Learning the hard way?

The road to success is paved with whatever the hell they decided to put there to trip you up and teach you a lesson. Learn the hard way. The point is, I’m slowly getting more adept at spotting the obstacles and gently meandering my way around them. I can’t quite make up mind as to whether my lack of headlong dash is down to external or internal barriers and given that I nearly know what I’m talking about, it’s almost certainly both.

You see, those of you who’ve been here before, (deliberately ambiguous, although neither syntactic, phonological nor punctuation in variety, just plain could mean something else depending on your viewpoint and right now I can’t recall the correct adjective, (or is it adverb), modifier), will understand, which is in itself a mind-read, that one of my underlying objectives in this not-so-rapidly approaching future is not to work too hard.

Herein lies one of the difficulties in my plan. Negative objectives are counter-productive and invariably fire off in the opposite direction to the one intended, unless of course you subscribe to reading between the lines and then of course it is firing off in the direction intended, just not the direction I was consciously thinking of at the time. Self-sabotage and all that.

If I don’t want to work too hard I have to hold in the back of my mind a concept, picture, cerebral noise or whatever the particular modality of choice happens to elicit in order to be able to know whether I am indeed working too hard or not. And of course if I hold this in my mind, two things happen. I subscribe to the don’t-cycle-into-that-tree targeting beloved of parents who then have to contend with the grazed knees of 5 year olds who conscientiously concentrated on that very tree so hard that the inevitable became, well, inevitable. Or I achieve my objective by doing everything except working hard. And in order to ensure that this done with style, the only way to be certain is not to work enough. Bugger.

Obviously this is not what I wanted so I now work towards enjoying how I earn a living, no matter how much or little time that happens to take up. After all, time is not really the issue. Lifestyle is the issue. Week by week, my time is becoming more and more my time. Hooray.

Unfortunately, the general public, (not you of course), doesn’t appear to have heard of me in sufficient numbers as yet. At least not to the point of any sort of self-sustainability. Despite multiple efforts with my google page, Google appears to ignore me on searches where other nearby, and not so nearby, pages pop up and wave at searches where I ought to be figuring. Never mind. It’s only Google and they can’t even spell their own name correctly according to Legend, (good film, not a bad remake).

The good part about being well-versed in hypnotics is that I have already seen myself in the future, working just enough in a style that actually isn’t work at all. It’s also not too far away, though to be fair I haven’t seen myself holding up a calendar and pointing to a date. Suffice it to say, when I peer towards that future me, I still have hair.

The positives are still positive. The MP3 downloads for Chronic Pain, Migraine and Post-Surgery Healing have had some good feedback in the efficacy department and more on-line support groups are becoming interested. I have ideas bubbling for some more.

The key positive change has turned out not be a change at all. I was expecting a fork in the road or at least a cross-roads but no. What has actually turned up has been a path which drives directly between the twin highways of my current multi-career. I hypnotherapise clients and also train and assess in Financial Services (capitalising as it were, on my previous background). I enjoy both. One fulfils the technical geekiness that I seem to find easy to translate into English and the other allows me to help clients move forward in whatever their journey of development happens to be, in whatever way happens to suit them.

Strangely, the middle path just opened up in front of me on 21st June, which I’ve only just realised was the Summer Solstice so I can’t be quite as far gone as some would have me believe. According to a least one person very close to me, I am now a member of the cult of Cognitive Hypnotherapy. Maybe I should talk about it less enthusiastically.

I was in Bracknell, a place not renowned for revelations or miracles although it was the only place I have watched 4 families of Canada geese, complete with about 20 goslings, wait patiently for the lights at the pedestrian crossing and then cross the road. Well it was peak rush hour, so I suppose they were just being safe. Anyhow, having reconnected with a variety of companies I provide freelance training for, one of them called on my mobile and, rather than wanting my services for technical training of the Financial variety, wanted to know if I could write some face to face training for delegates who found professional qualifications time-consuming, stressful and to put it bluntly, pointlessly boring. He knew I was a Cognitive Hypnotherapist you see and wanted to know if there was anything I now knew that could be transferred into the technical learning sphere.

