Archives for the ‘Courage’ Category

The 30 Day Challenge

Yaay for Play

“Play once a day to keep the doctor and priest away!” – Portia Tung

Screw Work Let’s Play!

I first came across the book “Screw Work Let’s Play” by John Williams sometime last year. It’s fair to say reading the book has changed my life. In a playful way.

The fact is, I’ve been researching on how to make a living out of doing what I love for years. I’ve read books like “The 4-Hour Work Week” by Timothy Ferriss and watched a multitude of videos and self-help books besides. Check out Tim’s inspiring Ted talk here.

Why love what you do?

Because I know, as a coach, that when we do what we are truly passionate about, the world around us opens up. And that’s when the magic happens. For me, doing what I love is a dream come true. A chance to make the most of my potential. Since this is what I encourage my teams to do, it’s important I drink my own champagne.

So what have I done since? Quite a bit, considering I’ve got a day job and other responsibilities.

  • Created an play-filled presentation on “The Power of Play” (based on my past and very present curiosity on the art and science of play)
  • Delivered the “The Power of Play” presentation at a number of places, including Oredev 2011, Play4Agile and even at work! If you want to experience this session yourself, we’ll be playing at GOTO Copenhagen on 23 May!
  • Invented the concept of “Playmaking” to mean “transforming work through play” and the term “Playmaker” for people who do this to stay alive plus created the “Playmaking” blog
  • Attended a session hosted by John on the subject of “Happiness” and making happiness a central part of my life (the event was part of something called “Scanners Night” where a scanner is an ideas person who may at times struggle to realise one of those ideas)
  • Made play an integral part of what I do every day. Have you had your Recommended Daily Amount of Play today?

What’s next?

I’ve signed up to be the second intake of “The 30 Day Challenge“, a concept realised by John and Selina Barker to help people deliver a “play project” of their choice. “The 30 Day Challenge” started back in August 2011 and I’m very excited to be part of it!

The challenge begins on 1 May and I’ve selected my project. To write and publish a book to share with you. I’ve started and abandoned writing a book (fiction, non-fiction, you name it, I’ve probably had a go) at least 20 times in my adult life time, so I reckon this endeavour will be a serious test of how effective “The 30 Day Challenge” really is.

Watch this space and follow me on Twitter to hear live updates on how my 30 Day Challenge goes.

Meanwhile, back to you…

…  Benjamin Disraeli once said, “Life is too short to be small”. How can you open up the world around you so that magic can happen?

Love the One You’re With

Sweet Valentine of Success

For me, the philosophy of work has come full circle. When I was a child, I was encouraged to dream and “do what you love”. When I became a teenager, those words slowly but surely morphed into “love what you do”. When I reached adulthood, the wise and elderly around me changed their tune once more. “A job’s just a job,” they said. “Do what you can to make a good living, don’t get into trouble and you’ll have a job for life”.

Stuck between a rock and a hard place

I wrestled for years with those three very different choruses. I desperately tried to reconcile my daily toil on the anthill with realising my dreams. Slowly but surely, those dreams ebbed away, hardened and broken by the relentless beat of the daily commute.

Then one day, I overheard a friend say, “Of course you can do what you love. Doing otherwise would be madness!”

As I considered this friend wise, his words forced me to do a triple take on everything I’d come to believe in. What if, just WHAT IF, some of the things I’ve come to believe in are not true?

Rediscover your dreams

For most of us, the advice of “do what you love” is impractical for a number of reasons. The most fundamental being that to do what we love, we need to first figure out what it is we love doing. That takes time and requires discovery through a series of experiments and experiences.

For many of us, our dreams have become buried so deeply in the sand on the beach of life, that the only way to figure out what we love doing is by identifying what we don’t like doing. It’s through a series of trial and error and process of elimination that we begin to pinpoint what it is that we truly love doing.

