What’s He Building in There #4

In the last few weeks I have published “Values Count“, after a long haul figuring out how to produce a paperback book. Some achievement I think, although I am only now emerging from being mauled by the Inner Critic beast (ICB for short) that ran loose for a couple of weeks after the book came out. It was a total surprise this. I expected to feel good about achieving a goal – to publish a book. But instead the ICB shifted the goal post and started monitoring my stats. Each sale I achieved of the book was turned into a target 10 times that by the ICB. I’m not exaggerating when I talk about being mauled. It was a hideous experience. It felt like a scene from a Harry Potter movie running in my head with a monster on the loose. Yes, really! I have read loads of books by Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield about the inner critic and about resistance. Both of them talk about how awful the process can be. I had always thought that they were exaggerating to make a point. I was so so wrong!

Over the last few days I have been reviving the shop feature on this website to enable direct purchase for anyone who doesn’t want to use Amazon. It took some doing as the function that I set up a few years ago was no longer working on mobile platforms (phones and tablets) so I had to completely replace it with a new shop function. It is working now – needs a bit of refining but I am really pleased with how this looks as it enables me to post things directly. It’s the next step from blogging to direct publishing.

I am in the throes of making available the other digital publications that are on the site through the shop so that they are easier to find. That should take a week or so.

In other publishing news (as they say on the radio!) I am reaching the final stages of producing the limited edition of “Blue: experiments in sound” which is illustrated by Phillip Kingsbury of Wooden Spoon Press. This will be an illustrated poetry collection including all of the poems from the 2016 Blue poetry sequence. I’m thinking that the book will also include a CD version of the sound pieces which I made to accompany this collection. It should be ready within a few short weeks.

Then at the end of the month I have time set aside for another Writing Marathon. Lots of you were interested in the last one of these that I did and enjoyed me blogging as I progressed. So, I will live blog this exercise again. At the moment I have three book ideas to work one. I just need to decide which one to focus on. That might require the toss of a coin!

 

Values Count – here are the opening paragraphs

Earlier in the week I mentioned that my new book has just been published and is available on Amazon. Here are the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:

“It’s all about the money – that seems to be the measure by which everything is judged these days. Every day we hear about new scandals relating to the ethical basis of business, whether it’s large multi-national companies not paying their taxes or corporates who distort their accounts to massage the stock market, or banks that lend irresponsibly and then look to governments to bail them out when they are at risk of collapsing. Too big to fail was a mantra that was all over the newspapers a few years ago.   Those of us who work in the public sector are not exempt from these problems.

In recent years there has been a growing rhetoric that says “private sector good, public sector bad”. This manifests itself in neo-liberal politics where the market rules and public sector provision is seen as intrinsically inefficient. We increasingly live in a world that knows the price of everything without any underlying sense of the value of what we do.”

Intrigued? Why not read the whole book. Follow the links in this post or search for my name on Amazon.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common?

Yes, today is launch day. I’ve broken all of the rules. Apparently, the idea is to get ready for book launch – prepare all your social media, have pre-release copies ready to share with people to get reviews on Amazon. Did I do any of that? No, it took so long to get to this point that I just pressed publish and the book is live on Amazon right now. Strangely, Amazon has decided that the book was published back in September 2016. OK, confession time – that would be my mistake as I forgot to change the publication date and now it is fixed and unchangeable. Oh well!

Here we are then, February 2017 and the book that I finished the first draft of in September 2015 during the Writing Marathon which I described here in the blog, is finally published. Since that first draft I have gone through a lot of redrafting, layout and basic design work. I taught myself how to make a book cover which was not as easy as I thought it would be. Then I have gone through the process of learning how to self-publish through CreateSpace. A few months ago I almost gave up as I hit the wall on pagination and page numbering problems. For a few weeks I had “ghost pages” that couldn’t be seen but were there in the number count. Very strange! After a few weeks of rehabilitation and a huge amount of support and badgering (thanks Su!) the book finally made it to the finishing line.

And that is where I am today. Wondering why I didn’t think about a marketing campaign before now. That process needs developing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested, here is the description of the book from the back cover:

The world is falling apart, governments are losing control of their economies and of their tax levying powers. With this backdrop, Stuart Eglin sets out to describe how values based working can act as an antidote to the problems we face. Beginning with his own experience and setting out a range of practical approaches that can be taken to develop a values base, Stuart also looks at large-scale examples of values based approaches and identifies some of the challenges that are faced by corporations. This is a practical book which shows how to develop a values based framework…

Here is the link to find it on Amazon. It should be appearing as a Kindle book in the next few days too. (Another formatting process to learn!)

