Win a copy of the DVD referenced in the blog post. All you need to do to get it is email us with the name of the person who believed in you. One of those will be picked at random and notified by email next Friday, 22nd November.
An article in the newspaper caught my eye last week. It was discussing the current England rugby union team and the individuals within it. The point the article was making was about the supporting cast, the people behind the scenes who had made some of the individuals what they were. This wasn't necessarily the fitness coaches or the other people responsible for the man-mountains that are some of the pack but instead the people who believed. With a nod to 'The Blind Side', the Sandra Bullock film about an NFL footballer (see next post for an offer), the article discusses people like Andy Turner, a relative unknown in the sports world, who helped Joe Launchbury to go from schoolboy to England international in just a few years. When Harlequins didn't offer him a professional contract after three years in their academy, it was Turner who believed that Launchbury could still make it big. "I think you're better than you give yourself credit for", he said and took the boy to Worthing to play semi-pro rugby. The rest of the tale is widely available in the annals of rugby history. Other players, like Andy Goode and Billy Vunipola can also clearly recognise the impact that coaches who believed in them have had on their professional lives.
This all makes me wonder, who are the people who have believed in you more than you do yourself? Who have been the people that inspired you to go further, because they could see the realistic potential in you? I'm sure for some of us, this conjures up pictures of our bosses, who only seemed to want more, to help their businesses grow. We found them hard to satisfy and objected to them pushing us. They are in stark contrast to the good leaders who believed in us, mentored us and gave us a helping hand.
There will also be those in our family and friends who, despite not being in our profession maybe, could still see that we had what it took, through hard work and training, to get to the top.
Did you listen to them, or discard their suggestions? Did you push on and achieve, or hesitate for fear of what might lie ahead? How well are you now reaping the rewards of their help? Now is the time to revisit what they said and see how much further you can go.
And if you can't recognise anyone who has played this sort of role for you then now is definitely the time to find a coach who can help you.
Last month the Office for National Statistics published a report about national wellbeing in the UK and part of that was obviously about us at work. The results date back to 2010/11 when just under 80% of employed adults (16+) in the UK who had a job reported being somewhat, mostly or completely satisfied with their job.
This seems like quite a large figure, particularly when you compare it to the figures from 2004 which were a little over 70%.
In fact, when you break it down to the categories used in the survey (the UK Household Longitudinal Survey), the only bit of their job that workers are less happy with now than 7 years ago is their job security. Pay, training and sense of achievement have all seen rises in people's satisfaction.
A commentator suggested that we have become more entrepreneurial as a result of the downturn which has given us a greater sense of value in the work that we do.
More significantly for me was the comment from Cary Cooper, Lancaster University. He said that people feel lucky to have a job at all and so are now comparing their salary to having none. This certainly is a change from years previously when people seemed to want the earth and expected to be given it too.
From a coach's perspective, this is a welcome shift of thinking in some ways. I am a huge advocate of people being interested in improving their lot in life, whether that is in terms of their financial wellbeing or whatever. However, I have often been frustrated at people living in cloud cuckooland who expect to get everything they want in life but without expending any effort on their own behalf. This has particularly been an attitude I have seen to be very prevalent in younger people who have been spoiled by doting parents providing for their every whim.
If we have some new thinking in the workplace where people are more grateful to have a job and be paid then maybe employers will see a greater commitment to jobs and consequently more productivity. My worry is that we revert back to a position where people become resigned to their lot in life and start to think that they are powerless to change it for the better.
However happy you are at your work, what can you do to improve it? You might want to read some of the articles elsewhere on the website about this.
Today I started wondering if our ubiquitous use of cameras will one day have a negative impact on our lives.
I had wandered away from my desk for an hour today, looking for some inspiration in the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. It's a fabulous building and every time I go I find something new. Today I noticed that the bannisters up the middle of the stairways have bronze fish, birds or bells on them from the Glasgow crest. Wonderful details everywhere you look and that's just the building, nevermind the contents.
What really struck me though, as I sat or sauntered, was the number of people taking photos.I suddenly realised that although I have been there multiple times all through my childhood up to the present day, I don't have any photos of it. Maybe that's because most of my visits were before I owned a camera. Alternatively, since it's been on my doorstep for the majority of my life, and it's free to get in, I've always thought I could simply visit it again. Whatever the reason, I simply have memories, not pictures (physical or digital).
