when enough isn’t enough


Information is important. Not having enough, troublesome. Too much?

I once saw an advertisement hoarding at a football match. It named the company and its business then proclaimed ‘find us in the local newspaper’. Now why it wasn’t possible to provide a telephone number or a web address I don’t know, but insufficient information, I suspect earned them little business.

The wall in this supermarket entrance explains to me the meaning of the word ‘reusable’. As a result, I find myself reluctant to shop there. ‘Reusable’ is enough. I judge them for their need to patronise me.

I photographed this image below recently. It made me laugh.


It was interesting to me that the addition of the tick and cross, the marking of my effort in effect, was the thing that rankled. Equally it gave me no room for alternative, equally erroneous, parking positions or angles. One right, one wrong.

Sometimes enough is a very personal thing. And enough isn’t always enough, especially when it’s too much.

Notice what is missing and what tips you into too much. This is about you, about me, not about the information.


when a mask might reveal, not conceal…


I had the pleasure of attending The Lab recently, where in the midst of some great experiments into being human, we explored working with masks.

If you have seen the excellent ventriloquist comedian Nina Conti you will know part of her act involves applying a partial mask to an audience member. Nina then controls the mouth parts with a remote,  so that the individual seems to be agreeing to do something outrageous, or says something inappropriate, even though their body language suggests horror, or disagreement, at the prospect.

It is a clever representation of the power of a mask. The act demonstrates a freedom and what can be possible if we don’t feel seen, whilst juxtaposing the obvious visibility of the individual’s body squirming at what they are saying, through Nina. Simultaneously, the act allows Nina, as the ventriloquist, to say and do things she might never do herself.

In our Lab experiment we saw people assuming the whole character, mannerisms, language, opinions of their ‘character behind the mask’.

A mask, in a sense, gives us permission to be someone else. To reveal a part of ourselves we may normally keep subdued or hidden. It also gives us permission to conceal ourselves behind the mask. Be it gender, ethnicity, geographic origin. We sometimes use non-visual masks too. Hiding behind our organisational or societal status or role.

I wonder what we are capable of if we could wear a mask at will?

What truth would we be able to speak?
What feeling could we emote?
How much more ourselves we might be?
How much might we conceal?


the words we seek

What would you most like people to say to you?

“You did a great job there”
“Thank you for your support, I really value it”
“You make a real difference”
“Good effort!”
“I really value you as part of this team”
“I love your attention to detail”
“You really delivered there”
“You’re really supportive”
“Well done”
“You truly care”
“That’s another great achievement”
“I appreciate your friendship”
“Thank you”
“You are incredible”
“This wouldn’t have happened without you”
“I love what you did”
“You are vital to this…”
“Together we got it done”

Quite probably, it won’t be precisely any of these. Play around with the words. What’s the perfect positive feedback you could get?

And what’s the worst? Maybe you cringe at “truly care” or simply dismiss “you make a real difference”?

What does that say about you?

Noticing the form of words which we like to receive as a positive stroke and those which don’t work for us can be revealing.

Be curious.

just who is the dinosaur?


In my childhood I vaguely recall a film called ‘The land that time forgot’. Something about dinosaurs still thriving on a long lost island that a submarine, full of people, stumbles upon. The tale largely about their struggle to survive. I doubt it was a classic.

In our own lifetime though, we too forget such strange lands from our distant past. The land where play is everything. Where time has no meaning. Where larger inhabitants set the rules and look after us. Care free. A land where train rides are a wild adventure, long before we come to terms with commuting. A land where owning wellies with heels that light up, having chocolate cake, or getting stickers, is both thrilling and fulfilling. A land where magic prospers and wonder thrives.

For many, a happy time. Exploration and discovery, learning, fun, play, all at the heart of our daily existence. Our aspirations are simple.

Then we become adults. We struggle in this strange new land, working hard to earn money to buy possessions, or to save for a holiday to get us through. We sleep little. We struggle with worry and anxiety. Relationships are hard. Friendships move on line, with electronic photos and status updates a proxy for being together, as we were when we were six. Real living a film story, with plot and dramatic twist and turn. We drink too much to cope. Work too hard to play.

Childhood fun and freedom. A world of play, experimentation, learning.

The land that adults forgot?



the emergency kit

emergency kit of life
Travelling on the train the other day, I noticed a little green handle, secreted behind a glass pane, set into a grey nondescript panel. The panel was adjacent to the toilet. Next to the little glass pane was a sticker describing how to access and turn said handle after breaking the glass.

Further exploration, via a set of miniature icons next to the text instruction, showed the contents, presumably stowed behind the panel, to be the emergency kit. This kit apparently comprised a ladder, a rope, a crowbar and a saw.

Having briefly visited the notion, admittedly with some alacrity, that a secret game of Cluedo might be underway, wherein the murderer carried out the deadly act with the saw in First Class or with the crowbar in the luggage rack, I was curious about the selected equipment.

