Friday, 29 August 2008

Know and Use Your Strengths

I have been putting alot of time and effort into swimming of late, as I am due to swim in Lake Windermere as part of the Great North Swim in a few weekends, so have been pretty motivated to make sure I do not have to be rescued.....

My problem is that I tend to forget how many lengths I have swum - I count them all up and then miss count or get unsure about half way through. So usually I just swim a few more for good measure at the end.

I am trying to remember the numbers by just saying them to myself in my head.
Then I had an ah-ha moment as I swum effortlessly along. I know that I learn most through visual means and kinaesthetic means rather than listening. My ears are not my strongest learning mechanism - my eyes and movement are.

I have known this for years, which is why I take notes in meetings, whereas those with a strong auditory sense can just listen and learn without any notes at all.

So instead of just saying the number of lengths in my head and listening, I start creating a huge bubble number in my mind at the same time. And remembering what length I am on starts to feel much easier - so I can spend more time concentrating on my technique and less on whether I am on 33 or 35 lengths.

Do you know your preferred learning or communication sense? If not, then search on-line under VAK or VARK (standing for visual- auditory - read/write and kinaesthetic) and find out. You may be amazed at what you learn.

So I guess I have learnt something too - that if I am strong visually, I need to make sure that I use visual methods wherever possible to help me learn and remember information.

What do you have problems remembering?
How can you use your strongest sense to help you remember?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Natural Success

This weekend I had the pleasure of going to Duncombe Park, near Helmsley in North Yorkshire, to relax and catch up with friends at the National 2CV rally. I watched some fantastic B movies, howled appropriately at the No Talent Contest, drank beer, cooked on my camping stove, and sat in the sunshine until my nose went red. And once again promised to have a 2CV by next year's rally.

It was all very jolly. I was very relaxed and chilled. At one point a new friend called Jonathan asked me what I do. After a brief pause as I considered my options for summarising what Light the Spark is all about, I said:

"I save people from Death by PowerPoint".

Instead of launching into my mission statement or about transformational learning experiences, I deliberately used a phrase that people know and dread. Sure I backed that up a little by saying that I help people design and deliver interactive sessions (or words to that effect). But it was the first sentence that got the reaction. Two people went "Oo" (in a genuinely interested fashion).

Chris was especially interested, as he has recently pulled the short straw of running his work's induction process. He knows its pants (but getting better apparently). But he doesn't know what to do about it. I said that I could help as I passed him a business card*.

Being relaxed and just talking about stuff is a brilliant way to network. I felt no pressure to impress or to be anything I am not. I just talked to them about what I do and then left it at that.

Yet often at formal networking I feel stifled or as if I am playing a role (as in the successful corporate businesswoman or something). Yet there is no real point in my pretending to be someone or something I am not, as my clients will then be disappointed by my products and services. I am me. I am proud to be me. I can do certain things well (and others not at all).

I believe the name for what happened is "Natural Networking".

So I can take what I learnt this weekend and choose events and places to meet new people that are most likely to replicate that experience. I can have fun and talk to people and just be my natural self: extrovert, playful and passionate about what I do.

*It might seem weird to carry business cards on a camping weekend, but in my experience you cannot predict where or when I might meet someone who wants to Light the Spark in others.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

The Power of Experience

Last night I watched "The Secret Millionaire". In this series, so far, the millionaires typically come from girl-made-good or boy-made-good environments, and as a result of their own experiences, tend to have firm beliefs at the outset that since they managed to work hard and make it good that anyone can.

We get a glimpse into their beliefs from the things that they say, the thoughts they speak aloud. Sometimes they will come out with things such as "this is a business decision" or "I am not giving my money to people who don't deserve it", or "I have to know that the money will not go to waste". It is also clear that many simply have no idea how young people in deprived areas live, survive, or what they have to deal with. Some are shocked by the money they survive on, the bars on their doors, the graffiti. These are obviously streets they never even drive down.