As I trawled the memory banks though, it was interesting what came to mind. Christ of St John of the Cross is unfortunately no longer where it used to hang but I can still remember looking all the way down a corridor to see it at the end and then walking closer and closer until I was looking right up at Christ, trying to get close enough so that he was looking down at me.
The smell as you walk into the building is somehow distinctive for me as well, and seemed to transport me back to being about 8 years old.
Finally as I pushed round the revolving door, it reminded me of going round and
round, at a time when it was the only such entrance I had ever encountered.
For me it is a happy place evoking a sense of freedom and play, of learning in my own time and spending wet afternoons with my family. As such as a way of relaxing and also being inspired it was the ideal place to go.
Finally all this got me thinking about the power of our memories and how much we can use them to affect us in the present. Calling to mind a particularly strong sensation by remembering where you were at the time is a renowned tool for changing what state you are in and how you are feeling. Whether you are reliving the sights, sounds, or other sensations, they can help your brain to recall that moment from your memory and apply the feelings and emotions connected to your piece of personal history to you just now. Surely, if all our memories are digitised, however good our retrieval system, they are unlikely to be such good state-changers. As such, are we robbing our future selves of those chances to change our mood?
I have long been an advocate of living in the moment, being fully present and enjoying life. Today I have convinced myself once again that I should make the most of the positives of what I am experiencing - I never know when it might come in useful.
Okay I made an assumption just like I keep telling people not to do. But it happened all the same. I assumed that when my friend suggested we go to something at the Edinburgh Fringe that I could trust his judgement to pick something good.
Now, to be fair to him, he did email me a list of possible shows but I was busy working away and never saw the message until after he had gone ahead and booked it, based on the desires of the other people coming too. In fact having been to a few gigs with him in the past, I had assumed that it was just the two of us going to see something and since the last gig had been comedy I also assumed (yes this word is fast becoming over-used) that we were going to something funny.
So on Tuesday I travelled through to Edinburgh to see four different shows. He had sent me a list of what they were but I hadn't done any research to see what they involved. And for some reason was still thinking it was going to be comedy. So four of us fought our way through the crowds from Waverley station to the venue, and took our seats where I discovered that the subject of the 'Julie Madly Deeply' title was in fact Julie Andrews and that the whole 65 minutes was a celebration of her life and music. Now, I'm not anti-musicals but neither would I call myself a huge fan. And my only knowledge of the heroine was a vague picture in my head of having seen the poster advertising the Sound of Music and I could recognise a couple of the tunes from the film. I've never actually watched any of her films though. This was a distinct disadvantage which left me somewhat unentertained for about 64½ minutes. Now don't get me wrong, for the right person it was probably a great show (certainly judging by the gusto with which the singalong was entered into by my fellow ticket-buyers) and Sarah-Louise Young can certainly sing well. But it was not for me. And as a first foray to the Fringe Festival it was somewhat underwhelming.
Now, who to blame? Who to vent my frustration on? One of the guys I was with was really glad he had gone - it had been one of his first choice shows from the original list. Not his fault. My mate had encouraged me to join the group and bought the tickets. Not his fault either. It was obviously my own stupid fault, which I did eventually realise. I made many assumptions beforehand and did nothing to check the truth of any of them. If I had done some homework I could have easily turned up for the start of the second of the shows instead. But no, I assumed that it was a group of like-minded people who would all be going to the sort of event that I would really enjoy, so I only had myself to blame.
How often though do we make assumptions about things that are maybe more important and then when the world turns out to be different we want to blame someone else for misleading us when in fact we need to turn the spotlight on ourselves. Taking a little more care in our thinking and gathering all the relevant information can help us avoid similarly frustrating situations. I teach it to others but maybe sometimes I need to listen to my own counsel.
So I've learned a lesson. And thankfully the last couple of shows were really good (John Gordillo and Craig Campbell for reference)
The news today is suggesting that some young people are job snobs and I think I agree, but is it their fault? The Recruitment Society has suggested that some young people are leaving jobs because it doesn't utilise their qualifications well or they are remaining unemployed because the right job hasn't landed on their doorstep. (See http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/23687458)
Whilst I think this is happening in more than a few instances, I wonder why we have got to this position. Is it that there are not enough jobs in the current era? Maybe. Are we turning out lots of people qualified in the wrong subject areas? Maybe. Or is it simply that as a society we have raised a generation who assume that they can have what they want, and the best version of that too? Probably. Many children over the last few years have grown up in an environment where if they say 'I want...' then it will be provided. Now they have got to the stage of saying 'I want a good job' and are being disappointed and don't know how to deal with it. Coupled to the expectations that they have swallowed, their lack of previous disappointments and hardship has left them with an empty resilience tank as well. They now can't deal with the harsh realities of the adult world which they are expected to inhabit.