If the train was in difficulty, had broken down or worse become derailed or crashed, I struggled to understand how I, or anyone, might be minded to locate the toilet and its neighbourly panel, break the glass, turn the handle and access a saw and a rope … to what end I wondered?

My thoughts then strayed to the whole idea of an emergency kit. What might my emergency kit for life be?

My first thought was chocolate, but then I embraced the question with more serious intent. I would want a hug to be in my emergency kit – a reassuring squeeze. I would want a reminder of my sense of purpose; something to draw me back to the ‘for whom or for what’ I am here – a re-grounding in something bigger than myself. I would want a companion; someone to confide in, to share with. I would want a way to distract myself, to lose myself in my own imagination; maybe some music?

What would be in your emergency kit, behind the innocuous panel?

what do you know and how do you know it?

knowing NLP filters truth map
Do you know what you know because you read it? Maybe in a text book, an academic study, a newspaper report, on-line in a blog or on social media?

Do you know what you know because someone told you it was true?

These are both verbal exchanges. Auditory. They are spoken, written, heard or read. Stories if you will. The exchange of knowledge through written or spoken communication. Someone else provides their knowing and we hear or read it and accept it as knowledge we will also hold to be true. It is, in a sense, second or third hand knowledge. Knowing we agree to add to our own knowing. Or not.

Our acceptance of this knowing involves an unseen process of convincing. Maybe I accept it because I trust the author. Maybe I trust the method by which their knowledge was acquired? Maybe I trust the method of conveying the knowledge to me?

Do you know what you know because that’s the widely accepted truth?

It’s the word of the society, culture, religion, community, organisation… the word of the system if you will. In a sense, story, tale, myth, evidence become fact, truth, reality through the weight or volume of saying it. If enough people speak something, it tends to absorb a validity or truth amongst others. This is how customs and culture are formed.

Maybe I am convinced of this knowing because I have heard it many times from different sources within the system? Maybe I accept it because doing so affirms my belonging to the group? Maybe the groups I belong to therefore narrow my ability to know?

Do you know what you know because you have assembled a truth, through collecting, filing, connecting new data, new knowing, into your own existing knowing?

I know for example that many people see images in their heads. I know this because I have read about it, I have heard about it in training sessions, I have experienced it through coaching many people who can vividly describe the videos or stills in their mind’s eye, I have personally seen pictures in my own head. I have experimented with this knowing to extend, broaden, widen and deepen it. I have purposefully sought out additional knowing, making sense, making patterns and making new neural connections to create an enriched personal knowing.

Maybe I readily accept this knowing? Convinced because it fits with other knowing I already have?

Maybe what I know already, informs what I seek to know? I am, in a sense, blind to new knowing because my existing knowledge guides and channels me to seek knowing which corroborates knowing I already have.

Do you know what you know because you have experienced it and therefore know it to be true? Do you know what you know because you have seen it? Seen it with your own eyes? Tasted it with your own tongue?

I have tried coriander, and I know I don’t like the taste. I have in a sense created my own personal knowing. Others may also have this knowing; but a hundred, or a thousand people not liking coriander doesn’t make coriander something nobody eats, a poisonous food. We are happy to create our own version of knowing, a personal truth.

In fact through all of these methods, we create our own version of truth, our own subset of knowing.

Whether our knowing comes from historic sages, from trusted texts, from reliable friends, from assembled self knowing, from tasted, smelled or observed personal experience, our knowing comes through a hidden process of filtering, selection and trust which makes our knowing personally true. Often this process makes others’ knowing false as a result. That’s how arguments, wars start.

We should be curious about our own personal process of knowing.

How we know what we know. Our hidden process of validation and acceptance. Our process of exploring knowing to expand and develop it. Learning, if you will. This matters, because if our personal process is flawed, broken in some way; if we are blind to certain pieces of knowing, closed to experiencing certain knowing or inexperienced in different ways of assembling knowing… then we are limited.

If we are limited, we are not fulfilling our human potential.

… and that’s worth knowing.

we walk differently in the rain

state physiology rain
It’s drizzling.

Earlier I walked from Aldgate to Tower Hill tube in the drizzle. I had an umbrella, but noticed the way I was walking was different to the way I might have walked in the sunshine.

My eyes were turned down, seeking slip hazards, puddles, potential splash zones. My shoulders were a little hunched and my elbows tucked in, a sort of self imposed protection posture, to keep the wind and rain out. I was partially hidden under my umbrella, peeking out on occasion to avoid human collisions in busy streets. My pace was more deliberate, seeking to minimise time in the rain.

I wonder to what extent we do this when our emotional and psychological state reflects drizzly? When we are feeling a little weather worn, when we are feeling the need to protect ourselves, when we are aware of potential external ‘attacks’ on our safety and well-being? Do we also shrink a little in posture, strike out with only occasional awareness of those around us, become more sensitive to personal trip hazards, take cover from the precipitation?

