Connecting Teenagers With The Future

How often do parent’s expectations get in the way of their teenagers future? Quite frequently, perhaps like me you have experienced the following:

“ Nurse’ you want to be a Nurse, have you any idea what they earn? You’re not being a Nurse”.  A young person told me how they couldn’t follow their passion to be a nurse because of what their parents had told them.

But don’t kill all the dreams stone dead, I know if they want to study Medieval Poetry they are going to have to learn ‘Do you want fries with that’ but whatever the career they want to go into, is more to do with the kids than the career.

I could line you up a 747 full of dentists that discovered it’s less about people and more about spending hours inside people’s mouths, depression is very high, divorce rates are really high, perhaps your kids want to be a rock star or a professional footballer and we know the odds may be slim but on the other hand the world has professional ballerinas and they all came from somewhere. There are very few people who play for Manchester United who dreamt about being an accountant. So yes kids do need career advice they need to connect with their passions, what they love doing,

Some of this passion is evident as early as 5,6 7 years old and putting aside that all little girls want to be ballerinas or love ponies and all little boys want to be soldiers or firemen, all of which these are the occupations they can visualise but then from 10 or 12 until  it’s all in there, the inclinations the passions , the instincts are all in there. They may not recognise it themselves but they don’t have enough life experience or anchor spots to hang these things on.

I do a visualisation exercise of the future with teenagers and they can tell me where they are, what they are doing, step 1 is you need to understand that your kids know a great deal more about their future than you know and when you say they are paying no attention to their future, that’s not right they are paying an enormous amount of attention to their future.

I do an exercise with teenagers that I don’t know if you can do with your own kids but some of you can and here’s what I do, I call the exercise Teen Time-Line and I get them to visualise their future

It can give them a real insight into what is going on inside their head because I strongly believe the future is already here, they just don’t know it yet.

Absolutely, consistently and without exception they can describe to me their future in great detail but what that tells me is they are working very hard on their future. They want to know their future and they spend a great deal of time thinking about this, these are not spontaneous answers they give me, this is well thought out. And although it may not be apparent to you that they are paying attention, it may in fact be that they may not be telling you.


My Teenager is Always XBox!

 I know, your teenagers are always on Xbox, or PlayStation and never do any revising and they are doomed! But hold on a moment,  as parents when we complain bitterly about all the electronic things our kids have, what were we distracted by, perhaps you remember the clackers or hula hoop that we spent hours perfecting, boy there is an on-going useful talent!

From a psychological impact point of view just how much Monty Python is good for you?  If your child is spending 9 hours playing Xbox and not going to school or sleeping then you have another issue but the game is not the issue , because they can learn some useful skills, team building, managing people etc but 9 hours is addiction and that’s a whole different remit.

Parents need to set boundaries and agree them with your teen in advance because it makes life a whole lot more agreeable. Your teenager’s job is to find out where the boundary fences are, to find out how strong they are and the worst thing a teenager can find is that there are no fences.

Where you put them and how you enforce them is up to you and to do with your value system but much as they need to rebel against them, they still need to know where they are. That’s their job that’s what they are supposed to do and part of growing up.

So agree them in advance and enforce them calmly. If the deadline is 10pm to finish electronic games, then an early warning at 9:50pm. If you give in and keep allowing another 10 minutes and then another, you’ll both be frustrated and angry so for their sake and your sanity, be strong and stick to your agreements.

What Is Your Destination?

Take a few moments and imagine it’s April 2011 and the local newspaper has just written an article about your Business, what does it say?

  • What would you want it to say?
  • What would make you say ‘Wow’ we did that! 
  • By April 2011, What have you achieved?   

If you know exactly what that press article looks like, great, get it down on paper and share it with your team or your friends. If you don’t then by the week let your mind develop a clearer vision because it will both help and amaze your team when they achieve it.

