Thursday, October 8, 2015

Best Ways to Relax Successfully

Is a stress-free and meaningful life possible today?

We are daily bombarded by requests, actions, interrupts. The media pressure us with what we should possess or buy, how we should look, what to eat ... We are pressed by our surroundings, neighbors, friends to ‘comply’ with standard of living they value. Our bosses tell us when and what to do no matter the hour of a day or day of the week. We are (always) connected – if not, right now we are looking for wifi!

Is this the life we want?

Some adhere to it others aim to different lifestyle. Nevertheless, for many of us the relaxation represents zoning out in front of a TV at the end of a stressful day. Does/could this reduce the accumulated stress?


Known from ancient times to effectively combat stress is that we need to activate the whole body's natural relaxation response.

How we do it?

There are numerous marketing campaigns telling us to try three, seven, eight … ways of relaxing techniques that are readily (commercially) available?

Do those techniques work? Likely not!

What then?

Stress is necessary ‘part’ of life. One needs it for creativity, learning and, mostly in ancient times, to survive. Why, then, such a fuss about it?

Tai ChiWe are all probably aware that stress is harmful when it becomes overwhelming and interrupts the healthy state of equilibrium of our body chemicals through nervous system. Our body and our nervous system are flooded with chemicals which prepare us for ‘fight or flight’. While stress response in emergency situations when quick action is necessary could be lifesaving, it wears our body down when constantly (daily) activated. Sadly, overwhelming stress has become an increasingly ‘common occurrence’ in our lives.

We should aim to control the impact of stress or to reduce it. And here the relaxation techniques come in. They are kind of brakes on our over heightened state of readiness and bring our body and mind back into a state of equilibrium.

Now, let’s move from ‘what’ to ‘how’.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Do we still / again need Leaders?

Current economic and political situation in the world with all perturbations is a big puzzle for me whether we are having or not the leaders.

Networking-treeManuel Lima in his TED talk A visual history of human knowledge explains that “for a long period of time, we believed in a natural ranking order in the world around us, also known as the great chain of being, or "Scala naturae" in Latin, a top-down structure that normally starts with God at the very top, followed by angels, noblemen, common people, animals, and so on. This idea was actually based on Aristotle's ontology, which classified all things known to man in a set of opposing categories.”

Consequentially we accepted some kind of leadership whether of a real person or imaginative / invented super being. Normal people were part of a branching scheme of the tree depending on their power or wealth or importance. This concept is in fact such a powerful metaphor for organizing big communities, organizations, countries or super national entities or conveying information to map a variety of systems of knowledge that still persists in our understanding of organizational order.

At the end of the Cold war things somehow started to fall apart. World became globally connected via air transport and mostly due to evolution of Internet. To be precise I think the Internet is actually changing the tree paradigm we lived thousands of years, quite a lot and pretty fast.

Information is not any more spread via top down approach which gave top people the power of it. Organizational schemes are flattening. Even such organizations as armies follow the new principle when teaching combats units how to behave in the battle. It is dealing with decentralized, independent cells, where there's no top leader leading the whole combat process. Rather, any soldier should or could take command if necessity of circumstances requires so.

NetworkWhat we experiences today is the shift from trees structures into networks. Networks really embody notions of decentralization. Bring in interconnectedness. And the most important people, knowledge, information, organizations, countries and more become interdependent. A fact so well embodied in Nature that we keep forgetting all the times. For a moment think of your body. How many cells you have, organs, extremities. Do you feel each finger all the times? No, all these work in unity. But your body is not alone in the Universe …. Therefore, interconnectivity or better entanglement is a natural order.

Even more, this new way of networked thinking is critical to solve many of nowadays’ complex problems we face. From decoding the human genome or brain up to understanding the vast Universe we live in.

Back to the topic in question – is there a space for a leader in such network notions?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Difference between Helping and Fixing

Leaders are there to help, managers to fix.


Probably hard to claim this could be the final truth.

