Being a good manager (of yourself)

I’ve met some excellent business managers… who are extremely poor managers of their own life.

They get results. They support others. They build capable, effective teams. Their business grows.

…but they are not joyful.

They are not waking up motivated each day.

They are not finding themselves energised through the day by the activities, people and places where they spend their hours.

It strikes me as a sad trade – to be a good manager of external resources, but lacking any degree of effective control or direction of your own inner state.

Our mission at Vistage is to “improve the effectiveness and enhance the quality of life of CEOs”. I believe that the most important word in that sentence is the “and”. Achieving results at the cost of your health, your relationships, your sanity… not a great trade. What would it take to achieve both increased effectiveness and enhanced quality of life?

What is Quality of Life?

Cynicism is a Choice… and so is Hope

Bad stuff happens. Bad actors exist. Decent people do bad things. Bad people do their things. Nature does it’s thing… storms, snow and clouds.

It can look pretty bleak some days.

The news can seem to be a constant flow of disasters, invasions, road accidents, kidnappings and domestic violence. (This is my summary of the TV news as we stopped at a roadside cafe as we road-trip across Spain).

It is also true that progress is being made. Fewer people are dying young. Fewer diseases can kill you. Fewer deadly road accidents. Fewer wars.

There is so much information coming at us every day that we cannot process it all.

We see how we are

Our attitude will guide what passes the filters of attention overload. If my attitude is cynicism… I will see the data that proves I am right. If my attitude is hope, I will see data that proves I am right.

We are not neutral passive observers of the world in which we live.

We are active and biased interpreters driven by motivated reasoning, so full of cognitive biases that reality is a distant concept.

The practice of gratitude changes our mode of perception. First I decide to have an attitude of gratitude, then actively recall what I am grateful for… This is like priming a pump… or an AI chatbot… and then my perception starts to notice more things that I can be grateful for… and then on to a virtuous circle of hope and optimism.

If you are passive, the news will take you to cynicism.

Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like

“Most people prefer a problem they can’t fix to a solution they don’t like”

Lee Thayer

This sentence is mad…. but there is a certain truth to it.

Lee Thayer is the author of several books on the practice of Leadership. He was a big proponent of working to integrate thinking, being and doing into a more complete mode of leading people and organisations. Lee was a mentor and inspiration for many Vistage Chairs.

Problems we know vs Solutions we don’t know

Why might we prefer allowing a problem to persist than to take the steps to solve the problem?

Why is this:

  • Delay the Pain: The consequences of the problem will probably be felt most strongly in the future, whilst the discipline to put into action the solution requires pain today.
  • Fear of Uncertainty: A persistent problem may be challenging, but it is familiar, and we know what to expect.
  • Locus of Control: It is easier to accept a problem that we have no control over than to accept a solution that requires conflict or change, or the involvement of other human beings in putting into action.

The best way to approach being human is often to learn to laugh at ourselves. We have the capacity to be rational, goal seeking individuals… and also the capacity to be nuts.

How to Start a Speech

My single most widely watched video ever on youtube is “How to Start a Speech”. The opening line of the video is: “What are the first words you should say in a speech?”

In today’s busy, distraction-filed world… you have a few seconds at the beginning of any speech (youtube video, tiktok, instagram etc) to engage the audience… and if you lose them… you have lost.

How to Start a Speech

Why it is so Important to Start a Speech well

Starting a speech well is essential in order to capture your audience’s attention and set the tone for the rest of your presentation. A strong opening establishes credibility, engages your audience, and creates a positive impression.

In this article, we’ll cover tips on understanding your audience, creating a strong opening, and delivering your words with emotion and energy. These tips will help you make a memorable first impression and deliver a successful speech.

Understanding the Audience

If you do not know your audience, do not speak. You must have some ideas about where they are struggling, and what sort of hopes and dreams they have for themselves.

Poor communication starts from “what I want to say”; Great communication starts from “what they need to hear”. You must know your audience in order to be great.

