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The movie Saving Private Ryan portrayed with savage realism the D-Day Invasion and the awful brutality of war.  But it also introduced the younger generation to an amazing event that was the turning point of World War 2.  The mission was to extract Europe from the grip of Adolf Hitler. 

So how did they capture something as big as Europe?  Certainly not by dropping paratroopers in a number of different spots around the continent and saying, “Go get ‘em boys”.

 

D-Day was successful because they focused on getting tens of thousands of Allied soldiers to capture one small beachhead on the coast of France.  Sure, it was a long way from Berlin but it was this beachhead that was the start.  They moved from that victory to another small “beachhead”. 

 

From the beach, they took a farm,  from the farm, a bridge, then one village and another village and so on, until one day they marched into Berlin.  All that ground  was conquered – not in one blazing victory but one “beachhead” at a time.

 

“So what’s your point?” I hear you ask.

 

The point is that  business leaders and coaches can learn a lot from this story.   Individuals and organisations often experience their own private ‘wars’ as they ‘march’ to their mission or towards their goals.  I recently  witnessed an organisation that failed to use this strategy.  Its leaders tried to take five beachheads within the space of one year without securing their first “beach head” (Region, State, Australia, US and Asia). Marching on all fronts at once was a disaster.  Resources, both capital and human, were overstretched, the strategic plan was confused, the vision was lost in the confusion, communication broke down, decision making was reactive and not in alignment with the organisational Purpose or its stated values and morale was crushed. Casualties were enormous! The result you already know! Private Ryan was not saved and never could have been.

 

Securing one “beach head” at a time is an important leadership principle.  Sometimes leaders are tempted to go for the quick kill, trying to achieve their targets in record time by attacking on all fronts at once. It may work with unlimited firepower but this strategy of spreading and deploying forces too thinly is rarely successful.

 

The beachhead principle  is also useful in coaching. Once your clients’ goals have been clearly defined, options are considered and an action plan is developed with the client. In life coaching scenario, a client may present to you with  their life in disarray or off-purpose, as we would say.  Most of their life accounts may be overdrawn and indeed, some of them could be bankrupt!  Family relationships may be stretched to breaking point and financial stress could have become a  highly charged and emotional issue.  Physical, spiritual and mental health may have been put on the “back burner”, because vocational stress, caused by a  forced redundancy, is creating panic and is consuming all the energy available.  It is red alert time!

 

Tackling several  fronts at once may seem a tempting way to help get the client back on-purpose as quickly as possible.  However, the coach’s ability to help the client find the number one priority or strategy to make the maximum immediate impact, is going to be far more powerful long term.  If coaches know about the beach head principle, they can  help their clients focus their resources and energies to take one beachhead at a time.  The flow on effect is amazing.   Morale is improved as is self esteem. Ensuring  success in one battle gives the client confidence to move forward with purpose and intent.  

I believe that with this strategy we will be in a much stronger position to assist all those Private Ryans around the world who are tired of fighting their personal wars on many fronts. By encouraging them to take one beachhead at a time, they can enjoy the many small successes and gains along the way and celebrate the big victories.  

 

Living with and working with Angela (my wife of some 39 years) is fantastic.  Every morning we spend time together over a “cuppa” meditating, reflecting and reading something that will inspire us for the day. 

We are both professional coaches and have given each other permission to ask the tough questions. 

Today we came across a long forgotten childhood story about Samson – not the one where he pushes the great pillars of the temple down, but where his enemy had bound him and, on breaking free, Samson found a fresh jawbone of a donkey and killed a thousand men with it.

I was still half asleep when Angela read this but I woke up pretty quickly when she asked me what my “jaw bone” was.  Instinctively, I gave her a pathetic, inane male response.  “No”, she said, “We had our children long ago – that is not what I meant.”

She asked the question again but from a different angle.  “What have you been innately given  (your ‘jawbone’) that has helped you “win the day” when faced with your “enemies”?

Now I was awake!

Like a good coach she remained quiet while I pondered this question.  My first responses centred around my life Purpose of Igniting Enthusiasm and how I expressed love to others in this way. Still silence from the coach.

This was a significant moment.   I began to enter a space of greater self-awareness as I started to think about that one most  obvious, enduring, innate personal trait – my “personal life jawbone”. 

