Category Archives: Uncategorized

Role Play

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Often we ‘train’ or prepare for leadership by role playing. Role playing certainly has some great benefits as it mostly only requires a  bit of imagination on the behalf of the ‘players’ and allows for specific scenarios to be practiced. In fact, at times people can be so caught up in the role they are playing that the emotions we encounter in real life are provoked. On the other hand it can become simply an intellectual exercise and you are practicing making decisions a ‘cold” state, whilst in real life you will often be making those same decision under pressure and in the grip of some level of emotion.

When we are in our rational intellectual ‘cold’ state you are not a good predictor of how you will react when emotions are raised – along perhaps with your blood pressure! The only way you can reliably know how you will respond under pressure is to be under  pressure.

When at Horsanity we ask you to be a leaders with the horses you are not being asked to play at a role, but to actually take  up that role. The situation may be different but we are challenging you a little, moving you outside of your comfort zone just enough, when you ask a 600kg animal to put their trust in you and follow you of their own free will. When you work with others and the horses as a team you need to be fully aware of your emotions, reactions or responses. You need to manage uncertainty, frustration, non verbal communication, ability to impart clear intent and vision, and to be emotionally agile.

We are often asked “What can I learn about leadership from horses?”. The better question is “What can I learn about myself whilst leading a horse?”

The problem with Vulnerability

Like many people I first came across the work of Brene Brown through her TedEx Huston presentation (which at 13 055 030 and counting on the Ted platform alone is one of the most watched Ted talks ever) and have since dived in very deep to her work. There often seems to be two worlds in which knowledge operates. One if the academic world where a lot of rigor is placed around primary research, literature review and writing dry dense academic papers that are off-putting and intimidating for the large majority of readers, where the other is the free-form, largely unreferenced, highly anecdotal but highly accessible writing of various individuals who’s credentials are not always obvious and sometimes dubious.  What I love about  Brene Brown’s work is that it grows from her academic work, but it is so accessible to us all that it can touch and influence so many lives.

She does not run the Guru model. As someone talking to us about vulnerability she never claims to have beaten it, to have the the 5 tips to invulnerability, the 10 fail-safe strategies for overcoming imperfection, rather she makes herself entirely vulnerable and allows us to see her imperfect self. Good on her !

So what is the problem with vulnerability? Actually the problem is with our interpretation of the word, our confusion of it with weakness. As I am want to do, I googled the definition of vulnerability for its usage outside of the context of personal growth. Before I started the first phrase that had jumped to my mind was “the castle defenses were vulnerable to attack through the postern gate ” (don’t ask me why, perhaps because I went to school near a castle and I still carry a lot of baggage from my school years, fondly though I mostly remember them) which for attackers was perhaps better that the sewer! As we might also say something like the postern gate was a weak point in the castle’s defenses the mind goes “hmm they are vulnerable because there is a weak spot, therefor to be vulnerable is to be weak”.

So, Oxford Dictionary definition of vulnerable

“exposed to the possibility of being attacked or harmed, either physically or emotionally: we were in a vulnerable position, small fish are vulnerable to predators”

Exposed to the possibility of attack! Wow. Every time you put forth a new idea, every time you are required to give or ask for feedback, every time you create something new or open your heart to someone you are exposed to the possibility of attack (or something that feels like attack) but if you do it anyway that is not being weak, that is being courageous.

I love this little clip about changing  language for better understanding “A new sign for Vulnerability”

And because new life is always vulnerable, young Renlyn TK, 3 days old 29 December 2013

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New Beginnings

So 2013 is over and my facebook feed is full of New year Wishes for 2014. As it is also the year of the Horse again, a lot of those wishes are horse shaped. So ever hopeful my photoshop expertise would suddenly be enhanced by neglect I attempted to create my own Year of the Horse New Year Card.

This little guy is Renlyn TK, born 26/12/2013 photographed on 1/1/2014 and galloping into the New Year full of expectation.

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I guess it is one of those “the only way is up” moments. The “if your try you may fail, but if you don’t try you have failed before you start” or perhaps “treat every failure as a lesson”.

My New years Resolution is (alongside the perennials that aren’t even worth mentioning)  to pay some serious attention to my post processing skills and source some one to teach me.

 

Building strength through self-compassion

In my former life I was given an assessment by my peers that my greatest “skill” was compassion. I reacted very negatively to this feed back. Compassion after all did not seem to have any direct correlation to boosting our revenue, to giving clients accurate and timely results, to being able to advise them from a position of knowledge and business acumen or even to being able to transfer my (apparently non existent) skills to other in the business, Clearly they could not  think of anything nice and businessy to say about me so they came up with something that seemed nice whilst backhandedly giving me a slap about the chops. I almost spat, like cat.

