'People are like trees: give them what the need to grow on a continual basis for long enough, and they will grow from the inside out. And they will bear fruit.'
This quote is from John Maxwell's 5 Levels of Leadership. It got me thinking about how we grow. From the inside out. Often, we develop our mindset, our thoughts and our attitudes about things first, then we go about doing and acting on our thoughts. When we help others to see something, it is often on the inside. We tell them they did a good job or we appreciate their efforts. They then make a shift, have a realisation or come to comprehend and understand something from the inside, from their perspective, taking on your compliment. This happens to us and it happens to others.
Trees are also a wonderful analogy. Who doesn't like trees? They are natural, grow and start from a seed, often come from another tree. Within every seed is a large tree I have heard said. The same is true for people. Within every baby is a great person, a fully realised, actualised and functioning person. Do we really nurture each other though? Do we give each other what we need to grow? Certainly, we all need food, but a heartfelt word, a compliment or just speaking positively too each other is also important. This is the giving that we also need to grow. We need this as the quote says on a continual basis. Think of your favourite school teacher or lecturer. Why are they your favourite? I would guess it is because they encouraged you, believed in you and gave you some encouraging advice when you most needed it. Advice that helped you grow and become stronger, wiser and more nourished. Like a tree, it helped you grow. Eventually, trees bears fruit. You also bear fruit in the form of your talents and special gifts. The things that make you special. Your fruits are unique as they are on your tree.
Nourish others and give compliments freely. If we think of everyone as a tree, then remember trees need water, encouragement, sunlight and room to grow. If we put a tree in a pot then it will only grow as big the pot will allow the root system. Put your tree in the ground, let your roots establish and blossom into the person you are meant to be. Whole, pure, transforming and providing comfort and shade for others and above all beauty.
The quote above is from the book 'Think Like an Artist.... And Lead a More Creative, Productive Life by Will Gompertz. It is an interesting book that is full of wisdom that can be applied to all walks of life from the perspective of an Artist. The book discusses sculptures and painters and how they discovered more about themselves and developed into unique artists through a path that many of us take. When we live in a world of curiosity, ideas, plan B's and alternatives, as well as with an entrepreneurial spirit, continuing to challenge the world around us, we can create something new. I am still coming to terms with the ideas in the book and will indeed take some time to absorb the messages and write my personal review and notes, but the quote above stood out to me.
We must be at least interested in some of the things we do in life in order to find something worthwhile. Notice the sentence doesn't say passion, which is a word often overused. It simply says 'interest'. To be interested and create something interesting. So, what are you interested in that others aren't? Or if they are, why is your perspective unique?
The book points out there is nothing new in the world. Most things that exist and come out as new could be creations and recreations of other older things. What is unique though is that this is our take on the world. This is why art, artists like singers and dancers are all relevant. We want to be reminded of old but excited by the new. Each time we see an Opera we are excited by what that leading artist will bring. This is the enduring value of art, but couldn't the same apply to your take on the use of SAP or the new management strategy of your company? We don't all have to reinvent the wheel and be artists but we do need to bring our mark to something. To do this we need to be interested.
Interest can be sparked by:
With time, interests change and we evolve so don't panic if your interest changes. This is natural. A few years ago I was heavily into cycling. Since moving country my interest was waned. I still cycle but not with the same vigour. That's ok. I have new interests including these posts. I cannot do everything but I can commit and remain interested in my current goals. Then go for a ride!
During the week I was in the car with my wife travelling around Austria and she mentioned to a colleague, 'Comfortable is the enemy of Art' referring to her work in the performing arts. It got me thinking that indeed being comfortable in our lives, is an enemy to our growth and creativity. When was the last time you felt truly uncomfortable? What did you learn from that experience?
Doing new things takes us out of our comfort zone and it is here I believe where we truly grow. Where we come to terms with ourselves. In all stories, the hero goes on a journey and is trialed.
When was your last real trial?
When was your character tested?
Perhaps it was a decision to do a certain thing and not another, to speak up or not let something slide.
To call out a foul against someone, knowing you might endanger yourself.
In our lives we aim for comfort. A nice place to live, steady work, a good pay check and then some homely comforts. At some point though, this might prevent us from growing. We grow used to our routines and then suddenly life is there, comfortable.
