Monday 13 March 2017

Your life and work are precious gifts

All my life I've been passionate about gifts and giving.

It all began with being born on Christmas Eve and what became a habit of others in giving me presents. They'd say "This is for your birthday and for Christmas."

For many years at other people's birthday parties, and especially at Christmas time, I resented other kids because they got more presents than me!

Then one day in the school yard during football practice a teacher pulled me aside and told me "You have a gift for reading the play. Never waste your gift."

This experience caused a major shift in my thinking and my attitude - gifts weren't just something given to me by other people, they were also things I already had that were of great value to others.

I was also influenced by a strong philosophy lived by my parents and grandparents, the concept that we are happier giving than receiving. It took awhile for this one to become part of my being!

For a short time in my late teens I studied the Ancient Greek language. I was excited when I learned that the word for gift had a transliteration meaning charisma. 

I also learned that gift was another word for talent, and that talent was inherent, yet also could be learned. Later I was to learn that enhancing the inherent is a key to self-leadership, leading for others, and leading for leaders.

During my time studying Ancient Greek one of my lecturer's proclaimed that "life itself is a gift." This was another defining moment in my life, and when learning about gifts and giving, and applying and sharing my learning, became not just my my passion, but also my vocation.

Here's my 5 key learnings over the 45 years since:

1) Giving without attachment to getting back paradoxically means getting back more than we ever imagined possible

For a long time I struggled with giving my gifts away. I struggled particularly with attachment to getting back, or the feeling that I was not getting back as much as I deserved. Many times I was taken advantage of, and often derided for being too generous.

Eventually I let go of my attachment to what other people do or don't do. I learned I am only accountable for my intentions, feelings, thoughts, actions/behaviours, never other people's.

Today I give everything I've learned that I feel purpose-driven leaders will value away here. I know that a small percentage of people highly value a bespoke/tailored experience and will pay handsomely for it, hence I am able to make a great living as well as give more away.

2) Unleashing and enhancing gifts (your own and other people's) is the number one role of leadership

Enhancing their gifts was a concept I learned from my best friend Terry Jenner and his work with Shane Warne and many other spin bowlers worldwide, that I applied to business. Terry and myself spent many, many treasured hours over 20 years discussing the concept. When embraced by business leaders in your own best way this concept leads to profound performance improvement.

You can read more about this concept here.

To get started unleashing and enhancing your own gifts and those of other people I highly recommend two books. 

You can purchase Sir Ken's books here. They are even more valuable than his great TED talks. 'Element' is his word for gift. In 'Finding Your Element' there's over 50 great questions to discover your unique talent.

If you'd like further help please get in touch with me.

3) Candid and convivial communication and conversations are critical to gift and life enhancement

My mother used to say that I could talk under water with a mouth full of marbles. 

I can tell you that turning my gift for talking into one of communicating and conversing is one I've been enhancing for over 30 years. And I still have a long way to go to be the best version of myself even though a substantial part of earning my living comes from sharing this gift.

Here's 13 ways to be a remarkable communicator and connoisseur of candour.

Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar and President of Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios has many great insights into candour.

I was inspired to get the book after watching Ed here.

The video and the book intrigued me because of Ed's insights into and work with candour, a key to the huge success of Pixar and Disney films created through the leadership of Ed and many other people.

Being a connoisseur of candour (a constant work in progress) is a key to all my work. People are sick of spin and BS. Being able to cut through the crap gives my clients and myself an edge.

Being a connoisseur of candour is a one of the eight roles Appreciative Leaders play remarkably well. 

If you'd like some help with being 'connoisseur of candour' please get in touch with me.

4) Every human being is remarkable

The follow is an excerpt from The Appreciative Leader handbook (see above link).


We are all unique. 

Not a single duplicate in the 100 billion lives that have walked planet earth. 

When we bring our best, free of BS, we are all remarkable.

Everyone's birth is remarkable. 

Being born at all is even more remarkable. For most men only one or two of the 500 billion sperm cells produced in a lifetime reach the female egg, one of less than 500 eggs that each woman produces in her life.

The fact that any of us is alive at all says to me that every life has a profound purpose.

Robert Louis Stevenson put it this way: “To be who we are, and to become all that we are capable of becoming, is the only purpose in life.”

Being an Appreciative Leader is living this purpose and inspiring others to do the same.

2 Possible working on yourself and/or your business actions

1) See yourself as remarkable. Become who you see, one small step at a time. 

2) Help everyone else to see themselves as remarkable and to become who they see.

Remember that many people have forgotten they’re remarkable or haven’t even as yet realised it. 

Therefore you’ll need to inspire and/or persuade some people. For now choose one person and work with them for the next 90 days.

5) Your work is a gift

I was attracted to the video below because of the title and because it was recommended by Bernadette Jiwa whose work on story telling and story sharing I really value.

James Victore is yet another great example of how being true to ourselves is a key to success.

You will enjoy the interview James did with with Bernadette Jiwa as well.

Your work is indeed a gift. Do you see it as such? Do you value it as precious? And are you doing your work for people who truly value it.

A great way to answer these questions is to ask the people you work with what value they want from you, and the best ways to deliver such value to them, and then take action accordingly.

Be remarkable.

PS To apply these 5 key learnings in your own best way I highly recommend embracing the concepts of 'deep work' or 'deliberate practice'.

PSS A synonym for gift is charity which is from the same root Ancient Greek word meaning charisma or 'gift of grace'. There have been many positive advances in charity work in my lifetime meaning that what we give actually gets to people who need our gifts. One of my lessons has been to truly understand that when a lot of people give a little big things can happen. Two great examples are Buy One Give One where I am proud to be a life-time partner, and World Vision where my wife and I have supported one disadvantaged child at a time for decades and yet have been a part of schools being built and all kinds of wonderful work.

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