Meetings, questions and Oprah

journalsLike many, I am an Oprah fan. How can you not be when you see the things she has achieved? This will be the first of two posts where I use Oprah as my springboard to consider certain aspects of life. Sometimes we make a connection without understanding the connection. This post is a good example of exactly that. I started reading about conducting meetings and suddenly it became so much more.

The article in question comes from Thrive Global Stories. In it Brendon Burchard, the author of High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way, says Oprah starts every meeting the same way, no matter the meeting topic. Brendon says she asks three questions:

“What is our intention for this meeting? What’s important? What matters?”

Such basic questions and yet there is so much more here. Why? And, why have I chosen to build a post around this? Well, because almost everything we do involves a meeting of some kind, including the one that has some of us sitting at a computer. The computer and the individual come together to produce, to make decisions that require negotiations so that a reader can reap the benefits. A corporate meeting is no different. People come together to make improvements by discussion.

Meetings have a reputation and are dreaded by those involved. They, or we fear the boredom of repetition, we fear accountability, and some of us believe we already know everything there is to know. Worse, we often and rightly so, have heard it all before and have not seen the promised changes.

Why does Oprah ask these questions, these three particular questions and why take up a blog post with it? If we approach our ventures asking these questions, we set boundaries. We all secretly and sometime openly seek to be high performers, and high performers need clarity. True clarity means sifting out distractions, so we can re-focus on the important things. If we just focus and not re-focus, we are unlikely to see a difference in what we are doing.

meetingsDeclaring our intention on arrival or at the beginning, means we are clarifying our purpose and not wasting time on the inconsequential.

“That’s why no meeting agenda should include words like information, recap, review, or discussion. Productive meetings often have one-sentence agendas like, Determine the product launch date, or Select software developer for database redesign.”

Before a meeting starts, or from the moment we sit at our desk, or enter a classroom, or pull apart an engine, we must be aware of our goals, our end goals. We are there to solve a problem, edit that chapter, or sell a product. Non-urgent information has no place inside the chosen meeting venue, and our agenda must reflect this. Today I sat down with the specific intention to create this post. This was, is and will be my agenda until I complete it.

Meetings are wonderful because once priorities are established, all involved can prepare in advance. Obviously, there is a need to invite people whose expertise can help attain the set goals. When I sat down to write I had a copy of the article in front of me. It was the article that set me on this path. Don’t think sitting at a desk on your own is a different conversation to Oprah holding a meeting. The principles are the same.

During that time period when we find ourselves inside the meeting bubble the leader needs to ensure the agenda gets followed and goals are met. The purpose must not be pushed aside. Hands up if you turn on the television, or the radio, or make a snack, or get a drink all under the guise of normality but, in truth is an avoidance technique. Isn’t this the basis for disliking meetings? We believe them to be a get together where we talk around issues and nothing gets solved.

Set an agenda, stick to the agenda, and don’t allow any complaining to distract the goal of the meeting, the day, the project. Re-direct constantly to that intention, to what is important.

At meetings attendees “need a record of the decisions made, and a plan of action for next step”. As a writer I need the same. I need to record where I got to, and if incomplete (and most likely it will be) I need to know what next. Write it down, meetings have minutes, writers have journals or diaries.

At the end of the day it’s all about future meetings and a boost to the attendee satisfaction, and this depends on the way we approach the current meeting.

Well this post is finished so I am off to meet up with my journal, so we can sort what to bring for the next post meeting.

Ciao for now,



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The evolution of failure, who else does it often? (Part 2)

Beating self up)

Failure is a word. Words can be manipulated. Certainly, failure on first acquaintance appears unpleasant but if we look beyond that initial first reaction we can view it as a gauge to improvement. It also provides the impetus to re-group and acts as the challenge to our creativity. With luck and hard work, it can bring out the very best in us.

Our negative view of failure, or rather society’s view, can stop that from happening. Making mistakes is acceptable, failing isn’t and failing often is unconscionable. For some reason as soon as the word appears, reason flies out the window. Why? We failed early and survived. Why shouldn’t we fail often and keep surviving or possibly do better than that by improving whatever it is we are doing?

I am an English teacher and so there are expectations when I write but I make silly errors and I make them often. I have worked hard to be comfortable with this, and I work harder to make my students comfortable with their errors. Not complacent, comfortable and there is a difference. I had to learn that because without realising it I managed to cross over into the second phase, the one where we fail often.

There is so much out there to learn, and I can’t do it all at once. I am sure some people can. I can’t, so the only way forward was to accept failing often. Rather than a comfort zone I sought being comfortable with failing often, and consequently the negative connotations have been replaced with believing each failure will offer secrets, new information to make the next time easier.

