Archive for the ‘articles’ Category

Pruning Tactics

Posted: July 20, 2011 in articles


Chapter 2 of the book Necessary Endings by Dr Henry Cloud is titled ‘Pruning: Growth Depends on getting rid of the unwanted or the superfluous.’ I found this chapter both insightful and challenging.

Dr Cloud refers to the art of growing rose bushes. The Gardener who is skilled in growing healthy rose bushes intentionally and purposefully cuts off branches and buds that fall into the following 3 categories:

Healthy buds or branches that are not the best ones

Sick branches that are not going to get well, and

Dead branches that are taking up space needed for the healthy ones to thrive.

Dr Cloud refers to this metaphor as a means to encourage us to look at these 3 categories of necessary endings in our own professional lives. What really struck me from the metaphor was the fact that a rose bush has only enough resources available to it to bring a certain number of buds to bloom – not all of them! It simply cannot bring all of them to full bloom. In order for the bush to thrive, some of the buds have to go. Dr Cloud says: ‘the caretaker constantly examines the bush to see which buds are worthy of the plants limited fuel and support and cuts the others away… He ends their role in the life of the bush and puts an end to the bush’s having to divert resources to them… in doing so, the gardener frees those needed resources so the plant can redirect them to the buds with the greatest potential to become mature roses.’ (page 16)

We have resources which are both precious and limited. Are we treating them this way?

Where are we directing our resources?

If we had to examine them through the knowledge that our resources can only bring a limited number of ‘buds’ to bloom which areas would we put them into?

Which areas would we take our resources away from?

Dr Cloud goes onto say that without the necessary endings of these buds we simply don’t get the best rose bushes. If we are aiming at the maximum potential of what we are putting our hand to, we need to examine everything else that we are putting our hand to as well.

Personally I found a few areas that probably need to be cut away so I can direct my resources into the best ‘buds’. It is hard to do this but as Dr Cloud says… absolute necessary.


What must end?

Posted: July 5, 2011 in articles

The end...

Yesterday I walked into Exclusive’s and a book title immediately grabbed me – Necessary Endings by Dr Henry Cloud.

I am not sure why it did but as I picked it up and went through a few pages I begun to think about the questions this book may open up around what I am committed to right now.  We naturally strive to take what we do to new levels, new phases or new seasons. We as human beings are excellent at jotting down a new idea, a new vision or screening pictures of ideals that we wish to achieve.

Newness is attractive.

But do we ever think of what of the ‘old’ must end?

Henry’s opening line is (I reckon authors must pour so much time into that opening line!)

‘Today might be the enemy of your tomorrow

What you are doing today and how you are doing it may be robbing you of the tomorrow you desire.

Some things may need to end.

He goes onto say that endings are a natural part of the universe and challenges us to look at how we see the endings which we need to face up to. Life has seasons, phases and stages.

Why then do we like everything to look and feel the same all the time in our businesses?

Growth can very often mean that we have to move on from something.

What really makes sense to me is that we may have had to do what we have needed to do to get us to this point but the success of that action does not mean the action should live into the future.

It may be time to kill it.

Given I am only on chapter 1 perhaps this blog can offer no finality on how you go about figuring out what must end and how to end it.

But perhaps, like me, you can begin to have a look at what is taking up your time right now and ask yourself the question:

If this were to end what could it potentially mean personally and professionally?

Your answer for each area / action / relationship / strategy / project may just open up a window to dealing with what needs to be dealt with in order to take yourself to the next level.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Posted: June 21, 2011 in articles

beware of layering...

What is the one thing people say most often after they stumble across a great idea?

For instance, have you come across  Groupon yet? If not have a look at what they are doing as they have been the center of attention lately. I recently came across this innovative eventing idea recently called Pecha Kucha and look forward to attending one of their events this week alongside what seems like a bunch of others according to their facebook invite. On a recent fishing trip I was awed at a very vibrant bar in the middle of nowhere which was in essence a converted shipping container…

All great ideas!

And the one thing I hear from peoples mouths when discussing these ideas is…

‘It’s so simple… why didn’t I think of that!’

And its true isn’t. None of these ideas are overly complicated!  Yet we kick themselves for coming up with it in the first place…

But it’s the lines that follow that interest me.