So, perhaps try something new. Ballroom dancing classes, drawing, something artistic. Don't let the, 'I wasn't any good, my parents told me..' story get in the way here. Just try it for the sake of it. We don't have to create income, a new direction or find our life's purpose from doing this, but we will grow. We will access some creative part of ourselves that might help in other areas of our life. It will increase our confidence that we can do something.
Watch children, they create all the time, without the need to create a business, be a certain someone or have certain things. They do it because it seems like a good idea at that moment. The more I watch my kids, the more I am reminded of this! PLAY! Creativity is PLAY!
Don't be comfortable. Be creative!
If your eyes are the window to your soul, then your voice is the expression of it.
Most of us have heard the expression that the eyes are the window to the soul. That our state, emotions and warmth are reflected through our eyes. It is why my University Singing Tutor suggested I wear contacts on stage. Glasses form a barrier to your audience and we want to see your eyes when you sing! If this is true and certainly it has merit, then I want to extend this further into suggesting that our voices are the expression of our soul. Our words have power and so does our vocal delivery. Yet it is an area many people seem not to think about when they give speeches, read out loud to others or even communicate day to day.
What voice do you use to express yourself? Is your tone angry, pleasant, bored, non-committal or something else? Do you make a conscious choice in how you sound? Working with a voice teacher or trainer can help you hear. For years I have worked on myself and discovered through Opera the capabilities of my voice from a singing perspective. Even when I was young though I imagine I drove my parents crazy with all my noise, sound, pops squeaks and funny interpretations. All kids do it aside see in now in my own kids. They are not afraid to make noise and play!
Why do we lose this skill? We somehow grow up thinking there is only one way to speak. But we all have more. More to give, more to gain and more to learn about ourselves. When you are really happy what happens to your voice? When you are sad? What about when you wake up after drinking or a loud night talking on the town? Our voices express our feeling, our emotion and are a barometer for how we are.
I find it fascinating to work with people and help them uncover a good like playfulness so they too can see their voices are more capable than they think. It is not about singing on stage but simply communicating with a voice that resonates how they are feeling in this moment. Choosing to be aware too that a vocal change can also bring about personal change, growth and development.
This week I got a new tattoo. To cover up an old one. This is something that I have wanted to do for a while and have spoken with my wife about for a while. I got this tattoo when I was 19 and have always liked it but wanted to change it, to reflect my family. I chose a wonderful Vienna based New Zealand artist, Sam Rulz, to help me. Her work is excellent and beautiful to follow on Instagram. It is a big step though. Into permanent change. Not to erase the old, but to renew and to symbolise where I am now. I don't feel shame or regret for my former tattoo, but I would like it updated and renewed. My wife has to look at the back of my shoulder more than I do, so what nicer way for me to show my love than to get a tattoo.
It is also symbolic, in that we all change and need renewal. Not to erase the old, but to make it fresh again in some way. Not to cover up but to build over and strengthen. Change is inevitable for us all. Sometimes we cover up previous situations and build over previous efforts. Things never remain the same. The memory of my old tattoo will stay with me and when you look closely it is still there, but now it is transformed.
What do you want to transform about yourself? Perhaps a look, a tattoo or a behaviour? We all have the ability to change and I encourage it. Find help, transform and make the change permanent, for now. Nothing but is ever really permanent but it can feel like it for awhile. 20 years ago I never thought I would get a cover up tattoo that takes up a quarter of my back but I am proud of it. With measured ideas and consideration it now apart of me. I am changed. How will you change?
How much attention do you pay to the weather and the accompanying seasons? Many I teach feel absolutely affected by the seasons and for good reason. The weather and earth as a whole, I am sure really affects us, from our moods to actual physical health (allergies, temperature, illness).
How do you feel when the season changes? Does it fill you with excitement or dread?
The seasons are also a metaphor for our lives. We have times when we need to plant seeds, toil the ground and prepare and moments in life where the fruits of our labour are ready to eat.
Which season are you in now?
If you are like me, the seasons of life come and go fairly quickly. We all live with faster changes and so having time to really prepare ourselves is often difficult to obtain. Everything feels more and more like it is being done 'on the fly'. This can be difficult to do, we are told so much that we have set plans and goals, organise our time and work steadily towards our desires and plans and then it will all work out. Until it doesn't. Failure is an option and often a great teacher. But so is patience.
