I’ll be running a YouTube livestream today… my second effort… (first livestream effort is here) You can watch it here on the blog… or with more controls & chat available on YouTube here:

YouTube livestream – Today at 17:00 CET, 16:00 UK/Ireland time – join and say hello 😉

2020-03-21T17:00:00

  days

  hours  minutes  seconds

until

Florian Mueck’s Daily Q&A

and then at 6pm we’ll have Florian Mueck’s 8th YouTube live session…

so you can enjoy a full afternoon of learning and growing 😉

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

We are living quarantine in Spain for the last 3 days. This is a strange Saint Patrick’s day… no rivers greeen… no parades. I am at home with family in quarantine.

How are things where you are? Stay safe and stay sane…

Would love to hear from you on how you are handling the Coronavirus… let’s hear from you in the comments below.

Handling Coronavirus as a Business Leader

…like today with COVID-19/Coronavirus affecting all aspects of our daily lives across the world.

When there is a huge range of possible impacts in the short, medium or long term, how can leaders prepare and respond?

Scenario Planning

Today, it is impossible to predict the impact of COVID-19/Coronavirus on our societies, our people, our future cash flows. Leaders cannot abdicate responsibility and say that they cannot decide because there are too many unknowns.

In the current context, business leaders need to lead with a number of specific actions:

  1. Set company policy and make sure all employees know this policy. This policy should cover at minimum what is covered in my recent post COVID-19/Coronavirus – How business leaders should respond?
  2. Communicate daily what you are seeing, what you are expecting, who is involved, what it means…
  3. Scenario Planning
    1. Best Case – What is the best case we might possibly expect and how will we respond if the situation pans out in this way?
    2. Worst Case – What is the truly worst case we might face? What actions can we take today that can prepare us for dealing with this? What cash reserves will we need? What will we do with suppliers, customers, banks, employees in this worst case? Are there any actions that can reduce the impact? Can we survive this worst case? (“You can only learn from the crisis that you survive” Jim Collins)
    3. Other Cases between best and worst – What will happen under these scenarios? How can we prepare plans and our people to perform under these conditions?

It may be helpful to have separate people/teams working on response plans for each of the scenarios.

IESE Business School is working on 4 possible Scenarios and teams are putting in place the technology, the training, the support systems in order to allow for any of these 4 scenarios to be supported. As of yesterday, IESE has moved to scenario 3… All classes delivered online for at least the next 2 weeks. All travel stopped. All marketing activities with on campus visits stopped.

IESE is maintaining the capacity to go back to on-campus teaching, and is maintaining regular communications to employees, to faculty and to students via email, a blog and internal messaging tools.

I heard a tough question this morning (on a podcast).

“Who is the least reliable person you know?”

A powerful reflection… stop and have a think. Is it a friend? Is it a brother? Is it a parent? Is it you… to yourself?

We live in a time of great uncertainty… coronavirus… globalization… robots taking our jobs… a way to bring some certainty to your life and the life of the people you care about… is to be deliberate in keeping your promises.

What impact does it have when someone is not reliable? What impact does it have in your own life when you don’t keep the promises that you make to yourself? Today? In a decade?

Thanks to Tony for pushing me to reflect deeply on the nature of friendship… and to the podcast this morning for a reminder:

We are seeing growth in COVID-19/Coronavirus infections around the world. Some facts about the disease.

  • Unlike the flu, very young people do not seem to be at any increased risk from COVID-19.
  • Risk appears to ramp up for people over age 50. Mortality rates are 0.6% to 1.5% in general population, 80-85% of cases are mild (which is the big problem because you are infectious, but able to go out in the world).
  • The big risk is rapid spread and the collapse of hospital facilities in local regions. All efforts are directed towards slowing the spread of infection so that we don’t see a huge number of critical cases all needing hospital beds at the same time. This is what happened in Wuhan and led to the higher fatality rates in that region.

How it affects me?

As a business leader in Spain I find myself struggling to take reasoned decisions around the COVID19/Coronavirus outbreak that is spreading through the world. Over the weekend all of North Italy (16M people) went into quarantine. Last night Madrid closed all schools.

I have a training event coming up late March for our leadership team. A Vistage Chair will be travelling over from the US to run the 3 day event. Should we go ahead with the event? Should we cancel? How can I approach this decision and find a balance between emotion and reason, short term safety and long term impacts.

I find it very hard to get myself emotionally centered and make a reasoned decision. If I read the news for 20 minutes, I feel like the whole world is coming to an end… markets crashing… supply chains in grave danger…

Then I look into the illness… how serious is it? Clearly nobody wants an illness of any type… but we are lucky that this wake-up call to the global health system is not highly lethal. This crisis will prepare us and potentially mitigate or reduce the impact of a future more lethal strain that spreads widely.