How consciously aware are we of our body language, its connection to our state?

How could we learn from paying more attention and being curious?

weighty language

visual, auditory and kinaesthetic NLP
The other evening a television news reporter began his report from Jerusalem…

“This is often a very heavy city and the weight of its history hangs over it…”

This kinaesthetic language helps you ‘feel’ the experience of being in this city steeped in history and rich with turmoil. The phrases ‘heavy’, ‘weight’ and ‘hangs over’ describe felt sensations and help the listener sense the mood in the city.

They work in much the same way as idioms such as ‘hold their feet to the fire’, ‘head over heels in love’, ‘hot under the collar’, ‘it makes your flesh crawl’, ‘ants in his pants’ or ‘the weight of expectation’. Each describes a physical sensation which brings the experience more to life.

Auditory language might talk about ‘the staccato popping of distant gunfire…’ Visual language might describe ‘the ghostly pall of smoke painting a blue grey background to the skirmish…’

How would you describe the picture on this blog post?

‘the twisted trunk and aching branches pained by years of tortured weather…’?
‘the crispy leaves and creaking branches rustling in the moaning wind…’?
‘the distant dark copse framing the monochrome tree in stark parchment sepia…’?

Be curious about your language and how it describes your inner world.

the eyes to the right have it

NLP eye movement
Since my NLP training I have been fascinated by eye movements.

I have noticed some people in particular search with their eyes for memories, associations or for connections when you ask them questions. I worked with such a client recently and the tiny eye movements were predictable … left, left, left, right, right, right, up, down. Then, left, left, left, right, right, right, up, down. A repeating pattern, as if searching for something.

The other day I read an article on the BBC website about sleep and REM research. The study has followed the neurological activity of sleeping Epilepsy patients for four years.

The lead doctor, Dr Nir, describes how when the patients were awake and shown a picture, especially one associated with a memory, the researchers saw a particular pattern of brain activity. “The activity of these neurons doesn’t reflect image processing. It’s more about signalling to the brain about a refresh of the mental imagery and the associations or related concepts.” says the report.
“…about 0.3 seconds after the picture appears, these neurons burst – they become vigorously active…”

It seems the same brain activity occurs during REM as when you simply close your eyes and imagine a picture or think of related concepts. Almost as if the brain is using the eye movements to aid filing memories or searching for existing memories or concepts with which to associate the new ones.

I am fascinated by the possibility that we do this when fully awake too. When asked a question or asked to think we search using our eyes for stored associations, memories and understanding with which to answer. In some people these eye movements are more noticeable, as with some of my clients.

NLP refers to these as eye accessing cues.

Neuroscience presents the most exciting possibilities for new discovery about the way we work and, I for one, look forward to the next ten years and discovering more.

Meanwhile, be curious about eye movements. Those little flicks left and right have significance far beyond out current awareness.


are you busy? too busy to read this?

stop the glorification of busy
Are you busy? Too busy to read this? If so, maybe you should read it…

In recent months I have noticed the conversation starter at the coffee machine at work follows a familiar path, when you meet someone you haven’t seen in a while, whoever it may be. Maybe you recognise it? Or maybe you instigate it?

It goes something like this …
“Hi long time no see. What are you busy working on at the moment?”
“How are you?” Back comes the reply, “Really busy. You?”
“Hello, not seen you in a while.” “No things have been really busy…”

If you’re really busy you might want to stop reading this now.

If you live to an average life expectancy you have a total of around 620,000 hours. Given that we sleep for around a third of that, you have about 410,000 usable hours.

Time is a strange concept though isn’t it? I mean, what is an hour?

I often have the following debate with my wife when the clocks change – she’ll say something like “We gain an hour this week-end” and I’ll respond, “No we don’t, it’s just that what we call it has changed. Six o’clock is now known as five o’clock.” The Earth, Moon and Sun still move in the same harmonious rhythm. We still have the same amount of time in our lives. What we call the time is just that, it’s what we call it.

And we can call ourselves busy. Too busy to spend a few minutes on someone or something that is really important to us.

What matters most is how you use your time; those precious hours that are in short supply.

When was the last time you simply did something you love?
The last time you were kind to yourself?
The last time you carried out a random act of kindness?
The last time you stopped and really noticed another human being?
The last time you checked in with yourself, properly?
The last time you gave someone the gift of your full attention?

Next time you meet someone at the coffee machine, if the conversation starts down the ‘busy’ route, ask them a great coaching question and really listen to their response.
Maybe something like …
“… and how would you like it to be?”
“… and if you weren’t busy, what would you be?”

or maybe just invite them to contemplate what they would be doing right now if they were doing something they love.

And now you’ve read this … go and take five minutes for yourself.