In my experience of decades successfully working in the corporate industry and as a speaker helping leaders improve their emotional intelligence, I know we often spend far too much time thinking about the day to day tasks we need to do before we know what our end goal is, and something magical happens when we know the destination,  the people around us have a route to follow, they know what to focus their attention and efforts on.

Imagine if you were to get into a taxi today; the first answer the taxi driver would want to know is ‘Where are you going mate’ . At which point you would tell them and the trip would begin.

Re-wind that tape and think about it if you will, getting into that same taxi and telling the driver to just drive, I’m sure he would be happy to oblige but it would be expensive in many ways:

  • It would waste your valuable time,
  • It would definitely waste your money and
  • And it would be wasteful to the quality of your life or business, after all who wants to stay in a car all the time.

I wrote my own press release in November 2009 and my family thought it was hilarious and that was for January 2010 and the launch of my first book.

My teenagers saw this news article on the notice board and were confused. “Mum you haven’t even written a book let alone got it in the paper, are you seeing imaginary ducks as well?”. I reassured them that I was going to start the following week and they thought it was really funny but strangely curious in case I was serious.

What's Your Press Release?

 The following week I did start writing and within 6 weeks it was complete, 4 weeks after that it was edited and in print and my book ‘Walk On The Grass’ was a reality. The press release exceeded even my expectations when it appeared in 45 papers both in the UK and Europe

The family still laughed but this time it was more in shock.

It’s very important to know what your business will look like in the future, it will help you focus on what you want to achieve and will help your team to support you in the process. Your mission statement is important but the old saying a picture paints a thousand words, is still very true today.

If I were to ask each of your team what their picture of the business looks like, it would be different for each person; some may focus on making money, others on achievement and the remaining people perhaps the kudos, just being part of it.

It will only help you if your team know where they are going with it, it helps with scheduling time, setting deadlines and recognising achievements on the way and do you know you can also do the same for yourself personally with your career goals.

I know you are inundated with school work as well as the Young Enterprise programme and that’s why I’ll make it easy, you can download a simple newspaper template from my website at

Even better like most Managers– DELEGATE –  get someone to create it for you and give them the content.

Once you have a picture of your business and the words that say what you have achieved in April 2011 then the rest of the jigsaw will start to fall into place.

Because as you grow your business you know what it looks like, and that vision may develop further as you go on.

Let me leave you with one final thought and that is to start the process, what is Your Company’s Best Press Release for April 2011?

“Me go fishing? Not a chance”

I remember the day when I spoke those immortal words to Andy my partner, who has probably been a fisherman well before he could walk!  I only went up to Scotland for this weekend for a three day chill out in Scotland, and that included the 11 hour train journey to get there. British Rail should really improve the Spa arrangements on their trains!

I arrived in Forsinard and before I knew it, was whisked off to the Melvich Hotel to find myself having dinner with two English and five Spanish fishermen. The conversations were full of incredible passion about their sport as I listened to the tales of near misses, of triumphs and just darn bad luck, I was enthralled. Within an hour they had me captivated, I knew I shouldn’t have asked questions but I couldn’t help myself and there was no going back. I showed far too much interest and the Spa’s and Shops were fading into the background, being replaced with a fishing rod and a pair of wellies.

The following morning I was kitted out with fishing clothes, apparently high heels are not great for wading in. The clothes were so big I needed a belt to keep them up, looking like a cross between a Hobo and someone from the Australian outback.

Apparently the bright turquoise jacket wasn’t the best choice of colour, which I gather is the reason they wear dark green to blend with nature; they was no blending me in that outfit. On the way to the river Andy gave me some advice, “Be careful you don’t hit the power lines with the rod and don’t fall in the river, the first will kill you and the second gets you soaked”. Classic advice that would serve me well, as I bolted in the opposite direction but I was captured and told not to worry. Then my ghillie (the bloke that knows what to do) also known as Andy, demonstrated how to cast a line out. “Can you give me any advice on how to catch a salmon” I naively asked. “Yes he said “if the hook is in the river, you have a chance of catching a salmon, if it isn’t, you’ve no chance”.

