Under Pressure with Andrew Summey

Have you ever met people that made you think ‘Oh, I really want us to talk more about x and y’? People you felt you have unfinished conversations with, even though you haven’t talked to them before; people whose work you’ve read and whose thinking strongly resonated.

Queue Andrew, human extraordinaire, always asking for two more sentences. Some of us just can’t be confined to boxes, so we ask for more. Here’s the funny thing – we take or occupy as much space as we allow ourselves to. And through his ever-going journey, Andrew has always looked for more, asked for more, and strived for better.

We touch on the metaphor of rowing, we speak about vulnerability and leadership and how the two go together, with a dash of rambling, giggles and swearing. And a whole lot of tension.

This conversation reminded me that we’re not alone in our struggles and that we’re all on a journey of some sort or another. That we can find solace in our journeys if we allow ourselves to look a different way than we usually do. Here’s our raw, recorded conversation for you, please give it a listen.

Under Pressure w/… Andrew Summey

We’re ending high, on a poem Andrew wrote.

Start

I kept planning
I kept seeking
I prepared more
I wanted a better view
To keep me in lieu
Why was I preparing
For the starting line?
For the planets to align?
When I had moseyed past
Friends cheering and clapping
My thoughts toward mapping
Then, I looked around
I had already begun
Now, it’s time to run!

P.S. Here is some of the stuff we mention:
# Daniel Bauer, awesome human and ruckus maker at Better Leaders, Better Schools
# U2 album, Zooropa, Jonny Cash track

Thanks for listening, tchuss!

Brave New Work, Aaron Dignan

I’ve recently finished reading A Dignan’s Brave New Work. It reminded me of F. Laloux’s Reinventing Organizations and it also reignited my hope. This book is well worth a couple of reads, as I’m positive you’ll find gold nuggets with every additional reading. Here are some of my notes 😊

# The thinking separated from the doing.

This sentence struck a chord. I mean, so many modern roles have thinking separated from the doing, it’s scary, really. And it might explain why people hate and leave the roles that involve this type of work. And it also might explain why folks in some of these roles just don’t care – about how they show up, whether they bring their best self to work or not, whether they show empathy or kindness. And it’s a real shame we have allowed work to dehumanize us and dictate how we show up.

# Bureaucracy is a hidden debt – an organizational debt – that we pay interest on every day. One of the most common sources of organizational debt is the knee-jerk reaction. Every time something goes wrong, we immediately jump to create a constraint that will prevent future mistakes. So, we institute a new role, rule or process.

I’ve noticed this happens more in medium to large organizations than in small ones. The latter ones seem to have more of an ‘improve, adapt, overcome’ mindset, whereas large ones don’t seem to have a space for mistakes or failures to happen

# The question that must be asked is ‘What would we do if we were starting with a blank sheet of paper?’ If the answer is anything else than what we’ve got, we have work to do.

This reminded me of the concept of sunk costs. I think we should ask ourselves this question in other areas of our lives too, not just in the workplace.

# We cannot do the best work of our lives under the auspices of an operating system that presumes our stupidity, our laziness and our untrustworthiness. When it comes to people, in many ways you get what you design for. Evolutionary Organizations know that if you treat people like mercenaries, they will become mercenaries. Treat them like all-stars and they will become all-stars. To be People Positive is to assume and expect the best of everyone.

I feel this idea goes hand in hand with the ‘thinking separated from the doing’ one. Yes, you do get what you design for. So, how do we make people aware of this? How do we build people up for success?

# Randomness and innovation are good friends.

This is music to my ears. Do we even give ourselves the space to think these days, and not fill every nook and cranny of our time with a podcast, a book, some sort of personal development activity and so on? We need to create space for thinking, for reflection, for idleness. Magic tends to happen in these exact moments.

On standards, alignment amongst teams and bringing change:

# The great thing about standards is that they show us a proven way to do something and they are reliable (for the most part). The problem with standards is that they undermine our ability to use our judgement, innovate, and learn. Instead of enforcing standards, think about proven tactics as defaults. Defaults are exactly like standards with one exception: you don’t have to use them. A default says: If you don’t know what you’re doing, do this. If you don’t have time to think, try it our way. But if you’ve achieved some level of mastery in an area and you see a better way, feel free. Let us all know how it goes, because either you’ll generate further proof that our default is sound, or you’ll sow the seeds for a new default that we can all benefit from.

# Concept of ‘loosely coupled but tightly aligned’ suggests that we maximize strategic alignment but minimize dependencies and red tape amongst teams.

# On transparency, apply the concept of ‘information symmetry’ – a condition in which all relevant information is known to all participants.

# Information in change: Increased transparency is critical in the early stages of transforming your OS, because it’s a prerequisite for making sound decisions. One of the most common mistakes is teams taking a swing at empowerment before ensuring transparency. What happens? People make decisions without the benefit of crucial information (about intent, strategy, customers etc), those decisions are subpar, and leadership goes, ‘See! People can’t be trusted to make decisions.’. Avoid this by focusing on sharing early and often. Make it safe. Make it habitual. When shared consciousness is high, everything else gets easier’.

