What am I working on?

I believe that wisdom can only be created through our own action and effort. We do that by exhausting our own resources working on problems, ideas, and asking ourselves tough questions. Here you will find (almost) daily posts of the things I'm trying to figure out for myself. Have a quick scroll through and see if you can find something that interests you :)

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Reduce conflict with these four ‘agreements’

There are a tonne of great books that will help you to improve your communication. I’ve read a lot of them.

So far, there is *one book that trumps them all*, and that’s because it’s not about the tactics. It’s about getting to the root of why you behave the way you do.

It’s called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. My Mum gifted it to me around about the time when my brother Colin died (about 15 years ago). I’ve read it a dozen or more times. And I’ll read it agin this year.

The Four Agreements will challenge everything you don’t know about why you behave, act and respond to the people around you. It will expose the ‘agreements’ that you didn’t know you had already made with yourself, and give you four new and better ones:

  1. Be impeccable with your word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Always do your best

Every single fight, conflict or bad experience I’ve ever had happened because one or more of these agreements were pushed to the side.

Think about The Four Agreements as an operating system that will help you put all those great communication tactics to better use.

This book is too important to ignore.

If you haven’t read it, go get it.

If you have read it already, maybe it’s time to pick it up again 🙂


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Who do I want to be today?

It’s incredible to me how quickly I can let someone or something quickly carry me away from who I want to be.

Here’s a cheeky wee daily life hack I use to help me get into, and stay in, the best frame of mind for the day ahead…

I’ve got a stack of 5×3 index/revision cards on my desk. I take a new one each day and answer this one question:

“Who do I want to be today?”

The card will sit there all day and help me to stay within my integrity and values.

It works for me. It may work for you, too.

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How to write a letter to your kids…

Towards the end of last year I read something that inspired me to start writing weekly letters to my younger kids.

The trigger came from thinking about when I was a child and receiving postcards from my grandparents when they went on holiday. Or from my parents when they went on a work trip.

The cards would be pinned to a cork board, or attached to the fridge with a magnet. They’d remind me that my parents were thinking of me no matter where they were in the world.

It was customary back then (30+ years ago!) to send postcards, and for a few obvious reasons it’s not so common these days.

Anyway, a few months ago decided that I’d like to write a weekly letter to my younger kids. Not only is it exciting to get something in the mail, but I wanted to give them something that they could place in their keepsake boxes and hold on for many years. Perhaps at times when I’m not around they will find comfort in them.

The bonus for me is that I have something fun to do with my 1961 refurbished typewriter that Cara gifted me last year for my birthday!

Of course, this post wouldn’t be complete without a list of tips…so here are two lists for you:

List #1 – General guidance for writing a letter to your kids:

  1. Keep it really short and specific.
  2. Don’t overthink it.
  3. If your kids can read yet you can read it with them.
  4. Keep it positive – so they can go back to it in the future to feel good about themselves.
  5. Be honest – if you commit to promising something for the future make sure you follow through.
  6. Don’t worry about how they might respond. Know that you are influencing your kids in a positive way, even if they don’t realise it in the moment.
  7. Tell them that you love them.
  8. Don’t put pressure on them, criticise them or project your expectations.
  9. Have they got somewhere to keep their letters?

List #2 – Questions to inspire ideas to include in your letter:

  1. What do your kids love doing?
  2. What have you seen that you liked about what your kids did?
  3. What’s something you enjoyed about your time together recently?
  4. What’s something you are looking forward to?
  5. What are you proud of?
  6. What’s something that means a lot to you?
  7. Look back at photos from your most recent time together.
  8. What do you wish you had heard from your parents?
  9. What promises and commitments do you want to make to your children?

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Why you’re too busy…

  1. You want to look smart.
  2. You want to seem interesting.
  3. You want to save the day.
  4. You want to feel important.
  5. You need recognition and fame.
  6. You need to solve every problem.
  7. You are avoiding more important problems.
  8. You are addicted to being busy.
  9. You are a slave to your ego.
  10. You think you’re better than other people.

