Friday, 20 October 2017

Northern Ireland Equality and Diversity Gala/Awards 2018

We launched the Northern Ireland Equality and Diversity Gala/Awards 2018 sponsored by Diamond Recruitment this morning and we’re all very excited about our plans.
The inaugural event in March of this year was a huge success with many people saying they had seen nothing quite like it in Northern Ireland before. There was a fantastic buzz on the night which seemed to bring out the best in everyone including Sarah Travers the gala host (though to be fair she’s always brilliant or very close to it).

This year we have the following awards available :

•             Best Employer for Equality & Diversity in NI (large and small employer)
•             Best Gender Initiative
•             Best LGBT Initiative
•             Best Disability Initiative
•             Individual Diversity Champion

Equality issues appear to be back in the headlines now every day as Tinsel Town tries to sort itself out and rid itself of the predators that so many have known about for too long and, it seems, have been reluctant to challenge or to name publicly.

We have our own issues too of course. A survey reported in the Belfast Telegraph this week suggests that we have in Northern Ireland the highest rate of workplace harassment in the UK and by far.

Our own equality and diversity e-learning tackles many of the harassment issues still to be found in the modern day workplace. This together with the Awards, and the Annual Review of Employment Law conference we do every year is our humble contribution to making Northern Ireland workspace suitable for everyone.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Holywood Harassment and Weinstein, Price, Lawrence -it's all about our celebrity obession

It’s oozing out of Holywood now like a lanced boil, successful allegations of sexual harassment by female stars and wannabes. Harvey Weinstein is facing multiple allegations of rape and harassment and no doubt a sizeable claim from his now ex-wife. We learnt yesterday that the head of Amazon films Roy Price has resigned following allegations that he propositioned Isa Hackett “repeatedly and crudely”. No doubt more detail will be provided in due course. Now Jennifer Lawrence is claiming she was made to take part in a nude line up as part of an audition.
What we’re witnessing from this side of the Atlantic has been mirrored here already. First to be outed and properly pilloried was Jimmy Saville as countless allegations came in from hundreds of people about his shocking, criminal past. Then it was the turn of other DJs. Dave Lee Travis was given a suspended sentence for assault on one young girl in 1995 after facing a multitude of charges that jurors just couldn’t seem to agree on.

The obsession with celebrity both sides of the Atlantic does nothing to help protect women from men in power. Complaints when they do reach the authorities are too easily brushed off as coming from attention seekers wanting to sell a story to the tabloids.  Too many women are ready to forgo lodging formal complaints knowing the damage they may do to their chances of achieving leading roles and fame of a global dimension.

These people wherever and whoever they are should expect to work in the same environment as everyone else. Employees both in the UK and in the USA at reputable employers are required to do regular training on equality and diversity in the workplace. Tinseltown's training should be no exception. Perhaps even mandatory.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Public Speaking in Northern Ireland

 I’m detecting a renewed interest in Northern Ireland in public speaking. What accounts for this I really have no idea. Perhaps it’s an increasing realisation on the part of many professionals that it’s an essential skill to have and one that separates you from your peers if you can do it well. Tim Ferris in his book “Tools of Titans” advises that to be successful in life you should aim to weave together three very different skills one of which should be the art of public speaking.

So what’s the evidential basis for my grand claim that there’s a renewed interest in public speaking in Northern Ireland? Well, first of all, the number in attendance at the meetings of the Belfast Speakers’ Circle has quadrupled this year. Last year the Circle was struggling to get into double figures most times it met. Last time out there was about 50 people in the room at the Clayton Hotel, Belfast all chomping at the bit to get to the podium and give it a go. The SpeakEasy Club which offers people in NI the opportunity to learn the core skills of public speaking is reporting strong interest in their new courses starting very soon across Northern Ireland. Organised by top performers Camilla Long and Sarah Travers participants can expect to be well briefed on the golden rules of speaking in public be it in front of small group of people or something much larger.

Somers White once said “90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” By this he probably meant the three Ps. Preparation, preparation, preparation or put another way preparation (dress) preparation (mental) preparation (practice).

Monday, 25 September 2017

Of One Special Day Out and Possibly Many More

Anna and I enjoyed the last of her birthday treats over the weekend which was a horse riding trip over Whitesands Bay on the north coast of Northern Ireland.

