Shoshin (初心) is a word from Zen Buddhism meaning “beginner’s mind.” It refers to having an attitude of openness, eagerness, and lack of preconceptions when studying a subject, even when studying at an advanced level, just as a beginner would.

“Sometimes, what you already know gets in the way of what you need to Learn”

George Gan

One of the hardest challenges I face as a teacher of successful leaders is their own knowledge, and confidence in their own knowledge. I spend quite some time at the beginning of a program developing an agreement between myself and the participants about how we remain open to risk, to attempt, to iterate drafts rather than aim for perfection. When I only have 1 hour, it is hard to convey this attitude to learning… and I often lose a couple of smart people because I go too quickly into something that they cannot see how it is immediately relevant to their current situation and challenges.

If you are a teacher, how do you help students open their minds to new ideas? How do you help leaders raise their own awareness?

If you liked this post, you will also like The Wheelbarrow Story and The Art of Learning: Attention without Judgement

Marketing has changed greatly over the last 100 years. The ideas of Sigmund Freud about self and our identity have shifted how marketers persuade us to buy.

As we watch the rise of populist political movements around the world, I wanted to reflect on how political “marketing” has evolved.

In the first half of the twentieth century, politics was very much class oriented. As we moved to the later half of the century, politics became increasingly individual oriented… the question “what’s in it for me?” became key from each voter.

We moved from politics of ideals to politics of WIIFM.

Are we now moving to the politics of “WAYA”… Who Are You Against?

The idea of a self and what it is to be a complete individual are recent. Freud rejected the rationalist idea that human beings act with reason… emotion and unconscious desire have great power in moving us toward action. These forces are amplified when we act as part of a crowd.

Marketing in the late 1800s was entirely based on explaining the features of any product. Soap = it cleans better. Car = it starts easily.

In the early 1920s the ideas of Freud shifted marketing away from product explanation to telling you what type of person you would be if you bought the product. Products were no longer sold to meet needs, but as a way of showing the type of person you were. Cars were not sold for the power of the engine, but what type of man would drive a car like this.

The documentary The Century of the Self follows the journey of persuasion from the beginning to the end of the 20th century.

Documentary: The Century of the Self

This is a 4 part documentary that I watched on my travels home from USA to Barcelona over the last couple of days.

  • Part 1: Happiness Machines
  • Part 2: The Engineering of Consent
  • Part 3: There is a Policeman inside our heads, and he must be destroyed
  • Part 4: Eight people sipping wine in Kettering

Part 1: Happiness Machines

This episode introduces Sigmund Freud and how his ideas about the self and the unconscious were used by politicians and corporations in the 1920s to develop a new emotion & identity based marketing.

Part 2: The Engineering of Consent

Post World War II, politicians in the west sought to use Freudian ideas to control the destructive urges of “the masses” that had been released by the Nazi system in Germany.

Part 3: There is a Policeman inside our heads, and he must be destroyed

In the 1960s there was a push back against the repression of the unconscious. Movements in the US sought to free the individual from the constraints and repression of society. The individual needs to transcend society’s expectations to create a unique person who is fully “myself”.

Part 4: Eight people sipping wine in Kettering

Politics in US and UK in the 1980s and 1990s started to use the tools of business marketing to get closer to their electorates. Focus groups and surveys were increasingly used to “market test” speeches and political policies. Tony Blair was the epitome of this approach to politics, where every view or statement was tested on voters.

Thank you as always to my good friend Arnaud for regularly sharing books, podcasts and documentaries that help me learn.

What documentaries or podcasts have helped you take new perspectives? What would you recommend me to watch, listen or read?

Jobs you love are not “found”, they are created… over years of committed, generous, selfless service.

It doesn’t mean you have to “do your time”. It doesn’t mean that you wait and assume that it will come. It means you have to have the patience to find a place where you can be of service and commit to give of your best. Find a trustworthy organisation and trustworthy mentors and be a hero.

Who are you being a hero to?

(note, this is never accidental)

Check out point 2 on Mark Suster’s commencement speech “Crossroads”: Two: The World Works on a Pull Model

All of the greatest opportunities in my life came to me through people that I had served.

4 Approaches to handle anxiety as shared with me several years ago by Pep Mari, psychologist to the Spanish Olympic team. (Check out his youtube channel here, full of great tips, in Spanish)

How to Handle Anxiety:

  1. Avoid – don’t go into the situation that causes you to feel anxiety in the first place
  2. Manage – become aware of your state of anxiety at regular intervals and find tools to increase or decrease your level.
  3. Accept – allow the physical and mental signs of anxiety to exist in you and maintain a state of curiosity and exploration without resisting
  4. Growth – see the anxiety as part of being human and be so focussed on the learning about what it is to be human that you forget about everything except the experience

How To Reduce Stress:

List shared as a comment below the video by Bright Minds

  • 1. Don’t respond to negativity
  • 2. Stay active
  • 3. Eat healthier
  • 4. Read and write more
  • 5. Give without expectations
  • 6. Visualize, then act
  • 7. Spend quality time with family
  • 8. Write ‘thank you’ notes
  • 9. Be a better friend
  • 10. Do a random acts of kindness

This video is about 4 mindsets that we strive for in a Vistage Group Chair, and can also serve to bring out the best in the people around any leader.