Career advisors’ advice

Career advisors’ advice can be distilled into three criteria when it comes to a happy working life:

  1. Do something you’re good at AND
  2. Do something you enjoy AND
  3. Do something that makes you a good living.

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, you get this far in search of your dream job. Most likely, you’ll still be confused as it turns out that what you like doing isn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that make up the unique job tailored to suit you. For instance, a travel writer, a singing chef or a knitting teacher.

Find your true purpose

In order to figure out what we enjoy doing, we need to try many things. By bringing what we love into our work, we begin to close the gap between the gruelling toil of daily work and our passion. And it’s through this series of experiments that we define meaning with our work.

For those of you who choose to read this blog, the reward of meaningful work is probably worth much more than its weight in gold. Why? Because meaningful work helps us discover our purpose.

Bring back the love

The first baby step then is to love the job you’re in, love the work you do. If this seems impossible, ask yourself, “What would someone who loved my job do?” Then begin to move in that direction, one baby step at a time. And if it feels like you’re Bambi skating on ice, that’s because you’re outside your comfort zone. The good news is your dreams are back in sight albeit in the distance. For now.

Re-define “success”

As you do this, you may discover that you fall in love with your job anew. After all, there must have been a very good reason for you to have taken the job in the first place, all that time ago. Alain de Botton helps us answer: What does “success” mean to you now? Begin by bringing back the magic. Happy Valentine’s!

Atheism 2.0

Rainbow Thoughts

An Encounter to Remember

Alain de Botton and I first met when I was 19 years old, between the covers of his first book, Essays in Love. Back in those days, we were both preoccupied with love. Between us, we would desperately try to define it, conjure it and acquire it. We would spend most of our time thinking about love, the only difference being he would write about it and I would read about it.

Ageing Curiosity

As time passed, we both grew up but we never grew apart. It seems that our mutual interests merely evolved with time. We continued to analyse the nuts and bolts of the body, mind and spirit of life, ranging from how Proust can change one’s life to the art of travel. As he continued to write, I would continue to read, nibbling on madeleines and sipping tea while dreaming of far off places.

Friends Re-united

Eventually our writer-reader relationship got buried by the sands of time until last Sunday. Imagine my surprise when we met up again, this time on, both in search of the missing pieces in secular life.

In search of Morality, Guidance and Consolation

I’m of course talking about what Alain refers to as Atheism 2.0, a flavour of atheism that takes the bits and pieces of religion (such as singing Christmas carols and visiting churches) that we enjoy to make our existence more complete, from daring to ask questions about life’s bigger mysteries (life’s purpose, death and disappointment) to creating connections (building communities and developing an attitude of service towards others).

I urge you to listen Alain’s Ted talk here. It really made me think.

Making Vital Things Matter More

As you stand by the water cooler today, looking out the window, ask yourself these three vital questions: Why am I here? How can I make things better? How can I make what we do together matter more?

And if you’re feeling courageous or simply playful, try asking these questions out loud and see where the conversation takes you, for it is in the search for answers that we find responses through our questionings.

And who knows? You may discover a pot of goodies at the end of the rainbow or tumble down a rabbit hole and have a tea party!

Days of Old

Old Age

Sticks and Stones

Some days I feel old. I think about all the hip things the youngsters are getting into these days. Wonder if I should buy myself an iPhone and get into the whole apps-on-phone rave, replace my beloved paperbacks with Kindle versions, accept invitations from strangers on LinkedIn requesting to connect as “friends”.

That’s when I decide to take an alternative route to work. As I go past a familiar row of shops, ABBA strikes up and the music jolts me out of my reverie. Because I’m taken by surprise, I pay attention to the lyrics for the first time. “You can dance, you can jive, having the time of your life“. Sounds like wise words to me. (Go on, you know you want to play it loud and play it proud!)

The cheery tune transports me back to my first visit to Sweden a couple of weeks ago for Oredev when I rediscovered an old friend, full of colour, sound and good humour. I’m referring to ABBA of course. And all this reminds me of a niggling notion I’ve been carrying in my head for sometime and it is this: the feeling of Agile.

