Life is limited

An inescapable reality of life is that it is limited. We are all limited, in different ways to differing degrees. We are limited in the amount of time we have left, limited in the time we have now, we are limited in our knowledge, we are limited in our talents, we all have physical limitations. Accepting those limitations, working with them and within them can be the difference between achievement or failure, contentment or despair.

life is limited

Contrary to the cod insights of shonky motivational speakers who encourage us to believe there are no limits, this simply is not the case. No matter how inspiring an “against the odds” story may be, there is a large difference between unearthing hidden talents and the idea that because I underestimated my capacity in one realm, my potential in all areas is infinite. That is simply not true.

If there are no limits, how come even drug-assisted athletes and bookmaker-assisted batsmen cannot run the 100 metres in 5 seconds, or average more than 99.94 over a 20-year test career? There is nothing wrong, and indeed, everything right in trying to encourage others to fulfil their potential. However, while we all have potential, our talents are not evenly scattered across all human endeavours. My office is within multi-instrumentalist James Morrison’s studio. I can’t get beyond about six wooden-fingered chords of Song for Guy, and boy, have I tried. When it comes to music, James is the silk purse, Jim is the sow’s ear!

However, one of James’ greatest strengths, his ability to improvise and make a well-worn tune take flight, is a demonstration of how to make limitation a creative asset. As Morrison says in his song Freedom in the Groove, “jazz musicians can’t do anything they want, you have to play within certain parameters, you play in a certain key, you play at a certain tempo, you follow a certain chord progression”. In other words, improvisation works when there are limits within which to play. Read more here


Beyond the comfort zone for your career

Going beyond the comfort zone when reviewing your career.

So another year so nearly over, bar being sexually harassed by Jones from accounts at the company Christmas binge and gropathon on a floating vomitorium. Now is the time, with a Bacardi Breezer in one hand and a half empty bottle of warm chardonnay in the other, for some sober reflection on how your career has stacked up this year and how you would like it to play out in the coming year.

In simple terms there are two different approaches to career decision-making. The traditional approach is to think before you act. The prescription requires us to reflect carefully on our perceived strengths and weaknesses, to consider our interests and preferences, to identify our values and to be aware of our skill set. Then we consider the array of occupations that best fit the results of our thinking. The best fitting occupations become our vocational goals.

Reviewing your career

There is much to commend this approach, especially if you have been guilty of making impetuous career-decisions that have ended badly. Maybe it is time to appreciate where your talent lies. Maybe this will be the year when you realise you are too old to become the next teen sensation and instead focus your energies on something better suited to your skills.

The alternative approach is to act before you think. Before you think I am promoting reckless abandon – slow your thinking down to consider the issue in more depth. Changing careers means moving to an uncertain future. Most of us struggle with being comfortable with uncertainty. For that reason we tend to place more emphasis on the potential downsides that we can imagine and underestimate the possible upsides.

In other words, it is common for people faced with making decisions that are going to have uncertain outcomes to raise many objections to taking action, preferring instead to stick with an unsatisfactory status quo in preference to the risk of an appalling alternative. This kind of thinking becomes a potent barrier to action and if left unchecked, may contribute to you getting stuck in a repetitive rut.

Read more of this article in the Sydney Morning Herald here

The 10 Rules of Career Development for the C21st

The 10 Rules of Career Development for the C21st


This week I published a piece in the Sydney Herald and Age newspapers called the 10 Rules of Career Development for the C21st. It has created a lot of traffic around the world and many different comments.

Here are the first 3 rules:

If you are thinking about your career, here are 10 rules derived from the Chaos Theory of Careers that might help you.

Change is inevitable (except from a vending machine). Look at your face in the mirror. Unless your name is Joan Rivers, your face has changed over time. Why should you expect your career to be any different? If you spend your life regretting the passing of lost glories, you will not enjoy the present and will be ill-prepared to spot glorious future opportunities.

As the great Swiss artist Jean Tinguely said in his manifesto, “Resist the anxious fear to fix the instantaneous, to kill that which is living”. So ask yourself, how can I learn from the past, appreciate the present and be open to possibilities in the future? How can I accept change with grace, skill and optimism?

The Chaos Rules of Careers

Predictability is surprising. Life is not predictable and nor are careers. Did you imagine you’d be still doing this last year? Did you imagine you’d be doing this at all a decade ago? How do you feel when everything goes exactly to plan? Most people are likely to feel pleased but it is often accompanied with a sense of wonderment that things are going too smoothly because it is so rare! How can you better learn to live with uncertainty? How can you develop skills to take advantage of positive uncertain events? How can you learn to be resilient in the face of negative unexpected events?

Simplicity is surprisingly complex. You were not born as a typical man, woman, Gen Xer, Aries, Herpes or Caesarian. Say after me, all together now, “I am an individual” (I’m not!) Reducing me to a social stereotype might capture some of the ways I am like other people, but it fails to capture many of the important ways I differ. Just because more men than woman work in the mines and more women than men work in primary education is largely irrelevant if that is what you want to do and are appropriately skilled so to do. How can you step back and appreciate the bigger picture in your life?

Take a look at the article and read the other 7. Let me know what you think, leave comments here.

On forums such as Linkedin and Twitter, some early feedback included adding another rule for Gratitude and Rob Cole suggested adding a rule along the lines of “Passion emerges it does not predict”.

Your thoughts? Oh and if you are near Melbourne, do consider coming along to the 3-day Career Coaching and Assessment Course Oct 23-25. Details Here

Sleeping around – when shift really happens. A true story.