Well of course there could be! Much of the knowledge I’ve gained during my time at Quest in Regent’s University could easily be transferred into this.  Not only that but Trevor, the driving force behind Cognitive Hypnotherapy had honed his hypnotherapy skills whilst working as a trainer himself. As well as starting to pull my own ideas together I got in touch with Quest to see what resources they might have which could assist. I spoke with Jan, marvel that she is, on the 24th June who promptly told me that Universe was speaking to me and I should sit up and take notice. Quest’s three yearly cycle of master practitioner training events just happened to be running the very course I needed, that very weekend – only 5 days away.

Needless to say after much, well not much really, debate, I cancelled my trip to see my mother-in-law (sorry Sheila) and began the journey to what may well be a key part of my future. Over the 3 day course, idea after concept after technique kept slotting themselves into the gaps and bridged the gulf between the two areas I had thought would always remain separated.

So whilst I remain committed to helping clients through pain and stress and other difficulties, I see a future opening up where the help I now have the knowledge, (the skills were already in place), to give is to coach and train people in how to learn in a style that suits them. Most of are destined to learn in whichever way we happened to pick up whilst at school. We simply do it harder and for longer as the degree of complexity and difficulty increases and the exams get tougher and time becomes less available. It’s one thing learning ineffectively whilst in an education establishment, it’s another altogether when you’re trying to expand your full-time-consuming career. It’s like discovering you’re sailing in the wrong direction and putting up more sails to go faster and whatever you do, keep going straight ahead into the storm.

So a key strand which is already falling into place is training groups in effective learning techniques and coaching individuals where they find there are barriers to learning that they can’t get past. It’s applicable in the realm I usually train within, that of professional qualifications but is equally, and perhaps more importantly, applicable to those who are still within the education system.

Most curricula lack content which ensures that each individual is given the opportunity to discover how they learn best. We all receive, process and recall information in our own ways. We all learn differently but are all taught the same. Surely it’s important to give everyone the opportunity to discover their own path. Imagine how much more exciting and fulfilling learning would be. Who needs stress?

Whatever will you learn next?.

effective learning  & hypnosis MP3

Get over it…
© Tony Burkinshaw 2013




When the Future-Trap Snaps

So I’ve spent all week waiting for that mythical particle of inspiration to strike a spark in my imagination. It didn’t.

Thanks to Victoria, I have a back-up plan.

Module 7 of my training with Quest dealt with, amongst other issues, performance enhancement which you’ll know, of course, because you’ve read ‘You’ve Got The Power‘. On that particular weekend’s training course I worked with Victoria and the particular performance we worked on was my evolving writing skill. I’m still very new to this, having only really started any form of meaningful writing, (sales reports and technical bulletins don’t count), three months ago with this blog.

However in that short time, I’ve found that there are, on occasion, times when I just start writing with no real idea exactly what I’m going to write other than following that spark of inspiration that fired the post in the first place. I found a place of flow. On occasion.

To be fair, I also spent a lot of time not writing anything and wracking my brains to tease out the best next word for the sentence. There have also been more than enough sentences and, indeed, entire paragraphs that really should never have turned up on the screen in front of me at all.

So the performance enhancement became my Plan B, (yet another great musician – you should check him out but beware Strickland Banks is not representative of young Mr. Drew’s usual work, parental guidance most definitely applies). With Victoria’s help, I worked on being able to re-create that feeling of finding flow in my writing. Of not really knowing what will come next, just starting out and trusting to the knowledge that it’s worked before and will work again. This post will be the test of that. I haven’t a clue where I’m headed and to fair until 20 minutes ago, I didn’t even know that I’d get this far writing about the fact that I didn’t even know that I’d get this far. I’ve even managed to pull another musical reference in.

Moving on.

What is really taking up my attention this week is that HPD. Remember? That source of my mini rant about TLAs (Three Letter Acronyms) back at the beginning of September. A major part of my being able to qualify and practice as a Cognitive Hypnotherapist is the Hypnotherapy Practitioner Diploma. I need to gain the qualification and if I want that qualification to be in place by the time I finish my course in January, the HPD must be completed by the 1st December.

I have twelve and a half days to write 12,000 words. I’ve already done about 9,000 but that’s taken me since the beginning of September. Extrapolate that one out and you’ll find that my target completion date is 2nd of March.

I’m on track to miss my deadline by three months.