Gary Vaynerchuck amongst others, mentions the long game and I couldn't agree with this more, especially when you change countries as I did nearly 4 years ago. It is interesting, when I meet people many say, wow, such a short time and others, wow 4 years. One of the learnings I have made here is how things do take time. My seasons are becoming longer here. I have planted my seeds and toiled the ground, but must wait for the harvest. I must see what nature brings and how it will work out. An example might be a free workshop or speech I do. Often we think people will come running up and business will start pouring in, but more than once, I have not had this happen until some 12 months after the event. I no longer get disheartened by such events when I deliver something for free, as I know it will eventually bring a return. The harvest will come.
I like giving and make sure that each time I do there is a small return to me. Something to learn, an experience to gain, new people to meet and to learn from others. This is becoming more important than immediate business as this improves my personal growth. I am developing my brand and my position in the market. People need to hear of me, perhaps more than once, before they begin to trust me and to be open to what I can provide. This is where patience comes in again.
So how can we develop patience in our business life? We can keeping planting seeds and connections. Hustling as Gary V calls it. Continue developing new connections with people and to see value in what others do. How can we help them, serve others and give freely? We often give expecting reward, but I am slowly changing my mindset and just trying to give without expecting in return. Showing a genuine interest in others also helps.
With the seasons changing so quickly both metaphorically and physically it can feel difficult to keep up. We simply perhaps, have to stay open and prepared. That way when opportunity for harvest comes, we are ready! Good luck creating your opportunities!
Based on TED talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee. See the talk at
Ingrid Fetell Lee: Where joy hides and how to find it
Part of my daily routine is to watch one TED talk a day. Most days I have achieved this since I started the habit and my life is becoming more informative, aware and enriched by the experience. I encourage you to do similar when you are on public transport or instead of playing candy crush or some other type of online game. For me, it is a good way to understand some of the issues of the world and to hear from the scientists, researchers and people dedicated to finding answers to the burning questions of their lives.
One talk in particular I have been inspired by was 'Where joy hides and how to find it' by Ingrid Fetell Lee. She is a Designer who uncovered the aesthetics behind joy. Some of the points I find interesting and agreeable are:
It is here personally, I would add singing! Just sing! Find a song and sing it. Add music for joy. To uplift you and give you better feelings. These can be carried into your day and spread to others. So make time for it and do it! Be Joy and find ways to see and experience Joy!
I think when we reflect badly about others, it is because something is perceived as not going well in our own lives. Our psyche tries to make is feel better by being mean about someone else. So how does this reflect on us?
In a mean moment, as it dawned on me that perhaps I felt dissatisfied about an aspect of my life, I reflected. What's that about? Often life doesn't look like or turn out how we imagined. More often than not it is better but we don't see it as we are blinded by our feelings that we are not where we want to be. So what did I do in my moment?
I breathed in. Through my nose. As I listened to my favourite 80's music I reflected on letting go of the stress, anxiety and present feelings. They were not serving me, nor putting me in a position to help others. This is not the place I wanted to be in.
So what can I do, in general, to help myself? I can be grateful for absolutely where I am for a start. Things are not as bad as they seem. In fact, they are great. I can also take a small step forward in some way. In coaching we often ask clients to think about what one small step can you now take towards your goal? I had to take this step for myself.
When we are in a mean state, we need to stop and turn it around. We will lack authenticity in a mean state as people will sense something is not right. A compliment will sound sarcastic or a little rude, our actions might not reflect our real thoughts and intentions. Are we mean on purpose? I don't think so. But be careful, as we might appear rude.
In my light bulb moment, I stopped, looked inside and thought, what am I missing here? What do I need to do to regain a feeling of forwardness or positivity? At the moment, I am not exercising much at all, have put on a few kilos and find myself doing things I know don't help me. I am in a spiral downward. I often think in terms of a cork screw. We can spiral up or spiral down. We are never stagnant and never always going in one direction, but catching yourself before you spiral too far down is a good idea.
Habits came to my mind. What can I change now that will help a little?
Again, what small step can I take the will allow me to feel a little better. When you feel on a downward spiral, what do you do? How far down do you go? I am not suggesting to feel the feels of where you are on the spiral, but I don't want you to get caught somewhere. Likewise too high as this doesn't function long term either.