I think his advice was in relation to me treating the rod and line more like a yoyo than a fishing tool. Well it seemed fun flicking the line in and out, apparently that’s called casting. After 20 minutes I felt the line pull and I was positive that I had hooked the otter on the opposite bank, well I didn’t like the way he was scowling at me and I was aiming for him! Then I thought the hook must be stuck on bramble, that was until the end of the fishing line leapt out of the water and on the end of it was a 5lb salmon.

I was speechless as I thrust the rod into Andy’s hand; “Nope” he said “You caught it, you land it”. At this point his friend arrived, Andy’s that is not the salmon’s and they proceeded to have a chat about where to eat later that night. It was reminiscent of the scene in Men in Black when Will Smith gets thrown about by the alien baby in the car whilst Tommy Lee Jones carries on with his conversation. Needless to say the odd word of “tighten the line’ or “let the line go” in between the restaurant discussions reassured me that I was doing ok.

After a few minutes I landed the salmon and Andy unhooked it and made sure it was ok before setting it free to swim off again.

I was dumbstruck by the whole experience, people go fishing for twenty years and never catch a salmon and here was I after 20 minutes.

The real lesson for me was how creative salmon fishing really is, I learnt that day how much emotional creativity is used in the process, and it wasn’t all bravado, which I had anticipated. It was explained to me how to feel at one with a fishing rod and that it was just an extension of me not a piece of wood and metal. It was about clearing your mind and being in nature, and if you were lucky enough to catch a salmon then it was a real bonus but you could still enjoy the whole experience regardless.

I think everyone should have an interest that involves being outdoors; because we spend far too many hours within buildings and it can have such a grounding effect getting back out into nature.

Why not make a promise to yourself this week to get out more and not just to dash about in life but to really experience the beauty that is all around us that we don’t always appreciate until we stop rushing around.

The funny thing is my name will apear in the Trout and Salmon in October, all because I broke one of my own rules, which was not to go fishing.

Will I do it again? Yep I’m hooked!


Well it’s back to school week and many parents will be seeing their young children starting high school for the first time. For some it will be filled with stress, fear and trepidation and for others it will be an exciting start full of new possibilities and ideas and that’s just the parents. The underlying factor running through the next few weeks is that so many people will be experiencing what change really feels like and it is so easy to dwell on the uncomfortable side of change that it sometimes brings with it. 

So stop a moment and do this little creative exercise, fold your arms in a comfortable position, tucking one into the other like you might do to keep warm. Take on board what it feels like for a few moments and then unfold them and fold them back together but this time the opposite way, so if you folded your right arm over your left arm then change it to left over right. When you first do it, it will feel awkward and a little bit strange and you’ll be tempted to just change back because it’s more comfortable. The mind likes familiarity, it wants the comfortable feeling we got the first time around.

It’s a good tip if you have kids to introduce them to this simple creative exercise because it helps the mind to make sense of the strange feeling you have when you are faced with change and can remind you to recognise what it really is. It only takes around 21 days for the mind to accept this change and within 3 weeks you could be just as comfortable with your arms folded left over right as you are the other way. This knowledge can help them to understand change.

One of the most uncomfortable business functions that many business people hate to do is cold calling, telephoning prospective clients and engaging in conversation to start a business relationship with them.  The gap between Familiarity and Change can be bridged with Discomfort and this is the awkwardness we feel when we have to step out of complacency to reach new clients. We find many ‘What if’ scenarios racing through our mind giving us good reasons not to make a call, what if they reject us, what if they don’t like what we do. The mind can find a hundred good reasons not to do something much easier than doing it.

So my tip for September which to me is the month of change is do something that sparks you out of that familiarity zone, telephone that potential client up and suggest a meeting with them.  If they say yes, enjoy the success, if they say no then phone another one until you get a yes.

So get disturbing the comfortable and when you do achieve success treat yourself to a reward to comfort the disturbance.