And then I had it – not a tentative, meek, maybe this is it, but a confident, all knowing awareness.  It was perseverance!

At this point, Angela shifted her role from coach to wife.  She began to recall all the times I persevered in the face of adversity, criticism, false accusation, self-doubt, life threatening  illness, financial struggles, relationship breakdowns and much more. 

 I tried to recall when I first became aware of this trait.  At six years of age, I had polio (not severe) and could not bear to stay in bed. I still hobbled around the farm and even milked the cows. Over three months off school was a challenge for an active boy.  Even now, I remember the excruciating pain of the slightest movement but I persevered.

Have you ever had a disastrous public performance? My first “Penny Concert” in primary school certainly was.  I really muffed my first piano solo around the age of 10.  It was a moment of sheer terror, shame and embarrassment when I froze and couldn’t play another note.  The next day we had to go to the Infants’ school and repeat the concert.  My teacher kindly asked if I wanted to play.  At home, I found a new piece, practised it for 4 or 5 hours, learned it off by heart and played it the next day without a mistake. Phew! My teacher said, ‘Well done”. Maybe then I learned the lesson of not giving up.

Then there were the times I attended the Convent after school for piano lessons.  By now I was taking music seriously and wanted to do it for my Junior.  We lived on a farm midway between two small towns. My transport home after the lesson was to hitch hike or walk – 12 km!  A heavy case, old shoes, and feeling tired from a full day at school made this quite a challenge.  It was difficult but I wanted music for my Junior Certificate.  I persevered even when I had to walk home in the rain, or in the cold, dark winter and when no one would stop to give me a lift.

I know what you are thinking.  Why didn’t your parents come and pick you up? Mum didn’t drive and farmers worked on the farm till dusk, didn’t they? But that’s another story! I passed my Junior music (and later my Leaving (Senior) with Distinction. I persevered through adverse circumstances and often sacrificed cricket and footy for music practice.  Only a nerd would do that! My “jawbone” won the day!

Academic work didn’t come easily for me.  In Year 10 (Junior as it was called in the 60’s) my Maths B teacher was the Principal (Headmaster in those days).  He said a terribly deflating thing to me one day – “Gifford, you’ll never pass your Junior.”  I did pass with 8 subjects but failed one. Yes, you guessed it – Maths B! As Head Boy this really pricked my ego and I did hold a teenage resentment.  If only I could have responded the way I know now!

Then, having failed my Leaving the first time due to a case of shingles just prior to and during exams, I had another go. Despite the humiliation of having to go back and mix with a different year group,  I held onto my childhood goal of wanting to be a school teacher, and passed all subjects.

At Uni the Professor talked to me about “recognising my ceiling and limitations”.  Another lecturer said, “We will have to wheel you out in a wheel chair by the time you pass”.  Not only did I pass my BA, then my Dip Ed while working full time but I went on to complete my MA and PhD from London University Institute of Education and along the way did a M.Ed. 

I had been given such a powerful “jawbone”.

And then there was the sport! Overcoming the set back from polio and becoming Captain of cricket, football (AFL man!) and athletics as well as winning the PSA Schoolboy 800m comes from talent and determination.

I guess I was brought up to never give up.  This inherited value was nearly the death of me when I first went to the city from the country town to finish my final two years of schooling.  My sporting reputation had gone before me.  At the cross country trials, I was absolutely “gone” by less than the half-way mark. I just wanted to quit.  The stitch in my side was killing me but I hung on to lead the race. 

With about two kilometres to go, I thought I would black out.  Stupidly, (or was it an inbuilt determination or my Dad’s “tape” in my head?) I kept going.  I led the runners back to the school oval for the final lap – lungs bursting, muscles stretched to breaking point, just willing myself to finish the race.   About 20 metres from the tape, as the new boy from the bush running against the well trained city kids, I became aware of something passing me.  It must have been another runner – all was a blur.  Apparently I did finish but woke up in the school’s hospital hours later with a Doctor hovering over me.

Writing that story some forty five years after it happened, it seems almost as if I were there in the race again.  In my perseverance, was I stupid, proud, courageous or determined?