How should a Small Business CEO respond?

First, leaders need to communicate regularly… I would suggest a daily update about what company policy is and what scenarios we are looking at, also what we don’t know. Even if that communication is “we have nothing new to communicate today, but we are paying close attention to what is happening” it is an important signal of leadership.

Establish and communicate Company policy – every company needs to establish a company policy that at its very least recommends the following:

  1. If you are sick, or have flu-like symptoms – do not come to work. Stay home and contact your local medical services.
  2. Wash hands regularly. Don’t touch your face. This disease (and many others) is passed from hands to mouth and nose.
  3. Wipe down work areas regularly. Shared desks, computers, personal mobile devices can gather and share the virus.
  4. Reduce physical contact as much as necessary at this time. Handshakes and kisses are out, fist pumps or elbow nudges are the replacement gesture.
  5. Encourage video conference over travel and face to face meetings. Many companies have temporarily banned any meeting of 20 or more people.
  6. Put plans in place now for remote work – think through now how the business could operate in a full quarantine.
  7. Liquidity – can you establish lines of credit, sources of financing that can get you through the next few weeks and months. As Jim Collins says “we can only learn from a crisis if we survive the crisis”.
  8. School closures? – How can employees respond if their schools close and they are at home? What is your policy? Case by case basis?

Personal and Family

Get your own house and family in order.

  • Plan for looking after kids at home if schools shut down Can you remote work or create flexibility to do your work from home?
  • Plan for the (unlikely) event you and your family can not leave your home for 2 weeks quarantine. Get in food and drinks for a 2 week stay at home.
  • Make sure your family has 2-3 months of medicine. If a loved one is taking a medicine or drug regularly, you may want to ensure a few months extra supply.

3 Important Reasons For Optimism

1. The disease is mild in most people who get it. At least 80%, most likely more, will only have flu-like symptoms.

2. Children seem particularly protected from severe coronavirus disease. Many of the sniffles and colds kids experience are due to existing milder coronavirus strains, possibly giving them partial immunity to this more serious new threat.

3. There has been extraordinary global cooperation from doctors and health officials. This is a level of globalisation that I am proud to see our leaders and doctors capable of.

Reliable Information Sources

I will continue to update this post as we learn more about effective response to COVID-19/Coronavirus.

Joseph Campbell’s work has had a profound influence on me and on my life. The Hero’s Journey are the steps that a mythical hero must take in order to complete the path to their purpose.

There is no pain-free path… and it must be “chosen sacrifice” if it is to lead you towards self belief. You can’t just accumulate externally imposed suffering and hope… you have to decide to follow the path of the hero.

The Hero’s Journey

“The Hero With a Thousand Faces” is a journey through myths from all over the world. Myths are stories that have been handed down from generation to generation over hundreds and thousands of years. Joseph Campbell shares myths from the ancient Egyptians, the Romans, Hindu and Buddhist legends of the east, and the folk-tales and foundation myths of the indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The book explores common themes that define the world’s myths. While our cultures differ, they structure their stories in similar ways. This template is what is known as the hero’s journey. 

The 3 themes and the 17 specific steps along the Hero’s Journey are described below.

Call to Adverture

1. The call to adventure: Something, or someone, interrupts the hero’s familiar life to present a problem, threat, or opportunity.
2. Refusal of the call: Unwilling to step out of their comfort zone or face their fear, the hero initially hesitates to embark on this journey.
3. Supernatural aid: A mentor figure gives the hero the tools and inspiration they need to accept the call to adventure.
4. Crossing the threshold: The hero embarks on their quest.
5. Belly of the whale: The hero crosses the point of no return, and encounters their first major obstacle.

Trials of the Hero

6. The road of trials: The hero must go through a series of tests or ordeals to begin his transformation. Often, the hero fails at least one of these tests.
7. The meeting with the goddess: The hero meets one or more allies, who pick him up and help him continue his journey.
8. Woman as temptress: The hero is tempted to abandon or stray from his quest. Traditionally, this temptation is a love interest, but it can manifest itself in other forms as well, including fame or wealth.
9. Atonement with the father: The hero confronts the reason for his journey, facing his doubts and fears and the powers that rule his life. This is a major turning point in the story: every prior step has brought the hero here, and every step forward stems from this moment.
10. Apotheosis: As a result of this confrontation, the hero gains a profound understanding of their purpose or skill. Armed with this new ability, the hero prepares for the most difficult part of the adventure.
11. The ultimate boon: The hero achieves the goal he set out to accomplish, fulfilling the call that inspired his journey in the first place.