The Feeling of Agile

Agile to me is a catalyst for personal and organisational change, so if you practice Agile on a daily basis, then you’re bound to feel silly or foolish at least once a day. Just as 5 – 10 minutes of play a day can keep the doctor and priest away, feeling silly is a sure sign you’re out of your comfort zone. And being out of your comfort zone demands courage. It can also lead to learning and personal growth.

The meaning of silly depends on you. Why stand up in front of an entire open plan office for a 15-minute standup meeting? Why try to improve when no one else seems to care? Why invite a new team member you barely know out for lunch?

Silly Me

I reflect on yesterday and scan for signs of silly, like a first aider fingering a wrist for a pulse. Much to my relief, I remember brainstorming ice breakers for a team building session with a fellow playmaker, among other silly episodes.

“What do you recommend?” she asks. To which I reply, “What’s the goal of the session? And the success criteria?” Once these are clear, the real fun begins. “There’s “Mad, Sad, Glad” which helps ground the team by looking back at how far they’ve come and where they are now,” I say, trying to come up with a range of options.

“Then there’s “The Profile Card Exercise” (which always contains surprises like “I love the Queen and I hate mushrooms”). And my all time favourite “The Superhero” – if you were a superhero who would you be? What kind of super power would you have?” This final suggestion gets an involuntary chuckle from my colleagues who overhear the conversation.

It’s true what they say, “you’re only as old you feel”. And I’d emphasise “as young as you want to be”. Silly is the pink flamingo in your drink. Or the cricket in your pocket. Do you dare to feel silly?

Transformative Play

Yaay to Play

A glimpse of my personal play history

When I look back at my working life to date, there’s a moment that stands out from all the rest.

It’s 2002. I’d been working for several years and had come to terms with what most people would describe as your typical “working life”. I worked hard and always tried to do my best. Sometimes that was good enough, at other times, it wasn’t. Then one day, as I sit in my dentist’s waiting room, I pick up a glossy magazine because my appointment was running late. An article about work catches my eye.

Against a backdrop of glamorous smiles and beautifully coiffed heads, a journalist told me that “We spend more than 75% of our waking hours doing work and work-related activities.” As though that were not sufficiently terrifying, she went on to say, “The average working person will spend more time in their entire lifetime with their colleagues than their loved ones.”

Quick as a flash, a quiet resolve forms in my mind. Life’s too short to spend it on doing what you don’t enjoy with people who’s company you don’t care for.

Ever since then, that’s been one of my guiding principles on how I choose to do my work. It was difficult at first but I found that with practice I could create opportunities for myself and others to do more meaningful work that I’ve come to describe as “Playmaking“.

Where next?

If you want to find out more about Transformative Play and get ideas on how to satisfy your recommended daily amount of play at work, join me at Oredev on 9 November in Sweden where I’ll be presenting on “The Power of Play – Making Good Teams Great“.

In addition to the latest research behind the power of play, there’ll be lots of fun and games including:

  • The game of “Play or Nay!”
  • The Sorry Story of the Sea Squirt
  • Explore your personal “Play History”

I hope to see you there!

Agile for Life

Class of Kiev June 2011

What does Agile mean to me?

Agile is a means not an end. It’s a means to improve the way we work to the benefit of individuals, teams, organisations and society itself.

Agile paves the way for a great adventure of personal and professional renewal, helping us improve our existing skills and develop new ones.

Agile takes us out of our comfort zones and teaches us how to adapt to change. It enlarges our comfort zones only to take us out of it again. It’s beyond survival. It’s about self-actualisation.

Agile is about being a “forever apprentice“, someone who begins as a student and becomes a teacher while remaining a student. A forever apprentice applies the principle “the best teachers make the best students and the best students make the best teachers”.

Applying Agile

I’ve been applying Agile to what I do for some years now, from delivering projects at work to projects at home. I pack in all the practice I can get. The way I use Agile is constantly changing through improvement experiments. Always learning. Always improving.