Here are some tips for researching and understanding your audience:

  1. Demographics: Age, gender, education, common struggles and common interests.
  2. Event Purpose: Understand why your audience is attending the speech and what they hope to gain from it.
  3. Anticipate questions: Put yourself in your audience’s shoes and think about what questions they may have.
  4. Engage your audience: I’ll often ask to speak to a few of the participants ahead of the event. I want to ask them questions about their motivation for attending the event. This will help establish a connection with them and create a more engaging speech.

How to Start a Speech

The opening of your speech is crucial. It sets the tone for the rest of the speech and can make or break your audience’s attention. Here are some tips for crafting a strong opening:

  1. Grabber”: Your opening should grab your audience’s attention and make them want to listen to the rest of your speech. There are 3 powerful ways to achieve this.
    • Anecdote: A brief story or personal experience that relates to your topic. One of the best experiences to share is often the moment in your life when this topic became important for you.
    • Quote: A powerful or thought-provoking quote that relates to your topic.
    • Rhetorical question: A question that prompts your audience to think about your topic and engage with your message.
  2. Relevant: Your opening should be relevant to your topic and the audience you are speaking to. This can help establish a connection with your audience and make them more likely to engage with your message.
  3. Concise: Your opening should be brief and to the point. Avoid rambling or going off on tangents. A short, focused opening can help you establish credibility and keep your audience’s attention.
  4. Energy: The way you deliver your opening can also impact its effectiveness. Gestures and vocal inflections can emphasise key points and add impact to your opening.

A strong opening will grab your audience’s attention, establish credibility, and set the tone for the rest of your speech. By considering your audience, choosing a relevant opening, and delivering it effectively, you can craft a strong opening that engages your audience and sets you up for success.

The Importance of Persistence… The Ant Philosophy

Persistence is one of the most important qualities that a person can possess. It is the ability to persevere, to keep going even in the face of obstacles and setbacks. In life, success often depends on persistence more than anything else.

In this video:

  • on Ants and Obstacles… they just keep going
  • Rivers… they just keep flowing
  • 110m high hurdles… don’t look at the obstacles
  • How do you face obstacles?

Whether you’re trying to achieve a personal goal or working towards a professional goal, persistence is key. It takes time and effort to achieve anything worthwhile, and setbacks and failures are inevitable along the way. But those who are persistent keep going, even when things get tough. They don’t give up, they don’t quit.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

One of the most famous examples of persistence is the story of Thomas Edison, who failed over a thousand times before he finally invented the light bulb. When asked about his failures, Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s persistence paid off, and his invention changed the world.

Persistence is also important in relationships. Maintaining strong relationships takes effort and patience, and there will inevitably be disagreements and challenges along the way. But those who are persistent in their relationships work through these challenges and come out stronger on the other side.

In summary, persistence is an essential quality for success in all areas of life. It allows us to keep going when things get tough and to overcome obstacles and setbacks. So if you’re working towards a goal, don’t give up. Keep going, keep pushing, and keep being persistent. Your efforts will pay off in the end.

If you liked this post, you will also like 6 keys to leading positive change and Developing a Vision Statement.

Getting your Life in order

Stutz is a documentary following the psychotherapy process of Dr Stutz who had worked with comedian and actor Jonah Hill over many years. Together they share personal stories and specific tools that have helped Jonah in his therapy process over the past decade.

On Netflix here: Stutz (2022)

My notes from Stutz, the documentary

“I don’t know what I want so I’ll do nothing”


Many people in absence of any clear vision or purpose to their life reset to doing nothing and waiting for clarity. Clarity will never come without taking some action in the general direction of your “purpose”.

How to find purpose? Connect with 3 levels:

  1. body – move your body. get up, get moving. Connect with your physical body. 85% of Stutz’s initial treatment protocol is just getting the body active.
  2. others – speak to others. don’t wait for them to contact you. Reach out and engage with people.
  3. unconscious – Writing is the path to a relationship to your own unconscious. Journal. Write anything. Time writing random reflections is how you reconnect to your unconscious.

3 Permanent Truths of Human Existence

The Reality of life is three unavoidable truths

  1. Pain – it is just guaranteed in human life. I am reminded of the first 2 lines of The Road Less Travelled “Life is difficult. The moment you accept this, life becomes easy.” M. Scott Peck
  2. uncertainty – the future is out of our control.
  3. constant work is necessary – you never end the work… on your health, on yourself, on your relationships, on your home…

The Resistance

Stutz calls it “Part X” – the resistance, what stops you growing; resists change. The voice inside you that tells you whatever you are thinking of doing is pointless, useless and will fail. It will always be with you and it will always try to stop you taking productive action.

