This summer I played a lot of tennis (for me): I played 5 hours each week.

Initially, I played with my family, but then was encouraged to hire a tennis coach. I haven’t had a tennis lesson since I was a kid. Rackets have evolved in the last 30 years and so have techniques. I booked 10 lessons with the clubhouse. They put me in contact with Victor.

Victor today is in his fifties, but as a younger man at various times he was the #1 Portuguese tennis player.

Victor was the best coach that I have worked with in years.

There are a couple of things that Victor did that made the time we spent together valuable for me – not just for my tennis, but also as a general improvement in my approach to life.

100% Focussed on Tennis

On our third session, I asked Victor about his recent trip up to Lisbon. He said “we are here for tennis, not for conversation. Conversation when we finish.”

I was surprised, but rapidly saw that this was Victors approach. I started to enjoy the freedom to not have to be “friendly” but to focus 100% on tennis. He was focussed for the hour on how to make me a better tennis player, not for friendly chat.

As soon as a lesson would finish, he would happily share about his life… but not when we had work to do.

Always Assertive with a Clear Plan

At all times, Victor had a plan for our time together. All lessons started immediately with tough warm up drills. All lessons moved through a sequence of practices that build up to full rallies towards the end of the hour. I could ask questions and ask for specific improvement tips, but Victor remained in control of the sessions at all time.

This is a balance I find difficult as a teacher and as a coach. There is always an element of friendship that emerges between the students and me, and between those that I coach… I sometimes feel it to be rude to not engage in some friendly conversation.

Victor showed me that there is a time for friendly conversation, and there is a time for doing the work.

Mentally and Physically Challenging

Victor ran the sessions as if I was preparing to play at Wimbledon the following week.

people sitting on bench watching tennis event on field during daytime
Photo by Raj Tatavarthy on Pexels.com

I play tennis as a fun social game, but not something that really improves your fitness. Lessons with Victor left me feeling as if I had done a 6 mile run. I finished each session physically exhausted.

Victor never treated me like a 47 year old weekend social player. Initially I felt like telling him that it was too much, that I only wanted to improve the technique on my forehand and backhand… but once I accepted that this was not just technique coaching, but challenging me to be able to play against the toughest players, even when physically exhausted… I started to get into the idea of taking tennis more seriously.

Victor expected me to act at all times like a serious player. If he was ready to hit and I was walking slowly back to the baseline, he would shout “come on, get into position!”

As I got tired and I felt frustrated that my technique was falling apart because of total exhaustion, he was clear that it is vitally important that you continue to play well at the end of games when both players will be tired.

I find this balance between challenge and fun a difficult one. My approach to teaching business leaders has changed dramatically since my first classes in the IESE MBA program back in 2005.

Initially I taught like a kind friend who shared information and jokes with students. After 5 years I had a radical change of approach.

This shift was caused by the bankruptcy of a company that I had founded. As I led the company in the financial collapse of 2008, I just wasn’t emotionally, spiritually or financially prepared for the challenge. I asked myself “How can I have an MBA… and 8 years experience as a management consultant… and yet be totally unprepared to face real difficulty?”

Class should be tough. Training should be harder than real life. If leaders are not facing the hardest challenges in training, then we are not preparing them for life.

Everything Matters

How I showed up, how I gathered the tennis balls, how I stood in the ready position were all aspects of my game that Victor challenged me on. Everything mattered. Everything was coached towards the mindset of excellence as a tennis player.

Given the intensity of the sessions, I had more little muscle injuries than I have had in years. Sprinting from side to side and from the baseline to the net put stresses on my knees and legs that I haven’t faced since my days playing squash in my 20s. Even here, Victor was unrelenting. “Sore leg? Can you play? Then let’s play…”

Tennis and Life

What’s true of success in tennis, is also true for life. I found that the 20 hours with Victor not only improved my tennis, but shifted my outlook and approach to life.

Victor was a great coach for me not because he was a great tennis player. He was a great coach because he didn’t coach the 47 year old social player, he coached me as if I was an excellent player. This attitude more than anything shifted my mindset and attitude.