We were in the expert hands of Shean's Horse Farm which with over 50 horses in stock were well able to find a horse docile yet strong enough to carry my weight and take me safely about. "Flo" was on her best behaviour for the duration of the excursion with the exception of the last 5 minutes when she "took a notion" all to herself and went galloping off at speed up the hillside. Firm words from her rider assisted by a very steep field soon brought her back to a light trot then her usual leisurely walk.
Anna's horse "Charlie" was impeccably well behaved and did exactly what he was told to do although he wasn't too fussed about getting more than his 
hooves wet.

This one-off treat proved so good I have a feeling it could lead to a very expensive hobby indeed. But it proved to be a truly great day and has given Anna one more thing to add to her Russian Tour Guide NI website

Monday, 18 September 2017

Belfast Speakers' Circle & Gratitude

Ballintoy Beach sunrise Sunday 17 Sept
I’m speaking tonight at the first meeting of the year of the Belfast Speakers’ Circle.

My topic for my ten minute speech will be gratitude. I’ll talk about how poor we are at saying thank you for the positive things that other people do for us or send our way.  I’m also going to introduce everyone to my “gratitude jar”. This is a jar that sits in your house and every time you or anyone living with you has a reason to feel grateful for something they write it down and pop it into the jar. Once a month or so everyone gathers together, reads out and discusses the contents of the jar.
There’s something about the emotional positivity that comes with feeling grateful for something. It’s hard to feel depressed or in a low mood when recalling whatever is great in your life.

Into my jar yesterday I popped a note about the Saturday night I had just had. I’d spent it with my wife and daughter on a mat in a double sleeping bag on Ballintoy Beach gazing up at a beautiful sky packed full of stars next to a roaring campfire. Gratitude only just begins to cover what I'm feeling about that experience right now.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Of Diversity & Inclusion in the Air

Too fat to fly hey?

We heard today that a Russian woman is suing Aeroflot for dropping her from lucrative long haul flights on account of her size. Her bosses told her she didn't meet the size limit Aeroflot had set for its cabin crew.: a UK size 14.
Evgenia Magurina claims a number of other flight attendants suffered the same treatment, calling themselves the STS club after the Russian words for “old, fat & ugly”.
Instead of long trips abroad, they joked that they had been relegated to night flights around of Novgorod, "so no-one will see us".
Evgenia Magurina  stated :
"They put appearance in first place. But stewardesses are rescuers above all," she insists. "Imagine if they had the same requirements for judges or doctors? It would be absurd."

Russian employment claims are by no means common and difficult to take. It’ll be interesting to watch how this develops and whether Aeroflot seeks to settle it quickly or fight it out.

A person’s size is not currently one of the nine protected grounds of discrimination although for some it’s a sure bet to become category No.10 at some stage.

Legal-Island’s own e-learning on diversity and inclusion in the workplace can be found at our website

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Of Safeguarding in Northern Ireland Schools

It’s all happening in the world of safeguarding in Northern Ireland at the moment. We’ve seen important new legislation such as the Special Needs and Disability Act (Northern Ireland) 2016 (SEND Act). This places new duties on Boards of Governors, the Education Authority and health and social services authorities when dealing with those with special needs. Secondary legislation and a code of practice are expected soon.

Two new documents have produced welcome clarification and additions recently too. These are “Co-operating to Safeguard Children 2016” and “Safeguarding and Child Protection in Schools – A Guide for Schools”. The former document provides the overarching policy framework for safeguarding children and young people in the statutory, private, independent, community, voluntary and faith sectors. The latter publication provides wide ranging guidance on safeguarding and child protection within the school environment. It is relevant to Board of Governors, Principals and all staff including paid and unpaid, non teaching staff and volunteers.

Significantly the two documents set out an additional type of child abuse that of Exploitation This is defined as :

the intentional ill-treatment, manipulation or abuse of power and control over a child or young person; to take selfish or unfair advantage of a child or young person or situation, for personal gain. It may manifest itself in many forms such as child labour, slavery, servitude, engagement in criminal activity, begging, benefit or other financial fraud or child trafficking. It extends to the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harbouring or receipt of children for the purpose of exploitation. Exploitation can be sexual in nature”.

Whilst many of the activities now captured by this new definition would have fallen under one or more of the previous four abuse categories this development is to be welcomed. 

Legal-Island’s own e-learning module on Safeguarding in Northern Ireland Schools is now by far the most popular online resource tool in the area of child protection here and regarded by many as one of the most important developments in training in this critical area for a very long time.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Of Preparing for GDPR - it's probably not as easy as you think....?!

