Kilian Jornet, 29, is widely considered the world’s best ultra-distance and mountain runner. Last month, he conquered Mount Everest twice in one week without using supplemental oxygen or fixed ropes. A project called Summits of My Life has taken him to the peaks of Matterhorn, Mont Blanc, Denali and Aconcagua. Here’s 3 videos of Kilian in the mountains with his friend and cameraman Seb Montaz…

 

 

What about our Weekend Plans?

What’s your plan for the weekend?

I’ve just added another great Commencement speech to my youtube playlist: Commencement Speeches

Emmanuel Faber gave the commencement address at HEC this year, 2016.

The first half is in french, the last in english.  Emmanuel tells a powerful personal story, describes 3 diseases, and asks us a question…

This is a powerful speech.  You’ve got to watch the video to hear Emmanuel’s story…

The 3 Diseases…

  1. Power – People who have power but do nothing with it, only protect their hold on power… Power makes sense only if you serve a purpose.
  2. Money – You chase money, you become a prisoner of money. Remember why you chase the money.
  3. Glory – Hall of fame is so that people can look at their own name.  Don’t lose yourself just to see your name on a wall.

The Question

Who will you allow to ask you the important questions?   (Who is your brother?)

Watch Emmanuel’s speech here:

“There is magic in front of us… if we pay attention.” Mariano Torrente

This is the first video released by the TED organisation from the recent TEDxIESEBarcelona event. Mariano Torrente is a magician who will graduate with the MBA class of 2016.  (Watch it here.)

Where Amazing Happens

Amazing things happen right in front of us every day, but human beings have lost the capability to become inspired by the little things. Mariano uses magic to show us that everyone has the ability to cultivate awe and wonder from their daily lives.

Mariano was born in Huesca, a small town in the North of Spain, and moved to Madrid when he was 18. He is a professional business person with a twinkle in his eye; his experience is in consulting, and his passion is in magic and the art of Illusion. Mariano’s capability of mixing those two world in his daily life is truly inspiring, and he takes the TEDxIESEBarcelona stage at IESE Business School in Barcelona, to describe the lens through which he views life.

This poem was shared by Warren Rustand during the Entrepreneurs’ Organisation Leadership Academy 2016 course held in Washington last year.  It was part of his description of why he spends so much time teaching.  I loved the sentiment expressed by Warren, and captured in this poem:

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The Bridge Builder

Will Allen Dromgoole

An old man going a lone highway,
Came, at the evening cold and gray,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide.
Through which was flowing a sullen tide
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.

“Old man,” said a fellow pilgrim near,
“You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You’ve crossed the chasm, deep and wide,
Why build this bridge at evening tide?”

The builder lifted his old gray head;
“Good friend, in the path I have come,” he said,
“There followed after me to-day
A youth whose feet must pass this way.
This chasm that has been as naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim;
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him!”

What are you doing the rest of your life?

Here’s Warren speaking at a recent conference:

Are you living your life on cruise control?  Warren suggests this is a poor response to life.  Warren suggests that easing through life is not the right path.  We want to be “spent by the battle of life”.

Life might be more enriched by doing it a bit differently.

Here’s a blog post summary of a seminar by Warren from Marisa Levin (an EO member): http://successfulculture.com/culture-of-greatness/

An effective statement of mission should be short, sharp and direct. It should fit on a t-shirt. Not a font 8 squeeze, but a legible font.

Every person who is involved should be able to articulate how their contribution adds to that mission. If not, then you don’t have a mission. You have a hopeful statement written by a board and not lived by an organisation.

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A Mission Is Not About What is Possible Today

“Never start with tomorrow to reach eternity. Eternity is not reached by small steps.” John Donne

A mission is not guided by what we can do today, what we do today is guided by the mission. If you start with the believably possible, you won’t create a mission you will draft a plan. Martin Luther did not say “I have a plan”. If he did, he would have had the auditors and accountants with him, but no actual people.

JFK said “a man on the moon by the end of the decade”. That’s not a plan. That’s a mission.

Norman Foster has designed some impossible buildings…. and then the engineers have found new ways to build.