Your Shadow

The “shadow” – find yours… How? “Visualise a time when you felt inferior, ashamed… picture it; talk to your shadow… how does he/she feel about what you’ve done since then? – what can I do to make up for giving you so little attention?”

Take Action

Productive life is a “String of pearls with a touch of shit”. Each pearl is an action. Every action is going to be somewhat flawed (the “touch of shit”), but you must take it anyway and accept your imperfect action.

The Fantasy Ideal

Be careful of seeking the “perfect snapshot” – your fantasy of perfect world. Stutz sees so many people who have a “photo ideal” of their life… a photo is static… life is dynamic… you cannot achieve a permanent static complete state… things will continue to change.

Putting your Life on Hold

Stutz calls it “being trapped in the Maze”… you are waiting for fairness to be restored… putting your life on hold until “they change”. He sees so many people waste their life as they “wait for fairness to be restored”. I won’t take action with a friend because “its their turn to contact me”. I won’t speak to a family member because they acted unjustly. I’ll wait.

How to get out of the Maze? Get into the “Grateful flow”

The “Grateful flow” – Stutz tells a story about his first flight on a passenger jetliner… and moving above the clouds… seeing the sun. Even on the darkest, cloudiest day… the sun is there above.

How to enter the grateful flow? imagine a universe dense with active loving energy. What are 4 things you are grateful for… then hold… don’t let the 5th come, resist it… feel the pressure of gratitude pushing to get thru.

Active Gratitude

Grateful is the optimal human state.

Part X (resistence) always pulls you away from grateful.

Your Brain on Dopamine: Andrew Huberman with Dr Anna Lembke

“Normal life” (in today’s society) doesn’t provide enough stimulus for many people. We become addicts because life is “boring”. All of our survival needs are met. We don’t have stuff that we “have” to do… so we make up adventures (“friction”).

“I get bored easily.” What’s wrong with me? Nothing… your brain is not suited to this world. Not all of our brains are set up for the current society in which we live. We live in a world in which impulsiveness is not valued… but there are human societal systems where it would have been valuable.

Traits are not in and of themselves bad… they are fit for the context or not. The context we live in is not the human society context of the last 10,000 years. Today’s society values rationality, long term thinking and self discipline. Not all human societies reward these specific traits.

We are Addicted to Dopamine Distractions

Pleasure and Pain are co-located in the brain. Brain wants to stay level. Brain works to restore level balance (homeostasis).

Our world is full of little dopamine delivery distractions – especially in our mobile phone, in video games. We can train our brain to have an addictive dependence on these dopamine fixes.

Dopamine distractions will keep you from discovering what you truly enjoy. Abstain from distractions that you enjoy (video games, youtube, instagram, snapchat). As long as you are training your brain to expect regular doses of dopamine, your brain needs regular doses of dopamine.

If distractions are a problem for you: Dr Lembke says that it takes 30 days of complete removal of the stimulus to reshift our dopamine pathways back to our previous state.

How do you stop doing something that you are addicted to? It is really hard. Checking instagram, playing video games… Days 1-14 are really tough… I have lost something I have learnt to need – I will suffer withdrawal. Sleep problems, frustrations, anxiety. By week 3 and 4 you start to feel a whole lot better and have much less “need” for the behaviour. Anna shares her experiences of helping people stop an addictive behaviour from minute 50:00 in the video.

Once you’ve reduced the reliance on the distraction… be careful about trigger. What is the trigger (stimulus) that is immediately followed by the drive to go for the addictive distraction? Be highly aware of that trigger.

You have to be Bored to find Purpose

Don’t search for “your purpose”. Ask “what is the work that needs to get done?”… and do that… no matter how belittling or small that it might sound to you.

Dopamine Nation, dr Anna Lembke

I loved this podcast episode – what a wonderful wise person Anna Lembke is. She speaks with compassion, with deep experience and with honesty.