As I return to Barcelona to refocus my energies on our CEO development at Vistage and to my teaching at IESE, I hope to take a bit of Victor into these interactions.

If you enjoyed this post, you will also like Why Business Leaders Hire Coaches and CStuart Lancaster (England Rugby Coach): How to be a great leader of Rugby teams.

These are my notes from the webinar that EO Coimbatore organised for today, 25th April. The livestream replay is at the bottom of this post.

“When you are in fog, you don’t need inspiration… you need clarity”

Sadhguru

Don’t seek inspiration, seek clarity.

Memory and Imagination – this is what we are suffering.

Right now you are home with family. Nothing is missing.  Your memory can haunt you and your imagination can scare you. It is you who generates suffering. 

Where is your intelligence working?  For you?  Or to scare you?  Or to haunt you?

Family and Relationships

Every relationship we have formed, we have formed to fulfil our needs. We cannot control the other. Everything that happens outside of us (outside of our mind) will not happen our way.

Do you want control? Get a dog.  Guaranteed 12 year love affair.  No human being will give such love.

On Freedom…

Freedom in the USA = I want my freedom to not change, to not adapt, to have my haircut… even while people around me are dying

70% of US employees “hate their job”… and still go… what damage it does to oneself to spend time with people or things that you “hate”

  • Many are stuck in the rut… but it is a comfortable rut
  • If the virus lockdown is short… we will stay in our ruts
  • If the virus lockdown is long… we will be forced to leave our ruts

If the quarantine is less than 12 months… we’ll go back to our old ways. Growth, growth, growth… 2%, 5%, 8%… we will destroy this planet.

What is success without growth?

Either consciously we slow down… or an outside force will slow us down. If we don’t do this now, we will never make this change.

Thought experiment…

Everyone in India is walking around with the latest phone, the latest sneakers. It is like it is an embarrassment to have a 4 year old phone. Imagine:

  • If you buy a phone, you must use it for 4 years
  • If you buy a car, you must use it for 8 years

If we don’t do this now, 2050 or 2100 will be bring massive challenges for humanity.

Are we serious about sustainable development goals?

Investment is messed up

“Over 70% of global investment goes into 30-40 cities”

Sadhguru

No city can handle this level of inflow. Not New York, not Mumbai. Slums are a terrible place for women, for children. There is dignity on the land… but not in the slums.

How to create opportunities for human beings where they are?

If we saw our children without food for just one day, the food industry would change very rapidly. We would each highly value having some land.

Education – ripe for major change

Today: Teacher is someone who has read a book you haven’t read. Education as transmission of information is on the way out.

Teacher must become someone who helps you read books you haven’t read, and inspire you to create the works you can create.

Taking care of Oneself

“I have not given the privilege to anybody to make me happy or make me sad”

Sadhguru

What is being well? …to be Happy, to be healthy, to be functioning well. This can only happen if the controls are inside.

Are you joyful as your own nature, or triggered by outside? Once you leave it in the hands of other people, you are accidental in your existence.

If you are accidental, anxiety is guaranteed.

There was happiness before iPhone, car, home. The experience of being human doesn’t change. Only the outside changes. We get used to certain things, and we think this is life

What we gather should serve us. People have lost the distinction between what is me and what is mine.

There are two kinds of suffering – body, mind.

Today it is like the Animals/Plants are saying: “Let’s make the planet great again”.

It is Friday for 6 weeks…

  • The problem is not work
  • The problem is not family
  • The problem is your own mind

Education should focus on “the inner wellbeing of the human being”.

Your body and your mind should work for you, always. Anxiety is your own mind working against you

The science of inner wellness

Only to create pleasantness in our surroundings depends on many many factors. Pleasantness in mind, in health, in compassion… this is under my control

“The One Thing”

Be part of the solution. Inner audit – am I contributing to solution or to problem?  

Be part of the solution. Do what you can do. Don’t make things worse. 

If you liked this, you will also like Sadhguru: If you lose your laugh, you lose everything and Relationships: Build trust.