Creating Mission: Start from “what problem do you want to solve”?  Don’t start from “what you know how to do”.  

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Father explains Paris to his son

I want share a conversation between a 3 year old boy and his father in Paris the day after the Bataclan attack.  I love the way the father speaks with his son.

His words do not undo the damage and the pain; nothing does.  Families have lost sons, daughters, brothers and sisters.  They are in pain.  Their pain is real.  Our pain is real.

It is how we choose to respond to the pain that is important.

A Conversation about Paris:

Son:  “We have to move home Daddy”
Father: “Don’t worry, We don’t have to change house. France is our home”

Son: “But there’s bad guys Daddy”
Father: “Yes, but there are bad guys everywhere.  There are mean people everywhere.”

Son: “They have guns. They can shoot us.  They are really, really mean Daddy.”
Father: “They have guns, we have flowers”

Son: “But flowers don’t do anything.”
Father: “Of course they do…  look…  everyone is putting flowers.  Its to fight against guns.”

Son: “It can protect?”
Father: “Yes.”

Son: “And candles?  can they protect?”
Father: “Yes.  Its to remember the people who are gone yesterday.”

Son: “The flowers and the candles are here to protect us?”
Father: “Yes.”

See the conversation:

About the Paris Attacks:

 

Email has almost completely replaced the written letter.  This creates an opportunity.  Written letters are so rare that they really stand out.  You can really benefit from this special attention, but maybe nobody ever taught you the art of good letter writing.  Here is a short guide…

The blog “The Art of Manliness” has some comic takes on the art of being a “man”.  I find it funny.  They had a recent series that was really helpful:  templates for letters that we each should know how to write.  Their template for a letter of condolence was a real help for me recently as I couldn’t think of how to start writing a letter to a friend who had faced a tragic loss.

7 Letters to Write Before You Turn 70

The 7 Letters are:

  1. A Letter of Congratulations – (check out this guide)
  2. A Letter to Your Father – (see this article)
  3. A Letter of Condolence/Sympathy – (see this article)
  4. A Letter to Your Future Self – (No guide, but here is my own version of a letter to my future self from 2008)
  5. A Love Letter – (check out this guide)
  6. A Letter of Gratitude – (How to write thank you notes)
  7. A Letter of Encouragement – No guide, some tips given below…

How many of these letters have you’ve already written?  Which types of letters are your favourite to write and to receive?

How (and Why) to Write A Letter of Encouragement

 

opening-mail-noteI often forget the power of a few of my words of encouragement for the people around me.  I make it a habit to write thank you letters, but have decided to add encouragement letters to this habit.

I know many people who have faced hard economic times over the last 5 years as Europe faces the continuing fallout after the financial crash of 2008.

A letter of encouragement tells someone in the midst of a hard time that you’ve got their back and have faith in their ability to continue on or find a way out.

A letter can be more powerful than a phone call or a face to face talk.  Letters are so rare as to be special these days.  The power of the letter is in its permanence.  It can continue to give motivation days, months and years later because the words are always available.  The letter form often allows me to express clearly emotions that I might avoid in a face to face meeting.

The format for encouragement is the praise format that Ken Blanchard first shared with me.  Create a distinct separation between the quality of the person and the state of the project.  First, acknowledge that not all is going to plan and it must feel heartbreaking.  Second, let the person know the important qualities you recognise in them.  That’s all.  Sign your name and put it in the post.

I think this letter can be short.  In my past, it was the thought that mattered.  The fact that someone cared enough to reach out.

I have had times where I have struggled with setbacks and doubt, times when I was tempted to abandon the path.  I have been lucky in that friends, mentors and family members have stepped in with words, emails or letters of encouragement at important moments.  (Thanks friends… you know who you are!).

Who will you encourage today?

Maybe a friend has lost their job and is starting to lose hope of ever finding another good position.  Maybe an entrepreneur has recently been rejected from an accelerator program and is not sure whether they are good enough.  Maybe a friend is going through a tough time in their relationship, or is facing a family health challenge that is starting to tire them out.

Who do you know who is facing a real challenge and could really benefit from a couple of words of encouragement from you? 

Life is not hard, it is easy.  That is the problem.

