Archive for the ‘Topic – Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP)’ Category

Rapid Lava Learning

Monday, June 29th, 2015

Mile 180. Lava Falls Rapid, Grand Canyon. One of the most notorious, if not the most notorious, rapid on the Colorado River within the Grand Canyon.  A snarling, noisy cauldron of churning waters intent on devouring anything or anyone who doesn’t show any respect – and some who do.

For those people like me rafting the 225 miles of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon this is one of the white water highlights. For the guides taking us down the river, this is also a highlight – but even more so a challenge. They know the risk of the boats capsizing, together with the risk of serious injury (or worse) for themselves or their charges if the relevant respect is not shown. They also know that reputations are won and lost on the few seconds taken to navigate Lava Falls. YouTube logs many guides’ attempts to negotiate the rapids – often the ones that didn’t go according to plan.

I had already witnessed our guides ‘scouting’ (this is where the guides leave the boats and walk ahead an up so that they can look down on the rapids to check the prevailing conditions) previous challenging rapids and seen indications of the seriousness and perhaps mild apprehension with which they approached them – tones of voices became more serious, then, as they stood over the rapids the tightening of already recently tightened life-vest straps.

Different guides displayed different signs, and I was particularly impressed by one of the guides in terms of her skills in these situations. Kiki is a woman in her mid-twenties who has guided many parties and regards the Grand Canyon – and in particular the Colorado River – as her home.  She has also never capsized a boat on the river – although she has taken quite a few unintentional swims through rapids – but is aware that capsizing is likely to happen at some point.

I was interested in her approach to navigating Lava Falls and she was kind enough to spend some time discussing it with me the evening before we “ran Lava”.

There were several points of particular note.

Kiki said that Lava Falls enters her consciousness early on in the trip (although the Falls are not negotiated until around Day 12), and often prior to the start of the trip. She described experiencing short “adrenalin bursts” on these occasions in anticipation of the Falls. When I asked how she reacted to these, she explained that whenever she experienced this, she would visualise the Falls and her anticipated route through the Falls (the preferred route can alter depending on a number of factors, but mainly on the water level of the River). Kiki found this a useful process in both making use of the adrenalin burst and in meaningful preparation for the rapids.

She then described how the guides would discuss the Falls the evening prior to running them, and how on the actual day of the event as she approached the Falls she would start to experience some nervousness and anticipation. She recognised that whilst these emotions were understandable, they were also potentially unhelpful, so she recognised and dealt with them.  She achieved this by discussing information and factual aspects about the Falls with her passengers. She explained that this helped expel the unhelpful emotions and focussed her on the cognitive task in hand in a helpful manner.

Having scouted the Falls and returned to her boat to run the Rapids, Kiki described how she monitored her breathing. She recounted how if she then felt apprehensive at all, she would take deep breaths – for two reasons. Firstly because it helped her to refocus her energy and ensure she was in the best physiological state to negotiate Lava, and secondly for a very practical reason – if she did capsize or go for an unintentional swim she would have plenty of breath! The importance of this last point was illustrated by one of the other guides who explained how they were thrown out of their boat, spent 38 seconds underwater in the clutches of the Colorado and were then spat out 25 yards from where they went under.

Finally, Kiki explained how she reflected on her approach, line and skills after the event – considering what went well and what, if anything she could have done differently – thus maximising her learning for the next time.

The majority of people reading this will not be river guides, but the approaches, behaviours, processes and practices that Kiki so effectively uses are instantly transferable to other situations – she demonstrates a use of Emotional Intelligence beyond her years in recognising and managing her emotions, she understands and applies the principles of being focused and managing her breathing, and she makes the most of every experience by implementing the Experiential Learning Cycle.

Whilst I have written about them before, I think this is a really helpful and practical application of these theories, and it demonstrates how versatile and effective they can be in supporting effective performance – whatever the context.