Fortunately my engineering education, (yes, I qualified as a Chemical Engineer, spent three years as a Brewer of beer, twenty-seven years in Financial Services and am now becoming a Cognitive Hypnotherapist, don’t you just love consistency), allows me to be appropriately disdainful of statistical projection. I’ve also learnt to embrace my innate tendency to procrastinate. After years of trying to manage it, of being told from early school   days through my adolescent and adult life that procrastination is just another version of laziness, I’ve discovered it is actually a talent that allows me to embrace the here and now.

It doesn’t work for everyone and annoys the hell out those who can’t do it. I simply work at my best when something is both important and urgent. If it’s just important, like the HPD, it’s not enough. It needs to be urgent as well in order to get me working at maximum efficiency. The HPD is a classic case in point. I know that I have the skill, knowledge and capacity to pass. I’m not at all worried that I can’t do it. I qualified as a Chartered Financial Planner this year and that took me many years and many exams to complete so the HPD definitely lies within the realms of a do-able thing. It’s taken me 11 weeks to write 9,000 words. I’ve got 12 days left (and a half, don’t forget the half, it’s important). Plenty of time.

Which brings me to the title of this post.

For years, I’ve managed both my propensity to procrastinate and my talent for forgetting anything important, (my most active auto-trance-phenomena is Amnesia), by setting myself traps for the future, to ensure that I really did deal with those important things that are not yet urgent or that I would quite like to avoid but absolutely had to prepare for. I would set up tasks or meetings or presentations which would walk me towards whatever the goal in mind would be. It was the only way I’d ensure that anything actually happened. I’d break down my target event into to trip-over-the-next-important-section style sub-events. Now you might think this sounds quite familiar, good time management practice and project goal setting. You should never forget that I once turned up five hours late for a time management training course. Honestly.

For me, though, what I was doing was setting a trap in the future, a trip wire that’ I’d fall over and fire a shot of deadline adrenalin into my system. I knew that I wouldn’t work towards those goals, I’d forget them secure in the knowledge that at some point in the not too distant, I’d fall flat on my face, pick myself up and deal with it. Efficiently. And always to standard. I’d set the trip wire so that it would give me just and only just enough time to get the whatever it was that had to be done done by the whenever it was it had to done by to whatever the standard was that it needed to be done to and meet the deadline.

Somehow, it turns out, I was aware enough of my trance phenomena preferences to move effectively into the future at my most efficient, even if I did have to do it by repeatedly tripping myself up. In effect, I’d become my own game keeper, trapping my effectiveness at appropriate points to prevent my amnesiac consciousness from wandering off and populating my future with a total lack of achievement.

In a clear demonstration of serendipity, which the more astute among you will recognise as nothing more than negative hallucination allowing me to ignore anything that didn’t fit in with the serendipitous trend, I’ve come across three totally independent rationalisations of why it’s important to embrace procrastination. Two of these were people my alter-ego works with and another was a blog on Psychology Today way back from April 2011. Somehow it turned up on my Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago which is very much a phrase I never thought I’d be using in the middle of a blog that I’d no idea I was going to write.

It talks about active procrastination. I’m an active procrastinator. I have always worked best under pressure, with just enough time to get something done. And I’ve always felt I had to treat this as a negative trait and strive to build in more ongoing work to try to counter act it, to be more ‘in control’. As it happens it didn’t make me feel in control at all. I’m convinced that all I was actually doing was giving a sense of control to my erstwhile elders and betters. Now those are two words should never be used together automatically, only sparingly and when really deserved. I’ve met a few elders who are indeed better and have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share.

However, I’ve met many more who don’t. They wallow in their thirty years of experiencing the same thing and mistake it for being truly thirty year’s worth of experiences. They’re wrong. And usually so fixed in their ways and so ingrained in their own world that they cannot see, let alone comprehend, anyone else’s point of view. You’ve probably met them. They are only older. If you suspect you might be one of them, it’s never too late for new experience. Try it. I’m loving it.

As an active procrastinator, I get to spend more time dealing with and enjoying the here and now than if I try to meet a non-procrastinator’s ideal of ongoing, manageable bite sized chunks.

You know that well-worn phrase, (sorry Trevor), about how to eat an elephant? Apparently perceived wisdom is one bite at a time. I prefer a feast. Stuff your face until you’re fit to burst. Accept the burst and feast again. In my mind, if you try to eat an elephant one bite at a time, your future is full of, guess what, elephant flavoured food. Breakfast lunch and dinner. Hey guys, what’s for dinner? Elephant – again. For four months in total, I’ve been avoiding the elephant. I’ve had a taste every now and then but it wasn’t cooked right. Didn’t quite have the right texture.