All the talk at the moment is about the GDPR. My experience of having worked in the area of compliance law for more than 20 years is that some laws are taken seriously and some are not. The new Regulation due in force next May definitely belongs to the former category. Here's how one top practitioner in Northern Ireland is advising employers to be GDPR ready. Thanks to Anna Flanagan of Pinsent Masons for this information


1.     Identify the lawful basis for processing all personal data and keep a record of this
You should bear in mind the record-keeping obligations under the GDPR and start keeping a record of the lawful basis for processing all personal data.
The conditions for processing have slightly changed – review the changes and ensure your organisation can use one before processing data.
Try to avoid consent as unlikely to be valid in an employer/employee relationship. Update your privacy notice to include the reason for processing (new requirement under GDPR);
Examine Retention periods of personal data
Look at our long your organisation holds onto to personal data, (particularly for example for ex-employees or unsuccessful applicants for job vacancies.)
Think about whether you have a logical reason for your current retention periods (if there are such periods). Does this reason apply to all the personal data you hold, or could some be deleted? The GDPR does not specify particular retention periods, but the general principle not to hold on to data longer than necessary remains.
Update Subject Access Request Policy
There is now a shorter timeframe for response (one month) and no fee payable, make sure your policy reflects this;
Can your organisation comply with Individuals new rights under GDPR? 
There are new data subject rights including the "right to be forgotten" or right to erasure (Article 17) which are building on current rights confirmed in case-law, and additionally, right to "data portability" (Article 20).
Ensure you have the appropriate policy and technology in place to recognise and comply with any of these requests within the relevant timescale.  
Train Staff
Roll out a training programme for staff on all the new GDPR implications ensuring they are aware of the relevant policies and changes.  Given that organisations are increasingly vulnerable to the risk of loss, damage or destruction of their data and the new requirement to notify the ICO within 72 hours of a breach, particularly ensure that staff are trained on how to keep data secure.
Join the many organisations who now do this training online. Not only do they find it more convenient and cost effective but it also generates a real time record of all training activity completed by staff.
Transfer of Data
Examine where Personal Data is transferred, including to Cloud/Storage providers. Look at all Personal Data outsourcing which could include long-term storage/archiving (where appropriate), payroll etc. Work out where the Personal Data is held and whether that is inside or outside of the EEA. Find out if there are appropriate contracts in place and if not consider or take advice on what mechanisms can be used to regularise transfers under the GDPR.
Special Categories of Data

Your organisation is very likely to hold "Sensitive Personal Data" for example relating to data subjects disability, ethnicity, religion or health. Consider whether your organisation has any special security measures in place for the processing and transfer of this type of information in particular. 

Our own e-learning modules on Data Protection in the workplace and getting ready for GDPR are also available online.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Of The Unstoppable Sharapova

I'm listening to an interview with Maria Sharapova at the moment. She's impressive.
She talks about her pep talks between each shot and explains that she sees herself as water on a river that will get past the rocks or other obstacles eventually one way or the other.
She mentioned a match she was playing recently. She was in the third set and a game down . Her "self talk" was "I can't" "I can't do this". When she changed it to "I can" and "I will" and she noticed her body language changed immediately and she started winning points again.
She has been the highest earning female athlete for the past 10 years so she's clearly a great business woman as well as tennis player.
You can catch the interview on the Tim Ferris Show podcast. She has a new book out called Unstoppable.

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VIII

So I’ve finally finished reading “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss and just as I suspected at the beginning of the read it has become one of my favourite business reads of all time. I agree with Ferriss it is his best book by far and the others that came before it have been both plentiful and pretty good too.

What follows are my final favourite nuggets of wisdom. Thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts with me on this book

If I could only subtract to solve a problem what would I take away?
As Einstein once said problem solving is really about making sure you’re asking yourself the right questions.
Ferriss says “I’ve since applied this “What if I could only subtract …?” to my life in many areas and I and I sometimes rephrase it as “What should I put on my not-to-do list?

Am I hunting antelope or field mice?

The point Ferriss makes here is that the tiger that goes after field mice because they’re more plentiful and easier to catch than antelope will eventually die. For their bodyweight does not carry enough calories to justify the effort to catch and kill them. This is closely aligned to the advice not to be busy at the wrong things although of course Ferriss questions whether describing yourself as busy is at all advisable.

What about goal setting?