Why do we stop chasing our dreams? Because it is so easy to wake up, do the minimum, eat, sleep and repeat. Meet someone, bring up kids, drift and die…

It is easy to live.

That is the curse.

It is easy to look at a dream as something far off in the future, a thing.

It is also a verb, it has to be chased.  A dream is all the steps.

This is a wake up call.  We are all dying, but if you are not chasing your dream, you are already dead.

I’m dying to…..

Most people didn’t know what to write.  We let people off the hook with small, short term dreams “I’m dying to have a drink”  “I’m dying to have more friends”

If you don’t know the answer, don’t wait until someday to answer this question.  When you do figure it out, you will sleep like a kid again.  You will sleep with a dream and wake up with a dream as well.

Inspired by Steve Mazen’s TEDx talk:

You can follow Steve’s adventures on twitter:

 

Will Smith (photo from Esquire)
Will Smith (photo from Esquire)
Reading an interview with Will Smith (he is deep and a keen observer of the human condition), I came across this statement from him:

“Put somebody on a treadmill and I’ll tell you how good they are at any other thing they do in life.” Will Smith

Harsh.

Brutal.

but… is it True?

I think he’s right.  Verne Harnish thinks he’s right – he says “How you do anything is how you do everything

And Will on Resilience…

“Don’t let success go to your head and failure go to your heart”? Daphne Maxwell Reid, Aunt Viv on Fresh Prince.

Will shares his experience of failure:

“After Earth comes out, I get the box-office numbers on Monday and I was devastated for about twenty-four minutes, and then my phone rang and I found out my father had cancer. That put it in perspective—viciously. And I went right downstairs and got on the treadmill. And I was on the treadmill for about ninety minutes. And that Monday started the new phase of my life, a new concept: Only love is going to fill that hole. You can’t win enough, you can’t have enough money, you can’t succeed enough. There is not enough. The only thing that will ever satiate that existential thirst is love. And I just remember that day I made the shift from wanting to be a winner to wanting to have the most powerful, deep, and beautiful relationships I could possibly have.”

Will says that in his house they have this quote up on the wall:

“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” Pema Chödrön

Will summarises the meaning of these words for his family:

“We call it leaning into the sharp parts. Something hurts, lean in. You just lean into that point until it loses its power over you. There’s a certain amount of suffering that you have to be willing to sustain if you want to have a good life.”

pablo (23)I often use an exercise called The Lifeline in my teaching.  I found a good summary of the exercise here.  In the exercise people reflect on the important positive and negative experiences of their life.

Something that has struck me after all these years of watching groups work on the exercise – it is the hard times in life and how we dealt with them that most inspires.  We are inspired by the struggle more than the end point.

“Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward.” Henry Ford

I guess if an inspirational speaker came and gave a speech that went: “I had this idea to climb a big mountain, so I went there and I climbed it.  It wasn’t too hard and the view from the top was lovely.” – it wouldn’t be too inspirational.  It is what she had to overcome, the unexpected obstacles, the discovery of previously hidden strength – that I want.

This reminds me of rule number 6 from Kurt Vonnegut on rules for telling a story: “Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your leading characters, make awful things happen to them—in order that the reader may see what they are made of.”

“All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”  Pope Paul VI

Photo Credit: Grant MacDonald via Compfight cc
A worthy struggle? Photo: Grant MacDonald

The Opposite of Fragile

What is the opposite of fragile?  I hear you saying “robust”, “strong”, “durable”, “flexible” or even “unbreakable”…  but these words are not the opposite, they are the zero point on the line from breaks under pressure to grows under pressure.

A wine glass when dropped on the concrete floor will smash.  It is fragile.  A plastic glass when dropped on the concrete floor will not smash.  It is “flexible and robust”.  However, there are some systems that when dropped, they come back even stronger.

Nasim Taleb coined the term “Antifragile” for things that grow under stress.  Evolution is a process by which species become stronger when stressed.  When I go to the gym, I actually damage my muscles – but they grow stronger as they repair.  A broken bone will heal stronger than the surrounding bone.

“When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” Peter Marshall

We humans are “antifragile”.  We learn and grow faster in the struggle than in the garden.