In the meantime, I got to eat all manner of mental flavours and concoctions. All my meals were and are different. And every now and then… guess what.

Bring on the Elephant feast!

Are they all the same?
© Tony Burkinshaw 2012

you might be surprised… I was

Isn’t it odd how Saturday nights can turn out.

There we were, Gill and I, sitting outside burning my mother‘s bird-table as you do. The red wine was good. It was a peaceful night spent putting the world to rights and watching the flames in the fire-bowl. I know it’s not very eco-warrior but there’s always the current-carbon and global-dimming argument to help you feel a little more self-righteous. (There are far too many hyphens in that last sentence, I’ll try to keep it down from here).

The peace was broken only by that late night alcohol infused sound of red wine hiccups. Once Gill’s hiccups had started that was it, they just wouldn’t stop. There they were, butting into the conversation for the rest of the night.

We climbed into bed, Gill hiccuped yet again and looked at me in exasperation. There was only one thing for it.

I stared fixedly into her eyes in that well know 80’s Wolinsky style and said with authoritative overtones, “You might be surprised to discover that the gap between your hiccups just seems to get longer and longer and soon you might find that you forget to remember to notice that you ever had hiccups in the first place.” There was no way I could have floated that sentence past her so fluently were it not for the Budweiser. “There you go”, I said, “all gone”. You could hear the scepticism and doubt behind the hope.

We looked at each and waited. And waited. The next hiccup simply did not come.

Now explain that one to me. How on earth could that have worked? No trance. No induction. No complicated healing pattern. Just one semi-serious sentence of wishfully woven words, with a good bit of accidental time distortion and amnesia thrown in for good measure. I understand the theory.

According to the sceptic in my head, it should never have worked. But it did.

Once that sceptic in me starts to believe, the world will be the crustacean of my choice. After all, why restrict the future to Oysters.

and it may not be until the third or fourth time

This is the metaphoric story I refer to in the previous post.

What’s a metaphoric story? It’s like a simile for life.

I first went on holiday with Gill to Ibiza, back in the days when San Antonio wasn’t yet a 24 hour party town, just a beach resort with some good bars and only a few late night clubs. We were in our early twenties and spent much of our mornings sleeping off the night before and we’d always end up on the beach mid-afternoon and stay there until most people had gone back to their hotels for dinner. It was really peaceful by then.

After three or four days, we noticed a little Spanish man was teaching holidaymakers to windsurf. The bay is very sheltered so there’s not a lot wind but it still looked really hard. The first lesson seemed to consist of falling off a surf board and entertaining everyone else. Mind you, by the third lesson they were standing on the board, setting the sail and actually moving off into the harbour. At the end of the first week, Gill had persuaded me that it would be really good for me to try it out and provide her with a few laughs along the way. It was a disaster. The little Spanish man was very friendly and keen but I couldn’t hear what he was saying and his strong accent made it even harder.

Try as I might, his instructions were drowned out in the background noise of the beach-volleyball and jet skis. I looked like a complete fool. To make it worse, by lesson four when most people were already off into the harbour, I found myself on the board with the sail up, watching the chap who had started the day after me. He pulled up the sail, positioned his board just-so, and leant into the wind. I swear to this day that I mirrored his every move. He moved off gracefully into the harbour and I drifted sideways into the beach and fell off yet again. I sat back on the beach feeling really dejected. It seemed to work for everyone else, except me. I kept trying but it always seemed that I had to do it on my own. I could never quite catch what the little Spanish man was saying. The beach was just too noisy.

The last time I had felt that bad was when I was at school. I used to play the trombone in the school orchestra. Unusually for a school orchestra we were actually quite good and I’d just been promoted to first trombone but this was only because the previous chap had left and gone to university. We used to perform in Cathedrals a couple of times a year. It was quite fun really because the acoustics were usually good for big echoes which suits a trombone, although it can play havoc with the music as a whole as the echoes resonate differently for the different instruments.

This year everyone was really excited as we were going to play in Westminster Abbey. Unfortunately, the piece that had been chosen was really complicated and the harmonies were crazy. The conductor was unfazed by our apparently poor practices, which was unusual – he was normally very serious about poor performance. He even tried to calm us down, “Just you wait” he’d say, “you’ll see”.