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And I continued to beat myself up about being a waste of space, a failure as a good little worker bee, as a human being, if the only thing I was good at was being compassionate.

Do you see the hole here?

I may well have been perceived as being compassionate to others but there wasn’t a whole lot of self compassion going on. What was going on was a whole lot of repression, of just push it down, keep a lid on it, ignore the pain, grin and bare it. Write out those to do lists,  repeat a few affirmations, but above all do not under any circumstances acknowledge the pain.

The truth is that I did have those other skills; except perhaps for being timely, that has always been a struggle for me. Not being “on time” to get somewhere, I’m generally pretty good at that, it’s a simple goal, but to weave complex threads together to finish in a timely manner without getting lost in a maze of side roads and rabbit holes as something attracts my interest.

In the end I could not contain it any more. I had to do something and that something was to leave my business and enter a new one where my outward focused compassion was perceived (by me) as a more positive attribute.

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And along the way I started to develop just a little bit of self compassion. Wow, you mean I can be kind to myself as well as to others! Surely not. Does that not mean I am just giving my self a bit of self pity, or an excuse to slack off, to be a wuss? Not at all. To be have self compassion is first to be aware of the pain you are feeling, to be mindful, to acknowledge with no judgement and to accept and be self comforting in order to be resilient. Not to hide the pain, suppress it, try and make it go away.  Rather like the description of courage as being afraid but doing what has to be done anyway.

Recently I have been following the work of Kristen Neff and finding it is helping to build a process to rely on around what was developing ad hoc.

 

 

Innovation and Creativity – A beginning

I was doing a bit of musing about some low-tech innovations that I am the beneficiary of but first need to take the photo that explains it, so when an article appeared in my inbox about creativity, innovation the neuroscientific understanding of the process, I thought I’d talk about creativity and innovation in general.

So lets get clear on what I mean by creativity.

I feel the need to do so because for many years I had a very narrow definition of what creativity meant. Where or how I picked it up I don’t know but it  is so deeply seated that it tries every now and again to steer my thinking. In my little universe I divided people into two types, those who are creative and those who aren’t. Those who are creative are artistic, and those that are artistic do one of two things, paint (and draw) or play music. So if someone said to me “you are so creative”, I’d bemusedly deny it as both playing music and drawing are way out of my skill set. And besides, I’m a scientist I’d say. (Even though it is many years since I have worked in any scientific capacity, I still identify myself that way which is is why I get so excited about Neuroscience articles). So sorry all you photographers, writers, film makers, dancers, cake decorators, knitters of the world according to DjD you are neither creative nor artistic.

How silly is that! I probably got told in an art class at primary school that I had no future as an artist and from then on art meant painting and I was hopeless at it.

Here are a few definitions of creative garnered from almighty Google

  1. Characterized by originality and expressiveness; imaginative
  2. The tendency to generate or recognize ideas, alternatives, or possibilities that may be useful in solving problems, communicating with others, and entertaining ourselves and others
  3. Any act, idea, or product that changes an existing domain, or that transforms an existing domain into a new one
  4. Relating to or involving the use of the imagination or original ideas to create something
  5. Having or showing an ability to make new things or think of new ideas
  6. Generating new ideas and concepts, or making connections between ideas where none previously existed.

I particularly like the one from this mornings article “the purposeful generation and implementation of a novel idea”. Within an organisation that becomes valuable when it “results in a measurably useful outcome”. In fact we can all be creative (regardless of our ability to wield a hog bristle filbert) and we can develop our creativity given the right conditions.. Our organisations, our world, is crying out for us to increase our creativity in response to the ever increasing complexity of life. We need creativity to pervade everything from the response to how to improve customer service to tackling climate change and species extinction.

The first step –  Idea generation

A fallow field

After the rain

In traditional agriculture a field was left fallow (no crop) one year in three. A period of rest for the soil, that led to a stronger and more productive crop the following year. In order for creativity to flourish we need a fallow mind. Not an empty mind, a fallow field is not devoid of life, but one where there is space for new ideas to generate and be noticed. To put it another way, an open mind, a mind that is not overly constrained by rules. From a Neuroscience perspective – lower cognitive control. A playful mind

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When we take people out of their normal environment and into the paddock with our horses, we give them an opportunity to open their minds, to be a bit playful, to be unconstrained by the usual clutter of their work day mind. We offer them a fallow field in which to open to their creativity.

No internet !

My connection to the world has finally been restored after three days.  Kind of hard to work from home when the world out there ceases to exist, or might as well have. Trouble with the tower (existing in the dark ages of a 3G network here) .