Later, in my professional life, I came to understand that for my personality type (ENFP in Jungian terms) the questioning of personal integrity is the worst thing anyone can do.  On numerous occasions the “jawbone” of perserverance combined with unconditional love and positive regard toward my “false accusers” have become powerful weapons in winning the day.

 Persevering in relationships in a way where others have to face themselves and not the ugly, fearful manifestation of my ego has enabled me to maintain a peace of mind in adversity. For many, this is unfathomable and they give up or quit relationships without persevering.

There are many more stories like these. One in particular, comes to mind. Some 12 years ago, I hit a wall, as they say. Despite being told by many “experts” that I would never work again, their opinions have been confounded.  In fact, I have had one of the most productive and rewarding periods of my life.   Churchill said in his famous speech to a group of school boys ,”Never, ever, ever give up!” I agree.

Angela’s question was a fantastic catalyst for me to reflect upon and explore a great personal attribute that I have been given. Clearly, it has been my “jawbone” throughout my life and will be for the rest of my earthly days.

Perhaps we could all benefit from seeing  what we already have been given and put it to work, instead of searching in far away places.  Often the answer is right under our nose!

As with many people, right now, what we thought was secure in terms of work and finances has suddenly been lost.  What we have spent the last two years working on has been taken away and considerable finances with it.  This is nothing compared to our fellow Aussies in fire devastated Victoria and the flood victims in North Queensland.  Nor is it anything like the sudden and untimely death of a close friend’s  young wife who was phoned at work recently to be told that his wife had fallen at home and died!

As I close this piece of self-reflection, I am mindful of the shadow side of the “jawbone of an ass”.  The shadow side of perseverance is stubborness.  And to be stubborn is to be a silly ass!

And so, in all of this, I ask myself, ‘What is the core motive for my perseverance?’  Is it borne out of a stubborn pursuit and need to protect and preserve the ego? Is it a blind determination to achieve goals, no matter what the cost?  Perhaps once it was.  Now, older and wiser, I test my reason for persevering in situations against these questions. “How might  I positively serve my character and humankind by persevering in this endeavour?”  “How is it On Purpose for me?”

Samson needed to see what had already been given to him – just the jawbone of a donkey.  But it was sufficient for him to win the victory.

So what is your “jawbone” to help carry you through to success and significance?  Once you realise what you have been given, recognise where it has come from and put it to work you will be amazed at your achievements and insights. Enjoy the discoveries!

We have recently sold our house.  We lived across the road for 15 years and in our current home for 7.  It’s a warm friendly place on the banks of the river in  the western suburbs of Brisbane. 

Nearly everyone who visits remarks on the positive feelings that they experience when they visit.  No doubt this is a reflection of Angela’s purpose of Rejuvenating Spirit.  Once a large family home, we (mainly Angela)  ran it for some time as a B&B.  some time ago, we closed it to concentrate more on our On-Purpose Business. 

We are moving to a new eco- development, part-way between Brisbane and the Gold Coast. The new home is still by the water as we love the restorative and recreational benefits of living in such an environment. 

All this has reminded me of the Seasons of Life.  I didn’t really think much about this topic until I started facilitating The Power of Your Purpose Workshop. The four seasons are a great metaphor for life.  We all experience “summer”, “autumn”, “winter” and “spring”  in our lives – whether it be in relationships, in our work or our general peace of mind. 

An ancient writer (Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8) wrote, “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven”.  It has been popularised by the Seekers in their song Turn Turn Turn and also by the Byrds.  It speaks about a time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to heal, a time to weep, a time to laugh and so on.  Read it through and listen to the song.

The question is what season are you in and how do you stay on-purpose throughout the different seasons of your life?  Many of us go through ‘winter’ seasons and for some, ‘spring’ never seems to come.  Or we get so blaise about living in ‘summer’ we take so much for granted that we never prepare  ourselves for the inevitable changes. 

So, I have found living on the river and watching and experiencing the ever changing ebb and flow of the river,  a useful image and metaphor.

Kevin McCarthy in his book The On-Purpose Person, talks about different ways we usually respond to our different life seasons.  We are either ‘floaters, ‘fighters’, ‘fleers’, ‘flitterers’, or ‘navigators’? What are you?

