The Wright Way

The Wright Way

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Clue of Experience

Experience is something each and every one of us has, yet we rarely use it in the way we should. Nobody ever tells us how to use it, and I often wonder whether that is because nobody ever told them how to use it. Of course everyone will tell us that we have to “learn from experience” – but since no one ever teaches us how to learn either, there is little wonder that we don’t always “learn from experience.”

Around experience there is this idea that we have to go through it, or gain it over time or through repeated action. Yet, this is rather like the way we assume that "Practice Makes Perfect" – in that we merely have to “do something” enough times to gain mastery of it. For this reason, Experience is deemed to be something the young do not yet have, for surely it is only as we get older that we gain a wealth of experience. Yet, we all know of young people who can demonstrate a maturity beyond their years - so how can that be? Unless it is perhaps that maturity, like that, comes from how we use our Experience? Or perhaps it is something even more profound?

So here is what I describe as the Clue of Experience.

Experience is an awakening to the possibilities of how something might Be, or function or work or operate.

All discoveries and inventions are built upon this premise. From the baby and toddler discovering things in his or her world, to the great thinkers, creators and inventors through history – they have all used Experience in this way.

You and I also started out using our Experience this way, and then as we were growing up we were pointed towards, guided to - or assumed - another path that took us "elsewhere."


Now, like all awakenings, there is a period of time before we have awareness. It is easiest if you consider this first in physical terms, when we awaken from sleep. We don’t always have awareness straight away, though this arrives sooner or later, depending on our physical and mental state.
Now, in terms of Experience, here too we don’t always have an awareness straight away. This, too, arrives sooner or later – and sometimes, very much later! Some Experience is in our nature, hard-wired you might say, just waiting for the moment or moments of awakening.

Insightful experience is an awakening to something we already intuitively know, yet have not hitherto had an awareness of.

When a fledgling bird is learning to fly it is certainly not using a process of its intellect. It is awakening to something it already intuitively knows, yet hitherto does not have an awareness of.
The same applies to us when we learn to walk. We and our parents don’t spend time thumbing through the “How to Walk” manual and then trying things out. It is, as it is for the parents of the fledgling birds, that our Mums and Dads are guiding us through the first of our many awakening
and insightful experiences. And, with walking, we are gaining an awareness of controlling our own movement.

Now let’s add observation into the equation of Experience, for out of all observation comes the art of modelling. Part of our learning to walk comes from our going through a process of “Watch and Copy” – which is the essence of modelling, of course. We’ve already watched older people walking long before we gain our own awareness of the walking experience – and the same applies, let’s say, to driving a car, or playing a musical instrument, or wielding a sporting implement, or using or doing ANYTHING. The list is as endless and as infinite as you can imagine.

It is our Awareness of our Experience that is the key to our learning from it. The higher the level of awareness we have, the quicker we learn – the more Awareness we have about how we learn at our best, the greater the depth and breadth of our learning Experience of anything and everything.
We can Experience many things, but without the Awareness that should go with it, we will never gain any mastery or maturity.
When fledglings fly into windows they have not got a broad or deep enough awareness of the medium in which they are flying. They eventually “get it” – or I should say, the smartest “get it” – and then they move to a higher level of awareness of their experience. They are mastering their
environment. They don’t know they are mastering their environment of course, for that requires a sense of cognition. We, on the other hand, DO have the sense of cognition. However, and this KEY ...

It is when we add Cognition into the equation of Awareness, that we get a sense that our Mind is taking control of our Experience.

And it is from THIS particular moment that we are awakened to move along that other path I mentioned earlier – the path that takes us “elsewhere”.

The Elsewhere of Reality

This, I believe, is the moment we step onto the pathway towards the elsewhere called the  “Outside-In” nature of Reality.

Of course we can still learn an enormous amount when we are on THIS pathway, as witnessed by the vast array of things that we as people can become CLEVER at. Many of us on the “Outside-In” pathway learn how to use our brains and bodies in exceptional ways. We also have insights and “Aha” moments from time to time and perhaps are curious about the difference in their nature compared to our usual Thoughts and Experiences.
Yet the moment we realise there is also the “Inside-Out” nature of Reality, and that this was where and how we all started out, is the moment we start to shift our Awareness and Experience back along that original pathway.
And on this pathway, the more grounded we become in our understanding of it, the less we over-complicate things or get in our own way.

"The Clue of Experience" is the final chapter in my book "The CACTUS Approach - Building Blocks for Invincible Teams."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

What's the Catch?

An interesting bit of by-play at my After School Cricket yesterday was 3/4 minutes helping a lad, one-to-one, improve his catching.

We would all feel that the skill of catching is very basic, innate you might say, yet that which we are born with is in a very raw state rather like a sculptor's piece of stone or a carver's lump of wood. To progress from the innate rawness, we model our parents and older siblings long before any specific "catching coach" might hove into view. The downside of that modelling is that it often comes with the replication of parental modelled quirks - and it is our learning of their quirks that causes our burgeoning technique of catching to go down a particular route.

Of course, in the case of the lad I was working with, he’d gone down his particular route for most of the 12 years of his life, all the while practising, honing and polishing those modelled quirks. The thing about any practice is that it doesn’t “make perfect”, it “makes permanent!”


Now, as with most things, there is no "right or wrong" with catching - however, there are things we can do that will make consistent catching much more possible. We might assume that the whole thing with being a good catcher is hand-eye co-ordination. Yet, if we predicate all our progressive actions in learning how to catch, and catch consistently, upon just what our hands and eyes are doing, then we will be paying no attention to what else needs to be happening.

The other thing about hand-eye co-ordination, like that, is that it has become a linguistic label. The caveat we need to bear in mind with all labels is that they mask some of the complexities involved. 

Here are some simple examples – walking, coughing, talking, watching, holding; and a less simple example – concentration; and then our friend – hand-eye co-ordination.
Now every single label of the few examples above is complex – even the first five, which I’ve described as simple! Some are innate, i.e. they are in our nature and we are born with them, some are fashioned and enhanced from the raw innate, and some are formless and conceptual, viz:- concentration, co-ordination.