Return of the Hero

12. Refusal of the return: If the hero’s journey has been victorious, he may be reluctant to return to the ordinary world of his prior life.
13. The magic flight: The hero must escape with the object of his quest, evading those who would reclaim it.
14. Rescue from without: Mirroring the meeting with the goddess, the hero receives help from a guide or rescuer in order to make it home.
15. The crossing of the return threshold: The hero makes a successful return to the ordinary world.
16. Master of two worlds: We see the hero achieve a balance between who he was before his journey and who he is now. Often, this means balancing the material world with the spiritual enlightenment he’s gained.
17. Freedom to live: We leave the hero at peace with his life.

What is a Story?

This is a video from a few years back where I simplified the hero journey structure into 7 steps:

If you liked this post you will also like What is Mentorship? and Living a Purpose driven life.

Games to play with family at home or on travels. First I share board games, then card games. These are games we play at home, and when we are on travels, waiting in airports, train stations or cafes.

Thanks to Rich Mulholland for most of the inspiration on board games, and to Keti for being at the end of a phone when we need card game rule clarifications 😉

Board Games

Strategic board games that are fun to play with your family.

Takenoko

Strategy board game where players try to grow bamboo, guide rivers and avoid the Panda eating your garden. Takes 2 hours per game. Can play with 2, but better with 3+

Ticket to Ride

Strategy board game where players build train tracks and compete to have the biggest track network across Europe. 2+ players, but better 3+.

Risk

War game where players play to take over the whole world with their armies. Friendships can be damaged when you break your treaties! 3+ players. Games last 1-2 hours.

Diplomacy

Turn based strategy game. This game involves building of alliances and getting people to trust you. At a certain point, alliances start to fall apart, and emotions rise. Not for the faint hearted… need to agree to forgive everything the moment the game ends 😉 . Games can last 5-6 hours.

Catan

Strategy board game where you accumulate resources and build your empire via trade.

Monopoly

Strategy board game where players buy properties and develop homes and hotels, allowing them to ask for rent from other players. 3+ players, lasts 60-90 minutes.

Card Games

These are the games we play most in our home, the choice of game is often very much based on how many players we have for the game.

  • Dou Di Zhou 3 players
  • Gin Rummy 2 players
  • Hearts 4 players
  • Joker 4 players (looking for the rules… let me know if you have a link to rules for this game)
  • Stupid (Durak) 3 players

Picture below is from an epic 3 hour game of Joker last year in Rocamadour, France between four of us (while our little one slept her siesta).

What did you Play?

What games do you play with your family? What games do you remember playing from when you were young?

I heard David Meerman Scott share this question in a recent Elevate podcast episode with host Bob Glazer. He was asked by someone “Imagine you are in a room with 2,000 people. What could you confidently say you are the best in the room at?”

Take a moment to reflect on this question. I imagined myself in a room full of entrepreneurs, leaders, teachers… and wasn’t sure I could give a completely confident answer.

Now imagine that you have 20 years before you step into that room… What do you want to be able to say in 20 years that you have done the work to truly be a master, to have established a reputation for excellence, to have made a difference? Write that down.

If you liked this post, you will also like Excellence: the Path to Mastery and Finding Purpose.

This blog post is based on a couple of passages that I have copied and pasted from the book “The Cicero Trilogy” by Robert Harris.

2 weeks ago I found myself watching the Impeachment trial of US President Donald Trump from my hotel room in California, while reading about an Impeachment trial over 2,000 years ago in Rome. It was fascinating to see the parallels and feel that the US impeachment process was not a signal of a broken, polarised political system… but part of the system of democracy that we have inherited from the Greeks and then the Roman Republic.

6 Quotes from The Cicero Trilogy

‘It is perseverance,’ he used to say, ‘and not genius that takes a man to the top. Rome is full of unrecognised geniuses. Only perseverance enables you to move forward in the world.’

I learnt this the hard way as an entrepreneur. In my first business, we sold insurance. I had 4 partners. We agreed that we would each aim to sell 4 policies per week to keep ourselves involved in the business. The first week is not too hard. The second week I could still do it selling to friends… but the fourth, fifth… and consecutive weeks… only systematic persistence in making the phone calls day after day allowed me to sustain the sales over the long term. My business today is about meaningful conversations… If I have meaningful conversations with inspiring leaders day after day… our business grows. If I stop having conversations…. sooner or later, the business wilts and starts to die.

‘To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it is woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?’

Those who are unaware of history are doomed to repeat it. We are not the first humans to have faced the challenges in front of us. There is a wealth of past experience. I need to let go of my ego and open myself up to this wealth of human experience. It is not the answer for me, but it will give me the perspectives I need to take a better decision. I cannot just copy the past, or other people’s answers… but I am much better placed for life if I have these perspectives.

it was his belief that a great performer, however experienced, must always be frightened before going on stage – ‘the nerves should be as taut as bowstrings if the arrows are to fly’

I say to myself, the day I am not nervous before class or a speech is the day I have stopped caring… and I should stop. I so often wish the nerves would go away. I suffer worries and anxiety before every class and every speech… As much as I would like to not feel these emotions, they are demonstration that I care about the audience and the material and it is important to me to do the work well.