If I had been training as a river guide, the discussion we had would also have been a good illustration of NLP Modelling. If you want to identify and fully reproduce the detailed skills of a successful person, it is insufficient purely to watch their behaviours – you need to fully explore and comprehend their thoughts, mind-set and emotions in order to achieve their level of excellence. Due to the breadth, depth and quality of information gleaned, the process also accelerates a person’s learning.

And how did we get on? All the oared boats made it through, but the lighter (and more likely to capsize) paddle boat didn’t make it. It capsized, throwing out all seven occupants, however, four climbed on top of the overturned raft to row it through “Son of Lava Falls”, and the three others swam it – with one of the occupants receiving a minor head injury which looked a lot worse than it was due to the amount of blood he lost. A reminder of the power of Lava Falls and the need for the preparation and skills Kiki displayed.

Paul

 

Social media – how does it impact on your type?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

A few weeks ago I stayed at the Bloc Hotel at Gatwick Airport, and it reminded me that I hadn’t written part 2 of my blog on social media and personality type.

Why did it remind me? Well, the transition from airport to hotel was significant. To access the hotel, all I needed to do was turn off the thoroughfare populated by some excited, some tired, some hurrying people coming from and going to their destinations, and I was immediately in a different environment. I booked in and as I took the route to my room I was suddenly thrust into a dark, quiet, relatively narrow corridor with lighting that only activated as I made my way along the corridor. It reminded me of being at a fairground and suddenly going into an enclosed attraction.

As for my room, it was small, with dark furnishings and no windows or external light, and this impact was increased due to its proximity to the airy and light airport terminal. Whilst the room was small – and possibly more like a pod than a room – the space was used well and it incorporated a lot of high tech equipment. It wasn’t unpleasant.

It immediately occurred to me that it would be the sort of room to divide customer opinion – a little like the NAP Conference on Social media did this year – and this was apparent from a quick visit to Trip Advisor. Whilst many people liked it, many others didn’t describing it as, “Fine for Hobbits”, and “We felt trapped in a tomb with no window”.

I wonder how much the Hotel designers considered psychological type when designing this very different sort of Hotel – and I wonder how much HR leaders are considering people’s psychological type when implementing new technology or social media strategies.

In terms of psychological type, one of Carl Jung’s dichotomies related to Energy Focus. Where is a person’s source of energy? People whose focus is on the outer world of people and activity are energised through interacting with people and are attuned to the external environment. Those who focus on their own inner world, however, are energised by reflecting on their own thoughts, memories and feelings. These concepts have become known as ‘Extraversion’ and ‘Introversion’ through the work of Jung, and the subsequent popularisation of his work by Myers and Briggs.

Turning to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), one of the Motivational Traits within Shelle Rose Charvet’s ‘Words that Change Minds’ (which is based on work by Noam Chomsky and Roger Bailey) is Motivational Source – is a person externally or internally motivated? There is overlap here with Jung’s sources of energy, but differences too.  Within this model, Internal people tend to be motivated from within themselves, so provide themselves with motivation. They also tend to critique and assess their own work as they are clear on their standards and what they’re using to make the judgements. External people, however, tend to need others’ feedback and without this can become demotivated, and may struggle to continue with their work. Internal people tend not to need feedback from others, as they have their own internal standards – a downside of this being that they can dislike being managed and may ignore valuable thoughts and feedback from others.

The final tool I will refer to is the TMSDI’s Margerison-McCann Team Management Profile. I saw a person’s profile recently. This person was shown at the Introvert end of the Introvert – Extravert Work Preferences Measures. In the overall commentary it noted that this person was in a group of, “… single-minded, determined people, who like to see tasks through to the very end without distractions”, and, “You may tend to distrust people who talk well but offer only opinions, rather than detailed information”.

How does this link to the Hotel design? I would hazard a guess that whether people like the rooms or not is often associated with their Introversion or Extraversion preference – generally introverts could thrive on the lack of external activity, whereas extroverts could potentially struggle with no external energy or opportunity for interaction.

