Thursday, March 23, 2017

Here’s How to Destress

In today’s crazy world, stress levels can go through the roof. 24x7 internet and mobiles, no time for ourselves, ever shortening deadlines, mob rule via Twitter, Facebook mania, bingeing on media, TV, food, not enough time for sleeping, thinking, learning, improving – and it just keeps coming. Unless you take control of your own happiness and do something about it.

I believe in Making Happy Choices and in dealing to stress (and pressure) through positive actions (and mental toughness). There’s lots of work out there on dealing to stress but every programme depends on one thing – You. And your focus, commitment and discipline. GQ ran an article featuring two approaches from a GP and an author that will work – as long as you commit to them and act on them.

From Dr Nick Knight, a GP and PhD in performance physiology and nutrition:
  • Visualisation
  • Breathing meditation
  • Talk to yourself
  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Keep a diary
  • Reset achievable goals
  • Take a time out
And from Carl Vernon, author of The Less Stress Lifestyle
  • Take action
  • Avoid toxic people
  • Focus on what you want
  • Be grateful
  • Be true to yourself

Monday, March 20, 2017

If You’re Visiting the Lakes This Spring/Summer...

I have a home on the Fells above Grasmere, one of England’s most beautiful villages, on Greenhead Ghyll overlooking the Lion and the Lamb - Helm Crag. We are within 30 – 40 minutes of some of the best food in the UK and if you’re ever in the Lakes, here are some of the best:

Michelin Star Dining:

Forest Side – at the bottom of the road we live in. Fellow Old Lancastrian Andrew Wildsmith, creator of Hipping Hall in Kirby Lonsdale, lured Kevin Tickle from L’Enclume to create a unique forager based dining experience. Eight months after opening, they scored their first Michelin Star.

The Samling – (pictured above) a few miles away, overlooking Lake Windermere has just renovated its kitchen and restaurant – and retained its Star. Home to Renée Zellweger, Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman on their visits to The Lakes – it’s a must visit. Chef Nick Edgar was Head Chef at Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons. A heavyweight.

The Gilpin – Barney and Zoë Cunliffe have turned The Gilpin into a magical paradise. They hired Hrishikesh Desai, the winner of Chefs on Trial in 2015 to create two amazing restaurants, Hrishi at Gilpin and Gilpin Spice. Won their first Star last year. A beautiful spot.

My Favorite Three Restaurants:

The Jumble Room – in Grasmere. Opened 21 years ago by Andy and Christine Hill, who still run – and love it. “The very best ingredients, cooked with love and served with pride.” Funky Fun.

The Old Stamp House – in Ambleside. My favourite chef, Ryan Blackburn, and my favorite front-of-house man, his brother Craig. Cumbrian fare at its best. In the old Post Office where Wordsworth worked.

Lake Road Kitchen – 10 yards away from The Old Stamp House in Ambleside. In the Good Food Guide’s Top 50 UK restaurants. Home grown and foraged local produce. Casual. Easy.

Four Great Pubs:

The Drunken Duck – just outside Ambleside. Simply the best.

The Punch Bowl – at Crosthwaite. Arthur Bridgeman Quin presiding – UK Young Chef of the Year. 21 years young!

The Lyth Valley Hotel – just reopened. One to watch.

The Wheatsheaf at Brigsteer – Cumbria’s Pub of the Year.

So take a walk in the Fells – then treat yourself to some warm Cumbrian hospitality and great local food and drink.


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spread Your #lovein3words

Revlon have done a loving thing. On the Oscars broadcast they launched The Love Project. Lady Gaga, Pharrell Williams and Ellen DeGeneres fronted the Love Project ad explaining what love means to them, in the hope of raising money for several charities, in addition to the $1 million Revlon had already pledged.

“The Love Project is the beginning of a social movement which aims to inspire more love, acceptance and caring in the world,” said Carlos Barreto, Revlon SVP Marketing. “At the heart of this campaign is the belief that all people are beautiful and that love can create a better world.”

Thousands of people have tweeted to #lovein3words. Here’s a sampler:

Helping our veterans

Confidence Courage Smiles

Strong Brave Fight

You. Us. Together.

Kindness. Passion. Empathy.

Family. Unity. Blessing.

Redeemed. Brave. Beautiful.

My Silly Boys

Belong Home Us

Show You Care

Grace in Tolerance

Art Music Life

We Not Me

Models of Diversity

Love They Neighbor

Family Above All

Dogs More Dogs

Nice one Revlon. Lovemarks in action.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

“. . . With Heart & Humor”

My friend from yore Robin Dyke, poet and professor from Victoria in British Columbia, came with me to a college talk in a beautiful part of Canada. Here is a guest KRConnect post from Robin. 