I was really scared because I had to start and end the whole performance on my own. Just me, with everyone listening able to hear even the slightest mistake, knowing it was me.

The big day arrived and I was petrified. In the back of my mind I kept hearing my music teacher trying to calm me down. He was always telling me stories about his daughter and how she became a famous singer. He seemed to think that tales of perseverance would help. I’ve no idea why. Apparently she had been trying to get to sing professionally for a long time but was always the one who didn’t quite get the main part in the show. She practiced and practiced and practiced. My music teacher would take her to audition after audition and she’d keep being the one who came second, well actually third, behind the understudy. He couldn’t understand it, as she really was very good.

One day he sneaked in with her and secretly filmed her audition. When they watched it back, they saw that she was being put off by the acoustics. The problem was that as always with auditions, the theatre is empty. Theatre acoustics rely on the audience dampening sound so in auditions, any external sudden noises feel really loud and distract you from what you want to feel. The effect on her was subtle but just enough to alter her posture so that her voice couldn’t project as purely as she knew how. (At this point, someone smiled). All she had to do was listen beyond the noise to hear the sounds that told her what she needed to hear and feel, that everything was back in balance. She never looked back.

My mouth was dry, the first notes somehow came out cleanly but as the piece progressed, the complex harmonies sounded even odder than when we had practiced. I don’t how but we kept going, mostly because our conductor was calmly encouraging us and was looking really pleased. I tried to listen what was making him smile and began to catch tiny echoes of harmonies I’d never noticed when we had practiced. The last five bars approached and I steeled myself for the end where I had to play the last six notes entirely on my own. This was proper scary. In practice it had always sounded out of place and incongruous and I was as nervous as ever.Then something extraordinary happened. The music began to swell as the Cathedral itself joined in. Echoes played notes we’d never heard, the deepest resonances playing along with the lightest, most delicate sounds.

To my everlasting wonder, Westminster Abbey and I played the last six notes together in complete harmony. The audience loved it. It wasn’t until later that I found out the piece had been written specifically for the Abbey. It didn’t work anywhere else.

Somehow, I knew that all I had to do was listen beyond the noise on the beach and trust that everything would come together as I had hoped. Sometimes noise is there for a reason. It distracts you so that you learn in your own time and work it out for yourself Sometimes it joins in and enhances the magic. It’s all about balance.

On Sunday we got to the beach a little earlier as it was my last session windsurfing, we were going home the next day. The breeze was up and I knew it would be a challenge. Using my new found insights, I stepped onto the board, leant myself against the wind, allowed the board to turn itself and trusted my balance as I hauled up the sail and pulled it into position. Somehow my body knew just how to keep it all in harmony, feeling the changes in the wind and the pull of the board. I sped out into the harbour, the sail singing to me and the board skimming across the waves. I was as happy as I’d been for ages. Although I had to concentrate hard, everything was working together and all I had to do was keep myself at the centre and direct all the energy taking me wherever I wanted to go

All too soon I was returning to the beach, coming in at speed and at the last minute brought the surfboard round so that it curved beautifully to a halt in a spray of sea water. I stepped lightly off it and strolled up the beach, almost ignoring the looks of the other holidaymakers whose partners were trying to persuade them that it looked like fun!

I lay down exhilarated and excited at what I might be able to accomplish next. Gill grinned at me. “I told you it would work out in the end” she said, glancing at her watch. “Come on. Let’s go for a beer and celebrate”. We sat in our favourite bar looking out to sea. It was perfect, a moment I’ll never forget. As the waiter brought our drinks, I caught sight of the clock on the wall. It was a quarter past two.

and so it begins

How can words possibly have that amount of power. It’s fascinated me throughout my life, through a career in Sales and Sales Management using no more than words to increase business, meet targets, earn enough to live a comfortable life, making sure that people buy the things they know they need but don’t want to think about.

Yet words and thoughts can bring as much pain and sorrow as they can happiness and contentment. I’m at a crossroads. It’s time to learn more about what words can do. I turned away from the main road last year, taking redundancy and setting a business in technical support. It fulfils in its own way but I miss the chance to develop people.

I’m now training in Cognitive Hypnotherapy. I’m captivated by what I’m learning, the skills I’m acquiring and cannot believe the effect it’s having. If this has half the potential that I can already see, then who cares about the crossroads. This could go anywhere. Why not follow me. You might be surprised.