Livestream EO with Sadhguru

Just listening to Stuart Lancaster deliver a webinar for IIBN. He shared his path to head coach of the England rugby team, the hard blow of falling out of the home rugby world cup, and his current role as part of the leadership of Leinster rugby club.

10 Necessary Ingredients of a Great Leader

  1. Be authentic – know who you are, know what you like and don’t like, learn to manage yourself.
  2. Develop Great Communications Skills – both 1-1 and to the large groups. Learn to speak well.
  3. Create and align people to a cause – you need every member of the team to move beyond their own wants and needs and be a genuine contributor to the team… for this there needs to be a meaningful cause that is bigger than “winning”. Stuart shared how he wrote to the parents of all the england team players and asked them to share what it meant to them to see their son play rugby for england. This helped him show the players how they represented something much bigger than rugby.
  4. Develop a point of view – people do not want to be led by those without a point of view on life. Develop an opinion on the questions that are important in your field. (A blog is a great tool to develop your opinions).
  5. Be good with people – learn what moves people and how to listen. Ask good questions.
  6. Sense the “mood in the camp” – build a good “radar” and surround yourself with people who will tell you the truth.
  7. Be trustworthy “DWYSYWD” – Do What You Said You Would Do”
  8. Moral courage to do the right thing – especially when it is hard.
  9. Great body language – you are never “off stage”.
  10. Build belief and “make performance meaningful” in yourself and others – it has to be more than “just getting the win” – why will this next win be meaningful?

Loved this from Stuart…

“Always want to Improve”

Stuart Lancaster

Extreme competence + extreme open to learn = Be here 😉

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.”

Joseph Campbell

Someone has shared the documentary film “Finding Joe” on YouTube. It is a fantastic introduction to the life’s work of Joseph Campbell… who first articulated the common structure to mythological stories: The Hero’s Journey.

I don’t know how long it will be up… it is well worth a watch (I’m watching it up on my TV right now).

It is better to have a story to give meaning to what is happening in our lives than an explanation… because a story is richer… and gives meaning. What story are you telling yourself about Coronavirus? We can choose the story.

“If you bargain away your life for security, you will never find your bliss”

Joseph Campbell

The journey is a pattern of our our journey of growing up as human beings. We are called to adventure… and resist the call… until the right set of challenge, mentors, self belief comes into place… and we begin a journey of transformation > the journey from an unsatisfying life (lived in service of other’s values) to a fulfilling life (lived in service of a greater cause).

I’ve been reading the novel Jonathan Livingston Seagull with my 4 year old daughter over the last week… it is a hero journey… and it is prompting many interesting conversations with my daughter.

The Hero’s Journey… 17 steps, 3 stages

Here is a previous post of mine that describes in detail the journey…

Here’s an old video of mine where I describe the 7 steps of the Hero Journey:

In this week’s video: Two messages for leaders from day 8 of Quarantine in Barcelona:

  • Tony Anagor – the importance of sharing positive encouragement
  • Warren Rustand – leading from my own personal core
    1. Clarity of Vision
    2. Certainty of Action
    3. Values

We are on day 8 of Quarantine in Barcelona. I’ve been sharing my experiences of quarantine on youtube #1 here and #2 here. I’ll be running another YouTube livestream:

I’d love to see you connected, sharing your personal experiences, your questions, your updates with the community.

Have a great week.

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:

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.

Original article posted at Forbes 20th January 2020 How to be Happier and More Productive in 2020.

I’ve spent the last 16 years working with CEOs and entrepreneurs to help them get clear on their purpose, get great people around them, execute their decisions and enjoy their life in the process. 

The fact that you are reading this indicates that you are purposeful. The challenge for leaders is how this effectiveness leads to an enhanced quality of life.

How to be happier and more purposeful in 2020 and beyond

Author and Harvard professor David Maister says “success is enjoying your life. If you don’t enjoy what you do, the company of the people you do it with, and the impact you are making in the world… it cannot be considered success.”

A happy life is not the absence of pain. In achieving anything of significance: pain is guaranteed, but misery is optional. Anyone who has climbed Everest has been through a lot of pain. All significant achievements of meaning require the willing acceptance of the pain necessary to make the journey, to do the work, to learn the skills. 