I’m not going to dwell on labels per se, since I want to further explore what we need to unpack for catching consistently in terms of hand-eye co-ordination. However, I’d like you to keep in mind the simple complexities of the whole modelling-learning spectrum.

Movement in Time and Space

Catching, essentially, involves securing a hold on a moving object with parts of our bodies. In our general understanding catching, specifically, involves securing a hold on the moving object with our hand or hands, although we can involve other parts of us in the process as well – such as bringing the caught item into our chest to make the catch more secure.

Even if we are still, because the object is moving through space at a particular speed there is now a time element involved. One of the things about co-ordination is about how we are judging the element of time and the derivative factors of speed and space. Without that judgement we could – only by chance – place our hand(s) in the right place, at the right time, in order to encounter the object. Once we start to judge an object’s movement through time and space we can begin to co-ordinate ourselves.

I’ve played loads of ball catching games with children under 10. They can be watching the ball with hands ready, yet when the ball seems to be not quite reaching them they reach out for it. Of course, their feet are set in concrete so they fail to catch it. Their hands and eyes seem to be alive and alert, yet their feet are not party to this hand-eye co-ordination. The mere act of moving their feet towards the approaching ball would have moved their hands near enough to secure the catch.
This is simple logic to us as adults, yet it happens SO often with younger children that simple logic has gone out of the window! Ergo, any work on catching involves learning to be ready with hands, eyes, feet and our entire bodies. We, too, need to control the way we are moving through time and space relative to the ball or object as it moves through time and space.

This is only part of the complexity of hand-eye co-ordination though!


Thus far I’ve not touched on hands, but there is much also to be done here to propel us towards our being consistently able to secure catches.

The first is how we interface with the object – and I call this Hard Hands and Soft Hands. Try this yourself with one hand and test for results with the other. 

Spread your fingers in whichever way you like and then tense all the muscles of your hand. Now push into areas of your palm with the index finger of the other hand. Notice how far you can push into parts of the palm and fingers – this is Hard Hand. Now relax the tension and do that finger pushing once again. Notice how different the palm and fingers feel, and how far you can push into them now. 
This is Soft Hand – as seen with my left hand in the picture!

Next is the configuration, the shape, of the hands as they prepare to secure the ball.  Soft hands are crucial of course, but if our palms and the soft sides of our fingers are NOT the first contact interface with the ball, or object, then we are asking a lot of our hands to make the catch or to catch consistently.

Here are both my hands, duly softened, in a state of readiness to catch – and notice where I have marked “A” at the side edge of the right palm. When catching with both hands, match the right hand “A” with the same position on the left hand. You might like to just allow the side tips of your little fingers to touch, as a guide to how close the hands need to be. The hands then form a “basket”, a cupped catching shape into which the ball will land if falling from above. 

Now I discovered straight away that my 12 year old cricketer did not get his hands into anything like this position. He caught using what is colloquially known as “crocodile hands”.

Crocodile hands is where our palms close together either from the side (rather like praying) or from top to bottom like the closing jaws of a crocodile. This is SUCH a difficult way to catch because it demands absolute perfect timing of closing the palms as the ball arrives. It is like trying to catch with pincers, or callipers. 
The other downside of crocodile hands is that it usually starts with our pointing our fingers towards the approaching ball – and catching with our bony finger-ends is both Hard and hard!
It is to be avoided before we practice it and make it permanent.

Elbows and Wrists

The next thing we need our bodies to be doing involves two of the joints that connect our Hands to our Torso – notably, our Elbows and Wrists.

Now to soften our hands and manipulate them in the way I have just described, involves a degree of suppleness in our wrists. However, here’s the thing:- our wrists work hand in hand with our elbows, if you’ll excuse the pun! If you don’t believe me try this little exercise.

Imagine catching with wrist braces on, or with your wrists in plaster – it involves getting your hands in the right place by moving partly from the elbows and, most of all, from the shoulders. You can try this by making your wrists rigid and just noticing where your range of movement now comes from. The moment you “unstiffen” your wrists from those imaginary braces, your elbows come more into play and the movement of your shoulders diminishes.

So – a key part of our being able to co-ordinate our hands in order to catch is to have free AND BENT elbows. If our elbows are stiff and straight then we are back to trying to enable movement in our wrists from the shoulders only – which is difficult and cumbersome. 

So part of my coaching approach to the 12 year old lad (with the crocodile hands) was to get him to free up his elbows a lot more, so he freed up his wrists a lot more and this helped him get his (now) softer hands into a much better position. 
So, having crammed all this into 3-4 minutes for him – the rest is for him to go away and use it for himself. The degree to which he is a self-directed learner will have a direct relationship with how quickly he can educate his body to do certain things in a different way. 
For my part, I gave him enough variable types of catch in the last moments of the 3-4 minutes for him to realise he was suddenly catching a lot better, and a lot more consistently. 

At this stage I had said absolutely nothing about the EYE part of hand-eye co-ordination!

The Eyes

When I talked earlier about labels I mentioned watching and concentration as examples. I did this purposefully, because in terms of hand-eye co-ordination the labels watching and concentration become essential factors.

Now I’ve already exposed the hand part of hand-eye co-ordination as being a whole load more than just to do with hands. And the same applies with the eyes.

So I’ll start with a question for you about concentration – if you think concentration is all about the eyes, then how do you think a blind person might concentrate?
Of course the answer is rather the same as for a sighted person – by paying attention to all the sensual data and information that is coming in to their perception. Now a blind person has no visual data coming in to their perception, so they are able to pay more attention to the other sensual information. Their bandwidth of attention is more attuned, and in particular attuned to the primary sense we first experience in the womb – hearing.

Concentration is more about managing our attention, rather than just using our eyes to gather information - which we might call watching. Yet even with watching as we know, we can watch things whilst daydreaming and be paying no attention!

I believe concentration is made up of two elements – 
Attention and Focus

Our Attention is that bandwidth of data and information that is in our perception. Our Focus is how we are handling the workings of that perception – more about the nature of our consciousness! 

