Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The New England Patriots and Mental Toughness

How did Tom Brady and the New England Patriots comeback after being down 21-3 in the first half, and go on to win 34-28? Every time Tom Brady and coach Bill Bellichick open their mouths, the words “mental toughness” come out. They say it as a given – but what does it actually mean? How does it apply? What are the individual behaviors?

For many years in this column I have touched on mental toughness, frequently in the context of the All Blacks and James Kerr’s foundational book Legacy: What the All Blacks can teach Us about the Business of Life. “Touchdown Tommy” is the Richie McCaw of American football. Brady and McCaw are blood brothers – both captains of the greatest football teams in their respective codes. And it was fitting, I thought, that the winning touchdown by James White in the first ever Super Bowl overtime was done rugby style – a charge at the line, head down, arms out stretched, ball planted over the chalk. American football has a myriad of issues in terms of flow – the game could be called futbol interruptus – such is the lack of flow. One play at a time. Reset. Play again. Reset. Wales went 18 phases in their attack on the English line a few weeks ago. Ergo: make the touchdown an actual touchdown. Simply running across the line is not a touchdown. There are a bunch of dramas in rugby at the try-grounding moment. Just as American football has been learning from rugby about safe ways to tackle, there are many more things to learn.

But I digress. Mental toughness. For the Patriots, a lot of mental toughness is about task organization and individual preparation. Brady’s fastidiousness about mind and body preparation has been well documented. In an ESPN interview, Bellichick says: “Every member of the team has an opportunity to show positive leadership or negative leadership. The question for that person is ‘How are they going to do that? How are they going to control that?’ Positive leadership comes from two things: No. 1, doing your job. If you don’t do your job, I don’t see how you can give any leadership. A lot of people who aren’t very good at doing their job, and who try to give leadership, are just looked at as ‘Look, buddy, why don’t you just do your job? Why don’t we start with that instead of trying to tell everybody else what to do?’ So No. 1 [is] do your job. No. 2 [is] put the team first. If those two things are in place, then that person is going to give positive leadership to the team.”

More later this week about perseverance at any cost; the expectation of winning; and mental conditioning.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Justice is the Translation of Love

One of the great pleasures of American current affairs television is its principled partisanship. Fox is right wing for those who think that way. For a lot of the mostly East Coast-based national media, liberalism remains at its core, which is why Trump chafes so much. An outstanding double-header comes on PBS, with the avuncular Charlie Rose on at 11pm from New York, leading in to Tavis Smiley at midnight from Los Angeles. Tavis is a generous host and he’s in the conversation, not just moderating it. His dialogue with Dick Van Dyke, all of 90 and still brimming, about seeing Mussolini in the cinema newsreels in the 30s intoning “I alone can fix this,” echoes to the present day.

A riveting guest a week or so ago was Michael Eric Dyson, Professor of Sociology at Georgetown University, and described as “one of America’s premier public intellectuals.” In his most recent text Tears We Cannot Stop: A Sermon to White America Dyson argues that if we are to make real racial progress we must face difficult truths, including being honest about how black grievance has been ignored, dismissed, or discounted. With the gifts of a preacher, Dyson said that “Justice is the translation of love. You can’t have love without justice.”

The conversation is a must see. See it here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Manchester McMansion

Manchester is the nearest big city to my Grasmere hideaway. It’s home to my beloved Manchester City and to Lancashire County Cricket Club. The Red Rose County where I was born.

And it’s under attack from two ex Manchester United footballers, Ryan Giggs and Gary Neville who, backed by Singaporean and Chinese interests want to build two dung coloured towers of 31 and 21 storeys height, right behind the glorious gothic Grade I listed Town Hall. Two ‘big pointy shiny erections’ full of luxury penthouses, a fancy hotel, flashy bars – towers for Footballers WAGs.

And this £200 million development will lay waste to a police station, a synagogue and a great pub –The Sir Ralph Abercromby, the only remaining building that witnessed the 1819 Peterloo Massacre – a piece of Manchester history that should never be erased.

I hear Manchester’s planning committee will bless this abomination – although 7,000 Mancunians have signed a petition of protest.

A conservation area of local history desecrated.