This reminds me of a Gabor Mate quote: “don’t ask ‘why the addiction?’, ask ‘why the pain?'”

The need for Constant Renewal

Welcome to 2023 😉

“I’m doing fine now”… is not enough – We need Constant Renewal

I meet many people in my role as a CEO coach, as a teacher, as the leader of Vistage in Spain… and I often hear the words “I’m doing fine now.” They don’t need a coach, a mentor, support… they don’t need to take a bigger look at what is coming… because they are fine today.

It is not ok to just be “fine now”. We are given a brain with a huge neo-cortex – which allows us to think, to reflect, to imagine, to plan. It is not a part of our brain that we use automatically. It requires intention to make good use of our imagination.

How to do a review of your life?

Here are 3 good pdf tools to spend an hour or two and reflect:

The power of Open AI

I was flying home from Bilbao on friday night, and my flight was delayed for 5 hours. I spent some time playing with the latest iteration of Open AI, and the OpenAI Image generator.

Go and play with it now. It is important that you understand the power of the current generation of AI tools.

It is scary the power of the AI. It can write well, even poetry… it can generate images that surprised me with the nuances and details.

The State of AI in 2022 – Valuable Resources

OpenAI Demonstrations

Request: A miro painting of Paris with a mother and a daughter

Request: A matisse painting of Paris with a mother and daughter

Over to the text generator…

Write a blog post with 5 key insights about business leadership in 2023

The future of business leadership is an exciting and ever-evolving prospect. As technology and the global marketplace continue to evolve, the responsibilities and expectations of business leaders of the future will be greater than ever before.

Here are five key insights about business leadership in 2023:

1. Data-Driven Decision Making: Business leaders in 2023 will be expected to be able to effectively analyze and interpret data to inform their decision-making. This will require a deep understanding of data analytics and the ability to identify patterns and trends in order to make informed decisions.

2. Adaptability: The business landscape of 2023 will be constantly changing, requiring business leaders to be highly adaptable and able to pivot quickly in order to remain competitive. This will require an ability to think on their feet and make decisions quickly.

3. Inclusive Leadership: Business leaders of the future will need to be able to lead teams of diverse backgrounds and perspectives in order to foster innovation and collaboration. They will need to be able to foster a culture of inclusion and trust in order to maximize the potential of their teams.

4. Empathy and Authenticity: Business leaders of the future will need to be able to empathize with their employees and customers in order to better understand their needs and motivations. They will also need to be able to communicate authentically and transparently in order to build trust and loyalty.

5. tech-Savviness: Technology will play an increasingly important role in the success of any business in 2023. Business leaders of the future will need to be tech-savvy and understand the implications of emerging technologies and their potential to disrupt markets.

As the future of business leadership continues to evolve, those who can embrace and adapt to these changes will have the best chance of success. By gaining an understanding of the key insights about business leadership in 2023, business leaders can ensure that they are well-positioned to lead their organizations into the future.



How many essays for school and university are going to be automatically generated over the next few years… as students become more tech-savvy and teachers think they are still living in the same world as 20 years ago.

And the ChatGPT responses

Request: How do I explain Vistage to a six year old?

Vistage is a company that helps business leaders make better decisions and improve their companies. It does this by providing them with resources and support, such as access to expert speakers, peer support groups, and online tools and training. Essentially, Vistage helps business leaders learn and grow so that they can better run their businesses.

To explain this to a six year old, you could say something like this: “Vistage is like a special club for grown-ups who run their own companies. They learn from each other and from experts, and get help with making their businesses better. It’s kind of like how you might join a sports team or a club at school to learn new things and get support from your friends.”

Listen to the teaching, not to the teacher

“Listen to the teaching, not to the teacher”

I heard this quote in Washington from George Gan. I have had the privilege to teach together on the EO Global Leadership Academy with George since 2015.

I have always listened more to teachers that inspire me, and I have often ignored lessons when the teacher has not inspired me.

I am missing out.

Anyone can teach us a valuable lesson.

Don’t reduce your learning to only the most perfect of teachers.

If you liked this post, you will also like the best teacher I had in school and 10 rules for students (and teachers).

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