Later, at the same After School Cricket Club, I got the attendees into three small groups and they were to all practice throwing at a target set of stumps about 12 metres away – with their eyes closed. There were chuckles and comments, notably based upon
“No way will be able to hit them with our eyes closed.”
“Just do it and see what happens,” I said. “You may well surprise yourselves.”
Of course, this was a two-edged sword I was using – one edge was to allow them to improve their throwing technique, and the other edge involved their individual bandwidths of Attention. After giving them demonstrated reminders of the “best” throwing technique I left matters in theirs and my other coaches’ capable hands!

The outcomes were pretty much as I expected – and they did, indeed, surprise themselves!  Some were so successful with eyes closed throwing that they couldn’t believe how less successful they became when I got them to throw with eyes open once more.

This, here, is a crucial part of how we tend to manage our Attention when our eyes are open – which is very much the way we are in every waking moment of our lives. We manage our Visual data by giving it priority over our other senses. If you want to experience it for yourselves check out what something tastes like, sounds like or feels like, when your eyes are closed. It is as if another world of perception is opened up entirely.

Pulling the Focus

To draw the business of catching to a conclusion, just remember that “watching the ball” is very important in terms of Attention – FOR HOW LONG you are watching the ball is even more important as it is Attention across Time – EXACTLY HOW you are watching the ball is the MOST important factor of all.

This EXACTLY HOW is about the nature of our Focus.

There are various types of Focus from detailed and microscopic right up to a Focus of infinite focal length, such as when we gaze into a cloudless night sky.
Now we can watch an approaching ball with a view to catching it, in the same variety of ways. However, not all of these will give us the range of data we might think, or that might be most useful for us. If we watch the ball approaching in a narrow, almost microscopic way – say by trying to identify a feature or a mark on the ball in flight – then we may quite possibly succeed in gathering THAT data. But we will lose out in gathering all the data relating to the ball moving through space and time that also gives us its speed relative to us. We need to open up our Focus in order to garner the space/time/speed information.

Ball players sometimes say they “lose” sight of the ball in the background, or “lose perspective” of where the ball is exactly. They might say “I saw it late,” or use some other such description. The thing is, if they are looking with a narrow Focus then their perception of it will be different than if they are looking with an open, or softer, Focus.

And here is where I‘ll draw a focal parallel with Hard Hands and Soft Hands
With a softer Focus on the ball we’ll keep the greatest amount of relevant visual data coming in to our perception. 

If you aren’t sure then here is an exercise to try with a friend or colleague:
Stand about 5 metres apart and throw a ball underarm at catching height between each other. Take turns with your partner at doing a narrow then an open Focus. The narrow Focus person is to microscopically study the ball in detail as they make the catch. The open Focus person is to look over the shoulder of their partner all the while they are making the catch – in other words they are NOT closely following the flight of the ball but they will perceive it in their peripheral vision. Swap roles every thirty seconds. Then speed up the throws and notice what happens – plus put in some poor quality throws and notice what happens.
A variation of this is involves 3 people and 2 balls – the catcher; plus throwers 1 and 2 each with a ball. Thrower 1 starts and throws a catch to the catcher who throws it back to 1. As he throws to 1, thrower 2 throws him his next catch. The catcher then returns it to 2, and as he does 1 throws him his next catch. And so it continues. If he watches each thrower in narrow focus his attention will switch from 1-2-1-2-1 etc. If he watches in open focus by looking softly at point between 1 and 2 then he’ll find it a much easier and more successful exercise – especially when the process is speeded up.
This focussing softly on a mid point is rather akin to what jugglers do. If you aren’t sure what I mean then watch the juggler’s eyes and it will all make sense!

So there you have it – Hand-Eye Co-Ordination in a nutshell!

And if you ever needed an example of state of the art catching, then check out this amazing bit of artistry from Aussie cricketer Glenn Maxwell. You may just notice his calm attention, his sense of time/space/speed, his athleticism, the shape of his hands and his bent elbows!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Consistency within "The Cactus Approach"

In my book "The Cactus Approach - Building blocks for invincible teams" I explore six elements I believe are key to a great team. 

This particular article is about the first "C" of the CACTUS which is Consistency - Consistency of Skills. 

Consistency of Skills

Once the skills of our team members have reached a level of unconscious competence, they need to be able to perform the skills to a high level of competence EVERY TIME they call upon them – especially the basic competences. These are the basic competences that do not require any conscious thought about how to do them.

In terms of CACTUS, this is what I mean by consistency of skills.

The biggest enemy of consistency is pressure, and pressure falls under three main headings.
  • Variables
  • Our opponents or competitors
  • Ourselves


For each of our skills there are a set of variable circumstances that will affect our consistency.
If we consider our driving, these will be the weather, the state of the road, the state of our vehicle and the state of other road users and pedestrians. These are regardless of our own mental and physical states.

These are all variables that will affect the perfect “ideal condition” state of our unconscious competence.

If we think of sport, business, our personal and social skills, indeed any performing skill-set – these are all subject to a wide spectrum of variables. These are variables that we have to cope with, deal with, in an equally competent way so that we can bring our A-Game to whatever we are doing.

For example, in a rugby match in extremely wet and windy conditions, each of the teams will be faced with a set of variables outside of the competitive match directly with each other. The team, and the individuals within the team, that adapts their skills to the variables of the weather and the pitch condition the most, will be in a dominant position with regards to being able to deliver their skills consistently. This is regardless of any differential in the range of capable skills between the respective teams.
A team with limited skills that adapts to all pitch and weather conditions will gain a competitive edge over far more skilled opponents who cannot handle the pitch and weather conditions.

A good friend was talking to me about giving a presentation to workshop delegates using a tablet with presentation software, projector and screen. He had no experience of delivering a presentation using the aforementioned tools and methodology; all his unconscious competences lay in the area of the subject matter and being able to deliver it using the spoken word and a flip chart as a visual aid.
His up-front trepidation was that this new mode of delivery would impose variables upon him that would affect his performance – i.e. the ability to get the workshop content across to the delegates. It was rather like he was going to be driving a very familiar route from A to B but in a car he’d never driven before. In fact he was so concerned, that he considered this metaphorical “car” felt like it was going to be left-hand drive!