Picture this – a school devoted to developing future leaders spread over 300 acres, enclosed by pacific west coast rainforest and edged beside a lake sharing its name and rivaling the beauty of England’s Lake District – here you have Shawnigan Lake School. A school not unfamiliar to being on the edge of its island and continent location and the values driven educational vision successfully pursued for over 100 years.

Enter KR, resplendent in British Lions Scarf sacrament – one intimately familiar with private school life and its challenges to ego and independence, now equipped with a notable internationally spanned career of business leadership (not without controversy) and an openly edged perspective punctuated with disruptive and irresistible ideas - to speak to Shawnigan’s full student body of 500 along with staff. In the school’s Chapel no less. Potentially all the edgy ingredients for a perfect PC storm!

Throughout the forty minutes waves of rapt attention, gasps, wows, laughs and applause. KR at his spiritual and inspirational best. The thank you noting “especially for doing it with heart and humor”. And “we hope you come back soon!” Teenagers in full animation early Monday morning. Unbelievable!

How could this be? By relating his story that he too was in their shoes as a teenager. And more dramatically, the good humored reverence by which he roasted their Headmaster at the outset of his talk instantly signaled he was one of them. The gasps of delight at how connection can be made out of circumstance were made evident. Their attention from this point was bonded. This guy is crazy but I want to be daring like him!

What would I at seventeen want to hear to make me better at being my best – this was at the content center of Kevin’s talk – ten formative messages, well familiar to KR Connect readers:

1. It's a VUCA world

2. Make it Super VUCA!

3. Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements

4. Have a Personal Purpose

5. Ambition – Belief - Courage


7. Develop Leadership Skills

8. Find a Job that = Responsibility, Learning, Recognition, Joy

9. Fail Fast - Learn Fast – Fix Fast

10. Make Happy Choices

The students ate up the message, stories and examples as Kevin worked through each in order. Of the ten, the simplicity and vitality of number 4 particularly resonated with revelation; one students response: I realized my lack of clarity of my personal purpose was missing in my career and life planning. At this age it doesn’t get more impactful than having an inspirational dream. Apply these! Apply these! a student leader shouted out to the audience in thanking Kevin.

And so as well a lesson for the teacher - in the after talk with individual students there was a double encounter with one. The student had earlier asked Kevin about the boredom of studying economics in preparation for a career in business and what might be of more value. What about gaining work experience as a helpful start Kevin mentored. Later as Kevin was departing the student approached again; Mr. Roberts, do you remember my name? Kevin; I’m sorry I don’t, what is it? Student; Leo, Leo Lee. Next visit or otherwise, Kevin will remember you Leo!

Character and Courage, two of the marker values of Shawnigan Kevin brought to life in Leo along with the many more stories from the Chapel that are now being sung.

Link to view the full presentation on YouTube

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

For F***’s Sake

In 2011 I was giving a keynote speech at a major economics conference in Spain. The country has produced many of the world’s greatest artists – Picasso, Dali, Miro, Goya, Velazquez; it held the World Cup then and has two of the greatest football clubs, Real Madrid and Barcelona. Amancio Ortega Gaona was on his way to becoming the world’s richest person through Zara and the other apparel companies in the Intidex group. But overall, the country had – and still has – more than a few serious economic problems: half the country’s young people are unemployed; regionalism is rife; the two hour lunch; rampant property speculation; rampant tax evasion; the underground economy; being generally unproductive.

But two phenomena struck me more than any other. The first was its plummeting birthrate, well below replacement rate (a country needs a fertility rate of just over two children per woman to fill the spaces left behind by deaths; Spain’s is 1.32).

This fits a global pattern of marriage being in outright decline, advanced age of maternity, declining birth rates, motherhood and homemaking being secondary life objectives, aging populations, the phenomenal growth of solo living, and freakish phenomena such a ‘celibacy syndrome – the flight from human intimacy.’ By 2050 Spain will be a depopulated country dominated by elderly and single people, having lost 5.3 million people, or 11% of the population.

The second and quite tangential observation – stemming from the correlation between church-going and happiness – was that despite being an overwhelmingly Catholic country, only 15% of Spaniards went to church any Sunday.

Thus, a national strategy came to mind: Pray & Procreate. The room of economists looked at me askance, but it turns out my finger was on the pulse of a major issue. Business Insider carried a story this week on 10 countries that desperately want people to have more sex.

“There are few things more important than fertility in determining a nation's future viability,” writes Chris Weller, senior innovation reporter for Business Insider. “Because of certain cultural and economic forces, only about half of the world's 224 countries currently hit replacement fertility,” “For those that don't [including China 1.66 and the USA 1.88], encouraging people to have sex can involve strategies that range from highly explicit to downright bizarre.”