Applying Agile and being agile has helped make work fun and engaging. Again. Do you remember the very first day of your very first job? That’s the enthusiasm and energy I strive to re-create every day. For myself and for others. Some days, I give myself a day off.

Every day’s a new day when you’re trying to be better than you were yesterday. I’m improving, one baby step at a time. Sometimes the steps are so tiny that they’re invisible to the naked eye, but I can feel it, like a new shoot about to break through the ground after rain.

I don’t like to admit it, but I know when I’m getting complacent. A little voice in my head tells me, “You’ve been there, done that, seen it all, what’s the big deal?” That’s when I sense trouble. How can I know it all and still be constantly improving? Unless I’ve stopped, of course.

Evolving Agile

When people find out that I’m an Agile Coach (one of my many roles) they tell me, “Of course you want to make everyone do Agile, you’re an Agile Coach and that’s your purpose”. To which I reply, “If we do Agile right, Agile will evolve itself out of existence and something new will appear to take its place.”

As for my purpose, it’s to create opportunities and options to help us make the most of our potential, leveraging what we’ve got and increasing it day by day. I do it for me and for us. Agile is but one tool out of many that makes this possible. It helps to get the conversation started.

What does Agile mean to you?

Animal Farm

Mule for thought

What our experience tells us but we ignore

What do smart people all have in common? We’re driven, focussed and hardworking. Once we have a goal, we go for it, powering through and tugging hard until we gasp, regardless of the obstacles.

“The difference between winners and losers are that winners keep trying,” we mutter to ourselves quietly in the toughest moments. And so we keep striving and straining, cursing the rope that’s holding us back.

Look around you

Now imagine you’re in a meeting. Take a look around you. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you feel? When people come together, it’s usually to formulate a plan to reach a goal. And it’s usually something we’ve in common.

The problem is, we often become blindsided by our “own” goal. We fail to listen with an open mind. We fail to set aside our own viewpoint for long enough to see what’s as plain as the light of day. Not to mention the bale of hay behind us. And all the other bales of hay around us.

By failing to see the bigger picture, we all risk going hungry in spite of being surrounded by a wealth of resources.

See the bigger picture

To make hay while the sun shines, step into each other’s shoes. Then take a step step back together to see the big picture. This way, we can make hay together, come rain or shine.

A Dip in the Ocean

A dip in the ocean and a swim in the sea

Back in February, I attended my first TedX event, TedX Granta in Cambridge, UK, a city well-known for its academia, research and creativity. Among the many live and recorded talks, the one that moved me most was Sarah Outen‘s story of being the first woman to ever row across the Indian Ocean.

How Sarah let go and went rowing

The start of Sarah’s journey began with the sudden death of her father during her time at Cambridge university. In order to come to terms with her grief, she set herself the daunting challenge of becoming an “ocean rowing racer” in order to raise money for charity in her father’s memory. At that time, not only had Sarah never done ocean rowing, she’d not even done all that much regular rowing. But she’d set her mind to it and nothing was going to change that.

While some people might have considered her sudden decision to take up ocean rowing racing as “spiteful” or “whimsical”,  Sarah needed to let go of her family and herself. Sarah described this point in her life as a need to “survive” in order to deal with her grief. What better place to be alone than in a sailing boat in the middle of a big blue ocean with nothing but radio assistance?

The route less travelled

Sarah shared many anecdotes about her first trip from Perth to Mauritius which became a circuitous “warmup lap“. Instead of rowing in a straight-line, it was much more of a squiggle fraught with tenterhook moments like when she literally found herself unclipping her lifeline but for a moment to upright her overturned boat in a storm in order to survive.

“You can do whatever you want”

Sarah attributes her success in ocean rowing racing to 3 things: having a dream, a vision and belief. She learnt to “let go of naysayers” and focused on turning “bad nerves” into “good nerves” and making them work for her.