From the dancing pairs in BBC TVs Strictly Come Dancing, right across the spectrum to the Red Arrows Aerobatic Display Team – whether the skills are basic, or at a very high level – consistency in the face of variables shows a level of mastery of our performing environment.

All well functioning teams HAVE to be able to deliver their skills CONSISTENTLY in less than perfect environments.


The pressure from opponents comes in the form of anything they can do to either distract us so we, both actually and metaphorically, take our eye off the ball, or force us to abandon our plans, or indeed anything that causes us to fail to deliver our skills adequately.
That is opposition pressure in a nutshell.

Dominance brought about by the way they are playing or competing; Scoreboard pressure; Time Pressure; these are all means that an opposition can bring pressure to bear upon a team, by stifling them from playing their strongest or most natural A-game
Gamesmanship; an intimidating level of physicality; ‘sledging’ and more subtle means of distraction are some other typical by-products of competitor-led pressure.

All the successful effects of competitor-led pressure, in the end, boil down to creating a scenario where we will, essentially, defeat ourselves.


The third and by far the broadest range of pressure, comes from Ourselves.

We are our greatest friend yet we are also our greatest enemy, our greatest opponent – and this is arguably because WE are the ones that we pay most attention to. WE know best and WE know ourselves better than anyone else. DON’T WE?

Of course such a rhetorical question throws up the conundrum between “Thinking and Knowing” – long before we look at “Knowing versus Understanding.” The thing about the conundrum is this:-
Until we REALLY know, we think we know how to best handle our own pressure.
And the sad truth of the matter is this: Until we REALLY know, we haven’t got a clue.

The famous quote of psychologist R D Laing should always be ringing loud in our ears ~
“If I don’t know I don’t know, I think I know.
If I don’t know I know, I think I don’t know”

The mark of any champion or any amazing and consistent performer is that he or she REALLY understands how to alleviate Self-Pressure. Similarly, the mark of any great team or any amazing and consistently performing team is their collective ability in alleviating Self-Pressure.

As Tim Gallwey said in the Preface to ‘The Inner Game of Golf’ –
“Learning to get out of one’s way is the purpose of The Inner Game.”

Available in paperback or Kindle at AMAZON - click here

Friday, October 2, 2015


One of the crucial things we need to remember about Life is that ALL of our roads lead not to Rome – but to our Final Resting Place.

As a result, all the roads and all the journeys then become of THE most paramount importance to us – and that importance then filters out to those we love and those we influence. The more roads travelled and the more journeys undertaken in life – the fuller and richer all our lives will be as a result. The only proviso is that we travel with an open mind  - for then we will see things for what they really are!

We often hear of the rueful catalogues of regrets and missed opportunities from people at the end of their lives. All the “I wish I hads ...” and the things they would have done differently, are testament to the relevance of perhaps how they could’ve been contenders; how they could’ve been better at navigating their “Ship of You”.

By the same token, the lists of “Fifty things to do before I die” that abound, also are a reminder that we forever dream to lift our noses from the grindstone and put some self-directed perspective into our lives – Before it is too late!

We were never born with that grindstone, but we looked at it and were told it was our salvation – and then in true Faustian manner we have sold our souls to it.

Would it not be a better thing to dare, for –as we know - Who Dares Wins!

“So, allow your soul to dare,
to sail out toward the unknown region.
To venture across where there is
neither ground for the feet nor any path to follow.
There is no map, nor guide, until the one that is yet to be fashioned
by the work of your own eyes and hands.
More than all of your undreamt dreams await fulfilment in that region,
that once inaccessible land.
So loosen your ties, weigh anchor,
and feel the wind filling your sails.”

For once you dare to choose to become your own Navigator, then every day you can set course for some amazing places.

You can be a contender, not just a mere spectator.

(from the closing section of Navigating The Ship of You.)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Gateways and The Zone

The Search

I’d always had a desire to find the doors to The Zone, locate the key or keys, and then unlock the doors that the keys fitted. The fact that flow states of peak performance existed, meant that they had to be accessible more than just by chance. It seemed, to my mind, that certain factors were relevant and others were of peripheral importance, and some were just red herrings.

The Way and the Way

Then I returned to Zen and examined the Gateless Gate, and I realised that I was looking in totally the wrong direction – and the wrong way - with my metaphor of keys unlocking doors! And there is no repetitive ambiguity here in my using both “direction” and “way”, for in this regard I take them to mean two quite different things! 
For I see ‘direction’ as being orientation; and ‘way’ as being the manner in which I was looking.

Of course, once I perceived The Zone as NOT being behind doors which needed unlocking, then shapes shifted and new meanings coalesced.

For me the concept within Taoism of Wu Wei - or effortless action - became enriched with knowledge and comprehension. 
Wu Wei refers to the cultivation of a state of being in which our actions are quite effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world. It is a kind of “going with the flow” that is characterized by great ease and awareness, in which - without even trying - we’re able to respond perfectly to whatever situations arise.

I noticed many practical instances of how people’s lives – on both a macro and a micro level – were changed, purely by their opening up and liberating themselves from their own seemingly unseen barriers.

I also used my role as a coach to facilitate that opening up, so that my clients, athletes and players, could gain an understanding ... from within a sympathetic training ground ethos and philosophy ... of there being an infinite number of possibilities.
Curiously within that infinite number, there is not one that involves your learning about how to “do” effortless action. In The Zone you always know what to do and when and how to do it.

So, in terms of liberating the Self, what is the nature of the barriers?

At the Airport

Look at the metaphorical analogy of the security gate at an airport. It is – for all intents and purposes – an unseen barrier. 

Oh, it may look like a doorway with no door, yet there is an invisible field where alarms go off when we try to pass through carrying certain types of baggage or effects upon our person.

It is a Gateless Gate, wrapped up in a modern disguise!

