from their plates – the birds were fighting about it, attacking each other, flapping their wings and making a lot of noise.  And in a way, they become dependent on this way of getting their food.


gul3One evening we went to Fransmanshoek for a braai.  The seagulls that I saw there, were so different from the conditioned ones at the café!  They perched on the rocks, took off again and soon they were soaring effortlessly high above the ocean (if you take a close look you can see one in the top right of the picture!).

This made me think of the fantastic talk “Extraordinary Visions”  by DeWitt Jones I attended a few years ago.  In the talk, he mentioned his experience at Molokai, Hawaii where he saw frigate birds soar high up into the sky without moving their wings, just using the thermals.  Treat yourself to some good stuff, take about 2,5 minutes, and read the article about his experience.

When we want make progress in our careers, we work harder.  We work longer hours.  We do email over the weekends and late at night when the children are sleeping… We keep “flapping our wings” harder and faster, and fight colleagues for the promotion – just the seagulls flapping their wings and fighting over chips.

But what if we could find, and then “ride our thermals”, soaring almost effortlessly to where we want to go.

This time of the year is a good time to reflect and learn from our past experiences, and then think and plan forward.  Why not find your own “thermals”?  Think back to times when things happened just so much easier than you anticipated.  Times when you did not have to “grind it out” but you achieved outcomes almost effortlessly.  These are your thermals.  Take some time and write about each “thermal experience” and then see how you can replicate the conditions that existed at the time, and build it into your thinking and planning for 2017.

That’s one option.  The other option is that you keep on flapping harder…

I am going to follow the advice of Dewitt Jones: “Quit your flapping and ride your thermals.”

I invite you to join me!

Quote: “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”  ― Dr. SeussOh, The Places You’ll Go!

What’s happening

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are thinking of doing any work with me in 2017 (in-house or public productivity workshops, coaching and other exciting things coming up!) you can avoid the annual increase in fees and also get my 5% courtesy discount if we can go ahead and complete all the paperwork and payment before 31 December 2016.  We can sort out the details, but if you are interested, click here to send me an email and I will contact you.

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.

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

Have a fun and productive week!


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