I lay the blame partly at the door of people like myself; coaches who have raised people's sights, expanded their goals and excited them with glowing visions of what might be. They have maybe been less than realistic and lifted expectations in some cases to impossibly high levels. We need to be careful that if and when we do this, it is also essential to look at the huge amount of work it takes to be successful, the many intermediate steps you may need to go through, and also the fact that sometimes your success will not be a goal completely within your control. Oftentimes the marketplace, the competition, the environment, even pure luck may play a part. We therefore have a responsibility to not merely set expectations but to walk with, and support, the young people of our society through hard times, to help them learn resilience and deal with the unpalatable. And when I say 'we' I am now talking about the collective responsibility we all share to see the next generation grow into their futures, leading, serving and governing our world.
So yes, let's inspire people (young and old) to aim for the stars but accept that you need to work really hard, taking small steps in the right direction, learning from each job that you do. Yes, today's job might not be ideal but, as well as paying you something, what benefits does it bring you that are transferable to the next rung up the career ladder? When I was hawking household products around the doors in Glasgow I could have reasoned that my Masters degree in Engineering was being wasted. Instead, it was paying me whilst I looked for a job in my field, taught me about customer relations, marketing and most of all perseverance and resilience. I can't say I enjoyed it, but I stuck it out until something better came along. Likewise, one of my friends has just gained a clutch of good exam results and is about to go to Uni to study psychology but is working cleaning toilets. She hates it but it pays money and is a means to an end. Will an employer recognise that she is willing to work hard and maybe get her hands dirty - definitely. Will they see her as job snob who might be difficult to handle - unlikely. Much easier to put a positive spin on that on her CV than a couple of months on the dole.
Following on from last week's trip to the theatre and last month's trip to see
the Barrowland Ballet, I went to the opera last night at the invitation of a friend. I'm not an opera fan. In fact I would rate it as one of my least favourite genres of music. But live music, especially when it's free, is not to be missed. And obviously since time spent with good friends is never wasted, I went along.
Aria Alba were doing an open rehearsal after a series of workshops getting ready for a Fringe performance of Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in Edinburgh next month (more details here). It was a mixed cast of young pros and community members from Edinburgh, drawn together by Nell Drew the musical director and it was great. I was drawn in to the story, loved the singing, both solos and choral music, and had a really enjoyable evening. Once more people were performing to the best of their ability and it was encouraging to be part of it.
I came home and downloaded the music - to my shame I had recognised none of it and needed to change that - in order to listen again. I am now sat feeling disappointed and slightly cheated. Jessye Norman is by no means rubbish but its not an album that I will listen to much again. The music is probably technically very good but its not doing anything for me.
this makes me wonder if actually my love of the arts is more about loving to see people performing well than any aesthetic appreciation of the music, drama or whatever. Without that performance element, the music is a little lifeless and knowing that it is big name professionals singing on the tracks reduces my sense of wonder at the quality of what is being produced.
Maybe I need to go back to the confines of a village hall with passionate amateurs and dodgy lighting to really appreciate Purcell's great work. Alternatively, I might just go to my local coffee house and watch a barista excel at what they do.
I went to the Arches last night to watch (and take part) in a piece of theatre called "Falling", part of the On The Verge series. It was an experiment in communication, looking at how our message is not just in our words but also how we say them. It was described like this:
... two actors explore what happens when the audience have the power to
...and that's pretty much what happened in the middle two scenes. People in the audience shouted and the actors had to repeat their lines, either giving it more or using a completely different tactic to get their message across. The rest of the scene then had to follow from this new line, except the words were still following the script.
It was cleverly done and a very engaging piece of acting, but on top of that I loved it for two reasons:
It was a superb demonstration of the idea that the message we communicate is not simply about the words. Communication is about what we say and what we don't say; its about how we say them and what else we are doing when we say them (facial expressions, posture, body movement etc). I'm now wondering how I can use a version of it in some of my training. If Torya can make this work successfully, can I take the idea and use it in my own practice - how can I use this example to improve what I do?