In terms of sports action (or other life performances) where we want to do well, be liberated from our own shortcomings – to throw off our own shackles even – we need to let ourselves ‘take flight’. In order to board this flight, it is necessary we pass through the security gate and have our baggage and effects checked. 

Now here is where we contradict ourselves, since there IS no room for baggage on the field of play. It gets in the way and clutters up all our pathways to playing to the best of our abilities. The boxing ring, tennis court, the football field, the snooker table – or indeed any arena you may care to consider – all get metaphorically filled with our ‘thoughts and issues.’

Imagine you, or your team, take even just kitbags onto the field of play. There will be times in the contest when you’ll find yourselves tripping over them. Add to the kitbags all those cartloads of issues everyone seems to have in their lives, and then the space will really be getting filled up and cluttered. 

Your game – however good or skilful – will then just have no chance to express itself.

Now you may disagree with this metaphor, or question the validity of the idea of our ‘mental baggage’. However, why is it that we can’t do things right some days? How is it that we’ll play poorly at certain venues, or get ruffled by certain opponents, referees or umpires?
“I couldn’t concentrate today – my head wasn’t in the right place.” How familiar does this sound?

Yet, take a look in the mirror – see, your head is still there on your shoulders isn’t it? So what made it FEEL like it wasn’t in the right place?
Yep - you’ve got it –


(Extract from Gateways to The Zone - Pathways to Peak Performance )

Sunday, July 19, 2015


Traffic Lights

Where I used to live was right by an in-town cross roads controlled by traffic lights. One particular week the electronics system that controlled the traffic and pedestrian lights was completely out of action. This meant drivers and pedestrians had to negotiate the four roads at the junction by virtue of their own perceptions, rather than relying upon the ordered and programmed logic of the traffic lights.
It was an interesting study in human adaptability on a number of levels.

The first noticeable change was in the cautionary approach, where drivers – when faced with immediate “WHAT IF?” scenarios – were both more watchful of, AND considerate to, other drivers. This might have been through being concerned to preserve the safety of self and vehicle, of course – but it was humans being adaptable all the same.

I had expected a continuous cacophony of horns and shouting as the cocooned, selfish and inconsiderate drove with only their own needs in mind – the “get out of the way and stand clear because I’m important” kind of attitude that we can witness all the time at active controlled crossings.
Yet it never happened!
People deferred to others and waved people through. It was as though “peace on earth” had come to visit this little crossroads of humanity.

However, as I watched other pedestrians and was also one myself, I became aware of another noticeable change.
In terms of man v car, the pedestrian is never in a position of ascendancy – therefore the window of opportunity for pedestrians to cross at a busy junction can only be brought about by traffic lights. Without vehicles being held on all the four approach roads at once, pedestrians will always attempt to cross at their own risk.
It is a “The Quick and the Dead” situation.

Thus I joined the other foot soldiers in using eyes and ears in an enhanced manner, to gather concurrent information from four different directions as to whether it was safe to cross. This was much more of a challenge than usual. It took some additional boldness of step and clarity of mind. The spectre of Fear stalked my streets!

The Chicken and the Road

It reminded me of the period in my life, which probably peaked around 25 years ago, when I was affected particularly badly - by stress. This impacted on me on a daily basis in a number of ways, one of which was further caution when I crossed the road.

This extra level of caution was part of my control strategy for safety and survival in a hostile environment – and it was triggered into Mind whether I was crossing at a designated pedestrian place, or at just any point.
I can distinctly remember looking left, then right, then left again, then right again, over and over. I did this far too many times – and when the road even looked clear and I had stepped into it, I was still checking, and re-checking. This was just in case a vehicle came into view and I would have to then take evasive action and make a run for it.
That, of course, was also a dangerous situation – for what would happen to me if I lost my footing and slipped or tripped over in the road? Well the vehicle would run me over wouldn’t it? 
Now whilst one may consider that only a robot vehicle would be the kind to mindlessly wipe me out – the real danger always comes from the ones driven by the people out there who are just hell bent on mowing me down.

Now I knew that this was not the behaviour of the usual ME. I knew I was a careful and watchful pedestrian and there was no need for this repeated and excessive care. Yet here I was, engulfed in anxious questioning every time I looked left and right. And the question was, “Yes but WHAT IF something comes round the corner and I’m stranded and unable to get out of the way?”
A nightmare scenario – as REAL as every bit of sensual data I was experiencing on those same streets. 

Yet it was only the construct of my over-heated and stressed-out Mind.

Adaptability and Control

Now, while I’m reminded of those dark stressful days back in my past, those old thoughts and the behaviour they triggered did not come back to haunt me. The recent challenge of being extra vigilant was accepted and executed with a clear mind - in the same way that we might take an umbrella with us if it is raining. It was all just something to be encountered out there in the formed reality of the urban thoroughfare.

As a human, this is an example of my innate adaptability – an admirable yet also learnable quality.

However, as modern humans we also like to be in control – a less admirable and also learnable way of being.

Our modern Society is full of controls and compliance requirements to make it function better. Likewise our own “inner society” – the thought driven society of our intellect if you like – also has lots of controls and compliances to make us function “better”.

Or   so   we   think.

And this is part of the problem for our “inner society”. Our intellect wants to run the show. We convince ourselves that our intellect knows best because – after all – I think therefore I am proves this doesn’t it. 

Thought-led Control usually starts with ourselves.
Once we feel we have a handle on our own control we like to be able to control lots of other things as well. We build a relationship with our “world” and we like to be able to control that “world” and everything about it and everything in it.
Sometimes we discover that our Control is under threat, so we marshal personal forces (attitude and behaviour) to fight that threat and to wrest control back from it.
Sometimes we become addicted to Control, seduced by it, and we build and train personal forces (attitude and behaviour again) to satisfy our addiction.
Most of the time, however, we just feel and follow our need for control in certain parts of our lives and relinquish the need for control in others. 

And we recognise that NEED only in parts of our lives that really MATTER to us.