Type A personalities have goal pursuit as default hardwiring. This is excellent for producing achievement but also anxiety as you’re constantly  future-focused. I’ve personally decided that achievement is no more than a passing grade in life. It’s a C+ that gets you limping along to the next grade. For anything more, and certainly for anything approaching happiness you have to want what you already have.

How can I throw money at this problem?

Okay Ferriss is coming at this issue from a position of considerable wealth. But he argues if you can afford to pay someone to cut the grass then do it. For what you are really buying here is your own time. In the 10 minutes or 50 it would have taken to mow the lawn you could have been reading Pushkin, playing with the kids or chillaxing with your favourite coffee chatting to your soul mate.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VII

Here are another 5 nuggets from Tools of Titans by Tim Ferris.
Number 5 is particularly good. With every action there’s an opportunity cost. Do A and you can’t do B or Z at the same time. So it’s best to make sure A is what you’re good at.

  1.   Being Jaden = Death

To me being jaded is almost like being dead. Nothing impresses you because you feel like you’ve seen it all before and you go through life with dark glasses on.Be a skeptic not a cynic.

 2.   Challenging the “impossibles”

If you stress-test the boundaries and experiment with the “impossibles” you’ll quickly discover that most limitations are a fragile collection of socially reinforced rules you can choose to break at any time.

 3.   Can I create a product that will scratch my own itch?

Somewhere in his writing or podcasts Ferriss talks about when he decided to go into business for the first time. He checked his monthly expenditure to see what he was spending most on. He then set up his own business selling supplements online that were intended to help improve memory retention and quicken the brain. Brainquicken he eventually sold to a private equity company in London.

 4.   People don’t like being sold products but they do like being told stories. Work on the latter.

 5.   The importance of remembering what you’re good at.

If you lose $1,000 a the black jack table should you try to win it back there? Probably not. Humans are very vulnerable to a cognitive bias called “anchoring” whether in real estate, stocks or otherwise. I am no exception. I made a study of this and shortly thereafter sold my San Jose house at a large loss. Once my attention and mind space was freed up I quickly made it back elsewhere

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part VI

   I keep saying I'll document and publish just another 5 favourites from the book and leave it at that but more keep coming out me. Here's my latest five of the best :
  1.   Earn with your mind not with your time

So the argument goes there’s always someone out there who can out work you. Someone who is willing to sacrifice more of her/his life to gain competitive advantage over you. What you have to do is outthink the opposition. This takes time, energy and yes space to do quality thinking.

  2.   The importance of staying calm

The key in a restaurant and the key in any kind of high pressure situation I think is that 75% of success is staying calm and not losing your nerve. The rest you figure out, but once you lose your calm everything else starts falling apart fast”.

 3.   Start in the Middle

According to the book it doesn’t always make sense to start at the beginning. Start instead in the middle and work outwards.
It’s much easier. The Odessy, The Divine Comedy, Raging Bull are all great examples of middle start works of art.

 4.   Availing of every opportunity

Willie Walsh head of BA was once asked about the key to his success. He admitted to not being great at many things but always availed of every opportunity that came his way. According to ToTs “The big question I ask is “When I had the opportunity, did I choose courage over comfort?”.

 5.   Be clear that your ladder is leaning on the right building

Monday, 14 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part V

As I read through “Tools of Titans” by Tim Ferriss I find myself constantly changing my mind in terms of the advice I rate the most. Here’s another five that are strong candidates for the top spots that merit not only prolonged contemplation but action and implementation too.

    1.   “Two is one and one is none”

This is a common expression among SEALS Jacko explains “It just means “Have a back-up” If you have two of something you will break or lose one and end up with one remaining “Better to have and not need than to need and not have.”

 2.   Single Tasking as a Superpower

In a world of distraction single-tasking is a superpower. Much of today’s Internet/Social media is designed to distract the viewer. Throw them something to claim their first 5 seconds and you’ve likely got them for a good few minutes. These minutes add up and waste huge amounts of time. The person who can concentrate routinely throughout the day by managing and eliminating distraction enjoys a significant advantage over others.

 3.   The importance of not judging

What ToTs says about not judging is insightful.
“And I think ultimately, sometimes when we judge other people, it’s just a way to not look at ourselves; a way to feel superior or sanctimonious or whatever. My trauma therapist said every time you meet someone, just in your head say “I love you” before you have a conversation with them, and that conversation is going to go a lot better”.