So no blog content for the last few days but a chance to play around with the camera.

So here is a mysterious tall dark and handsome stranger coming to steal your heart (he already has mine).

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Let’s talk about …….

After in my last post highlighting meeting expectations I thought I had better not complete the title with the refrain that keeps playing in my head “Let’s talk about sex Baby, Let’s talk about you and me” as I have no intention of talking about sex. Maybe about you and me, but only in the general humanity sense, not the familiar sense.

So back on the topic of what gets in the way of your achieving success (however success looks for you). I was going to muse about perfectionism though it is not an over bearing trait of mine (I did a quiz to find out and and wasn’t 100% happy with the result so I did another one, so now I can safely say that I am not overly hampered by perfectionist tendencies). Actually the real reason I did the quizzes was because I was putting off going out into the rain to feed my poor wet horses. Now procrastination, there’s a topic that sits really close to home. My perfectionist tendencies come to the fore when I am using them to procrastinate. I am not a tidy person (and I say this with pride – hmm). I don’t mean I am an absolute slob, but I really don’t notice little things out of place, or feel compelled to have everything in its place, except when I am procrastinating! It is amazing how important it can be to make sure all the books are back in the book shelf IN ORDER when there is something else I need to do.

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From a neuroscience perspective, we are rewarded for procrastination because we get little hits of dopamine when we complete those so very important tasks of lining up our pens in size order (because you have to many different ones because you just cannot resist a free pen with someones company name on it) or your coloured pencils by hue. I mean really who want their coloured pencils or textas to not look like a colour chart.  That why it is such a hard habit to break. Its the real marshmallow now versus waiting test. All those kids that waited to eat their marshmallow went on to be  more focused on the end goal than the eat and be dammed mob who no doubt went on to become epic procrastinators. I want my reward NOW.

You will be happy to know that somewhere in the middle of writing this I did don the waterproof (semi as it turned out) gear and took care of the mob.

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Next time I will write about perfectionism  – unless someone has messed up my coloured pencils again.

7 Ways To Achieve Success

One of the ways is to exceed expectations, so I guess that means I have to come up with at least 8 ways.  And do what I say I am going to do so I have to produce a list, even though producing that list was not my reason for this mornings musings. So here goes:

  1. Start. If you never start how can you ever be successful?
  2. Fail. I’m not advocating racing out and finding someway to fail spectacularly – do not jump off a tall building testing if you can flap your arms like a bird and fly, but give it a go, jump off a small wall or something.
  3. Regroup. Learn from your failure, adjust, start again.
  4. Don’t give up. You are running a marathon. You can see that big flag thing across the finish line. Your throat and chest are burning, your muscles feel like lead and the other 400 contestants are already finished. You can stop short or you can push on just that bit extra, even if you have to crawl, and get over that line. In the end you may still have come last in the race but how different will you feel about yourself for having not given up compared to quitting.
  5. Ask for help. Many of us like to give help but we aren’t so good at asking for it. Whats the worse that can happen if you ask.
  6. Celebrate the small wins. When we have one of those big hairy audacious goals its very easy to look at how far we still have to go and feel dispirited. How about looking at how far you have come and celebrating the steps along the way.
  7. Don’t lose focus. Or in other words, don’t fritter.  I love the ethos behind “does it make the boat go faster” which was behind Australia’s successful Americas Cup win. I cannot recall much about who was who, who bankrolled, who said what, but that phrase says it all to me about not frittering. Lots of “nice to have” things will come up but if they don’t make the boat go faster, park them till you have achieved the original goal.
  8. Be flexible. This might seem to be in opposition to point before but being flexible does not mean following every passing whim that floats across your busy mind (what i think of as the Kaleidoscopic mind). It means adjusting based on your failures, small wins, experience and what gos on out there. It’s pretty pointless having a goal of say being the first person  on Mars if someone landed there last week and sent a postcard. Adjust your goal, be the first person to hold a party on Mars whilst wearing a pink tutu perhaps.
  9. Exceed expectations. That’s 9 things !

Gratuitous photo of my horse,  that’s far to good for me.

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Ah now I am finally getting round to what started me off on this mornings musing. Not what are the ways to be successful, but what gets in our way. For, to be honest, there was not one original thought in that list above (shocking I know!) I mean, 100 people could read that list (or another of its iterations) but will they go on to be successful? I don’t think I could write a list of what gets in our way because there are as probably as many ways as there are people creating them (Setting expectation – no list).