And last, but not least, some useful reminders:

# Gratitude

Taking the time and being grateful and showing appreciation for our teams/ community works wonders. Make sure you practice gratitude on a regular basis <3

# We grow through resistance and discomfort.

# True performance – the kind we ultimately care about – is a team sport.

# In an increasingly complex world, plans are lies committed to paper.

# Resistance is an invitation to talk, listen, and learn.

# No easy answers exist. Just strong opinions loosely held.

# We raise the bar by seeing what is possible.

Dear Frank,

It’s been a while. I feel you’ve been more present since I’ve last written to you. Isn’t that strange? Is it the fact that I’ve been ignoring you the reason why you’ve tried to hijack so much of my attention?

I find this paragraph from Elizabeth Gilbert spot on, and then some. I doubt you’ll like it, but then again, this isn’t about giving you warm, fuzzy feelings, is it now?

Dearest fear: Creativity and I are about to go on a road trip together. I understand you’ll be joining us, because you always do. I acknowledge that you believe you have an important job to do in my life, and that you take your job seriously. Apparently, your job is to induce complete panic whenever I’m about to do something interesting – and, may I say, you are superb at your job. So, by all means, keep doing your job, if you feel you must. But I will also be doing my job on this road trip, which is to work hard and stay focused. And Creativity will be doing its job, which is to remain stimulating and inspiring. There’s plenty of room in this vehicle for all of us, so make yourself at home, but understand this: Creativity and I are the only ones who will be making decisions along the way. I recognize and respect that you are part of this family, and so I will never exclude you from our activities, but still – your suggestions will never be followed. You’re allowed to have a seat, and you’re allowed to have a voice, but you are not allowed to have a vote. You’re not allowed to touch the road maps; you’re not allowed to suggest detours; you’re not allowed to fiddle with the temperature. Dude, you’re not even allowed to touch the radio. But above all else, my dear old familiar friend, you are absolutely forbidden to drive. E. Gilbert, Big Magic

It’s funny, because I’ve been meaning to share this with you for a while now, and somehow, I didn’t get round to it, until now. Food for thought, Frank, food for thought.

Until next time,

Andra

Andra & Andra or the story of how I met my sister from another mother (part II)

You’re all caught up now, and you know the behind the scenes story. Sort of. The thing is, there was a point in my life when I loved doing interviews, talking to people, asking odd questions and getting awesome answers. And at another point, I forgot how much I enjoy it all and it kind of got lost in translation. Thanks to the AltMBA experience (yeah, it’s an experience, not a programme ?), I realised I miss talking to people.

Normal, wonderful, generous, full of wisdom and cool stuff you-should-hear-from people. Here’s the thing – whilst it’s cool to hear podcasts or interviews with uber-famous dudes and dudettes, it can be difficult to put yourself in their shoes, or identify with their experiences, as sometimes they seem to live or come from a different realm. And I’ve met so many great, amazing folks so far, that I’ve lined them up for conversations and you’ll hear from them soon enough (watch this space!)

Andra Zaharia is an amazing human being, and it made sense my first podcast to be a conversation with her. Why you’ll ask. Well, she’s the reason I found the courage to apply for the AltMBA. And it felt like things are coming to a full circle when the thought of starting Under Pressure with her popped in my mind.

I was beyond nervous emailing her about the podcast, since it’s all invented, and there wasn’t/ isn’t a clear process here, I’m running on creative carbs. It’s an odd thing to read someone’s blog/ thoughts on a blog and feel like they’re your sister from another mother. And then talk and meet IRL and feel that’s not such an insane idea after all. I shared the raven story with her, she replied, said yes to my proposal, the rest is history <3 And a raw, recorded conversation for you, please give it a listen.

Under Pressure … w/ Andra Zaharia

Links to some of the stuff we mention:

Thanks for listening, tchuss!

Rebelling against the rebellion – a short story from a far-end dystopia

Here I am, waking up, and something doesn’t feel quite right. I’m still myself, but I feel somehow different. I feel I can see now. Which is a bit odd, as I thought I could see before too. I’m not exactly sure what’s happening. And I don’t have the time to find out, either. I need to show up for duty, my fellow ravens from the 1234aB Legion are waiting for me.

In case you missed the memo or haven’t seen the latest headlines, we’re fighting the Resistance. After discovering Footprints on the Moon, a bunch of luminaries decided that’s good enough for life to move on, and so they created the Ravenhold, a community for the rebels out there, the ones not fitting in, the ones fighting the status quo of Earth and its Corporations. Yes, Corporations have taken over and whilst we have quite a few ravens infiltrated, change is hard and it’s happening slowly. Or, rather, not fast enough.