No surprise that Spain was right there among the low libido countries. Finally the nation has woken up to the issue and appointed a special commissioner to devise strategies to reverse the declining birthrate.

Other countries featured in the report were Russia, Japan, Romania, Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Denmark.

Business Insider noted that Russia is experiencing a perfect demographic storm. “Men are dying young. HIV/AIDS and alcoholism are crippling the country. And women aren't having babies. The problem got so bad that Russia declared September 12 the official Day of Conception.”

Singapore has the lowest fertility rate in the world, at just 0.81 children per woman. Each year the government spends roughly $1.6 billion on programs to get people to have more sex. The Singaporean government even held National Night, an event sponsored by the breath-mint company Mentos, to encourage couples to "let their patriotism explode."

Other countries have tried incentives – baby bonuses, flexible leave structures, parental leave policies, days off work (the Swedish town of Overtornea has announced a proposal to give the municipality's 550 employees paid time off to “get busy”), parental education programs, three years of baby supplies, even free refrigerators; and disincentives: higher income tax for childless couples, provisions to make divorce nearly impossible, limits on one bedroom apartments.

But you have to hand it to the Danes. Do it for Denmark is the copyline of a promotional campaign to guilt couples into having kids to give their precious mothers a grandchild. The rationale of Spies Rejser, a Danish travel company, is that vacation is the optimal time for “doing it.”

So what to do? Obviously, completely obviously, the focus needs to be on people of child-bearing age. The Rooster’s “9 Brutally Real Reasons Why Millennials Refuse to Have Kids” is not an encouraging start: from “The world kinda sucks now”(1) to “We don't even need a reason; we just don't want them, so stop asking!”(9).

Against this, what to do, especially if your business is selling baby and parenting products and services? The answers are not simple.

1. Think both ends of life. Sweeping demographics mean that the health needs of seniors have a congruency with brands catering for babies. These companies need to segue their product development, manufacturing and marketing to cater for both ends of life.

2. Persist with continuous and messaging. Lack of awareness of this demographic bomb is a contributing factor. China has repealed its One Child policy, and 45% of the 1.31 million new born last year were to single child families (though well short of their 3 million new born target). Few people know depopulation is a problem, so raising awareness of the issue and solutions should be a continuous program for the governments involved. Demographics matter, they always have, and can’t be taken for granted.

3. Policies and Practices are essential. Companies and governments mostly have policies that are supportive of children but for everyone involved it will always be a bit of a struggle because of the pressure of commerce and balancing work and life. Keep working at it, listening and asking what will harmonize all the complexities. And taking action.

4. Focus on families.
Rather than promotional procreation gimmicks, we need to educate society that the greatest experience in life, is love itself, and the greatest expression of love is family. This is a multi-year macro program for governments, companies, brands and people (prospective parents and grandparents). Immigration is a major factor in this strategy and is driving certain government actions.

One thing is clear: the future of the family is a key national strategy for governments. Not power and war. Make love.

Monday, March 6, 2017

In Defense of Teenagers: It’s Not Their Fault

Everything you wanted to know about teenagers but were afraid to ask (apologies to Woody Allen for the steal). Danish researchers from Aarhus University have discovered:
  • Teenagers grow by 8 – 9 cm per year. The reason they can seem gangly and awkward is as they get taller (girls between 12 and 13, boys between 14 and 15) their center of gravity shifts but the brain hasn’t caught up and can’t calculate how to balance its new frame.
  • Seemingly reckless risk-taking is not due to stupidity or willfulness. It’s because the human brain isn’t formed until girls are 20 and boys are 24. And the parts responsible for planning and decision-making are finished last. Teenagers’ risk assessment capabilities are only half built.
  • Teenagers think about sex every six seconds. Their brains are flooded with hormones, oestrogen and testosterone by the gallon! It’s not their fault.
  • Girls do talk more than boys. Girls’ brains are inbuilt with a head-start for language. They talk earlier, have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. Because of the way the brain is structure. In girls the part where we produce language has 20% more neutrons than the male; the part where we interpret language is 18% bigger in females.
  • Your teenager is not lazy. Teenagers need 10 hours sleep per day as their brains and bodies grow so quickly.
  • Their brains shut down when you nag them. The areas of the brain that process negative emotion go on full alert, while the areas that allow us to feel other’s emotions deactivate. And teenagers have poor prospective memories – they aren’t very good at holding things in their heads.
  • Teenage “Me, me, me” is not narcissism. It’s because they struggle to recognise emotions in others. They are 20% less accurate in reading fear, shock, anger until age 18 – when their prefrontal brain catches up.
Truly – it’s not their fault!
Image: Shuttestock