This is what I encourage in my students, this understanding, because it encourages both the continuation of the learning process, and the love of learning. I know I will never reach the stage of stopping. Why would I want to stop something so amazing? Knowledge, and the improvement it brings, is the most satisfying thing in the world. Suddenly that too often fail begins to look more like a win.

living your life

 I edited over 90,000 words. Of course, I wasn’t going to get it right (FAIL).  I learned so much, so much more than I expected (WIN).  I did it again and missed things again (FAIL). I recognised what I had missed in my work and I am recognising it in other places. In fact, so much so, that each day I grow a little in confidence (WIN) despite never ending errors that come my way constantly (FAIL). You see, I am learning to transfer that recognition to other work I have in progress (WIN). I have also stopped beating myself up (HUGE WIN).

This is my experience, a personal experience in this journey I have chosen. I am equally sure that you are experiencing something similar in your chosen fields of employment, or even in life in general. I have wished I had never stepped foot on this road so many times. Can you relate?  It is so exhausting, mentally and physically, to chase a dream. Succeeding is not about the adage, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again. That would be too simple. It leaves out the fact, the acknowledgement, that failure is valuable. Succeeding is about the willingness to learn from that failure and letting it fuel your next step. I wrote a little poem about my process and making choices.  








The do do might be my undoing but I couldn’t resist it. Time is a friend and sometimes time is an enemy, and if we are not dedicated enough to persevere we could end up with this rhyme instead.




 Life is for living, and failing is a big part of living well. Stay tune for Part 3

The Evolution of Failure – failing forward.



Alla prossima


Quotes, moving and covers


I am in the middle of packing, and it’s been a little bit of a nightmare.  There are so many things to think about.  In fact the process is long and fraught with so many niggly little problems that I’ve had to take a step back from everything, including writing.  The cloud of overwhelmingness (I do know it’s not a real word) was growing bigger and darker every day. Packing and writing don’t mix for me, at least not at the moment.  Combine that with real life (the everyday normal things) and you have a problem. Each thing distracts the other, and each refuses to compromise with my time, and consequently everything was coming to a standstill.

Needing time out, I decided to catch up on some reading.  I have long suspected I may be slightly obsessive about the amount of reading I do as I can’t seem to go one day without reading a book, someone’s post, or sometimes both.  Though obviously time consuming, it does have its perks.  For me reading provides relaxation and it is the way I learn.  Away from the mayhem of “do I keep this or get rid of it because I haven’t worn it or used it in the last who knows how many years”, and away from I haven’t got time to write a thousand words a day, or even ten words, I re-discovered the comfort of answers even when I was unaware I had questions (the quotes from Maya are very telling).

It’s amazing what you find when you aren’t looking, or think you aren’t looking. Normally I am reasonably efficient but I have been struggling these last few weeks.  Yes, moving is stressful and very taxing on both the body and the mind.  Yes, as a writer the frustrations are constant.  I know these things so why the angst.  Well, it appears a few things were playing on my subconscious, or I wouldn’t have crossed paths with the quotes I have strewn throughout this post.

Book 2 cover 100px RGB (1)I have just finished a huge edit on my novel Unexpected Obsession to ensure it is print worthy (although this could still be debateable).  Thank you all by the way, for the comments and ideas.  It has made a big difference to readability and has given me direction for my second book.  In fact I now have the cover for Unexpected Passion (let me know what you think), and am working on ideas for Book 3. On the surface this all seems pretty wonderful, doesn’t it? Yet I have been feeling uncomfortable. This author stuff is suddenly way too real and confronting.

Living in beautiful North Queensland has been an adventure but perhaps it hasn’t been the right one for me.  I miss the culture and diversity a big city offers.  But, I also wanted to be settled in one place. Circumstances have made that hard for me throughout my life and I thought it time I belonged somewhere.  I should have known that it wasn’t that easy. Too much goes into belonging and if the right ingredients are missing, then the bread dough doesn’t rise.  So here I am, moving again, and it’s scary and certainly not what I thought I would be doing at this stage of my life.  Then again I never thought I’d be a writer either. This life stuff is suddenly way too real and confusing.And your point is

Why can’t I just suck it up and stay put? If I found myself writing here, then why move? Is it wrong to want more?  Then I came across this quote by Muriel Strode.  She says “do not follow where the path may lead.  Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” For my whole life this is exactly what I have done.  I always wanted to be different and do different things but when I was younger and stronger, I had more time and energy to blaze a different trail if the one I was on, failed.

Ironic isn’t it, to be afraid to do what I have always done? It takes courage however to commit to something new at the best of times but as you get older the word courageous can become a foreign one. Does that mean we should settle for the safety of the known? Aristotle believed that “Courage is the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees the others.” Forging ahead despite our fears prevents stagnation.

When I consider some of the things happening in our world on a daily basis and the incredible bravery displayed by some just to survive I am humbled.  Surely something as simple as changing where I live, and continuing to work at something I love, shouldn’t immobilise me. My sojourn up here has given me the push to publish.  Now maybe it’s time to show appreciation and go live somewhere where I can honour that.  It’s all about perspective and that’s what reading does.  It reminds us to have perspective.

 Till next time