Our Command and Control System

As we grow up we discover and learn about many, many things. It starts with “the world” and how “the world” works. We experience “the world” as a single entity with us placed at the centre of it. We find that when A happens, or if we do A then this results in an outcome B. If B is what we want then we now have control, because we merely have to do A to get it. We also have control if we don’t want outcome B – by not doing or avoiding A.

Later we discover and learn, usually through experience, that “the world” is much bigger than we first assumed, thought and experienced. We find we are not always at the centre of “the world” any more – so we need to discover more about Control in order to redress the situation and wrest some of that back for ourselves.

This is our adaptability in action.

The road is dotted with potholes. We adapt our original, unswerving straight line of driving to make our ride smoother – by steering a pathway that avoids as many of the potholes as we can. The more we understand the road AND the way we are driving – the more adaptable we will be; the smoother and more enjoyable our ride will be; the less damage our vehicle will suffer from the effect of the potholes.

We cannot control the road – we can only observe, know more about it and understand it.
We can control the way we are driving of course – and for this we need a greater understanding about how control works.

Control can be either thought-driven or impulse-driven.
One is slow and considered and the other is much quicker and intuitive.
One is in the foreground of our cognitive awareness, and the other is much more in the background, in a deeper or more profound place.
We say that one is more at a ‘conscious’ level and the other is more at an ‘unconscious’ level.
We put labels on these levels merely to help us gain an understanding as to how control works.

Yet – here’s the thing:
If we think and believe that control works best via a thought-driven process, then we will allow that process to take over ALL the impulse-driven controls as well. It will be like handing over some of our driving to a driver that is in the back seat of the car. That driver will have a different perspective of the road, and also be functionally distant from being able to drive well. By that I mean that back seat drivers cannot reach the pedals, gear stick and steering wheel very well – and certainly cannot do all those things smoothly and concurrently whilst studying the road at the same time. They CAN do all those things from the driver’s seat – but we are talking about the occasions when the driver’s seat is occupied by the other driver.

Take my crossing the road when suffering from stress. I believed I needed to be controlled by a thought-driven process when performing the dangerous act of crossing the road. So I gathered data in a slow and considered way – a way SO slow, that I had to keep looking left and right to keep gathering new data, because in the SLOW process the data soon passed its “use by” date. I would be stupid to rely on stale, out of date data for my safety, so I kept demanding new and fresh data.
To a casual observer I would appear to be dithering, but what was really happening was my command and control centre was repeatedly saying to my eyes and ears, “Give me fresh information!” I had lost my ability to adapt through my believing that for this PARTICULAR part of my life I needed to think my way through the process.

Similarly, if the drivers at my crossroads without lights had all been stressed-out then there would have been traffic chaos, gridlock. Instead, they were all adaptable – they enabled their ability to adapt to the circumstances. The pedestrians did too – otherwise there would have been hundreds of them stood there waiting, too scared to move.

Mending the Lights

So consider some of the issues that might be affecting the traffic in your life.

Take an analytical perspective on your command and control system to find out about how much is thought-driven and how much is impulse-driven.

Examine what is happening to your adapt-ability when some of your traffic lights stop working, or they get stuck either on “Stop” or “Go”.

Remember this particularly famous quote from Albert Einstein:

Thursday, July 2, 2015

The Numbers Racket

Numbers are everywhere in our lives and it seems we cannot escape them. They enable us to place a value on something, they enable us to quantify things, they enable us to categorise things, they enable a judgement of capacity and relativity, they enable us to measure – they enable – they enable.

Numbers are labels, representations, that go way back into the history of mankind – and they also go way back into our own personal history. We learn numbers very early in our lives, probably – because of fingers and toes – well before letters and words. We are armed with our own bodily means of numerical expression, and we soon gain a level of understanding about the cumulative sequencing of digits known as counting. 

Nowadays we live in “the digital age.” The presence in – and indeed the hold over – our lives by numbers is even more apparent than when I was a child.
In a world of materialism and consumption, the presence and importance of numbers is more than just as a quantifier – it becomes an identifier. In fact in a lot of cases it is the numbers in our lives that DEFINE us.

We are seduced by any form of numerical supremacy, in all areas of our lives. Whether it is to do with the BIG things in our lives right down to the minutiae, almost the infinite details, both magnitude and “minitude” are very attractive to us.
We have even coined a phrase for accepting the seductive presence of nothing, which we call Zero Tolerance. Of course, whether that is just zero zero or absolute zero – who knows or indeed who cares! “I will only accept Zero – there’s nothing more to be said.”

Now, although I’ve only scratched a fraction of the surface of this whole domain of numbers so far yet – I’d like to consider a very common and popular judged, quantified, valued, and numerical derivative that has a usage that never seems too over-exposed. 

Bucket Lists

Whether it is dealing with shades of grey or things to do before death – the daily infestation of bucket lists goes unabated.

Perhaps because there was a quantifier present, I found my attention being caught earlier by an article entitled “22 things that confident women don’t do.”

Now 22 is not what I would describe as a seductive number, so maybe instead I was drawn towards “confident women!” I usually am, but then again - who knows?
Anyway I duly clicked out of curiosity – or was it maybe to run the 22 things mentioned past my perception of the very amazing and confident women I know, just to see if the list matches them, or they match the list, or if I am way off beam with my perceptions!

I stepped into a whole new digital world! The website where the article was posted was like a buzzing beehive of Bucket Lists. Here is a sample of some of the “read this too” banners that hit my eye:
“30 Goals you should set yourself before you turn 30.”
“15 Things you may not know about single Moms.”
“13 Things only women who don’t put on makeup all the time understand.”
“5 Foods you must not eat.”
“3 Alarming facts you need to know before reusing water bottles.”
“10 Toxic persons you should just get rid of.”
“20 Quinoa recipes to keep you healthy every day.”
And so on ...

As you see the linguistic structures above, can you notice a pattern or patterns emerging?
Well they all start with the declaration of the number.
Then there’s some modal operators of necessity like should, need, don’t need and must.
YOU, too, are mentioned in most of them – which is important in grabbing your lapels of attention. Even in the list of things ONLY women who don’t put on makeup all the time understand, there’s a massive pivotal presupposition there depending upon whether YOU are one of THOSE women who UNDERSTAND. On another level this one also caught my eye – because I like women who UNDERSTAND.