For me, this idea is simply about awareness and reflection. What can we do to help ourselves in these moments, gain perspective and see which way we want to go? Up or down. I choose up and hope you do to.
We are often confronted with new experiences. Our first day of school, a new workplace or perhaps just making a new friend can sometimes bring about anxiety. I recognised this in myself the other day when I turned up for rehearsal in a new city, meeting new people, singing new repertoire. Hoping people would like what I brought was a large looming thought. Would it sound ok, will they like me? We have all had these times. The insecurity it brings is huge. So what can we do?
For one, we can breathe and know this is where we are meant to be. Often the fear we feel, is based on a perception rather than what is actually present. I see this in my classes with people. Learning a foreign language is not easy and if people on top of that have anxiety this doesn't help. We need to turn the randomly flying butterflies in our stomachs into a formation that helps give us energy and strength.
New things are inevitable and we can help ourselves by learning how to deal with the newness of an experience. Of course, the rehearsal for me wasn't a new thing but I hadn't done it for awhile so it felt new. The feeling was like an old friend coming to say hello again. This is why I wanted to share this with you in this blog post. It showed me where I was now.
As a speaker and Trainer I have no problem getting up in front of people. I love the opportunity as I can give something to someone and provide value in their lives. This for the last few years has been new for me. New clients, developments and other things. So what was different about singing? That is also my voice right?
In the end, there is no solution or deeper insight into my feelings from the rehearsal and the next day felt great. The music came together, my voice worked well and I felt elated at the end of the Mass. It was my first sung Latin Mass. Perhaps the nervousness the night before allowed my body to remain vigilant. To prepare and take it seriously. To out my best foot forward and to allow my development, skills and talents to shine. It certainly felt like it. Rather than be laissez faire about it, I gave it gravitas and respect.
So respect the new things that come your way. Aim to manage the butterflies and help them fly in formation. Trust that the signs you are being given can have a positive impact.
As Spring comes to Europe, the sun starts shining more often. Spring is a wonderful part of the year and a time I truly love. As I was working towards the building of a client the other day I felt the sun on back, the smell of Jasmine and other flowers filled the air. I spotted people eating breakfast on their rooftop balcony and generally everything felt good in the world. I had dropped my son to school in time and had arrived at my destination with enough time to grab a coffee! So far so good. I felt good, like sunshine. It really enabled me to truly feel like I had the chance to share that sunshine, so having practiced more German I wished the receptionist a 'Wunderschönen guten Morgen!' like they do on Guten Morgen Österreich. Gosh it felt good and the receptionist responded kindly.
We all know people who are absolute sunshine, who spread it everywhere they go and help others feel a little bit better than before they came into your life! I want you to be one of these people too. Like a Smiler who spreads smiles, spread sunshine. What exactly is sunshine though as it relates to someone?
I think someone with sunshine is:
Often we meet people though who seem a bit grey. They don't shine. They are not interested in greeting you positively, perhaps you feel like a burden to them, they don't make you feel important and they drain you of energy. We all know some of those people. We need them though as then we know when we are around someone who is sunshine. As people, we are also a mixture. Too much sunshine all the time is just as boring as too much grey.
But where does your balance fall? Are you sunshine? Do you delight in the small things, take stock of where you are and aim to improve your life in small incremental steps, or are you a little grey, taking longer to achieve tasks, needing more motivation and energy and feeling less enthusiastic?
For me, I enjoy being sunshine. My small acts of care and kindness, leave me feeling energised. I am an extroverted personality and these things help me. I remain aware though that my mission is not to change others, but to simply offer the opportunity. Smiles are not always received or met openly and I am not trying to change the world. I am trying to change myself. To not fall into a victim mentality and to slow my personal growth and progress by feeling grey. I instead aim to embrace all things and share what I can, with those I love, while I still can. Life is short and time is a limited resource. Therefore choose wisely. Smile and be sunshine when you can, because we all know sometimes we won't. Embrace your surroundings, remain aware and see what possibilities and opportunities open up for you!
David Corcoran is a Executive Voice Coach. He helps people take responsibility for their communication. This Blog contains his regular musings, thoughts and ideas. He is based in Vienna, Austria.