7 mindsets that connect a purposeful life to a happy life

  1. Think about what you can achieve in 10 years, not in a week. We so underestimate what we can achieve in a decade, and we so overestimate what we can achieve in a day or a week. Shift your focus to what you can achieve over the next decade. Where can your health, your relationships, your financial wellbeing, your skill mastery be in a decade? It is far more inspiring to see a decade of achievement than a weeks worth of tasks.
  2. Think in terms of who you will become (character), not what you will have (possessions.) I have been running leadership retreats for many years now. As we come to the end of any year, one of the questions that I ask leaders to reflect and share during the retreat is “what three words represent who you will become in 2020?” It forces thinking about how I will be, rather than what I will accomplish. My three words for 2020 are Generous, Focused and Kind. What three words would you choose?
  3. Think in terms of process goals, not results goals. I spent over a decade leading sales organisations… and we are taught not to let sales people share results, but activity. A results goal could be to grow my business by 20%. A process goal is to make two more calls per day. A results goal is to lose 10 kilograms. A process goal is to leave two bites unfinished on every plate.
  4. Think about changes in your environment, not your willpower. If you want to eat less chocolate, don’t have it in your home. If you want to do more exercise, put your sports gear on as soon as you wake up. If want to use Facebook less, delete the app. High performers don’t have greater willpower, they remove the distractions from their life.
  5. Don’t negotiate with your excuses. As soon as you decide to take any action, your mind will come up with reasons why not to do it. Don’t engage in this discussion. Your excuses have access to all of your intelligence and they will win. 
  6. Fix the little things, and the big things can take care of themselves. Over the last 3 years I’ve had a habit of noting down each afternoon my “love/hate” list. I note everything that has added to my enjoyment of life on the left, and everthing (and everyone) who has detracted from my life on the right. It is often small things that detract. I have acted to remove anything that consistently appears in my “hate” list from my environment. 
  7. Think why, who, how… not what, when, how…. In every Vistage CEO decision coaching process, the first question we ask is “why is this important to you?” And we will stay with this question until we truly understand why… before we move to who can help and how to execute. Start with why. Do what is important, not what is convenient.

What makes for a meaningful human life? Who and what are the most important for you? Leo Tolstoy addresses these questions in his 1886 short story The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The Book by Tolstoy

This is a book that I give away often. It is a short book, just over 50 pages long. It can be read from start to finish in a couple of hours.

I share this book with students, friends, employees… anyone who is searching for a more meaningful approach to living their life.

Read: The Death of Ivan Ilyich by Tolstoy

The Death of Ivan Ilych, published in 1886, is a short story by Leo Tolstoy, considered one of the masterpieces of his late fiction, written shortly after his religious conversion of the late 1870s.  The Death of Ivan Ilych tells the story of a high-court judge in 19th-century Russia and his sufferings and death from a terminal illness.

If you have read the book, would love your reflections on the book in the comments below.

If you have not read the book, get a copy (amazon | free pdf) and find a couple of hours to read the story… then come back here and let us know your reflections.

3 Reflection Questions for The Death of Ivan Ilyich

  1. What are the specific factors that lead to Ivan’s life transformation?
  2. What purpose does Ivan discover for himself?
  3. What does Ivan’s transformation mean for you and your life?

The founder of Strategic Coach, and one of my favourite podcasters, Dan Sullivan plans to live to 156 years old. It will allow him to see 3 different centuries (19,20,21).

What will it take for him to live that long? He’ll need to eat well. He’ll need to stay physically and mentally fit. He’ll need medicine to come up with some new techniques to extend life…. but more than all of this, he will need a powerful motivation to remain alive.

What gives a powerful motivation to remain alive? In an interview with Peter Diamandis, Dan and Pete shared the perspective that if you have friends, money and purpose: you’ll have a pretty damn good reason to keep on living.

Here’s the original podcast episode: Living to 156 Years old

If you love podcasts, you’ll like my post The world’s best individual podcast episodes