Let’s stay with the river metaphor a little longer.  Imagine that with each passing day the river current speeds faster.  White water rages ahead.  Will you dive, survive, or thrive during these turbulent times in you life?  What’s your attitude or ‘gut’ response?  Are you angry about life in these times?  If so, you are probably a ‘fighter’.  Flotsam and Jetsam may smack you around the ears as you relentlessly pursue your goals against the raging current of life.

To change the metaphors,  is your ‘ladder’ up against the right tree? Is there a far away beat of another drum that is calling you?

Are you ignoring the changes, falsely believing that they will have little impact on your life?  Then you are a ‘floater’?  If you want to run from it all, you are a  ‘fleer’. If you jump from one thing to the next, then you’re a ‘flitter’.

Which ever of these responses is chosen, the fate of each group is predetermined.  ‘Fighters’ eventually burn out and become ‘Floaters’. Eventually they have given up- exhausted, depressed and  anxious and resigned to just ‘going with the flow’.  Perhaps this is expressed by the new ‘Whatever’ syndrome.  ‘Floaters’ become tragic victims of their own making, while they often blame those around them for their situation.  ‘Fleers’ run out of fear of being discovered.  Their lack if engagement in life becomes an empty and wasted prison of their own design.  ‘Flitters’ are on the move constantly, seeking answers in new jobs, books, relationships, philosophies and so on.  They are caught on an endless roller coaster of extreme hope and despair as they are always living in the future, while missing out on living in the ‘now’.

All of these – fighting, floating, fleeing and flitting are responses to life events and seasons.  Each of us has a dominant one.  The difference in being an On-Purpose Person is that you become a ‘navigator’.  As a ‘navigator’, you learn to choose to respond appropriately to the circumstances or situation in which you find your self.  You respond with your Purpose informing your choice.

For me, that means responding to this new season in my life with enthusiasm.  My Purpose of Igniting Enthusiasm means I am looking forward to the new possibilities ahead.  Being a navigator means you are self-aware, you know what you want and where you are going but you are also aware of the dangers and hazards ahead – you know the flow and then can go with the flow.  Being a navigator means you can move ahead, (no matter how tentatively sometimes) with intention and bright hope for the future.

To be honest, the thought of moving house for me was initially not that easy.  Subconsciously, I was a ‘f’ighter’.  I was in summer.  I love our present home, its lovely balcony overlooking the river, its warm nuturing atmosphere, this wonderful study and training facility especially built for our business, the leafy river bank filled with the sounds of numerous birds, the wonderful serenity of the river walks and so on… But the season here is over.  It’s time to move on. 

All the above (and more) is replicated  in our new home.  We don’t need six bedrooms and four bathrooms anymore.  There’s just the two of us.  We will be closer to the location where our business is increasing.  My initial reaction as a ‘fighter’ led to unhelpful emotions, stress, anxiety, somewhat heated “discussions” with Angela, mainly to do with staying in my comfort zone and with “attachments”.  I was off-purpose in so many ways.  Now I can’t wait.  I know the flow of some of the river that lies ahead and will embrace the the other “unknowns”  with positivity and enthusiasm. 

In a recent coaching session, a client wished to spend time on discovering her purpose.  After taking her through our tools and processes she quickly decided that her purpose was Being Compassionate.  As a test of her purpose statement she was readily able to apply it across the various aspects of her life which we call “life accounts”. After the session, as part of my follow-up coaching notes, I sent this email to her.

Dear XXXX

Your purpose is like a homing beacon or a light house. It keeps you on course and on-purpose day by day. Whenever the going gets rough or when the storms of life hit, your purpose will always keep you on track. You may trip, stumble or fall, along the way but your purpose always brings you back on course. Remember the light switch on the On-Purpose Logo. A switch is turned on or off at your choosing. You can choose to live on-purpose or off-purpose. Your purpose is your spiritual DNA and comes from the heart. It is your reason for being. You only have one purpose and it brings meaning to your personal and professional life, day-by-day.You shared with me today how it worked in your business life as well as in the community, with your family, friends and even financially. Let it be the first thing you think about each morning and the last thing you reflect upon at night. You can wake up and thank God for the opportunity of a new day to be on-purpose across all life areas and before retiring ask yourself the question – What were three ways I lived out my purpose today? Your purpose is God’s calling on your life. Test it out over the next few weeks. As we discussed today, purpose is not what you “do” but rather who you “be”. It’s possible to do much in life but be zilch as a person. That’s why we are called human “beings” and not human “doings”

I exist to serve by Being Compassionate.