Sarah’s 7 tips for achieving your dreams

  1. Focus on your goal. Steel your mind and spirit with the mantra of “Just keep rowing”. The tough get moving to keep going.
  2. Persevere. Try, try and try again. Keep going. The key difference between winners and losers is that winners keep trying.
  3. Teamwork is dreamwork. Big dreams require teamwork. To reach your full potential, you need great teamwork.
  4. Don’t run from fear. Things that make you afraid are often learning opportunities in disguise. Sometimes, the greater the fear, the higher the return on investment.
  5. Re-define “safe” in your head. Your comfort zone  is eroding a bit every day. Continuously challenge yourself in order to be at your best.
  6. Stop worrying. Concentrate on the things that you can change. Let go of things you can’t. In Sarah’s words, learn to “look at things with equanimity”.
  7. Take calculated risks. Be bold and smart to give yourself the best chances for success. In the words of André Gide, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.”

When was the last time you unclipped your lifeline and dared to lose sight of the shore?

“A Dip in the Ocean”

You can read more about Sarah’s memoir of her ocean rowing races in her new book “A Dip in the Ocean“. If her writing is half as compelling as her storytelling, the book is sure to to help free your mind from the shore to which its currently tethered.

Rising to the Challenge of 2011

Be Your Own Champion

One of the life-changing moments for me back in 2010 was hearing Sally Gunnell speak at a great networking event organised by Women in Technology, hosted by BP.

The subject of Sally’s talk was ‘Rising to the Challenge – How to achieve a gold medal career‘. Sally shared numerous heartfelt stories from her 12-year long career in athletics and, most importantly, shared her insights on success.

Who’s Sally?

Sally is a former Olympic British Champion in the 400m hurdles. She’s the only woman to have held the European, World, Commonwealth and Olympic 400 metre hurdles titles at the same time. (Read more about Sally on wikipedia.)

Sally Says

Think big. Have dream goals. Define your goals. Know what you want in life. Have a role model. Work out what you’re bad at. Focus on what you’re good at. Remember that your comfort zone gets smaller every day.

Understand yourself. Learn how to deal with setbacks. Work hard. Make sacrifices. Believe in yourself. Develop a positive mental attitude. Don’t let people who put you down influence your whole life.

Put yourself under pressure. Live your dream.

Key Ingredients for Success

Nutrition. Your body isn’t so much a temple as the engine that enables you to realise your dreams. Watch what others eat and work out what works best for your mind and body.

Proper preparation. Build training into your schedule. Train lots.

Be professional. Take what you do seriously. Make everything count.

Respect your coach. Listen with an open-mind. Give things a go.

Don’t worry about things outside of your control. Believe in yourself.

Take regular physical exercise. At least 3 – 4 times a week. It’s the quickest way to feel good about yourself.

Plan for you. Define your goals. Take small steps to get you going and get you that gold medal.

The Difference Between a Champion and a Loser

Winners define what success means for themselves. You decide what constitutes a gold medal for you.

Winners know how to shut up that obnoxious voice in one’s head that says, ‘You’re rubbish. You won’t make it, so why bother?’

Winners know what they’ve got to do. They do the best they can. Once they achieve one goal, they set themselves another.

Being a champion is about sustaining excellence. Being a champion is about ever greater expectations of oneself.

Over to You

All this may sound simple, but it’s anything but easy. What are your goals for 2011 and beyond? And what’s your plan?

Make this year a great one. Because we’re worth it.

Ghosties and Ghoulies

How will you light up your life?

Halloween, also known as Hallows’ Eve or All Saints Eve, originates from the Celtic festival of Samhain (pronouned ‘sow-an’ or ‘sow-in’) meaning ‘summer’s end’. The ancient Celts believed that the border between this world and that of the other became ‘thin’ on Samhain, thus allowing spirits (both good and evil) to cross over. It was believed that harmful spirits could be warded off by disguising ourselves as one of those spirits by dressing up in costumes and wearing masks.

What would you do if you weren’t afraid?