Bugger.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Risky Business

Is a life without risk worth living? Looking at the recent “adrenaline-themed” issue of lifestyle magazine Kinfolk, I came across a joint interview between sociologists Stephen Lyng and Jeff Ferrell that resonated with me deeply. In their conversation, the two professors talk the reader through the psychology of risk-taking, which they’ve dubbed “edgework,” taking the word from Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

After meeting as graduate students at the University of Texas at Austin in the mid-1970s, the two sociologists and thrill seekers began finding ways to merge their academic work with daredevil pursuits like skydiving and motorcycle racing. In the 40-odd years since, they’ve managed to develop a renowned social theory surrounding “voluntary risk-taking” activities (everything from acts of physical courage such as BASE-jumping to emotionally and intellectually daring deeds like telling your boss to piss off!).

“We learned about edgework from people doing it—we didn’t so much invent the concept as were given the concept by the people who already engaged in it,” Ferrell explains about looking at the concept of thrill-seeking from an academic perspective. “We realized the better our skills got, the more risks we could take and the more adrenaline we could pump into our systems. Theory was living in our bodies as well as our heads, and those motorcycles and the skydiving were literal embodiments of the theories we were coming up with in the library.”

As the two friends, colleagues, and adrenaline junkies make clear, they see a profound connection between risk and living life to one’s fullest, comparing a life without risk to Disneyland. “I love the idea of the consequential edge—it could be your body and your life on the line, or it could be your career, your reputation or your relationship,” Ferrell says. “If there are no consequences at stake, then there’s no possibility of edgework. . . I’ve always been much more afraid of dying of boredom than dying in a motorcycle wreck or jumping off a building.”

All this risky business could have a biological imperative, too. One of my favorite scientific theories comes from Stephen Jay Gould, who suggested that substantive change always happen at the edges, the margins, the fringes of a species. Gould’s theory of “punctuated equilibrium” explains how evolution doesn’t take place on a predictable, linear path but with unpredictable and dramatic bursts coming from the outer reaches of the species. Not incidentally, the edge also explains why New Zealand is the future.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

In Praise of Gut Feeling

Mr. Spock vs. Captain Kirk. Sherlock Holmes vs. Dirty Harry. Obama vs. Trump. Readers of this column over the years have seen me write about IQ vs. EQ, strictly rational decision-making vs. the importance of going with one’s gut, especially when it comes to business.

As if by intuition, flipping through a new favorite publication—Kinfolk, a “slow lifestyle magazine” published in Denmark, printed in Portland, Oregon—I came across a book excerpt about this very phenomenon. In Gut Feelings: The Intelligence of the Unconscious (2007, Viking), noted German psychologist Gerd Gigerenzer explains the phenomenon of how “following our hunches can help us make better choices than dutifully weighing up the pros and cons.”

Almost everyone has had this experience, where more thinking and information—about that term paper or final exam, that sales brief, that now-or-never decision about one’s love life—can be crippling. Whatever term you choose—going with one’s gut, following a hunch, using the sixth sense—intuition is the handmaiden of rational thought. Without it, no one would ever fall in love, place a bet on a team or a stock, uproot themselves from their home, or consider leaving one job for the next.

In Gut Feelings, Gigerenzer—whose research Malcolm Gladwell used to fuel his book Blink, about the power of snap decisions—shows how our higher-level intelligence frequently works without our conscious thought. He argues that intuition is more than impulse and caprice, however, but follows its own rationale. “There are two ways to understand the nature of gut feelings,” Gigerenzer writes. “One is derived from logical principles and assumes intuition solves a complex problem with a complex strategy. The other involves psychological principles, which bet on simplicity and take advantage of our evolved brain.”

In my experience intuition honors our unconscious lives, and the complexity of a world that is not always governable by logic alone. Intuition is not antithetical to reason, but another form of reasoning. If ever faced with a dilemma whose pros and cons can’t be worked out on a spreadsheet, my advice? Go with your gut.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Crazies Leading in London

London Stock Exchange – March 10 – I’ll be opening the London Leadership Summit for Conqa, a global consulting, event management and sports entertainment organization that focuses within the elite sports industry. My theme – no surprise – Leadership in a Crazy World. My fellow crazies on the speaking roster are as impressive as they are eclectic.