Oh, and finally, if you would like to leave a review on Amazon that would be absolutely brilliant.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common? Well, the answer is in the book of course. It’s all to do with taking values base approaches to the way that we work.

Here ends the shameful piece of self-promotion. Thank you for reading.

You can’t hammer a screw into a wall


This blog post is the opening words of the new book which I am writing this year. The book explores key coaching themes and reflections from my coaching practise… 

It had begun as a weird feeling in the pit of my stomach, the sense that it would take just one simple little irritant to push me over the edge so that I would flip and scream at whoever happened to be in front of me at the time. My body was flushed with adrenalin and all of the associated chemicals as a result of a day when things that I had hoped would work didn’t, and I was being blamed for things where I had no influence over the outcome. The chemicals in my body, throwbacks from the animal needs of early man, were wanting me to fight, freeze or take flight. In a modern office block, none of those was an option.

This state was something that overwhelmed me at regular points in my life. And I guess it’s not just me! Many of us experience burnt-out or heavy stress levels as the different aspects of our lives flood over us and leave us feeling out of control.

At different points in my own career, I have looked for support to help with challenges that everyday life throws at us. Sometimes that help came from the boss, or a work colleague who was prepared to listen. Often times it didn’t!

In my twenties I figured out that finding a mentor was a good way to find someone with the time, the experience and the integrity to listen and advise without having a vested interest. Then, later in my career I was offered my first opportunity to have some coaching. As often happens, this wasn’t exactly coming from a positive space. It was not coaching for me to develop and build my career. No, it was coaching that was offered because the organisation I was working in was being abolished and everyone (above a certain grade!) had access to coaching as part of the transition. Put positively, this was a generous opportunity to explore my options and avoid unemployment. More sceptically put, it was the employer being seen to be doing something, and looking at ways to minimise redundancy costs. Either way, in my eyes it was a great opportunity to dig myself out of a hole. I took it up enthusiastically and arranged to meet Tony for my first session. Tony was a senior coach for a consultancy based in London. He was offering coaching to a group of us in one-to-one sessions. To maximise efficiency, I met him in a hotel just off a Motorway in the North West of England.

A small meeting room in a modern, with slightly tired decorating, hotel on the outskirts of Warrington. Tony was waiting for me and had a tray with coffee and biscuits on it. This was my first experience of coaching. It was 2002. I had met with mentors before that, but had a niggling feeling that working with someone who is offering “wise counsel” is not exactly empowering. In fact, one of those mentors used to spend most of the hour reflecting on his successes since we had last met. I wasn’t sure at times who was supposed to be mentoring who. Other mentors had been incredibly helpful at helping me to network, find new jobs, and solve problems.

Tony brought a very different approach to his sessions with me. He brought questions, not solutions. The answers were left for me to work out. He also challenged a lot of the assumptions I had about the world and the reality that I experienced. Tony was one of five different coaches that I have worked with throughout my career. They have all taken different approaches, but the description I have just given would be one common theme that typifies what coaching is.

Since 2005 I have been working as a coach and developing my own skills. This book sets out the key topics that I particularly enjoy working with and feel that I have some strengths in as a result of my own experiences, and also some of the themes that recur in coaching practise.

There are two big issues in many descriptions of coaching which are worth emphasising. Much of the literature about coaching emphasises that the coach doesn’t need to be highly skilled in the work of the client. Coaching practise in leadership and the workplace builds on the early practise in sports coaching. Many people stress that the top class athlete is not trained and coached by someone who is better than them. Rather, the focus is on finding someone to coach who can bring objectivity and a questioning challenge to how we work. That is the gold dust of coaching. So, we don’t necessarily need direct experience to be able to coach someone in their context. Tony had little or no understanding of the world of research management that I was working in. But he did understand career transitions, how to apply skills to a job change, and how to navigate difficult organisational change. That was the space where he was particularly helpful. So, the coach doesn’t necessarily bring subject specific expertise – in fact sometimes that expertise can get in the way of the coach being objective and challenging the things we take for granted. I have often found myself needing to sit back and avoid leaping in with a solution for a client because I think I understand their situation. I don’t! Only they have the detailed knowledge and understanding that will help them to find their own solution.