In terms of business, I have previously implemented an office move which took staff from working in small offices to all 35 staff working in one large room. Some people saw this move as really beneficial to them, and thought it would help them be more effective, others dreaded having what they saw would be constant distractions interfering with their work – some of which was linked to the theories and models described above.

How will social media and other technology impact on our Introverts and Extraverts? There will be increasing numbers of people working from home due to the availability of improved connectivity, there are already increasing numbers of internet businesses being opened and run from storage warehouses, the conference heard that at least one company had advertised jobs solely through Twitter, recruiters are placing an increased reliance on LinkedIn, abuse of (or via) Facebook is already a significant foundation and contributor to many internal discipline cases.  What else will have changed in ten years’ time? Will introverts or extraverts cope better with these developments?

HR needs to think through these developments and consider their impacts. Focusing on the home working aspect for a moment, how many organisations consider individual behavioural aspects when deciding whether or how (with what support) a person should be permitted to work from home? I haven’t come across one yet (but there is generally a check as to whether computer screens are at the correct height) – but it should be a key consideration, and would demonstrate a real interest in the diversity of staff.

Social media can make communication more accessible, but it will not deliver the extravert’s energy source. It can also allow introverts to become even less connected.

How are you addressing this?

Paul

 

Barefoot Moments

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

You know those moments, those moments when you just lose who you are … when you lose all your inhibitions … you just do what you want to do and have so much fun doing it!

Whenever I experience such moments, I usually re-visit this, for me, very thought provoking poem, “If I had my life to live over”:

I’d dare to make more mistakes next time.
I’d relax. I would limber up.
I would be sillier than I have been this trip
I would take fewer things seriously.
I would take more chances.
I would take more trips.
I would climb more mountains and swim more rivers.
I would eat more ice cream and less beans.
I would perhaps have more actual troubles but I’d
have fewer imaginary ones.
You see, I’m one of those people who live sensibly
and sanely hour after hour, day after day.
Oh, I’ve had my moments and if I had it to do over
again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else. Just moments.
One after another, instead of living so many years ahead of each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat
and a parachute.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. If i had it to do again, I would travel lighter next time.
I would go to more dances.
I would ride more merry-go-rounds.
I would pick more daisies.

What images, sounds and feelings that triggers!

It is attributed to an 85 year old woman called Nadine Stair, although there is conjecture as to whether it was written by her or, in fact, if she even existed. Whatever the truth around that, I find the words thought provoking.

We would probably all want more of this in our lives, wouldn’t we? So is it a person reflecting sadly on their life? Or perhaps there is a positive side to it in that the writer has had so many of them – thus enabling them to write such a powerful poem – that they would have liked even more.

If we would like to “start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall” what can we do about it? When I reflect back on my own moments of pleasure they are often in situations where I would not have envisaged such huge surges of emotion. They weren’t planned. They are often predominantly outside my control.

But you have to plan to live in order to have the chance of having them – we have to be in it to win it.

We are ‘human beings’, not ‘human doings’.

So what stops us? Predominantly socialisation?

The rules, the norms, the expected behaviours. It starts from an early age, so by the time we know that we need to do something about it, it can be too late or too difficult. Most of us will have played and had fun as children – but even by that time, we will have been conforming in certain ways in order to get the love and affection we required to survive.

Perhaps, therefore, this absolute pure fun is unachievable? Or perhaps it is achievable if we are a bit more drastic.

When I need to access skills that I don’t believe I have in sufficient depth, or that are sufficiently polished, I ‘become’ someone who does have these skills. And usually it helps me. In such situations, the people I am interacting with see me, so they have no idea what’s going on for me. Take that one step further – when I become Father Christmas, I lose even more of myself, as I have described previously.

As Dr Seuss advised, “Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who don’t matter don’t mind”. I certainly have too many people in my life who don’t matter.

And how could this help you impact on others at home and at work?

And help them have more moments? As Kate Bush reflected in her song “Moments of Pleasure”, accompanied by a hauntingly beautiful piano:

Just being alive
It can really hurt
And the moments given
Are a gift from time
Just let us try
To give these moments back
To those we love
To those who will survive

Perhaps we need to think less about surviving, or wishing we had more moments – and more about doing something about it. It’s never too late to learn.