There’s Paddy Upton, one of the most innovative leaders in world cricket. Paddy is head coach of the Delhi Daredevils in India, and the Sydney Thunder, 2016 league winners. He played a pivotal role in leading the Indian Cricket Team to the #1 test team, as well as the world champions in 2011. As the Performance Director of Cricket South Africa, he was a key player in taking Cricket South Africa to the first ever team to hold the number 1 status in all three formats (T20, 50 over & Test). Paddy will provide insight into how he managed to get weak, demotivated and under-performing teams, and turn them around to world-class high achievers. For him, the success is in the culture and he will explain how to get it right.

Tom Bird is author of the best-selling book "Brilliant Selling" and "The Leader's Guide to Presenting." He has spent his entire career in business and sales. His topic is “Influencing,” which he says is a key skill for today's leaders. A recent study showed that we spend on average 23 minutes of every hour trying to influence, but how long have we spent thinking about how we engage with a skill that we are using almost half of our working day applying?”

Lorne Sulcas is seriously crazy. He spent seven years as a game ranger, tracker, observer and photographer on Africa's Big Cats. From the summit blurb: “In the fiercely competitive world, it's eat or be eaten, and only the very best can stay at the top end of the food chain. As apex predators, Africa's Big Three Cats thrive through strategies and behaviors honed over millennia to get exceptional results in a challenging, changing and brutally competitive environments. Lorne will share the powerful similarities between the real and the ‘concrete’ jungles, and how these potent leadership lessons can help you and your organization thrives in the face of change and competition.”

And Gary Noesner deals with crazies. He is a 30 year veteran and former chief negotiator for the FBI. “In high pressure situations, leaders remain calm while everyone around them descends into panic. Many talk of big match temperament (BMT) as if it were a condition you either have or don't have. But what if it was a learnable skill? Gary will teach you how to remain calm, build influence and get on top in high pressure situations.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Reality Check #2: Where the killing comes from

The motivation behind the presidential order to reject people seeking to enter the US from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen for 90 days was said to be keeping American people from “bad people with bad intentions.” Here are some facts.

Over half the 911 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia, which was not subject to the travel ban.

The presence of NRA head Wayne LaPierre sitting next to the President at the White House last week gives me little optimism for sanity on American gun safety.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reality Check #1: Globaloney

America, it is said, is in a post-truthful state of mind. Anything can be asserted as a fact, especially when the rhetoric is designed to present America as a dystopia overrun with Islamic migrants and Chinese imports. Assumptions are rife and perceptions are warped.

In a Washington Post article Is America enriching the world at its own expense? That’s globaloney, Pankaj Ghemawat and Steven Altman of NYU Stern argue that “the United States is far less buffeted by international trade, immigration and other aspects of globalization than many Americans assume; the whole world is far less globalized than people tend to believe. And policies rooted in overestimating globalization — “globaloney” — could harm the people they purport to protect.”

These three charts go some way to debunking the spittle and paranoia about America being seized by foreign nations. “America First” is doing a pretty good job.

Pankaj Ghemawat is director and Steven Altman is executive director of the Center for the Globalization of Education and Management at New York University’s Stern School of Business. Ghemawat’s latest book is “The Laws of Globalization.”



Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Mental Toughness at the Super Bowl

Tom Brady and the New England Patriots just won their most incredible 5th Super Bowl. Every time Brady and coach Bill Belichick are interviewed they talk about mental toughness. And they showed it coming back from a 25 point deficit to win 34-28. There is more to talk about this in the week ahead, but a moment in time reflection needs to be spent on the Atlanta Falcons.

It’s fair to say that the Brady Bunch rolled them back. The Falcons are a very young team and much will be expected of them in 2017-2018. Especially as their coach coach Dan Quinn revealed that he is hugely inspired by New Zealand’s All Blacks and their “extraordinary legacy.”

“I did read an interesting book last year [James Kerr’s Legacy – 15 Lessons in Leadership] about the New Zealand rugby team, the All Blacks, and the culture they’ve had, the winning they’ve had,” Quinn told reporters as the Falcons prepared for the NFL’s championship game against the Patriots.