When helping someone then (obviously) you have to know better or more than the person you are helping. So, helping in ‘the wrong way’ demonstrates non-equality of the people involved thus becoming a relationship between non-equals.

HelpThere are times when we help a friend or co-worker during tough times. Does this kind of help require (owe) a favor in return? Or, is this help a sincere one with no expectation of returned favor?

Trying hard to help someone has it happened to you that you have inadvertently ‘helped’ in a way that it actually took away from people more than you could ever “give” them?

I remember my first weeks arranging my life in Seville. I was so many times lost and had to ask for help. And most of the times I got it only to discover that people, in their desire to help, sent me in the wrong direction.

There’s another way to help: we could help in a way that the receiver will eventually develop new abilities or knowledge and not just receive your help and your past knowledge.

And what would a help with a sincere and open approach be like?

Picture a small kid playing with toys: trying all over again to build a tower with bricks and it keeps collapsing all the times. After a while you step in and demonstrate how to do it. What exactly have you thought the child by your action? That depends on the way you have helped: you may have as well diminished kid’s self-esteem, sense of worth, integrity and/or wholeness. But, the help could be given with the right stimuli, motivation and by asking what goes where … it is a proactive way of helping that ultimately builds trust and knowledge.

With a sincere help you simply share your knowledge or you figure out what’s your help’s value to other person or when you give a transparent feedback. You do not expect anything in return. You just help the other to grow and learn. Help is also when (good) leaders take the time out of their busy day to help a follower or co-worker in need but unable to solve a problem. They’ll sure remember your help.

What about ‘fixing’?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

What do People Want from Leaders?

We mostly talk about leaders and what constitutes to be a leader. What about followers – do they have any role?

GentlenessHearing Lao Tzu one can figure out what was found important long ago: "I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second is frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men."

How about today?

The Gallup informs us that the ‘vision thing’ pales in comparison to instilling trust, compassion, stability, and hope when debating what followers expect from their leaders.

Is it any different from the past?

CompassionI do not think so, just the wording is kind of more puzzled when reading ancient texts. What I understand is that followers expect a lot from their leaders. When they don’t get what they expect the first thing they begin to lose is trust and respect for their leader.

What I would expect from the followers is their hope for leaders to have greater emotional intelligence – what Daniel Goleman has already introduced in the previous century. With it a leader connects more intuitively with his followers. But this connection is never one way. Followers anticipate to be heard, understood and given enough attention to feel that their contributions and opinions matter. They envisage a leader to become opportunity enabler and an exceptional coach for them to help improve their performance.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Best Practices That Drive Adaptability

Wushu“Better to spend three years looking for a good master than ten years training with a bad one.” Wushu wisdom.

We live in a fast changing world where “being stable” means being adjustable. Only people who lost their adaptability naturally resist change (see: How to Guide Your Change). They become rigid which is the opposite of stable.

In Martial Arts adaptability is the principle of the Bruce Lee’s idea of giving with adversity, to bend slightly and spring back stronger than before and finally to adapt oneself harmoniously to the opponent’s movements without striving or resisting. During a competition or fight you have to adjust to the environment, your opponent, and to the mistakes you and your opponent make. This you can only do by being stable, flexible and adaptive.

Nature is a prime example of adaptability. Even big trees should be flexible and adaptive to grow stable. They adjust to the surrounding environment, to the winds and become even more stable. If not, they are uprooted. They don’t consume extra energy to rise straight up. For them it is natural to adapt to the soil declination when growing.

Water is the next good example mostly used in martial arts as a material to ‘replicate’. In China they used to say: water purifies and refreshes all living creatures, water without restraint and fear trickles through the surface of most things, water is fluid and adaptive, water which is in harmony with the laws of Nature. Water is soft but can cut through the hills and hard rock. Water “makes” it by adapting.

In everyday life there is an abundance of events and issues that require our adaptation.

Are we able to adapt or not quickly enough?