Paul

 

Going Round in Circles

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

One of the most satisfying day’s work I ever had was way back in the 1970s – probably 1977, I think. I was working as a ‘Saturday lad’ (meaning I was at school, and so only able to work on a Saturday – shops didn’t open on Sundays, then!) at Boots. It was about 4 weeks before Christmas. Calculators were the ‘in’ item of the season. They had become small enough and cheap enough (around £50!) for them to be available to the mass market – and the mass market wanted them.

On the previous Saturday, I had been learning about them as I worked in tandem with a full time employee. This person was very helpful to me, but he only had eyes for one particular Casio calculator. And so whatever the public were looking for when they visited us, this Casio was the answer. I have no idea why – we weren’t on commission. The consequences were that we sold quite a number of Casios, but also missed out on a lot of sales.

The next Saturday he was on his day off, and I was on my own. The manager spoke with me at the start of the day and asked if I was happy with my role for the day, and then set me a challenge of selling 80 calculators that day. To his surprise, I said I thought that would be relatively easy – so suggested 100 as a target. He said he didn’t think that was realistic. I sold 104. I can still remember the thrill of selling the 100th! Significantly, in my opinion, only a small proportion of them were this ‘preferred’ Casio model.

Which brings me to training courses and meetings. I have sat through a lot of these in my time – as I’m sure you might have.

When people have not met before, the trainer, facilitator or meeting chair will usually – and rightly – ask everyone to introduce themselves. This is often accompanied by a request for individuals to explain their role, or what they want to get out of the event, or why they have chosen to attend, etc. This can be helpful to both the attendees, as they learn more about each other and the different motivations for being there, and for the trainer or leader, as they get a better idea of what people are looking for and potentially the opportunity to tailor the programme accordingly.

But do facilitators make this activity as comfortable and beneficial as it could be? At the majority of meetings and events that I have attended, attendees are normally asked to go around in order from left to right, or right to left, etc – often starting from next to the facilitator.

Put yourself, for a moment, in the position of the attendee. What happens for you in this situation? Do you prefer being first, or last, or somewhere in the middle? Do you think, “Let me introduce myself now”, or perhaps, “I wish I had a bit more time to think about what I’m going to say”. Perhaps you think, “Only 4 people to me … only 3 people until me … only 2 people to me …”. None of these are particularly useful internal responses as they mean that you are not listening to what’s being said, or you are not giving as helpful information as you might be able to. How can this be addressed?

First, we must recognise that these groups will always be made up of many different types of people. Whatever we like when we are attendees, this will be different from many of the others attending.

One of the dichotomies within the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is Introvert and Extravert. The Introverts generally like time to think, time to consider what they are going to say. The Extraverts usually like to have conversation, get involved quickly and make conversation.

The NLP “Motivational Traits” model, has ‘Proactive’ and ‘Reactive’ as one of its dichotomies – the ‘Motivational Level’ Trait. This relates to whether a person prefers to take the initiative or wait for others. Proactive people want to do it now, get going – and so, given the chance, usually introduce themselves as soon as possible. Reactive people prefer to wait, to consider, to act with caution and they generally dislike taking the initiative. 15 – 20% of the population are strongly Reactive, and a similar amount strongly Proactive.

How, then, can trainers cater for these differences in personal preferences, enable people to feel as comfortable as possible, and get the maximum benefit from the exercise?

This is how. The trainer can explain that there will be the opportunity for everyone to introduce themselves, together with the reasons or benefits of the activity. He or she can then explain that they are happy for anyone to start by introducing themselves first, and from then on, anyone else can follow on, as long as they are not sitting next to the person who has just spoken. It might have to be explained a second time, but its worth doing. The benefits?