Seductive? – You bet!

What might also be seducing you to go and read one particular list and be turning you off reading another?

Numerical Tolerance

We all have a tolerance level when it comes to numbers and numerical evaluation. Plus we also each have a threshold of magnitude acceptance at both ends of the scale. We understand much more if the tiny and enormous measurements are expressed in terms of something else.

So what happens in terms of bucket lists and that tolerance? Well - unless we’ve got loads of time on our hands, as a general rule small is both beautiful and useful when it comes to bucket lists. 

We’re more likely to read the 3, 5, and possibly 10 numbered ones than wading through the 30 Goals one - even if we are approaching the age of 30 from the right direction.

The same applies to 20 Quinoa recipes. Twenty? Why would anyone need 20? 
20 is attention, information, and choice, overwhelm. There is a law of diminishing returns once the numbers get beyond our Above Zero Tolerance - and, although Quinoa may be good, does it warrant a list of 20 recipes?

We’ll probably remember all 3 of the Alarming facts about reusing water bottles. We might deselect one or two of the 5 Foods we must not eat. But after that our brain glazes over like the Quinoa from recipe number 17.

OK, there are always exceptions!
I did read the one containing the number 22 –
but then I did say I’m drawn to Confident Women –
plus did I mention that I have plenty of time on my hands!

Thursday, June 25, 2015

That's Like What?

The linguistic backdrop

In my book “Navigating The Ship of You” is a chapter called The Iceberg of Language
(here in article form .)
In it I talk about Language in the metaphorical sense of an iceberg, with some language above the water’s surface and a much larger amount below the surface.

Now the conscious language, the seen or aware language above the surface, is verbal – it is the language we are not born with, but rather we learn in the course of our lives.  The other non-verbal languages are below the surface, out of conscious awareness. These are the various languages of our senses.
Also below the surface is a rather misty, grey area of inner language that I describe as the language of our Inner Self.

These below the surface languages are ones we are born with, albeit in a rather raw form.
As we grow we learn and gain a knowledge of verbal language, and we enhance and cultivate our ‘below the surface’ languages.

Yet here’s the thing – we use our knowledge of verbal language as our preferred vehicle of making, retaining and communicating meaning.

Of course certain things mean so much more to us in a non-verbal sense – the tender touch of a loved one, the sound of a beautiful melody, the smell of a rose, the sight of a beautiful sunset, the taste of a lemon – yet when we come to describe them, we use the vehicle of words.

When a baby cries, smiles or laughs it knows no words. It is communicating what is felt, experienced, at the level of the language of the Inner Self by the means of the most immediate physical response that comes to hand. As the baby becomes the infant, the toddler, it also starts to utilise the sounds, and eventually the words, it has learned that mean something.
In the broadest sense, the growing child discovers a “code” that makes communicating what it experiences, and what it feels, SIMPLER. And that interpretive code we know is verbal language.

One of the things we get very good at, even from an early age, is pattern recognition. It seems to be another of those inner capabilities we are born with, and that we then fashion and nurture from a very raw sense into something much more sophisticated. I would contend that it is part of our language of the Inner Self – the whole and wide ranging ability to perceive something as being LIKE something else.
And out of that wide ranging ability – once we have learned enough verbal language - comes our propensity for using metaphor in our pattern recognition and its communication, both with ourselves and others.

That’s Like What

Recently I was interviewed by my good friend Judy Rees for her Collaboration Dynamics series of podcasts. Whilst this was a pleasure and a privilege in and of itself – it is always great to have lengthy chats with friends and colleagues – of course there was a purpose to it all. And that was to explore, in terms of collaborative functionality, how I deal with the teams I coach with regards to their competitive performance.

Now, with Judy being “at the helm” so to speak, the particular lingua franca of the conversation involved her using Clean Language questions to elicit my metaphorical representations; to facilitate in a directed way, a journey through my metaphorical landscape.

Or – to put it another way – she used the linguistic lever of Clean Language to find out what was going on for me in my language of the Inner Self. And the most straightforward way to communicate with that below-the-surface Inner language is metaphor. Metaphor – our verbally learned means of representing one thing in terms of another, used below the level of conscious awareness by a part of us that has been dealing with pattern recognition since before our birth.

Now we use metaphor thousands of times all day and every day. We use it in our outer conversations AND we use it in our conversations with ourselves. In a way, the ratio of our outer usage to our inner usage, is also like the iceberg – with the inner usage being below the surface and therefore much more outside our awareness.

Now when we are present with any communication we are trying – all the while – to make meaning of it. This can be listening to someone talking in our own mother tongue, someone speaking in a foreign language, a painting we are looking at, certain sounds or music, the taste or smell of something, the time of day, where we are spatially, how we are being, etc etc. It is all data we are endeavouring to make meaning of. As we know, part of the meaning-making process is the question “Is it LIKE anything else I already know?”

And the very clever linguistic lever that makes Clean Language so powerful is the way that that particular question is structured.
When I hear, “What’s that like?” I give myself a different interpretation than if I hear it put as, “That’s like what?”
The juxtaposition of those three words, the position of the apostrophe, and the presence or the lack of any tonal nuance, all go to make something completely different.

Think about when you go to get a copy of a key. The key-cutter takes the original and matches it with a template key, and then cuts the template key on the lathe to match the original. A simple process – yes – and yet sometimes the new copy key will not fit the lock in the same way. Sometimes, if the cutter has not been diligent enough, the new key will not operate the lock at all.
And, in a similar way, “That’s like what?” seems to match the lock to the language of the Inner Self in a much better way than “What’s that like?” could ever do.


Now the content and direction of my conversation with Judy Rees was quite a fascinating journey of discovery for me, even though I have a familiarity with Clean Language, how it functions and how powerful it is.

My familiarity, needless to say, has been with using it on occasions with clients, or people I’m coaching. Sometimes, the revelations that have emerged for clients have been extremely useful and for one – a young student about to take his Common Entrance exams – quite life-changing.