The 4 Leadership Mindsets for Growing the people around you are:

  1. Care-frontation
  2. Assertive
  3. Vulnerable
  4. Exploratory


A bit more on the word “carefrontation”. It is a fundamental operating agreement in Vistage groups. The word comes from the combination of “Caring” and “Challenge/Confrontation”. These are two of the 4 pillars of Vistage groups.

What does it mean? It means having the patience and non-judgmental approach to first understanding another’s problem from their own perspective; and then the courage to challenge them where there are incoherent aspects to their story.

Examples of Care-frontation:

The assumption is that there is a relationship of trust between you and the other person when you ask these questions… Where there is no relationship of trust, these questions are just rude.

  • How is your mobile phone usage affecting your relationships with your kids?
  • What impact is this constant rush having on your health?
  • What impact does your difficulty in taking this decision have on meeting this years growth goals?

More on what it takes to be a great Vistage Chair: What does it take to be a Great Vistage Chair?

Any questions on these 4 mindsets?- leave them in the comments below and I will be answering over the course of this week.

Got a speech to give? What should I say?

That is a terrible place to start.

What’s the most important question you can ask yourself before preparing a speech?

It was fun to make this short “elevator pitch” video with the production team at @iesebschool only 7 floors to make my point!

I have this blog. It has been going for over 10 years. Above all other benefits, writing blog posts helps me clarify what I think.

I published my first post on 25th January 2009. It was a paragraph from a book I was reading that I thought was valuable advice. I have written ideas on something 1-2 times every week since January 2009. There are 1,025 posts (not including this one).

I also have a youtube channel that today has a much wider audience than my blog, but it is the blog that has helped me get clarity and sharpen my ideas. Writing is the power tool in clarifying your ideas.

11 Reasons Why You should have a Blog

  1. Improve communication
  2. Clarify your thinking
  3. Library of thinking
  4. Share your Vision
  5. Raise your Visibility
  6. Become a Thought Leader
  7. Build a Community of Support
  8. Build trust
  9. Build Authority as an Expert
  10. Receive Feedback
  11. Mentor Others

How to start a blog?

Pick one of these and start writing. I use wordpress. I used to use Blogger (a google product).

Keep it simple, start writing. Get your thoughts down.

In 2009, I decided to take writing seriously. Stephen King says “A writer is a producer of words.” If you produce words, you’re a writer. If you don’t produce words, you are not a writer.

Every day my coach would ask me “how many words did you produce today?” It was brutal. There is no denial. There were days when the answer was 20… or less. I started to become highly aware of self sabotage.

Self Sabotage is the Most Dangerous Obstacle

The world will put countless obstacles in your path but none will be as big as your own self-sabotage.

The 4 Destructive Self-Sabotage Mindsets:

  1. Distraction – How to overcome? Focus. The Pomodoro technique.
  2. Emotional Impulsiveness – How to overcome? Acceptance.
  3. Arrogance and sense of Entitlement – How to overcome? Faith, Hope and Love.
  4. Fixed Mindset – How to overcome? Focus on process, not outcomes. Appreciate effort and learning, not outcomes. Love problems, for they truly help you grow as a person.

If you liked this post, you will also like 6 Reasons we Give Up on Goals and The Greatest Coaching Question of All Time.

I’ve just returned from a few days in Athens, visiting with my daughter. She became a big fan of greek myths and legends from her reading of the Percy Jackson series of books.

As we walked around the Acropolis area, the Parthenon and the ancient Agora of Athens, I reflected upon the elements of civilisation that we still owe to the Ancient Athenians. So much of our politics, our sense of right and wrong, our organising principles of social life come from this small city state that had its peak 2,500 years ago, between 480BC and 320BC.

This video comes from the Acropolis and from the Agora of Ancient Athens.

So much history in this place. Many later cultures copied rather than innovated from the Greek culture. Rome copied the culture, but improved on the military and civil organisation.

Another Greek Video, from Delphi

Earlier in the week we did a day trip up to the ruins of Delphi. Check out the video I made when visiting the location of the ancient Oracle of Delphi.

I am in Athens this week with my daughter. On Friday we drove to Delphi to visit the ancient ruins. For over one thousand years, during the time of the Greek city states, Delphi was the center of the Greek world.

Delphi became famous far and wide between 700BC and 400AD for the Oracle. The Oracle would answer your question. You could bring only one question to ask, and the Oracle would reply. The responses were cryptic. Kings and Emperors came to ask how they would fare in battles.

As we travelled to Delphi, we reflected on what one single question we would bring to be answered.

What would be the question you would bring? If you could get clarity around one single question about your life, what would that question be?