 4.   Planshopping

Apparently, this is one of the latest trends in New York. But are we ever guilty of it too? My guess is at least once or twice. And yes it’s nasty.
“Planshopping” is deferring committing to any one plan for an evening until you know what all your options are and then picking the one most likely to be fun/advance your career/have the most girls at it, in other words treating people like menu options or products in a catalogue.

 5.   Putting your thoughts on paper

Even if you don’t consider yourself a writer putting your thoughts on paper is the best way to develop ideas and review and improve your thinking. The benefits of even 30 minutes a week of scribbling can transfer to everything else you do

Friday, 11 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part IV

For anyone interested in how business ideas develop and get traction “Tools of Titans” is packed full of nuggets. Here are my top five 

1. Ask yourself what do you believe that others think is insane?
It is essential to get lost and jam up your plans every now and then. It’s a source of creativity and perspective. The danger of maps, capable assistants and planning is that you may end up living your life as planned. If you do, you cannot possibly exceed your expectations.

2. What conventional wisdom was shunned?.

Scott Belsky says “I avoid using a past success as a proxy for the future. After all, the dirty little secret is that every success was almost a failure. Timing and uncontrollable circumstances play more of a role and any of us care to admit.
“Perhaps the greatest lesson from the past is how important it is to be inspired by things that surprise us. When I come across a quirky business model in an unpopular space, I try to find a fascinating thread worth pulling. I challenge myself to stop comparing what I learn from the past. If you only look for patterns of the past you wont venture very far.”

3. The importance of crazy ideas.

Peter Diamandis “ I talk to CEOs all the time, and I say, “Listen the day before something is truly a breakthrough, it’s a crazy idea. If it wasn’t a crazy idea, it’s not a breakthrough; it’s an incremental improvement. So where inside of your companies are you trying crazy ideas?”

4. A problem is a terrible thing to waste

This is highly related to the “scratch your own itch” thread that pops up throughout this book. Peter expands : “I think of problems as gold mines. The world’s biggest problems are the world’s biggest opportunities.

WHEN 99% of people doubt you, you’re either gravely wrong to about to make history

5. The importance of defending yourself against the priorities of others

Saying yes to too much “cool” will bury you alive and render you a B-Player even if you have A-Player skills. To develop your edge initially you learn to set priorities; to maintain your edge, you need to defend against the priorities of others. Once you reach a decent level of professional success, lack of opportunity won’t kill you. It’s drowning in “kinda cool” commitments that will sink the ship”!

“Ours is a culture where we wear our ability to get by on very little sleep as a badge of honour that symbolizes work ethic, or toughness, or some other virtue – but really, it’s a total profound failure of priorities and of self-respect”

 “Follow your dreams”. It’s impossible to do without self-knowledge, which takes years. You discover your dream (or sense of purpose) in the very act of walking the path which is guided by equal parts choice and chance”.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part III

1.   Systems v Goals”

What the book says about systems v goals is fascinating.

“This involves choosing projects and habits that, even if they result in “failures” in the eyes of the outside world, give you transferable skills. In other words, you choose options that allow you to inevitably succeed” over time, as you build assets that carry over to subsequent projects”.

2.   “Specialising” and how to be really successful

The book states that capitalism rewards things that are both rare and valuable. You make yourself rare by combining two or more “pretty goods” until no-one else has your mix. At least one of the skills in your mix should involve communication either written or verbal.

According to the theory it doesn’t make sense to be really good at one thing and to aim to be a gold medal Olympic skier. The chances are you’ll be good but 9th in the world 23rd or 48th. But become very good at three skills weave them together and you’ll be unique in the market place.

3.   Impostor Syndrome

Amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic. Don’t be afraid to do what you’re not qualified to do.

This reminded me of when the Archbishop of Canterbury was interviewed for Desert Island Discs. He had been a bishop for no more than a year before being appointed to Archbishop. He said on the first day in my new post I felt such an impostor. When asked how he felt two years later he replied “Still an impostor!”

4.   Not accepting the norm

The biggest mistake you can make is to accept the norms of your time”. Not accepting norms is where you innovate, whether it’s with technology, with books, with anything. So, not accepting the norm is the secret to really big success and changing the world.”

5.   Compassion

“No matter what the situation may be, the right course of action is always compassion and love” I love this. It's hard to do but such good advice.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Of Google's Anti-Diversity Memo

So it seems at least one person in the Google empire doesn't think that diversity is actually something to be cherished or strived for. According to the BBC today one employee posted on Google's internal communication system the following :

"the abilities of men and women differ in part due to biological causes and that these differences may explain why we don't see equal representation of women in tech and leadership".
Apparently, he claims, he’s had many messages of support from colleagues since making the comments.

