Short update on life

A very interesting week ahead, which will involve working in a number of my favourite areas. One is sport and will involve both Cricket and Rugby.  The other area will involve the education of children.

In cricket we are undertaking a review of the the last year and then we will focus on the year to come.  It is some important to go back to our start point and identify exactly where we are, what is going well and what we can improve on. I love these sessions because the project leader ensures that we continue to look at the facts of what we have achieved and what we need to achieve to continue improving in this sector. We will outline the basic elements we must keep our focus on. Basics things done well will always be the key.

In rugby I will be working alongside a leadership team and also work with the players which I am looking forward to.  It is a privilege to work alongside national teams in any sport.  I love to see the dedication that burns in the eyes of those who wish to push the boundaries of their performance.

I was fortunate at the weekend to work alongside an individual called Marcus Childs (@digitalmarcus, for his twitter account).  He is an elite performer in developing individuals in business and sports.  His energy lights up the stage and he shows true authenticity in opening people’s minds to what they are capable of.

We shared a stage discussing leadership at a Vistage Open Day.  Vistage is an organisation that develops leadership by bringing together people from different sectors and placing them together in a working group close to the geographical area in which they work.  The groups come together once a month to discuss current business issues/problems and provide guidance to one another on how to manage those problems. The most important element is that they hold one another to account for the actions they have contracted to. These “master mind groups” are invaluable and I would recommend any leader to set up their own to increase their ability to lead in difficult times.  I still do not think we are aware of how difficulty the economy will become in the very near future. One of the great books on this is “think and grow rich” by Napoleon Hill.

I have now spoken to a number of these groups and I have always come away energised by the professionalism within and the assistance they give one another.  It is also a great networking group that can also lead onto other markets.

One of the elements that is so important and highlighted by Marcus was the 5:1 strategy.  We must always accentuate the positive in people’s performance, preferably by 5 good things to one negative.  Martin O’neil who is an outstanding football manager and who consistently improves a team performance on every occasion, spends a lot of his time showing a player why they are good. He shows lots of footage of all the things each individual does well and then points out ways that they can improve.

Understanding why a negative holds so much power is important in how we manage our minds and internal self talk.  Two amygdalae sit just in front of your reptilian brain (this is the first part of our brains, of which there are three each more developed than the last but all linked) close to the top of your spinal column. They contain receptors for one of the stress hormones, noradrenaline. They are also stimulated directly by the vagus nerve, which connects your brain with your main visceral organs – your heart, lungs, kidneys, intestines and so on. This helps to explain that sinking feeling that you can get in the pit of your stomach when you are nervous or frightened. At times of stress, the visceral organs release adrenaline into the bloodstream, which excites the vagus nerve and stimulates the amygdalae. The two amygdalae in turn flood the two corpora striata and hippocampi with dopamine, creating powerful templates. Memories created like this, at times of great stress, are often your most powerful, and indeed can be excessively intense to be useful.

One interesting feature of memories created like this is that they tend to reside in your corpus striatum – the unconscious part of your memory – rather than the more conscious hippocampus. They are therefore difficult to retrieve in a conscious way without real self-awareness. This can lead to undesirable templates being formed that are very powerful in their nature.

Dopamine can be released in a much more controlled way through reward and an anticipation of reward. The controlled release of dopamine is how you form the most desirable templates in your brain – or in other words, how you learn most effectively.  The negatives thoughts we have can be locked away deep in our minds but have a considerable effect on our bodies if activated.  That is why a 5:1 ratio in giving positives is important.

I have also recently spoken to a wonderful media group who although working in a tough sector should be able to not only seize the opportunities that will open up in the coming year but also find innovative ways to develop the future of the music industry. We forget that difficult times also allow for great opportunities which we must seize.  Gary Kasporov once offered a draw to an opponent when he was competing against twenty other opponents. The opponent took the draw, at the end of the day he was asked to present a prize to the person who had taken the draw. He refused to speak to the man. He said “the only reason a grand master offers a draw is because you have a chance of winning.  This man will never have another chance to beat a grand master and he refused that opportunity”. Never forget to take that opportunity when it comes around.

The day before I presented to the group I had dinner with a very good friend of mine, I normally never drink during the working week (honestly I don’t) however he persuaded me to have a glass of red wine over dinner.  There is a reason I don’t drink during the day as I discovered three hours later and further glasses of red wine. Thank goodness I didn’t have any further meetings to go to.

On Friday I am also speaking with the head teachers of a number of primary schools.  I am really looking forward to doing so.  Afterwhich I fly North to watch a number of rugby teams play in an important competition. More to follow once I have watched the event.

The book continues to progress and will be finished by mid July and ready to be published by October.   I am working alongside a very talented person called Simon Acland.  I like the way he describes our first meeting:

“After that first meeting I worried that our personalities were far too diverse for us to be able to work together successfully on this book. After all, I had been one of the boys at school who had always tried to skip games because I disliked getting muddy, cold, or hurt. My judgement of Floyd and our different personalities was based entirely on gut feel, because I had always been sceptical about more scientific approaches to assessing personality. My amateur approach and innate hostility to training, mentoring or advice made me fear that I could not begin to empathise with the book he wanted to write.

“My second meeting with Floyd came at the Heathrow Sofitel, where he had just delivered the keynote speech at the annual sales conference of a large gas company, keeping some five hundred delegates spellbound for an hour. There, after his talk, he demonstrated to me scientifically that our personalities were indeed at opposite poles. In the Myers-Briggs terminology which Floyd explains in Chapter Two, he tends towards extroversion, intuition, feeling and perception, and I towards introversion, sensing, thinking and judgement. Then he convinced me that, precisely because his ‘ENFP’ balanced my ‘ISTJ‘, we could make a great team. His professionalism had trumped my amateurishness. I had experienced at first hand Floyd Woodrow’s motivational skills.

I have spent most of my career as a venture capitalist, investing in early stage technology businesses and helping them to grow. I have sat on the Boards of over forty companies. A key part of my job has been to work with the teams running those companies to help them towards their goals. I’ve been pretty successful in that. Many of the companies that I backed floated on the Stock Market. Two went pretty much from scratch to be counted among the UK’s 250 most valuable quoted companies. Many others were successfully sold. My book Angels, Dragons and Vultures is widely regarded as one of the better guides for entrepreneurs to the arcane world of venture capital.

But I am sure that I would have had more success if I had known at the start of my career what I have learnt from Floyd whilst working with him on this book. I now know that if I had taken the trouble to learn more systematically how to comprehend my own character, how to recognise other people’s personalities, and how to harness that knowledge to achieve my objectives, I could have gone further”. It is so important to see how differences between people can be a real advantage in a successful outcome.

My training is going well but I think I am going to have to have an operation on both my knees in the coming weeks.  Then it will be back to square one and a period of rehabilitation.  I must take my own advice and not rush back as quickly as I have done so on every other occasion.

Have a wonderful week ahead.

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