The second issue, which I often need to stress when I meet a new client, is the need for an eclectic approach. Many coaches identify a specific coaching perspective or training approach and define that as their own particular brand or technique. Thus, if you search for coaches you will find NLP coaches, Behaviourist coaches, Gestalt coaches, Strengths Based coaches. And so on. There are many different approaches. A skilled coach will realise that they need to acquire a diverse mix of approaches and be prepared to draw on them according to the challenges that the client brings to the coaching session. The danger of only having one approach is that the coaching session becomes like the man prowling the house with a hammer – everything begins to look like a nail in need of a hammering into the wall. If you try to hammer a screw into the wall, it won’t work!

Phones and Control

There seems to be a general agreement that 2016 was an awful year for the planet and for the people in it. That doesn’t, of course, mean that it was bad for you and I – although some of the big national and global things that happened probably impacted how it turned out for each of us.

What does this all mean for our ability to feel in control? And how does that even matter?

Well, try as we might, it is built into us to need to feel some sense of control over things. Depending on the scale at which we are working, and depending on where we are feeling most vulnerable, we will attempt to impose some control in some way so that we can feel comfortable with what is happening. Or at least feel that we can cope with what is going on around us.

Oddly, this is why we see so many people walking around with phones in their hands or headphones stuffed in their ears. Years ago this feeling of control and comfort was probably provided by smoking a cigarette. As that has become less acceptable, the phone has replaced the cigarette as an adult “comfort blanket”. I’m not intending to be patronising or superior about this. I do it too! When bored, or distracted, or between things, or uncomfortably alone – we get out our phone to see if we have any new messages or content to give us a nice endorphin rush.

Here’s a spontaneous thought. If we left our phone at home and went out – what would we do instead of getting our phone out to check it? Where would we feel most out of control and most vulnerable? And what would we gain or lose from not having the phone with us?

OK, I can hear you breathing very shallowly at the thought (or is that me I can hear?) A first step would be to take the phone with you, but not take it out of your pocket or bag. Don’t check it for at least an hour. Be conscious of the times when you are tempted to check it. What is happening? Why do you feel the need to do it? What is the next thing that comes to mind to allay that response?

Food for thought.

Are we living in a smart phone addicted world? Answers welcome in the comments.

Another Bad News Day

The team had some bad news yesterday. We weren’t successful bidding competitively for a piece of work which we have been developing for three years. When I was told the news I went through the whole Kubler-Ross cycle in a matter of minutes: denial; anger; bargaining; depression and then grudging acceptance.

It was the second bid we failed to get in a week. Tough times! I know we need to pull together as a team at times like this. And I also know that we need to dig deep into our Core Values and connect with Optimism.

Two things struck me as I go through the process of accepting this news.

First, it’s really important to be clear that the end of the telescope that we look through is not the same as everyone else. To us, the news feels catastrophic. It’s a big deal! It’s so easy to generalise this and think that everyone else sees it the same way. Of course, they don’t. Outside of the team this is a tiny decision and doesn’t have the significance it has for us. We need to be clear about perspective.

Second, again this is all about perspective. As I walked to the railway station this morning I walked past a pickup truck with two newly crafted runs of stairs. They were unpainted and they were beautiful. I thought about all the times I walk on handcrafted staircases and so many other things that are made by people with immense talent. It must be amazing to craft something that is then used by countless people even long after we die.

And in that thought came the realisation that the work we are doing isn’t about a single bid or any particular moment. It’s the longer term impact we are having. It’s the stories we hear from people who tell us how our work has had a long term impact. It’s the transformations that we create.

That is why we “Do the Work”.

Escapism

cheers-photo2I have ten minutes until I need to run for my train to head for home.

This morning I caught the train to work as usual. Standing on the train, waiting to get off, I used the Starbucks App on my phone to order a latte ahead so that it would be waiting for me when I walked into the cafe. I love doing this. I walked into the cafe and the barista plus one of the customers looked at me and said “Stuart?” I said yes and was given my drink which was waiting for me. It made me think “I like to go where everybody knows my name”. And that set me to thinking about American TV comedy series. Why? Because that’s the mis-quote of a line from the theme tune to “Cheers”. Every episode when the character Norm walked into the bar, everyone shouted out his name.