  • Extraverts and Proactive people can interact as soon as they want.
  • Introvert and Reactive people can wait a while and consider their contribution.
  • Contributors are likely to feel more comfortable.
  • Attendees are more likely to listen as they are not counting down to when it is their turn.
  • The trainer will learn far more about the attendees.

And in relation to the last point, I don’t just mean learning about what the attendees want out of the event. The trainer learns who is likely to be quick off the mark, who is likely to be quickest to answer questions, and who may be a little reticent in coming forward, who might need a little time to think before responding. Information that can help the trainer, and the delegates – and make the day even more effective.

All because of a very small change in a methodology as a result of focusing on delegate needs.

But as with most rules, there is an exception. If I am running an event with a blind or visually impaired person in the room, I would go left to right or right to left in a structured way. This is because the blind person uses this process to map out the room – who the people are and where they are sitting. A ‘random’ approach will cause them confusion and hamper their involvement.

Have a go – and let me know what you find!

Paul

Masking Tips

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2012

Well, there I was on the shoreline, as I described in my last post. In a place I didn’t know, in a mild state of panic, with nowhere to stay and no way of leaving. I had a vocabulary of about twenty Croatian words. I was starting to freeze both physically and mentally.

In Maslow terms, I was back to basics – my physiological needs of warmth, shelter and food were not being met. My only option was to talk my way into someone’s home. As there was only one place with a light on – the shop – I had one opportunity within my one option. Not a strong position. I also felt pretty foolish for having got myself into the position, and have never liked imposing myself on others. Could my position have been any weaker?

I wasn’t confident I could pull it off. In NLP terms, this was me in “First Position”. As I thought about going into the shop, I considered how I would come across to anyone I met – “Second Position”.  I thought of Acres, from Sheridan’s ‘The Rivals’, when he says before the duel “My valour is certainly going, it is sneaking off! I feel it oozing out as it were, at the palms of my hands!”’

Finally, I took “Third Position” or the “Meta Position” – I looked at the situation from an outsider’s perspective. I then I realised what I needed to do. I needed to become someone who would always manage to succeed in such a situation – and that person was Michael Palin! He travels the world meeting new people, has a lovely way with people and gets himself into people’s homes and premises whenever he wants.

So I became Michael Palin – initially in my mental approach, and then in terms of my physical behaviours and all aspects of my rapport building. To cut a long story short, it worked like a dream! Anna, the shopkeeper – who also had rooms she let out in the summer – let me to stay and fed me for the next two days.

It is a technique I have used on several occasions since, and one that I have encouraged and enabled others to use - it can bring about strikingly beneficial results.

It obviously had more of an emotional attachment for me than Anna. I went back two years later (this time in the summer!) and stayed with her again – and even though I reminded her of my previous visit she couldn’t remember me. Perhaps it happened every week? The Tourist Information Office in Dubrovnik having a competition to see how many unsuspecting tourists they could get to visit a closed Mljet! …

Which brings me to last December, when I wrote a blog about “Being Santa”. Having got changed from being Santa, I went back to my colleagues and they were talking about how people are different when they are somebody else. It made me think more about Masquerades and being Santa – or being anyone else to be more precise (and so reminded me of Michael Palin).

Whilst I acquired my Santa outfit for fun (£2.50 in a Homebase sale!), I did by accident find an additional use for it. The office Christmas Party. I find Christmas a lovely time of the year, but office parties are not part of Christmas for me – I have never really enjoyed them.

There was one particular year when I really didn’t want to go, so I decided to go as Santa. And it was a very interesting experience. I discovered that I was able to go to it and enjoy it more than I had done previously. On reflection, I realised that I was attending as Santa and not as Paul, and so had a different outlook. Consequently I used a whole different set of behaviours. As a result, every year from then on I went as Santa – and enjoyed them far more.

The main reason for the invention and subsequent popularity of Masquerade Balls in Fifteenth Century Venice was so that people could conceal their identity and hide who they really were. The anonymity they provided to an upper class that was governed by the strictest etiquette was irresistible. They didn’t have to be themselves; they were able to be different people. Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth”.