There are some common themes though. I think I have lost count of the times I have read “my horse is too good for me, he deserves his chance to win the Olympics under a better rider” (or words to that effect). So lets deal first with the horse in this equation. What does he want out of the relationship? Does he settle down at night dreaming about future Olympic glory, cursing the fact he cohabits with middle aged beginner who gets nervous at breaking into trot? If he cogitated at all (which he doesn’t) he’d probably be thinking how lucky he was to have a bunch of mates to hang out with, a full belly, and no lions on the horizon. What he actually does is enjoy the feeling of his full belly, the slight breeze o his skin, the teeth of his mate scratching his itch. Lucky horse.

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So whats it really about?  I’m not good enough. There, it’s out there, i know in my deepest core that quite simply I am not good enough and I don’t deserve to be happy, successful, loved, cherished, valued, to own a wonderful horse.

Bunkum. Says who?

Apparently my little inner critic says it to me and your little inner critic says it to you. Now my horse, he doesn’t have a inner critic. He does not have someone that says “your pasterns are too long, you don’t deserve to have an extra bit of hay tonight, let the one with the perfect pasterns have it”. For him its more like “yum yum this hay is good EEEEK here comes bossy pants with teeth bared,  hay isn’t worth getting bitten over, I’ll just eat grass”. He is reacting to what is happening in the moment, making valid choices based on his experiences and then he relaxes, goes back to grazing.

So think about how you snatch joy away from yourself by listening to that refrain from you inner critic and next time he pipes up say inner critic, I hear you, but today I am not listening. You will never shut him up completely. He will always be there ready to throw a bucket of water over your enthusiasm but you can learn to take what he says with a hearty pinch of salt.

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And now I had better stop procrastinating and do some jobs that need doing and will come back to other ways we get in our way in another musing, when the moment is right, when I have done all the things I need to do first before I can start, when …………

Not a Dry Eye in the House

Tribute

Perhaps a slight exaggeration, its called artistic license.

We have just had our annual Equitana trade show and competition weekend and the handsome hunk of horseflesh and keeper of my heart, Django, competed in the Grand Prix and Grand Prix freestyle. The four days are always a hustle and bustle of clinics, competition, lectures, demonstrations and for those so inclined, shopping.  For us Dressage tragics the big day was Saturday. It started with a 3 hour clinic with Carl Hester , British Dressage superstar and Olympic Gold Medalist and ended with the Freestyle competition. The above photo however reflects a solemn moment in the proceedings. A wonderful gentleman known to the dressage community as Stable Mike passed away all too young this year after a battle with illness. He  had much love for the horses and Django held a special place in his world. (Long black hair, big brown eyes – does it every time).

In a break in the competition tribute was made to Stable Mike and Django was chosen amongst his charges to represented the horses he looked after so well. My big black stallion who had not long completed his own moment in the limelight stepped into the arena and stood like a statue. For the duration of two speeches, a silence and the playing of Mikes favorite song he did not even move an ear. It never ceases to amaze me how our horses respond to the energy around them. He did not understand the words, no one was able to explain it to him what is role was, but nether less he carried it out to perfection (even with a camera man hopping around filming close ups). It is getting in touch with this sort of knowingness that the horses are so good at teaching us.

Thanks to his sponsor Baroque Horse Magazine for a photo that captures the moment so well.

As for the competition its self he did us all proud: not a winner on paper but a winner always where it counts. He may be playing bashful in this but it is quite clear Jeremy is feeling pretty happy.

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Oh and I did go shopping. Early Xmas present.

My Rat Barrow.

A New Day

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Every day my horses and I wake to a fresh start; we all do. What do we do with this golden opportunity?

The horses are in the paddock, some quietly grazing, others laying down and yet others might be running around, playing a game with their mates. They have an ear cocked for the noise of the door opening that heralds the possibility of a bucket of feed, but otherwise they just enjoy the moment as it unfolds.

What do I do? If I don’t catch myself I immediately start thinking about all the things I have to do today before I can get away this afternoon for another business trip. Then I might start thinking about all the things I should have done yesterday but didn’t and worry about how I am going to fit them in amongst the fresh things I have to do today. And then …………………

Ok, stop the film, wind back. Its a new day, a glorious fresh start. Say hello mind, I know you are there but just for a few moments lets just settle into Now and let the rest of the body have its say. Breath deep of the fresh morning air, close your eyes and listen to the bird song, the noise of the horses teeth grabbing at the grass, the purr of the cat and all the other little noises in your moment. Feel the slight chill on your skin, the sun gaining a little strength. Listen to your body as it softens. Pay attention to the ebb and flow of emotions but as the mind kicks in, go back to your breath, to the feel of connection with the ground beneath your feet. Relax. Fill yourself with the strength of being in that perfect moment of infinite possibility that is the beginning of the new day. Live in the world of the horse, if only for a short while.

 

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