Clear Out The Creativity Clutter

I’m not an artist for a living but I’ve just dropped off my first publically viewed painting at an art exhibition and the proudest moment was when the organiser said to me ‘what a fabulous painting, how much is it, I could see that on my wall’. I was dumfounded, my first venture into the big wide world of Art. I actually didn’t care if I didn’t sell it, that recognition was firmly captured in my self esteem bank.

When I was younger I used to love to paint and draw and in fact anything creative, as do many children but by the time I was 20 and ensconced in Art College, the doubts had started to set in. I absorbed comments from Teachers such as ’You’ll never make a painter’ and sure enough I never got much better, hanging on to the belief that it was all too difficult and out of reach. My self-belief reinforced the fact that I can’t paint so therefore I didn’t, but after twenty five years of ‘not being able to paint’ when I wrote my book ‘Walk On The Grass’ to encourage everyone to get more creative, I decided I was going to break the mould and started to play. The thing about any art is the more you play the better you become at it and the more fun you have doing it; the less anyones opinion actually matters.  

So my simple tip for this month is to get creative again but before you do clear out some of the clutter in your mind first.

  1. Recognise if you have let one unconstructive statement destroy your confidence, you are not a sponge so don’t absorb what you don’t want.
  2. Try not to compare yourself to Rembrandt or any other artist for that matter, it’s a hard act to follow so be unique. Everything you do may not be perfect first time but you’ll have some happy accidents along the way.
  3. Find a creative place in your home and turn it into your inspiration den, you need space to be creative.
  4. Set yourself a time to be creative and work against the clock, time pressure has a way of getting your sub-conscious involved very quickly and inspiring you.
  5. If you can’t think what you could paint, then use colours to paint how you feel, and break a few rules, put the brush down and get your fingers in. It was the best thing I ever did and so much easier to express feelings.

Expressive creativity for me is about communication, perhaps it’s painting or sculpting but it can shake up your solution based creativity which is what you need when you are looking for answers to issues or problems at work or at home. So wade in and have a go, the only thing you have to lose is the self-belief that keeps you where you are now.

I’m going to the Art Exhibition tonight to see my painting hung on a wall and it will be such a proud moment for me, it’s not about selling it, it is about recognising how easy it is to change your beliefs and how many people are still stuck with such a common belief that they can’t paint.

Remember you did paint at one time in your life so when did you forget?

Does My Bum Look Big In this?

Last Night’s Channel Four’s programme ‘Who Knows Best’ found me shouting at both of the experts, let alone the contestants that took part. If we followed Paul’s lead and shouted at our clients in that manner they may lose weight through fear but they would be traumatised for life, maybe Janet’s client base would go up in numbers from Paul alone. On the opposing side Janet made me cringe with some of the fluffy practices that give down to earth and pragmatic people like me the shakes.

Fundamentally weight loss is about two things, eat less and move more. I am in total agreement with Janet that you can be helped by getting your mind in the right condition to take on the challenge but it isn’t going to happen without some physical exercise as well.

The biggest mistake people make in losing weight is what they focus on; they look back in time to what they used to look like. So look forward and work out what you want to look like now because the past is gone and you are never going to look like a twenty year old again at forty five.

The other mistake they make is they take up an activity that they hate doing, generally going to the gym. Find an activity that is creative and interesting and that you could actually enjoy. There is a wealth of activities out there just for the taking so don’t be boring and get your sights set on something you can actually see progress in. It might be taking part in a Race for Life next year or it could be kayaking but get an activity that will give you enjoyment. You are a darn sight more likely to stick with it.

 On a final note I would say it is essential to work out what being slimmer or healthier actually means to you. Will you be able to do more with the family or go on trips with friends? Find out your real motivation because if that isn’t strong enough it will fade very quickly. There are many mind techniques that can really help but you need to know your core reason for doing it. Just losing weight so you feel a bit better is not a motivating factor. Losing weight because obesity will give you diabetes and kill you ten years earlier is. Work out yours and really get into how you will think, feel and act differently when you have achieved it.

You can see it here.