And as my thoughts drifted whilst walking to the office, I remembered how I used to love watching “Cheers” on a Friday night on Channel Four at the end of a busy week. It was beautiful escapism. I loved singing along to the theme tune (out of tune, of course). Even before that, I used to love “Rhoda” and “Taxi”. When “Cheers” finally came to an end after launching many great acting careers, it was a  relief to find out that “Frasier” would have his own series. I loved that too. Then came “Friends”. All ten series of it!

Escapism at the end of the week. A marvellous way to drop into a chair with a glass of wine and laugh away the troubles of the week.

I can’t help thinking that Channel 4 made a big mistake for my viewing habits when they stopped showing these kinds of programmes on Fridays and switched them to a Thursday night. “How I Met your Mother” and “Big Bang Theory” are wonderful, but Thursday night just doesn’t do it for me!

But then maybe I am just being too linear watching TV when it is actually broadcast. How very 20th Century of me!

(This is the last of the November Challenge. I set out to write a blog post every day in November, scheduling them ahead to avoid overwhelming my readers. I managed 20 in 31 days – not quite one a day, but then it’s helpful to have weekends off!)

Defining and Overcoming the Inner Critic

It’s having the courage to push forwards with ideas even when the inner critic is screaming in your ear. And that voice is laughing at you.

Oh, and asking you if you realise how ridiculous it is to pursue projects that will probably be seen by less than a hundred people. Oh, and many of the ones who see it will quietly think that what you are doing is absurd.

That is the voice of sabotage. The sense within that fear is something that you should run away from rather than pushing through it.

The Inner Critic summons up every moment in your life when someone laughed at what you did, when the teacher you best remember told you that you are rubbish at art ( insert your own versions here). It’s that moment when you did stand up and sing, and then realised that someone was laughing at you because you had the courage and they didn’t.

The antidote? There are no magic tricks. You can read copious books by Steven Pressfield and Seth Godin. They will deal with the block, with the underlying vanity that blocks your creativity. They will paint in sharp and bright colours what the Inner Critic looks like.

But at the end of it all, they have the same solution that everyone has. No rocket science. No magic tricks. Just set a timer and get started. Push forwards. Do it anyway. The art of starting is the art of overcoming the inner critic. Go forth and create.

(November Challenge 19/31)

Purification

fullsizeoutput_11d0That moment when we realise something is not as it seemed for every living second of our lives before then. And in that shift comes a completely different way to view reality.

Up to that moment, everything made sense because of this founding principle by which we lived. Then, when the light shines through, we realise that we have had a completely false view of reality. Things are not as they seemed.

Yes, that moment. The beginning of the rest of our lives. That is the moment when we move from regret, to right attitude, and then on to  resolution. Finally we shift to a remedy and see things with right view.

(November Challenge 18/31)

Note to Self #2

butterflyIt has been a while since I wrote a note to self on the blog.

Earlier this afternoon, I was drawn to look at the manuscript of the novel which I have written. By “drawn to look” I mean that I found myself reading through it as a beautiful distraction for what I should have been doing. You could call it procrastination if you were feeling cruel, but I am not feeling cruel so I call it divergent creativity.

The novel is called “the butterfly principle” and it took years and years to write. I think I began it around 1996 (yes, 20 years ago) and I wrote perhaps half of it over a short period when I was full of ideas and inspiration. Then I froze with it, stuck for where to go next. Waiting for inspiration to come as to where to take the characters next. And the characters have been around in my life in various guises for some time now. The main character, Alice, began life in the novel and then took on a greater shape in my doctoral thesis where she was one of the archetypal characters which I used for experimentation. After that, she also became the lead character in a sequence of poems called “the alice conversations” which I wrote in 2004. She also appears in other more recent poems. Other characters have drifted in and out of things that I have written too.

Then in 2009 I picked the manuscript up again and finished it off. It was done!

Here I am at the end of 2016 wondering where to go with it now. I read the ending to see where it went to. I love it. And I am far enough  away from the writing of it now to see it as though it is not mine.

Note to self – what do I do with it now. It has been sitting on a computer hard drive (oh, and on google drive too of course) for 7 years. Is it time to share it in some form? If you are reading this blog post and have any courageous ideas for me please leave a comment or send me an email. I just need a little push!

(November Challenge 17/31)

"Empowering Life Changes through Coaching and Creativity"