Google’s head of diversity, Danielle Brown was quick to respond :
"Diversity and inclusion are a fundamental part of our values and the culture we continue to cultivate,...we are unequivocal in our belief that diversity and inclusion are critical to our success as a company, and we'll continue to stand for that and be committed to it for the long haul."

It will be interesting to watch the debate now on social media to see the reaction to the internal spat outside of Google. Whether certain genders or indeed ethnicities for that matter are genetically better suited to certain types of work or careers is a complex question. Whether the question merits attention at all however, might be more complex still. Many would argue that irrespective of genetic make-up every component of a company the size of Google should have a diverse spread of gender, ethnicity and minorities groups for it’s this mix that gives each team the very strength it needs to secure competitive advantage over its rivals. Team diversity so the argument runs will contribute to better problems solving and a more accurate understanding of the market the organisation is attempting to reach.

Our own work encouraging employees to understand and practise equality and diversity in the work place is available on our website.

Oh and today 8 August there's been an update the author of the memo has been fired! James Damore is no more it would seem.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans Part II

Following on from my last blog here’s another five nuggets from Tim Ferris’s book Tools of Titans.

I realise as I wade through this book it is fast becoming my favourite self development/business book of all time.

Here we go :

1.Failure is Overrated

What I found in the book about failure is really interesting.
One of his interviewees says this :

“I think failure is massively overrated. Most businesses fail for more than one reason. So when a business fails, you often don’t learn at all because the failure was overdetermined. You will think it failed for reason 1 but it failed for reasons 1 to 5. And so the next business you start will fail for Reason 2 and then for 3 and so on.
“I think people actually do not learn very much from failure. I think it ends up being quite damaging and demoralising to people in the long run and my sense is that the death of every business is a tragedy”.

2. Understanding Competition

The book talks about taking the right perspective on the time you have to work at a business. It notes there will also be someone somewhere in the world who can outwork you - often many people.

“So I think every day, it’s something to reflect on and think about “How do I become less competitive in order that I can become more successful”.

In short the book argues that you have to work out how to work more cleverly than others rather than longer.

3. Generating Ideas

At P238 there is pure wisdom about how to generate new ideas. It claims you should actually sit down and list really bad ideas and to try to find as many as possible. Eventually, you’ll realise that a few in amongst them are actually very good and some may be grounding breaking and of a type that could make you a fortune.

4. Generating Ideas Part II

James Altucher talks about focusing on the creative parts of the brain and giving it a regular work out. Ferris states “James recommends the habit of writing down 10 ideas each morning in a notebook. This exercise is for developing your “idea muscle” and confidence for creativity on demand so regular practice is more important than the topics.

I like this a lot.

5. No Need to Explain your Nos

The world doesn’t need your explanation on saying No. Altucher says :

"I don’t give explanations anymore, and I’ll catch myself when I start giving explanations like “Oh, I’m sorry, I can’t make it. I just say I can’t do it”.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Of Tools of Titans

I'm reading Tim Ferris's "Tools of Titans" at the moment and plan to share my learning via a number of blogs in the coming weeks.
For anyone unfamiliar with Ferris he is in his own words a human guinea pig. He tests out all sorts of ideas and theories on himself from how to get a six pack, to how to learn a language quickly, right through to how to avoid depression and remain motivated to get the most from each day.
His first book was the 4Hour Work Week and proved a seminal work and an international bestseller. Many bestsellers later he has published this year "Tools of Titans" which he claims is his best book to date. I agree.

His fame and success from book 1 has opened up all sorts of opportunities for Ferris. It's clear that he now has access to more or less anyone he wants to interview so the tips in this book really do come from those at the top.

Here are my top five learning points to date :

1. "Busy" means "Out of control"- Here it is straight from the book :

Every time people contact me, they say, “Look, I know you must be incredibly busy…” and I always think, “No, I’m not. Because I’m in control of my time. I’m on top of it. Busy to me seems to imply out of control.
TF Lack of time is lack of priorities. If I’m busy it is because I’ve made choices that put me in that position so I've forbidden myself to reply to “How are you?” with “Busy”. I have no right to complain. Instead, if I’m too busy, it’s a cue to re-examine my systems and rules.