I am sure that they have heard about inner cities, about crime, about poverty, about poor housing. Perhaps they have listened to both sides of the story, but their views that if they can anyone can, seem initially entrenched.

As the programme progresses, these millionaires have direct and first hand experiences that change their beliefs and thoughts. They soften. They become emotionally involved with the people, the poverty, crime, pregnancy, destitution, even hopelessness. They start to glimpse the situations that create powerlessness in these people, that trap them into a certain environment (perhaps elements that they have never considered or experienced for themselves).

At first they might feel it is hopeless. That there is too much to do, that nothing could make a difference in this place. Then they happen across the angels of the community: people who are giving their time, their homes, their money, their resources to make a real difference.

It is this journey, this experience that is the most powerful for them.
The experience of connecting with other humans, who are making a difference. Of looking into the eyes and hearts of people on both sides - those trapped and those handing them a lifeline.

I believe that there is little prior to their ten days immersed in this environment that could have changed their minds - because in the end this is not a logical nor a rational experience. Information on the poor is simply that: data. But humans are not statistics, not bare figures to use for headlines.

This experience, is human. It speaks not to our minds, but to our hearts.
That knowledge in our hearts will stay with us forever.
It can change us overnight.
It is more powerful than any amount of words, of stories, of photos, of videos, of second hand knowledge.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Sinking In Time

Today I start my holiday camping with my bestest friend Mags. Watch out Oxford.

So will I be learning whilst I am holiday - apart from reading books that is?
Sure, by the magic that is Sinking In Time.

Some of the greatest thinkers of our world knew and lived by the importance of Sinking In Time. Those Eureka moments that were had in the bath (Archimedes), under an Apple Tree (Newton), dozing and daydreaming (Kekule) and perhaps most famous of all in this respect the brilliant Edison. It is said that he spent each afternoon sailing. A brilliant way to help the mind consider, analyse, process and eventually come up with an unexpected breakthrough or so. It is well known that the creative part of our brain cannot function under stress, so that it is no surprise really that new ideas and thoughts come when we are truly relaxed (and it is at its most powerful).

If the best scientists and thinkers on this planet had never turned off, daydreamed, sat in the bath or under apple trees, then we would be a poorer world for it.

So I am devoting this holiday to the creative process of Sinking In Time. Letting my brain consider all the information I have been feeding it of late, and letting it come to some conclusions, or come up with some brilliant new ideas.

The question I have for you is this - when is your Sinking In Time?
If you design workshops or learning experiences, do you deliberately give your learners or audience some Sinking In Time?

Today you have my permission to do nothing for as long or short as you can manage. Sit in a chair, in peace and quiet and let your mind daydream. Don't judge the thoughts it has, or try and direct it. Simply watch as it daydreams and know in your heart that this is just as important as any work you do in your day, if not more so.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Leading by Example

Yesterday I was watching one of my favourite all time TV shows - Extreme Makeover Home Edition. As the tears poured down my face and my heart melted for the family whose dreams had come true, I realised that this show teaches me things, without even trying. It powerfully connects with my emotions, so will stick with me for a long time.

I learn about dreams, about everyday people who just want a house over their heads that is safe, yet are still giving to others and putting others before themselves.
I learn that having a terrible thing happen, or being diagnosed with cancer puts a new perspective into our lives that most of us need. It helps me reconnect with things I know and have forgotten.
I learn that doing something good for others is a great way to pay it forward in this life.
I learn that it is important to me that I pay it forward and make a difference in this world.
I learn that by setting a great example and telling a story, can inspire me to new heights.

and I learn that you can never have enough tissues for an episode with Ty and his friends.

Apart from being a very uplifting way to reconnect with the magic and wonder that humans can create when we work together, by the end I was thinking how I personally can pay it forward with Light the Spark. By passing some of my profits to others, by offering reduced rates to those working in the charitable sector.

For now, I am going to let those thoughts stew. Watch this space to see how I resolve it.