Secondly, I love seeing people perform well, particularly people that I know. It's what drives me as a coach: seeing people succeed. When they're doing something relatively new to them as well, it makes it even more pleasing. Someone has played to their strengths, put in the hard work and turned in an excellent performance - that's great to watch. Whether it's Wynton Marsalis hitting the high notes in the Haydn trumpet concerto or a cocktail barman creating drinks with grace and style, watching greatness is a source of pleasure but also inspiration. If they can do this, then what could I do, when I really put my mind to it?
What inspires you? How much of that inspiration are you sucking in and what are you doing with it? Are you turning it into action and seeing results or are you letting inspiration be a passing thing, giving you a temporary lift and then fading into the background again? How can you harness the inspirational energy to achieve more?
One of my coachees went into a school recently for a placement and was told not to expect too much from the pupils, a statement guaranteed to make my blood boil. It matches a lot of stuff written in the media recently about people, particularly teachers, infecting children with low expectations.
Now before I go any further, I am not teacher-bashing - they do a great job generally, and often are fighting a losing battle against parental influence. They just happen to be some of the key players in the fight to inspire our young people and so are more in the public eye. And some of those noticeable teachers are not brilliant, much the same as any profession.
The difference I feel with teachers and other adults being sub-standard and expecting too little is that the children that they impact then grow up with a pre-determined route to failure which leads to a lack of risk-taking, an unwillingness to push themselves and a confirmation of their fixed mindsets.
Whilst no-one wants to be a loser, there are good ways of dealing with it. You don't have to be sore, grumpy and despondent. In fact, being able to accept failure, develop through learning from it and then move on to ultimate success is surely one of the requirements for growing to greatness. The oft-quoted example is Thomas Edison; he of the thousands of unsuccessful lightbulb attempts.
Now let's be realistic for a minute. No-one likes failure and it usually costs something, either time or money, sometimes more than we think we can afford. We very rarely set out to achieve failure, despite the benefits that it confers. Surely though, we have a duty to our children (if not those we conceive, at least those of our society), to teach them about learning from failure.; not to be surprised by it but to learn and grow through it if and when it does occur. That can only happen though alongside giving them an expectation of possible future success.
I use the word 'possible' quite deliberately here because I think it is also very easy for the pendulum to swing too far in the opposite direction. If we are not careful, we can leave people, especially children, with completely unrealistic expectations of unremitting achievements and reaching the stars. Okay, as they say if you reach for the stars you'll at least get to the moon but it could be setting people up for an even more negative reaction when they eventually taste defeat of some sort.
So we need some realism about the goals we set but it needs to be tempered with inspiration and excitement. Jim Collins talks about big hairy audacious goals and these are much more motivating than and empowering than being instantly constrained by the R of Realistic in a SMART goal. Lets start by deciding to follow our dreams and then work out how to make sure they are realistic. And lets do the same for our children as we inspire them to achieve more than they currently see as possible.
Some suggestions you might need to consider for your dreams to become reality might include:
Liz McColgan, Olympic medallist and world champion athlete, reckons that the Olympic legacy is already lost. The slogan was 'inspire a generation' and I believe that we have done that. People young and old are re-considering what is possible, not just in sport but in other areas of their lives. However, McColgan believes that we have missed the boat in terms of getting more people participating because of a lack of preparation. In an article in the Times written shortly after the Olympics, she describes a situation where more than 100 enthusiastic youngsters turned up at an athletics club who were wholly unprepared and under-staffed. She said "I think we are probably going to let down an awful lot of kids who are so enthused from the success we had."
This thinking was then backed up for me by a letter yesterday, also in the Times, describing a boy who wanted to take part in gymnastics but there are no clubs in his town catering for males. The town is not small, provincial or rural. However, it is the home town of one of the members of the men's gymnastics team. You would expect that this boy might not be the only one hoping to emulate his heroes. Will your local area be better able to provide for others like him than Wolverhampton seem to be? Is there funding available? Has planning taken place?
Now of course the flip side to this argument maybe hinges on the number of available vounteers. So what are you doing to help the legacy of the games survive? The games-makers are one of the big stories to have emerged and many of them talk about volunteering again - in fact I heard of someone already talking about signing up to play a similar role at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. Where do you put your volunteer hours in? Who does it benefit? How will it add to the legacy you leave behind you and the mark you make on this world?
For more on the topic, read my articles on leaving a legacy