So how does it feel to reduce your life purpose to two words? – Small enough to fit onto a Tshirt or on a grave stone but big enough to make a difference to humanity for the rest of your life. An Awesome concept isn’t it?”

It is always fulfilling and thrilling to help someone find their purpose.  Do you know your purpose?  Nothing gives more power and intention to your life than discovering your purpose and living it out seven days a week.

Welcome to my first blog.

Central to my work in coaching and facilitating strategic thinking and business building workshops,  is helping individuals and organisations discover their purpose.  This is their reason for being – why they or their business exists. 

Two weeks ago I attended a Coaching Conference at Sydney University.  For most of the conference I kept pretty much to myself but had several very meaningful conversations in the breaks.  On the second (and last lunch break) I was sitting outside by a wall warming myself in the Sydney’s sparse but welcome winter’s sun.  Just as I was settling down on the ground, two women sat next to me and one initiated immediate conversation.  Surprisingly quickly she honed in on my work and on how I help people discover and live their life purpose.  The conversation soon led to a discussion about the difference between Purpose, Vision, Mission and Values and how Mission Statements often confuse and misguidedly converge them all (See the article on “Trash Your Mission Statement”). 

She had recently spent many months developing her own “Mission Statement” and found it so helpful and freeing to have such a simple and clear distinction between these four often misunderstood and misused words. As I often do, I used The On-Purpose Pal (Developed by Kevin W McCarthy) to graphically assist.  Now this was not a normal conversation as my new “on-purpose friend” had invested much thinking about “what she was on this planet for”.  She quickly warmed to the idea that purpose statements were most helpful when distilled to two words – a gerund (‘ing’ word) and an object.  I explained how my Purpose Statement – “Igniting Enthusiasm” worked across all my life areas – spiritual, family, vocational, health and recreational, social, financial and intellectual.  Through some rapid fire questions and conversation (not at all what I normally do) she soon honed in on two words – Achieving Mastery.  This will probably mean very little to you but when I asked her “How are these two words meaningful to you?” the floodgates opened.  The more she explained the meaning of these words for herself personally and professionally, the more animated and “on fire” she became.  “Edward” she said, “This is awesome.  This conversation has changed my life. I can’t believe how two words can be so powerful and meaningful.” 

I explained that how she could “test” them against each of her life “accounts” over the coming months and how these two words would become her “plumb line”, “lighthouse” and “true north” for her life.  She liked the idea of these two words being the first thing she thought about each morning and the last daily reflection before retiring to bed.

Now her friend was listening in on all of this and her friend (the one I had been talking with) asked her what she thought her purpose might be.  What normally takes place in a half day workshop became a one hour informal discussion with both my new lunch time acquaintances.  It was rewarding  for me to see both of them  work together on the same process and soon “Bringing Joy” arose like a phoenix out of the ashes.  Her already friendly countenance beamed with joy as she shyly (at first) repeated the words Bringing Joy.  Her friend enthusiastically exclaimed, “That’s you, that’s you, that’s who you are, that’s what your life is all about”.  She beamed with enthusiastic recognition and acceptance.

They both had discovered, named and identified with their new spiritual name.  Now they were left to align their life to their purpose.  I reminded them that electricity was around thousands of years before it was discovered.  Once discovered it had to be harnessed to realise its “power”.  What an amazing hour – truly an hour of power!

Needless to say, I still managed to eat a hearty lunch (as always) throughout this amazing informal “coaching conversation”.  That was really an “on-purpose” lunch for me.  We departed to go to our next conference session with warm hearts.  They both shook my hand and said, “Edward, that was just amazing, it was meant to be.  How can a chance meeting like this be so life changing?” And so I left feeling assured that God had used me to bring purpose and meaning to the lives of two more people – not with a “blow-torch”, but by simply “Igniting Enthusiasm”.

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