This leads me to the questions I want to pose.  Which is the real person? Paul or Santa (or Michael Palin)?

The person when they are wearing or not wearing the mask?

When is a person closest to being their innate self?

I have thought about it many times over the years since my visit to Mljet. What are your thoughts?

Paul

How do you get out of a personal pickle?

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

For many years, I had a need to be organised and structured – and still do to some degree – however, I recognised that I needed to develop my ability to work with less structure. This was a personal development area when I undertook my NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) Practitioner training about 10 years ago. So I took myself off to Dubrovnik, Croatia – a place I  had never visited before – in January with no accommodation booked. I arrived at Dubrovnik Airport at 10pm and only found a room at 2am – the intervening 4 hours was very uncomfortable, particularly the last hour.

But Dubrovnik is a wonderful city with a rich history, and it quickly became apparent that it was well worth the visit. I decided I had quite enough learning on that first night, and would now enjoy the rest of my week. A couple of days later, having read about the beautiful island of Mljet, I decided to visit it – having been reliably informed by the Tourist Office in Dubrovnik that there would be plenty of places to stay and eat.

I got to the harbour and boarded the ferry for the 2 hour trip. I was slightly concerned that there were only a dozen other people on the boat, and most of them were over the age of 60. Looking at their ‘luggage’, it was obvious that they were returning from taking produce to Dubrovnik market. It was a lovely day though, the views were stunning and I soon put my concerns to one side. In fact, I started thinking how good it would be with so few tourists there!

Mljet is a long thin island with one road that runs along the spine of the island. Sobra, the ferry port, is towards one end of the island and Polace – a small village on the verge of the national park and my destination – at the other end. The promised bus was waiting there at the ferry terminal. All twelve ferry passengers got on and we set off. As we drove along the island, people got off one by one. Polace was the penultimate stop, and as we approached I was the only person left on the bus. How wonderfully peaceful, I thought. I got off, the bus drove off and I looked for one of the lodgings. Then it hit me … Mljet was shut.

I walked up and down the sea front. It was around 5pm and getting dark. The warm sunny day was turning into a cool, clear January evening.  The only lights that were on were in the small shop. None of the other houses had any signs of life. All the shoreline restaurants were obviously closed for winter. The next ferry back was early in the morning (presumably to take people to the market!), with the connecting bus passing back through Polace at 4.15am. There was no way of getting off the island that evening. For someone who needed structure, I was in a real pickle.

What would you have done?

I will tell you what I did and how I did it tomorrow in my next blog post.

Paul

 

Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations from my schooldays

Sunday, August 8th, 2010
Father and Son - can you see them?

Father and Son - can you see them?

I went to a very enjoyable Reunion on Friday night for people who went to Northgate Grammar School, Ipswich and who celebrated their fiftieth birthdays this School year. I left the School in the long hot summer of 1976 having taken my ‘O’ levels, due to my parents moving north, and completed the remainder of my education in Yorkshire.

That was 34 years ago. And I had not had any contact with any of my ex-classmates since 1976, other than communication with 3 or 4 people via Friends Reunited and a few emails during the organisation of the event.

It felt very strange prior to the event. I could remember so little about my time there or the people I was with, I felt like I was researching another person’s history rather than retracing my own steps. I didn’t recognise anyone at the event, although I did recognise names. The only person I was sure I knew – and was very enthusiastic in explaining to him how I remembered him – I didn’t actually know. I had got the wrong person!

It all fitted with aspects of some training I had been delivering within the NHS on the previous day. We were discussing motivating staff and dealing with people who may appear difficult. Specifically we were looking at the NLP work of Shelle Rose Charvet, and my experiences at the Reunion fitted very well with a foundation stone of NLP and Shelle Rose Charvet’s work – how we use our own personal filters to create our own reality of the world, unlike anyone else’s reality, through the Deletion, Distortion and Generalisation of information.

We delete things as we can only remember a certain number of pieces of information at any one time – best estimates suggest that it is around 7 pieces if information from an interaction or discussion.