Sleeping around – when shift really happens. A true story.

It came as a shock. Out of blue. A phone call that took me out of a meeting. A phone call that completely changed everything I had thought about her. Completely out of the blue.

She had always been admired by all who came into contact with her.  She was outgoing, friendly and affectionate.  Perhaps even too affectionate, I often worried that she might get taken advantage of.  I knew she had had relationships with others during our time together. While it would be wrong to say I was approving, I did kind of understand her reasons for doing it. Ultimately, she always came back to me and every time I was grateful that she did.

empty bed

This, however, was very different.  To say I never suspected isn’t enough.  It just did not ever cross my mind.  There were no signs at the time, though as always looking back, the signs were there if I’d cared to pay enough attention to them.

It was not usual for her to go out at night, nor for me to go to bed before she had returned.  I never questioned this, even when she’d be gone all night.  You might think this was crazy, and in a funny way, even perhaps neglectful.  I just thought nothing of it.

Nothing seemed to change in our relationship, she was as affectionate as ever, perhaps even more so over the years, if that was possible.  Then she got sick, and started to lose weight. She had difficulty maintaining her weight and at meal times her behaviour became a little erratic.  Sometimes eating and sometimes not.  Sometimes skipping meals entirely.

Then came that phone call out of the blue.  She was in hospital.  I immediately feared an accident, or a collapse.  I didn’t expect what I was told next.  She had been taken there by the man she’d been living a double life with for 8 years.  A neighbour.  She’d been sleeping there. She’d provided comfort through a bout of cancer by sleeping next to him until he’d recovered – every night.  She’d eaten there every day over that time. No wonder she didn’t feel like doing that with me.  She had her own things there – was even treated as one of the family.   I could even see the house from my dining room.

The man said he was moving away, and he wanted her to go with him.  Until the hospital visit, he had no idea of my existence.  He thought he was the only person in her life. And she might well have gone too, simply disappeared from my life – just like that – gone.

It was the hospital staff who made the link – and discovered her “true” address. It was they that called me. It must have come as just as much of a shock for the other man to discover the existence of me.  I realise now just how close I had come to losing her, because of the love of another man.

The moral of the story for me is that what we know we know can be completely changed by what we dont know we dont know and if you dont want to lose them, always make sure you microchip your cat!

To Missy our very own “Red Cat” like the “Red Dog” in the movie.

Missy the cat







How do people react to change? Some Facts and Figures

How do people react to change? Some Facts and Figures

So how much do we know about people’s reactions to change? I’ve been collecting reactions to change of individuals in my coaching and research for several years. The data below come from over 600 responses to my online tests (except where indicated) – the Change Perception Index and the Luck Readiness Index.

These stats about change – may surprise you!

1. One in three people would avoid change if they could.

Would you normally avoid change if you could?

If you said yes, then you’d join the 34% of respondents who agreed or completely agreed with that sentiment.

2. Over 76.51% of people said they could be fearless in a situation if they need to be.

Would you be fearless if you needed to be? Are the majority merely displaying bravado? Have you seen most other people being fearless?

3. 11.7% of people were ambivalent or actively said they did not enjoy learning new things

How many people do you know who are not interested in learning anything new? More or less than 1 in 10?

4. Goal setting as a way of creating change seems to be less popular now that anytime time since the beginning beginning of the previous decade.

Goal Setting Psycinfo search 1980-2011Graph shows a decline in publications about goal setting since the Global Financial Crisis – are we over goals?

5. Almost 1 in 3 people say that if they do not see immediate results for their efforts they usually give up and do something else.

32.2% say they do not persist if they do not see immediate progress, a further 21.3% are ambivalent. Less than half of people say indicate they would persist in the face of a lack of immediate progress.

What does this say about how we structure change programs – either personal or organisational? What does this say about learning experiences?

6. Just over two thirds of people do not find study interesting.

Only 37.5% of people disagreed that study was boring.

What does this say about how our learning and training is structured? What are the implications of this for a dynamic, flexible workforce of lifelong learners?

7. Almost 1 in 4 people say they cannot accept failure if they try something and do not succeed.

21% disagreed that they can accept failure when they do not succeed. A further 16.75% were ambivalent about their ability to accept failure – that’s 37.75% who have some degree of difficulty accepting failure.

How does our fear of failure prevent us from changing, studying, learning and transforming?

8. Almost two thirds of people say that uncertainty about the future worries them

62.71% of people agreed that uncertainty about the future worries them. Only 20.79% said they were not worried about the future.

How does all this worry translate into barriers or catalysts for change? How can we make people more at ease with uncertainty?

9. Almost 9 out of 10 people believe their lives will be very different in five years time.

86.44% of people agreed their lives will be very different in 5 years time. Only 4.52% disagreed.

So nearly everyone believes their lives are going to change. What does this mean for change programs, education, training? How can we leverage this expectation?

10. Less than half agree they have a clear picture of what they are going to be doing and how they are going to get there.

46.55% of people agreed they had a clear picture of their future and how they’d get there. 30.27% definitely disagreed they had such a clear picture, with the rest ambivalent.

So most people think their lives are going to change, but most dont have a clear idea of how they’ll change.

What do these insights into change tell us about change programs, helping individuals or organisations change? What can we do to make study as a method of change more attractive? How can we design change programs to deliver early progress and then sustained progress? How can we help people embrace uncertainty and recognise the value of failure? How do we reconcile the 1 in 3 who would avoid change if they could with the 9 out of 10 who see change as definitely present in their future lives?