‘The art of life is to deal with problems as they arise, rather than destroy one’s spirit by worrying about them too far in advance.

Easier said than done… I have a vivid imagination and it is very good at creating multimedia future visions of failure and disaster and betrayal and deception… I work to channel my imagination towards productive questions: “How can I…?” is a better form of question to my mind than “Why?” – it pushes my imagination to be resourceful and responsible.

Cicero’s first law of rhetoric, that a speech must always contain at least one surprise.

If you just share generic obvious statements… it is a waste of your and your audience’s time. If we all know something, and we are not yet taking action… then sharing this thing we all know again will not lead to action. There must be a surprise. There are many forms of surprise… but a great speech should lead to the audience seeing something with new eyes, taking new meaning from an old experience, or changing their perception of an aspect of life.

‘We have so much – our arts and learning, laws, treasure, slaves, the beauty of Italy, dominion over the entire earth – and yet why is it that some ineradicable impulse of the human mind always impels us to foul our own nest?’

The german language has the word “schadenfreude“. The experience of joy or pleasure in witnessing another person’s misfortune. It is often harder for us to enjoy another’s successes than it is for us to experience a small inner joy at the setbacks another must face. I wish I could switch it off… in me and in all around me… in humanity as a whole. The ego, or sense of independent self, in each of us needs so much “to be right”, to win, to be “better” and we are willing often to cause pain to ourselves to cause pain to another.

If we are to achieve peace outside ourselves, we must achieve peace within. This is to know myself. To laugh at and accept my flaws, to be grateful for my strengths and to take life as an infinite rather than a finite game.

My thoughts so far from Cicero’s life.

PS I’m only half way through the story.

“You can’t free anybody else and you can’t serve anybody else unless you free yourself” 

Nelson Mandela

You are not an accident.  You are a singular piece in the giant jigsaw puzzle that is this world.  This jigsaw puzzle is not a 50 piece puzzle, nor a 250 piece puzzle…  it is a 7 billion piece puzzle.  I find it frustrating when my daughter and I put together a 50 piece puzzle and find that there are only 49 pieces.  We can’t finish the game.  The great puzzle needs your piece.  Whatever you are given, you need to pass it on with integrity, humility and generosity.

You are not a Cog in a Machine.  Photo: iansand
You are not a Cog in a Machine. Photo: iansand

The greatest anger is the anger at ourselves for not living up to what we know we are capable of.  Hell is not after death, hell is the moment before death when a human being looks back on all the wasted potential.

“What you can be, you must be” Abraham Maslow.

Honestly expressing yourself.

The greatest gift you can give to those around you is your own shining self belief and glorious sense of meaning in what you do.  If you don’t have it, only you can do the work to get it.  If you have it, only you can keep doing what it takes to keep it.

The opposite of love is not hate, it is apathy.  Love is not easy.  Love is hard.  Doing the work that needs to get done, overcoming the devil in me that avoids the work is the course of love.  Allowing the resistance, the procrastination to win is the course of apathy.  Apathy leads to self-hate, which builds to resentment and then is shared with others in bitterness and cruelty.

The 3 Escuses

The Resistance

Stephen Pressfield speaks powerfully about the Resistance. It is a force within each of us that stops us from doing the work that really matters.

The 3 big voices of my personal resistance are:

  1. Comparison
  2. Pointlessness
  3. Fear

The Last 5% is the Hard Part

Starting is easy.  There are no prizes for starting the marathon.  You get the medal for finishing. Most people I know are good at starting.  Few people I know are good at finishing.

The closer you get to the end, the stronger the Resistance grows.

“An artist never finishes a work, he abandons it.”

Pablo Picasso

Here are a few of many ways I bring these voices into my life to procrastinate and avoid finishing important work.

  1. They won’t let me
  2. I am too young
  3. I am too old
  4. I am only one person
  5. I don’t know enough
  6. I am not a guru
  7. This could be embarrassing
  8. This will be embarrassing
  9. This is too touchy-feely
  10. I won’t get paid for this
  11. This isn’t business stuff
  12. I have to finish the things I have already started
  13. Seth Godin has already said it better than I can
  14. I’ll do it tomorrow/later/after this coffee
  15. Who am I to think I know something special about this?
  16. I’ve got plenty of time next week
  17. I’ve got plenty of time this year
  18. I’ll do it this summer
  19. I’ll do it after the summer
  20. I need to do a little bit more research
  21. Who’s going to read this anyway?
  22. [¡¡¡ insert your own excuse here 😉 !!!!]

That’s just 21…  I have many, many more…