Deliberate Practice

Practice and repetition are vital elements in learning.

We know this is true for our children. Whether learning to crawl and walk, to read, to remember the times tables, to play a musical instrument or to bowl a cricket ball. Practicing over and over, what is awkward and difficult at the beginning, becomes tested and understood and eventually second nature.

However if your children are like mine, the discipline of practice is an acquired skill!

As adults, parents and leaders we draw upon our learned self discipline and determination in taking on new challenges.

When the challenge faced is working at our own maturation and growth, I notice a multitude of competing priorities and demands on time, doubts and fears, inertia and resignation, difficult colleagues, old habits and even past successes all colluding to undermine our commitment and our will to practice.

So many excuses.

Just do it.


Wild Places

RNP CoastOver the weekend my son and I camped at Bonnie Vale, on the fringe of the Royal National Park south of Sydney. The camp ground itself is not exactly a wild place, humans outnumber almost all other creatures, apart from a few raucous bird species. Even so, we share a sharp eye for nature and we accumulated a healthy spotters tally.

Sea EagleA hunting Sea Eagle plunged to the waves as we watched from the cliffs (above). Missing her target, she was chased south by harrying gulls. Ben noticed small claw prints in dried mud and nearby scats, likely evidence of echidnas, balled safely in the undergrowth during the day. That clifftop bush land habitat to a playful colony of New Holland Honeyeaters who refused to pause for a photograph.

On the beach, unexpected cloven hoof prints puzzled us. The mystery solved at dusk when we spied deer, a buck and a doe, grazing discreetly off a bush track. One of our first sights was an assertive, nesting Sulphur Crested Cockatoo driving off a prowling goanna, it being attracted by the meaty aroma of campers BBQ’s. Our sketch pads came out after breakfast as two wood ducks browsed the grass around our tent.

Canoe AudleySunday as we canoed upstream from Audley Weir, again surrounded by weekend humanity, we counted more wild sightings. A eucalypt full of drying cormorants, a pair of turtles sunning on a submerged log, a slow moving goanna creek side. As we lunched at the end of the navigable creek, a pair of intelligent and wary currawongs arrived to share a cracker with us.

Paddling down stream, Ben spotted an eel beneath our canoe, near invisible on the dappled, rocky bottom. And then a splash of azure blue as a darting kingfisher flew low along the water line. Natures reward for our vigilance.

Our father and son camping weekend made me reflect on both my own childhood, deeply embedded in the natural world, and the difficulty for modern children to experience the thrill and beauty of wild places. Particularly living in a large city like ours. I feel there is a vital connection between nature and a rich human life. I believe this even more strongly for anyone wanting to offer leadership into the future.

Recently I joined the Board of The Wilderness Society (Sydney). Whilst I am still finding my way in how to best contribute, I already intuit a role for the organisation in linking children to wild places. What better way to enrich future generations and encourage conservation of the earth which carries us?


the way of the owl“Why do we have so much conflict?” came the frustrated and anguished cry of a recent workshop participant. “Why can’t we all just get along?”

Such a great question!

After a significant degree of provocation on my part as the facilitator, we finally launched into the meatier and more meaningful agenda of the team …

Conflict is typically viewed as a negative, destructive force in a team. Certainly many blunt forms of conflict are, particularly when there’s a low level of conflict skill present. In these instances it makes good survival sense to minimise the impact and damage.

There are however many ways to work with integrity and find success in the heart of conflict. If you can ‘see’ yourself and manage your reactions, maintain an open perspective and ‘flex and flow’, and keep your real objectives in sight, then you may find the gems hidden within conflict.

In my experience, the most common failing in a teams’ development, is an inability to navigate their way through contentious issues i.e. the failure to ‘storm’ effectively.

I see teams encounter conflict, make early clumsy efforts toward resolution, fail and back track into ‘nice’ terrain, leaving the issues to fester beneath the surface. It’s very telling when a real issue lands amongst the team. Failure to successfully cut their teeth on the smaller, everyday conflicts leave them incapable of resolving the really important ones.

“Help, boss!!!” goes out the call as panic and stress roll into town.

I believe conflict and creativity are two sides of the one coin. To be truly creative we need the challenge and friction of opposing ideas and views. Through the effort of working on the conflict, new options and potential appear.

This is not an easy process, but it is a vital one. Vital both for the success of the team and the enterprise, and vital for the development of healthy, strong relationships.

[As a conflict mastery resource I recommend “The Way of The Owl” by Frank Rivers.]


I ChingEach new year stirs mixed emotions.

There’s always theĀ  prospect of rewarding and challenging new ventures, offset by concerns about the wide open spaces in my calendar. From hard won experience, including my practice with the I Ching, I know patience and perseverance are key.

Waiting is not empty hoping. It has the inner certainty of reaching the goal.

In working with the I Ching, the quiet, reflective time spent considering my situation is invaluable. My thinking improves and is subtly influenced by its sound Eastern principles.

Now I consult the I Ching on many things; my business, my relationships, my self. But it did not arrive in this trusted advisor form. At first my sceptical inner scientist rejected the random access. It made no logical sense to me. I could end up at any hexagram. How could that possibly be meaningful?

When clouds rise in the sky, it is a sign that it will rain. The rain will come in its own time. We cannot make it come; we have to wait for it.

Yet I continued and occasionally the images and information made sense and were helpful. Gradually I noticed the hexagrams gave something of relevance if I played with the ideas and metaphors, used my intuition, observed my associations and reactions. To my surprise, the more open I became, the more often I derived wise counsel.

I’ve come to view the process as an interior conversation I have with my real self.

Do not worry and seek to shape the future by interfering in things before the time is ripe.

Of course there are still times when the counsel is inscrutable, unintelligible or not what I was hoping to receive! I’ve found this often indicates I’m off balance and off track. Still I walk away, do what I thought I needed to do, usually to learn from a mistake.

The I Ching waits patiently for my return.

Thus the superior man eats and drinks, is joyous and of good cheer.

Sweating on events and outcomes serves no purpose. In this quiet period I am painting our hallway and bedrooms. The year will unfold and I am ready.