“Widely known as the All Blacks, New Zealand’s rugby players have established themselves as one of the most successful teams of all time in any sport, and Quinn has long looked at rugby for extra insight into tackling techniques in the National Football League.

“I’ve studied rugby from tackling and it’s been a driving influence on our leverage tackling, using our shoulder tackle, keeping our head out. So, my interest for rugby was already there.

“And then when I found out more about their (New Zealand rugby) culture, what they stood for, how they had long-term success for years and years, that book of legacy was certainly one that left a big impression on me.”

The All Blacks have won nearly 79 per cent of their 552 Test matches since 1903, significantly higher than South Africa, who have the second-best record, winning 65 per cent of their 464 Tests.

“Someday, I will make that trip over there to see them compete and play,” said Quinn. “That’s how strongly I felt about just reading about them. I haven’t had any interaction with them up to now, but it was definitely a book that captured me.”

Make that visit Dan.

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Power of Presence

Technology is embedded in modern living, and these days our magic mobile phones run our lives. This is mostly a good thing, and sometimes a less-than-good thing. The point I hammer home in my latest book 64 Shots: Leadership in a Crazy World and in presentations is to make technology your slave, and not to become its slave. Having TQ (technology quotient) is not about being a nerd or a technophile. It is about knowing what tech is out there, staying on top of it, and bending it to your will in business and in life.

On that note I thoroughly enjoyed a column in the January issue of SportsTravel magazine. It’s by my good friend, sports fanatic Bob Latham, a rugby-playing Texas lawyer. Bob is a former Chairman of the Board at USA Rugby, former member of the United States Olympic Committee board of directors, and is the author of Winners & Losers: Rants, Riffs & Reflections on the World of Sports.

In his column, Bob recounts a tale of misfortune turned into fortune. It’s a witty and prescient tale around how the loss of a phone at the Rio Olympics leads to an epiphany about how live sports should be experienced. The phone was ‘separated’ from Bob, as he describes it, so at various Rio events (and also later on at Wrigley Field during the world series), Bob just sat and watched. Around him in Rio the masses went crazy snapping, tweeting and the rest of it. Alone in the present, iPhone-less, Bob was totally focussed on the moment, engrossed by the competition, and totally present absorbing the action through the lenses of his own eyes. This, of course, is what live sports is all about. A fun article on the best approach to live sports-approaching. Nice score, Bob.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Four Millennial Myths

An 85 page report by Mizuho Securities shines a light on four millennial ‘Assumed Facts’.

1. Myth Millennials have migrated in droves to on-line shopping and live on Amazon.


Fact Millennials still do most of their shopping in physical stores.

Sure, they are tech savvy and frequently shop on-line. But millennials haven’t abandoned stores and shopping malls. They like to touch and feel products before they buy them, and still appreciate the experience of shopping in a store. In fact, millennials still complete 54% of shopping in physical stores, according to the report.

2. Myth Millennials spend more than they earn and are living on credit.

Fact Millennials save more money than the national average.

“Contrary to popular rhetoric regarding a highly challenged consumer who may be burdened with debt and living ‘paycheck to paycheck’, our survey of millennials suggests the majority of the demographic (74% of total responses) saves money every month compared to 26% who do not”, the report says. Millennials allocate about 6.7% of their total budget toward a savings plan of some type (401K, IRA, savings account, etc), according to the study. That’s above the US national savings rate of 5.5% per the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis.

3. Myth Millennials aren’t interested in buying homes.

Fact Millennials are planning to buy homes.

They are delaying home-buying and marriage and kids, but they are planning to get to those life milestones eventually. When asked what they are saving for, millennials said 1) a house, 2) a car, and 3) retirement.

4. Myth Millennials will never buy cars. They have both feet planted firmly in the Sharing Economy and the rise and rise of Uber.


Fact Millennials aren’t just relying on Uber and Lyft to get around. They are actually buying cars.

Like with home ownership, many millennials have delayed purchasing cars. But car buying among this demographic is rapidly rising and will continue to grow, according to the report. About 64% of millennials plan to buy a car in the next two years, and most of those who don’t plan to buy a car already own one, according to the data. Only 5% of respondents said car-sharing services like Uber and Lyft serve as a replacement for owning a car.

As Don Miguel Ruiz advises in the Four Agreements – Never Assume.