2."Busy" Part II. Here it is straight from the book again :

In fact, you need just one rule : What you do is more important than how you do everything else, and doing something well does not make it important.

If you consistently feel the counterproductive need for volume and doing lots of stuff, put them on a Post-it note :

Being busy is a form of laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.
Being busy is most often used as a guise for avoiding the few critically important but uncomfortable actions

3.Everyone is interesting. If you’re ever bored in a conversation, the problem’s with you, not the other person

I'm trying to practise this. I get what he is saying here but very occasionally and particularly when a person is talking at me, about himself and about one thing at length I question this advice.

4.Getting into your Body Everyday

It's clear Ferris believes there's an art to getting into your body every day. He calls its priming. Get it right and you set yourself up to maximise your day.
A few techniques he mentions include :

# Cold water plunge cold shower 30 to 60 seconds
# Breathing exercises
# “Breath Walking”
# Ten minutes “meditation”

This consists of three sections :

First part – feeling totally grateful for three things, such as the wind on my face, the clouds I’ve just seen. I don’t just think gratitude I let gratitude fill my soul. Because when you’re grateful there’s no anger. It’s impossible to be angry and grateful at the same time and there’s no fear.

Second part – Total focus on feeling the presence of God, however, you want to language that for yourself. Feel the inner presence coming in healing everything in my body, in my mind, in my emotions, my relationships, my finances. I experience the strengthening of my gratitude of my conviction of my passion

Third Part - Focusing on three things that I’m going to make happen, my three to thrive”. See it as though it’s already been done, feel the emotions etc…
And as I’ve said always there’s no excuse not to do 10 minutes. If you don’t have ten minutes you don’t have a life

5. Journaling/Writing

Morning pages he claims are “spiritual windshield wipers”. Once we get those muddy, maddening, confusing thoughts on the page, we face our day with clearer eyes”.

Even if you consider yourself a terrible writer, writing can be viewed as a tool. There are huge benefits to writing, even if no-one including yourself ever reads what you write. In other words the process matters more than the product.

Top stuff Tim. Top stuff.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Tedx- Once and Forever

There can't be many times when you go to bed knowing that whatever happens the following day you'll remember it for the rest of your life. But then I guess not every day do you do a Tedx Talk.

I went to said bed feeling good about what was to happen and slept well except for the fact I was in a small guesthouse bed sharing it with my two favourite females the smaller of which was taking up much of the space.

I awoke and the first thing I did was to note how nervous I felt and surprised myself. I didn't feel nervous at all. Maybe the attack would come later I thought.

But it never did. At the side of the stage I spied the famous big red circle and talked to it a little in my head. The audio man hooked my microphone up, I listened to the compère doing the intros and get me slightly wrong. I walked up the steps onto the stage and stood firmly in the red circle.

What happened then was captured for all to see just about forever I guess and therein is the pressure of a Ted Talk. You can access it here

Wednesday, 29 March 2017

Legal-Island Equality and Diversity Awards for Northern Ireland

It's all happening this week at Legal-Island. Friday night is big. Very big with the inaugural Legal-Island Equality and Diversity Awards.
So far everything is going according to plan. All tables and all seats are accounted for and it is a capacity sell out crowd. The entertainment is booked and consists of Irish Dancers, African Drummers, Slovakian Fiddle Players and Caribbean Soul Singers.
Our keynote speaker is Kate Marshall. I have a feeling about her that tells me she will be great and really connect on the night. Yours truly is delivering a five minute speech after the Lord Mayor of Belfast has also said a few words.

Bring it on Legal-Island! Like only Legal-Island can!

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Strictly speaking we could be in big trouble here!

So we have about a week to go before the dance competition and it's beginning to get a bit worrying. There's still too much slow in our quick, quick slow and I seem to be getting confused between my jive and my cha cha steps.
Our biggest challenge, however, is us. You see there are two leaders in the partnership which is one too many. I keep reminding Anna that the male is supposed to lead but she wants to manage the partnership becomes she thinks she's the better of the two dancers. And she is right.

We need a lift too! Anna is slim and some have even called her petit. Trouble is she feels neither of these things when I try to get her in the air! Maybe we both need more dance lessons and me a few protein shakes.
Any kind donation would ease the worry and the pain. These can be made online. Please be sure to mention Anna and Barry in the optional message facility when making the donation. Thank you!

Donate here

Monday, 13 March 2017

Unconscious Bias and that BBC Interview

They were all laughing about it at first. But now the whole thing seems to have turned a bit nasty.