Man, I had a similar idea!‘ or ‘I have this idea which has been on my mind…’

It seems we don’t have a shortage of ideas. It seems we have a shortage of execution on ideas. The frustration expressed in the ‘why didn’t I think about it‘ line seems to be more about a lack of execution than a lack of coming up with an idea itself!

Its not that these great ideas are simple, its that they are now out there! And as similar as they might be to ours, the fact is someone took the risk and we didn’t!

The problem seems to be something I could call ‘layering‘.

Beware of layering….

Ideas are simple, we have established that already. But what we tend to do is layer the idea with all sorts of complications around the probability that the idea will succeed.The running of future scenarios tends to keep us away from kicking off in the first place. (see trading metaphors article)

Perhaps we take simple ideas and make them complicated?

Perhaps those that execute on ideas keep reminding themselves to just keep it simple?

Or perhaps they just know they would rather execute even if they were to fail than be one of those who wishes….

wishes that they had ‘thought of the idea in the first place…’

I hope we will be talking about your idea around the fire sometime soon…

the needed burden

Posted: June 7, 2011 in articles

share the one thing...

If you are a communicator a brilliant book worth reading is Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley. I guess you would need to determine if you are in fact a communicator before you read the book so the question you would need to ask yourself is: do I speak to other people at all during the day? If the answer is yes, then read it.

During one of the chapters Andy refers to communicators needing to be burden bearers.  A burden, he explains, is what what shifts us away from simply conveying information to others. He says that others can tell if we are carrying a burden versus simply dispensing information. He challenges us further stating that when we communicate we need to know that one thing – the one idea, message, principle or truth that we had to deliver at all costs.  What is it that people have to know?  What do you feel compelled to share? It’s beyond information… it’s a burden.  A burden is what brings passion into a message enabling you to wrap up the hearers of your message and take them on a journey.

So imagine you were given a platform to speak to a crowd of people.  This will be your only opportunity, a never to be repeated experience. Imagine you arrived at the podium and had all ears on you. You’ve been given free reign to talk on anything you would like.

What would be the one thing you would communicate?  What would be your burden that you would share?

If, like me, you can’t answer that too clearly right now then perhaps the following questions will help you clarify what it is:

  • What change would you most like to see in the world?
  • What is the most significant way to live?
  • Where do you believe we as human beings can make the biggest difference?
  • What topics are you drawn to, be it on TV or in the media?
  • What life experiences have stuck fast in your memory banks?
  • What frustrates you most about the state of the world?
  • What inspires you?

The idea would be to look for a common thread. What seems to stick out as you answer the questions. What could that one thing be?

I believe – that as much as our platform in this blog was imaginary – that those of us who begin to own our burdens WILL be given the platform off which to share it.

The world needs more burdens.

Upgrading the Other Way

Posted: May 24, 2011 in articles

Last week I sent out a BBM broadcast to my loyal Blackberry friends notifying them I would be leaving the community. It was time for an upgrade and Blackberry was not part of my next move! 90% of the responses assumed I now had an Iphone. Either they would be joining me soon or expressed their satisfaction in my choice.

But I am not getting an IPHONE… or any other smart phone for that matter.

But is that a smart move?

I recently wrote a blog on my experience of spending a few days without my Blackberry after it had crashed – My Blackberry crashed this morning. It was a liberating experience where I enjoyed a slower pace and more space. I realised in that short amount of time that turning my phone on was almost the same as turning on the world. In an instant I was connected to clients, friends, news, information, tweets… As much as I love everything about technology it had invaded my world and had the potential to rob me of being present and enjoying what I love the most. I had to think about what really counted and then make a decision about how to make it count!

So I got a plain and simple Nokia C5.

So far the response has been interesting. Most have given me a few months before I get over it! Some have told me its embarrassing!  Even the vodacom salesmen couldn’t believe it!  Now when everyone puts their phones down on the table, mine will rest alongside its bigger more sophisticated brothers! An eye opener has been how often I reach for my new phone and search for something to do on it – a habitual pattern! With no attractive offerings the phone seems to slowly only find my hands to make a call or read a text.

So why did I do it?

To make a statement – No.

To lead a revolution and try and get everyone else to do the same – No.