We distort things – possibly why we have a Lock Ness Monster and large black panthers roaming the country. Closer to home, it explains how we suddenly see something possibly scary, and then realise it’s not quite what we thought it was.

And we generalise. People create a view of groups of people, or a personal norm (such as all car sales people are this, or all politicians are that), based on a few interactions or what they have heard from others.

And the whole of the Reunion evening – certainly for me – was based on Deletions, Distortions and Generalisations. When I left the Reunion, I think my one regret was that I didn’t have any notes or recollections that might have given me a fighting chance of having a personal reality reasonably close to someone else’s personal reality.

It emphasised to me the benefits of Reflective Practice and diary keeping. We forget far more than we ever learn, and in order to increase our potential to learn we can spend more time recording what we have achieved and how we have achieved it, and what we have not done well and why it didn’t go well.

Paul

Handling weather fronts

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

I was very sad to see that Alex “Hurricane” Higgins had died at the weekend. In the early 1980’s I really enjoyed watching him play. He had such talent as a snooker player. He could pot balls from difficult positions with such apparent ease. He didn’t indulge in conformity. I have very fond memories of discussions with my dad as to his qualities when compared with the likes of Steve Davis – who my dad particularly liked to watch. I suspect that part of my fascination with Alex Higgins was that he was totally the opposite of me in so many ways and, at that time, I wished I could have been like him in.

Knowing more about him now, I am very pleased that I wasn’t and am not like him. As the years progressed I became more aware of his unpredictability, his mercurial temperament, his alcohol-related behaviour. He had a chaotic lifestyle.

When I read about such individuals, I always wonder whether with a little more assistance they could have lead a more organised and less chaotic life. I then wonder whether by doing that, it would have stunted their phenomenal talent and inventiveness. Does the sheer brilliance of talent have to go with a lifestyle of chaos and unpredictability? Are the two inseparable?

I don’t know. But I do know that most of us at certain times in our lives find ourselves in situations where we need a little help in order to steer ourselves through stormy situations or mildly chaotic periods. And this same weekend I had a phone call from one such person who I had recently assisted. Jayne – I will call her – has absolutely nothing in common with Alex Higgins, and in at least one way she is completely different to him – she realised when she needed a little assistance.

Last month – 22 June to be precise – I blogged about how I was assisting a number of people with their preparations for their CIPD examinations. One person in particular – Jayne, I will call her – had explained to me that when she read the exam paper, the questions, “just became a jumble of words making no sense”.  Jayne had failed the exams the first time around, having walked out after half an hour. When we first made contact, there were three weeks to go before the exam and she was panicking about what she needed to do. She was finding the whole thing very stressful – made worse by problems she was having at work.

Three weeks wasn’t long to have an impact. We had telephone chats every two or three days. We had short term action plans and longer term action plans (but never longer than three weeks!). I gave her micro-teaches on aspects of Transactional Analysis (TA), Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and Emotional Intelligence (EI) to help her understand what was happening for her and how she could start to manage the situation more effectively. I devised a set of questions (see 22 June entry) to assist Jayne with focusing whilst in the exam.

I spoke to Jayne a few days after the exam and she thought that she had given it her best shot, and a few days later she emailed me (see 10 June entry) to thank me for my assistance.

I didn’t expect to hear from Jayne again – but then she rang at the weekend. She rang to say that she had passed, and not only had she passed, she had achieved a distinction (over 70%)!  She was very pleased – and wanted to thank me for my support. I was overjoyed for her, and was smiling about it for the whole weekend – the effort that she had put in had really paid off. It illustrated a few points for me:

  • There are times when we all need help – and those of us who are prepared to seek it out will generally flourish.
  • Never give up – it’s never too late to start to address something – (but it is easier with more time!).
  • By being open to new learning and skills we can achieve much in what appears to be a short space of time – and can create positive ‘anchors’ that will assist us in future endeavours.

How could you be more effective with a little assistance or a little more focus?

Paul