Over the weekend a video clip showing an interview with an expert on Korea went viral.Not because of anything he said but due to the fact that at some point in the interview two of his children came rushing in and were promptly retrieved by a lady who clearly treated the matter with the utmost seriousness and urgency. Both she and the two children disappeared back through the same door pretty quickly. Maybe she had been watching the interview in another room only to see and to her horror, the two children in her care appearing on the screen behind Daddy? Yep that too would have sent me in something of a frenzy.

Fiona Bruce admitted on the news on Saturday that she had been laughing about the video clip all day.

But then social media starting analysing some commentary on the clips and people seemed to get angry very quickly. What had angered some was that many had talked about the lady in question as being the nanny and seemed to be making that assumption because she appeared to be of Asian origin. As it turned out she wasn't the nanny but the expert's wife and presumably mother of the two children as well.
So why is it that so many commentators made this mistake and just how surprising and offensive is it? 

The answer is would seem is to be found in what is commonly referred as our "unconscious bias". Every day we take thousands of decisions and to do so efficiently (though not always effectively and accurately) we allow ourselves shortcuts. These shortcuts are executed by drawing on references in our brain that, already in storage, save us considerable time. In one way it's good and clever process. Without it, our decision taking would be seriously slowed down and we could end the day going to bed still undecided about whether to have chicken or ham for dinner or to bath the children that night.

But shortcuts have their disadvantages too. They often require us to work off quick assumptions and stereotypes that can lead us to draw wrong conclusions (as in this case), cause offence and on occasion too, behave in a way many would consider racist.
Ask any group in public to admit to being racist and they would all attest to being anything but (or at least you would hope so). But the fact of the matter is that none of us work off perfect and pure thinking and we all operate off biases to a point. The important thing is for us to realise this and to actively go after our biases with a view to containing and even eliminating them.

One of the best ways of achieving this is by doing training on "unconscious bias" in the workplace. Just a few scenarios for the trainee is usually enough to convince them that unconscious bias lurks in us all but can be relatively easily addressed. My own company offers training on unconscious bias which is offered as an e-learning package.

And here's a scenario for you. Let's imagine the expert on Korea was not actually the white male in the picture but the lady who looked like she was from that same country or perhaps a neighbouring. What shortcuts would we play in then? And where would that leave the white male? Retrieving the children I suppose - cue an awful lot more stereotyping.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Tedx Is On!

So I have about 5 weeks now before I'm due to deliver my first ever Tedx Talk. It's entitled "Why it's time to ditch the open door policy in the workplace". Granted this is not a title that will change the world but it could improve a lot of workplaces if I can it right and manage to reach a large audience.

Prep so far I have to admit has been light. Very light. I have drafted, however, a road map through my presentation and it looks a bit like this :

Big Opening
Story 1 (Show yourself, set off pictures, vary speed & intonation, five senses)
Story 2 (Use pause, power of 3s, direct speech over narrative, contrast)
Head for Finish

REMEMBER : Show don't tell, Keep it simple, Be on the Audience!

So far I've read a number of books relevant to this challenge which have been really helpful. They include :

How to Deliver a Great TED Talk: Presentation Secrets of the World's Best Speakers
TED Talks Storytelling: 23 Storytelling Techniques from the Best TED Talks
Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World's Top Minds
How to Speak So People Really Listen: The Straight-Talking Guide to Communicating with Influence and Impact

The last one although not written specifically with a Ted Talk in mind I found to be the most useful.

What I've noticed in watching a good number of Ted Talks live now is that those that bomb or at least just don't connect with the audience are those that fail to come across as authentic. Overrehearsed  Talks or at least those that appear overrehearsed seem least authentic of all.But here's the rub. I talked to one speaker safely through the otherside of a Ted Talk who clearly had rehearsed her presentation to death. She admitted that she had even recorded her voice and would play it back to herself in the car whilst driving to and from work to check its pace and intonation. And yet she pulled it off big time. She came across well and everyone I talked to afterwards really took to her.

So my task is to rehearse my presentation well (as soon as I know what it is I want to say that is!) without it appearing overrehearsed.

Ken Robinson's Talk is the No.1 favourite with bar far the most views because he adopted a very natural, chatty style that really connected. What I've realised is that delivering a reasonable Ted Talk is hard enough but a brilliant one requires huge effort, time and I dare say a bit of luck too.