I’ll allow you to come to your own conclusions from the podcast, rather than reveal my own retrospective discoveries. You can access the podcasts via the links below.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Strays and Shifts

Stray Thinking

Stray thinking wanders around amidst all our lives. These itinerant thoughts are never ours - they just knock on our perceptive doors and if we don't answer they move on. As we peek out we might notice them going up a neighbour's garden path, or watch as they cross the road to ring the bell at Number 23.
Yet - if we do answer their call we then take them in; we take possession of the stray. And in that possession it is no longer A Stray - it is now Our Stray.

Emotionally attached

Of course once the Stray is Our Stray, then we begin to lavish care and attention, and perhaps – eventually – devotion and love! We find a dedicated space in our hearts to grow Our Stray and to perhaps nurture it into becoming a belief – or, should I say in the particular scheme of things, one of Our Beliefs.

Of course I’m only talking in metaphor here; I’m drawing parallels between thoughts and uncared for and homeless creatures am I not? Yet there is a similarity in the way we draw both into our lives, into our consciousness.

Yet, here’s the thing -
The stray animals we might take in an act of human, nay more animal, kindness fall into certain categories. We tend more towards taking in strays that fall into the taxonomy of domestic pets. The more wild we perceive the animal, the less likely we are to take them into OUR lives. If we encounter an injured creature from the wild or a bird with a broken wing, say, then we are probably going to take them in to a professional, or an agency, for them to help the creature back to wellness. The best outcome, we know, is going to be the return of the creature to the wild. Our part in this rescue has merely been one of facilitator or middleman. We invest little or no inward-drawing emotional attachment to the stray.

Some Extra Polation

If we are in conversation with a friend and they say, “I was thinking of doing xxx,” then there’s a good chance we’ll make some inner judgement of their thinking – based upon our own view of and relationship with xxxx. The thinking here, we know, is not ours at all. It is theirs – and at this stage there we have invested no emotional matter in this.
Until, that is, the very moment we pay attention to our judgement. Our Judge may pronounce and we might say, “Yes, what a good idea,” or perhaps grow xxxx by saying, “Have you thought of doing xxxx THIS way,” or maybe say, “I’m not so sure – is doing xxxx a good idea?”

All at once the Stray that our friend brought to the conversation is becoming Our Stray. We are now thinking about xxxx and investing some of our emotional matter by taking the Stray IN. The closer our caring and emotional ties are with our friend, the more we will invest. If we think xxxx is a great idea then we’ll respond with interest and enthusiasm – if we think it is a bad idea then we’ll respond with a degree of trepidation and try to warn our friend off doing xxxx.

Whatever we think, of course, will have a bearing upon our judgement and response. The extent of our emotional investment in the response is relative to the closeness of our friend and how we view xxxx.
These are the parameters of our relationship with The Stray.

So what about when I say to a friend, “I was thinking of doing xxxx.”

Considering Doppler

In physics, the Doppler shift is a shift in the wavelength of light or sound that depends on the relative motion of the source and the observer. It is related to the Doppler effect - when we notice that the sound coming from a car horn or engine changes pitch when it passes us by. We, the observer, in this case are stationary, and the moving car approaches us and then goes away from us. The wavelength of the sound from the car changes relative to us but not to itself – or to any person who is in the car.

Now, to return to my conversation with a friend – how does this now appear, through the metaphorical filter of the Doppler shift?

If we look upon a person as being separate from their thoughts, we have the following relationship here – A, A’s thoughts, B, B’s thoughts. It is a kind of 4-voice structure.

To a distant observer we still have two persons, A and B, in conversation. A tells B about something he has thought and B gives A his response. Roles may be reversed, yet the observer knows no more and sees no difference between A or B. He knows they are thinking and telling each other their thoughts, though he knows nothing about xxxx.

If I see someone standing alone on a street corner, I am observing a conversation. And that is a conversation between that someone and their thoughts. I cannot hear the conversation, yet I know there is one going on. I am the observer and the dynamic Source is the relationship between that someone and his thoughts. If he moves away from the street corner, he takes his thoughts with him – obviously!

If we take the detail of this relationship and drill into it a little further we still have the Source and the Observer. Only NOW the Observer is the “someone” and the Source is his thoughts.
Or, in another metaphorical sense, I am the Observer and the Source is a Stray.

Doppler Shift

However the shift comes when “I” enters the dynamic of the relationship. And here’s the thing:
“I” owns his own thoughts. They aren’t just any old bits of thinking – they are HIS. He has invested in them and grown them. They might have started out as Strays, but in terms of “mental time” that was a long time ago. Now they have credence in the hierarchy of thought.

This ownership is how we fail to recognise any thought of our own for what it really is and where it came from.

In terms of the Doppler shift, we fail to understand the Source of Thoughts relative to Ourselves the Observer. We believe Ourselves to be the Source of our Thoughts. My thoughts are my own – aren’t they?

And for those thoughts that approach us and we seize upon and take ownership of, there is never the Doppler Effect, the noticeable change of frequency, as they move on and away from us. And the more thoughts we take ownership of, the more Strays we take in, the less of “moving on and leaving” effect we notice.

Eventually, we might come to never notice the effect at all. Have you ever tried to let go of your thoughts? How on Earth would you know you’d let go of them? What would tell you they were no longer around?

Well I’ve thrown in some metaphorical clues here which will be much more recognisable once you let go of the assumption that the Source of your thoughts is You.
The next clue is to see Stray thoughts for what they really are, and do not lavish too much care or invest too much emotion in them.
Another clue is to recognise the Doppler shift of thoughts approaching and thoughts leaving. This will tell you when you’ve let go and that they are no longer around.
Another clue is to question more about your emotional investments and how lavish your caring is. Your body will usually tell you how much of that is going on.

Remember that we are always caught up in the hurly-burly of life, and as such we can never be in a constant state of monitoring. Life is for Living, after all and if we were to realise how much of it we spend taking in Strays then we’d change that straight away!