The answer is simple. I know myself. I know what is most NB to me. And I know what I need to do in order to put myself squarely in the middle of what is most NB to me.

If it means letting go of ‘stuff’ that I enjoy then so be it. As long as I do what I need to do to remain focussed on what really counts.

So thats my challenge (and it may not involve your phone!)

What clutter can you strip away in order to remain present & focussed on what really counts on a daily basis?

Trading Metaphors

Posted: May 10, 2011 in articles

Trading Metaphors

Recently I arrived at a coffee shop to meet with Mark van Straaten. As the lead elder at Grace family Church in Umhlanga, KZN, Mark is one of my ‘primary influencers’. I believe in the idea of having primary influencers who impact on how we live our lives.

Choose wisely but avoid not choosing at all.

Primary influencers should be people you respect. They would have characteristics you aspire toward. They will have done something significant with their lives. They have gone before you and dealt with so much of what still lies ahead of you.

A half hour conversation could, more often than not, be more relevant and applicable than whatever it is you learnt at University!

As it was on this particular day.

I arrived at a coffee shop bringing with me a mind spinning with scenarios I was facing. The challenges within those scenarios kept me in a state of tension, negatively affecting my perspective.

Soon into our meeting Mark began to reflect on the idea of trading. Through some experience and some conversations he had had, he began to explain about this tension that exists in a traders life which simply never goes away.

“That tension” he explained, “is brought on due to the fact that traders can simply NEVER take into account all of the probabilities. It’s simply impossible!”

“The 5% of traders who make a success of trading” he continued, “recognise that trading is in fact a psychological process.  The great traders are the ones who do it without FEAR.  They simply know that they have to and will handle whatever happens next. They act from a place of complete confidence despite the risks associated with the unknown.”

As he spoke he held up a mirror. The probabilities I lived by were causing fear and anxiety.

“Fear limits our creativity” Mark continued seemingly knowing what I was thinking, “keeps us thinking ‘in the box’ which robs us of what we most need when we face the unknown – a mind open and focussed on possibility.”

Then the clincher.

“It’s not about abandoning reason. It’s about making a decision and sticking to it!”

In a few sentences I had let go of my need to control and began to look my context through the eyes of a ‘trader’. Changing my perspective through this critical insight yielded a different experience of my challenges. The weight disappeared.

The lesson is not only in the metaphor but in who that metaphor came from.

Go forward without fear knowing others want to share in your story!

Beneath my desk is a grey box

Posted: April 7, 2011 in articles

open it

I have a small office space with a wooden desk which I work on.  A neatly placed Apple mac lies on top next to a small pile of papers which are relevant to my current work. An orange ‘Mr Splat’ which is in essence a rubber man who has been squashed so I can lay my coffee cup on it sits next to my desk lamp. A pen rests on ‘post it’ notes which fuels my creativity. A few of my business cards lay neatly stacked with two business cards collected recently in Cape Town placed on top.


Beneath my desk is a grey box.

The lid of the box has to be encouraged to close. It holds every bit of paper which I still need to file, older business cards I collected, calculator, stapler, relevant cables and the most daunting of all – unopened post – lots of it.

It’s order and chaos in close proximity.

The grey box is for my eyes only. You would probably judge my character and working style by looking at my workspace.

You wouldn’t get the full picture!

I need to spend time going through the grey box.  I find that when their is some structure, some order, it creates space for me to be even more creative and productive. But I ignore it. Despite knowing how important it is, I don’t prioritise it. I just keep adding.

I don’t stop.

Just like I need to spend time going through every file I have dragged off my desktop into the ‘to clear’ folder so you can see the full pic of U2’s stage.

Just like my clean room has built in cupboards…

Just like that ordered, neat image you are projecting has a heart and soul behind it that could be very much like my grey box. Full of a bunch of stuff that needs dealing with.

It’s easier, I know, just to chuck more stuff down there with the intent ‘to clear’ so that the outer picture looks good. It always rises to the surface. My grey box has a certain capacity and one day that one envelop will be too much for the box to carry and the lid won’t close exposing its contents to the world.

Order and chaos in close proximity.

When will you stop in the pace of life and deal with what really counts?

When will you open up the box and clean up the contents, create some order?

May our desks and grey box’s represent the same message about who we are…