I’ve attacked myself by writing and sharing this. 🤪

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How to encourage your kids to love reading…

If we try to make our kids love reading it’ll likely lead to them hating it.

If you’re like me, I’m sure you would like your kids to grow up with a love for reading.

So, as parents, what can we do to help encourage them to read more?

Here are a few ideas to nudge them along:

  1. Let them see you reading physical books
  2. Show respect for your own books
  3. Build a library for the family
  4. Read them stories aloud at bedtime, and enjoy that time
  5. Display the subtitles on the TV
  6. Create scheduled reading/quiet time at the weekend
  7. Take them with you to the book shop
  8. Get them a library card and spend time there
  9. Leave books lying around
  10. Re-read their favourite books
  11. Take turns reading aloud to each other
  12. Let them pick their books
  13. Designate a place/room for reading

What something that’s worked (or not worked) for you?

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How to control your anger…

Journal entry from 13th January 2021:

“Just let it all go! Who cares? What are you trying to prove? That you can be more miserable than anyone else for longer?”

How to control your anger:

  1. Let go of everything you cannot control
  2. Don’t let your ideals become expectations
  3. Everyone is trying their best
  4. You can’t change the past
  5. Take a moment before responding
  6. Anger doesn’t look good on you
  7. You won’t change people’s mind by shouting at them
  8. Choose your fights carefully
  9. People need to make their own mistakes
  10. Let go of perfectionism
  11. It’s probably none of your business
  12. Don’t make assumptions
  13. Don’t take it personally (It’s not about you)
  14. Don’t let other people carry you away from your principles and values
  15. Don’t let your ego control your behaviour

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How to ask for, give and receive feedback…

How to ask for helpful feedback:

  • Be specific about what you’re asking for
  • Choose the right people to ask
  • Make it easy by posing incisive questions

How to give helpful feedback:

  • Wait until it’s asked for
  • Ask any clarifying questions
  • Give it privately where possible
  • Be specific and actionable
  • Get to the point
  • Don’t justify or make excuses
  • Be honest

How to receive helpful feedback:

  • Take it as advice, not a criticism
  • Keep an open mind
  • Listen to understand
  • You don’t have to turn it into a ‘thing’
  • You get to choose what you do with it
  • Follow up with gratitude

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What got you here is EXACTLY what will get you there:

  1. Seeing yourself as a continual work in progress.
  2. Developing stronger connections with great people.
  3. Improving your work ethic and your abilities as a team player.
  4. Creating value for others through your work.
  5. Continually improving your skills as a leader and communicator.
  6. Developing and improving self-awareness and self-confidence.
  7. Making decisions within your known values and principles.

Interestingly, these are factors we all have complete control over.

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On having tough conversations…

Much of my work involves facilitating tough conversations.

Sometimes I initiate them, and sometimes I’m invited to join them.

Sometimes they go well. Sometimes not so much.

In most cases, I know when it’s coming. Occasionally, if I’m not paying attention, it will sneak up on me.

Regardless, having the ability to navigate complicated and difficult conversations is something I’m continually working on being better at.

Here’s an example of how I remind myself of who I want to be during difficult conversations:

  1. Lead with questions.
  2. Be genuinely curious.
  3. Be friendly.
  4. Listen to understand.
  5. Pay attention.
  6. Don’t make assumptions.
  7. Don’t take it personally.
  8. Don’t get defensive.
  9. Clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
  10. Treat feedback as advice, not criticism.
  11. Stay within my integrity.
  12. Don’t compromise on my standards.
  13. Remember, we’re all born to work together.

I don’t always know when a difficult conversation may arise, but when I know it’s going to be tough I find it helpful to literally write this list out prior to meetings so I can be in the best frame of mind.

I’d love to know how you set yourself up to be a great communicator in difficult circumstances.

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