The Ravenhold has its HQ on the moon, in the Linchpin Quarter. There’s also the Post Office quarter, alongside Prompts and Feedback quarters. We use them for training purposes, to make sure ravens know how to identify Resistance and can converse with it, playing along, before defeating it, thus causing Corporations a tiny bleed.

The approach here is similar to death by a thousand cuts, so we target individuals who feel different, and have the potential to become Ravens, after intensive training and multiple preparations. There are no tests, but you can smell an impostor a thousand miles off. What happens to them, you might wonder. Oh, well, let’s just say other ravens are not the nicest in their darkest moments. You see, each Raven has an internal fear reservoir, and they can check the levels (after all, we need to keep it in control) through the raven stamp on their left wrist. It’s a circle, and the raven on it darkens completely when it’s maxed out. And so, it needs emptying. I’ve noticed a circularity of sorts, and about 3% of the potential ravens fail to finish the instruction program. Which provides an opportunity for other ravens to empty out their fear tanks and become their best selves again.

Our master, Esgodin, is believed to be of utmost generosity and wisdom. He created the Ravenhold, and although he is more of a servant, in the background type of leader, we all feel his presence and we’re constantly moved by his leadership. He’s our daily inspirer and has written a number of books very popular among us, the ravens, but also among some Corporations folk. Hmm, this is a new thought, it never occurred to me before that his popularity is high among Corporations, too.

I remember seeing him, just last week, talking about the Resistance and how we need to see and be seen by others. I noticed a funny thing, though, a smirk of sorts on his face. I’ve never noticed that before. And his eyes lit a bit as if he acknowledged me observing that. Did I imagine it all?

 […]

Oh, no, Esgodin has been deceiving us. He wants the Earth just for himself, and his greatest wish is to replace the Corporations with Ravenholod. That’s why he moved to the moon so that new ravens won’t be able to notice his deepest, truest desire. How can I let others see this too? They’ll believe I’m mad, mad for even thinking this.

[…]

I’ve been made. He rambled through my thoughts and now he knows I know. Nooooo, noooo, don’t send me back to Earth, not Corporations, please, I beg of you. I know I can fly, and make it safely somewhere…Why does it feel like I’m falling, though?

P.S. This is a very vivid dream I had whilst going through the AltMBA, and I tried to put it on paper as accurate as possible. At the time, I was also reading Salman Rushdie’s Midnight Children, so, somehow, it wasn’t a very surprising dream.

(mantra) Trust the process. Trust myself | My AltMBA experience ? (part I)

Here we are, on this page, and I’m telling you the story of how it all started. It started years ago when Seth Godin launched the AltMBA. And Frank, whom I didn’t know as Frank back then, but as doubt, fear, that-crippling-I’m-not-good-enough thought, told me I cannot apply to the programme, they’ll say no and I’ll be crushed under the weight of that refusal.

Those of you familiar in the slightest with Seth Godin and his work, know about the drip strategy. That slow, convincing, more than encouraging story he tells bit by bit, gaining your enrolment long before you even realise that you’ve made up your mind and you’re in. So, there it was, the email about the August session, and here I was, pondering, doubting, investigating deep down whether I’m good enough – please, don’t ask about the standard I was comparing myself to, because, as you know, it’s all invented.

I’m not sure how exactly I ended up on Andra Zaharia’s blog, reading about her AltMBA experience, in a roundabout way. And I must have read it at least a couple of dozen times, looking for something, perhaps some sort of confirmation that this is right, and that I should go for it. After reading her blog, and listening to some episodes of her podcast, I put the thought away. And a few days after this, I got that final reminder email; and I read Andra’s blog again. And I applied, on a whim, a couple of hours before the closing deadline. I’ve signed up for the AltMBA in a moment of temporary insanity with a dash of tipsiness. I almost put a big fat YAS where I was supposed to put my initials – I was SO excited that I was finally doing this. Applying was a huge step forward for me because in doing so, I also realised I was okay with being rejected. I was happy to be applying, and I understood then that I would be okay with a no too. You see, this experience was a gift, so it had to come this way to me. Because I got the acceptance email on my 30th birthday. This experience was a tremendous gift, and it’s been an amazing journey. It’s the gift that keeps on giving ?, from deep a-ha moments to making a podcast!

I’ve learned so much about myself, it’s unreal. Here’s the playlist of this journey:

Under Pressure – AltMBA33

My a-ha moments and lessons from the AltMBA include:

# The meaningful specific we should all strive for. Seth Godin has been going on and on about this, in his books, in the TMS, The Bootstrappers’ Workshop. I’m surprised they don’t sell pointers to wave in your face with ‘meaningful specific’ written on them (you can’t unsee these once you’ve thought of them, eh?!) There’s a difference between the specificity going on in our own head, when we think we’ve covered all bases, and the one that you put down on paper, and people tell you to dig deeper, it’s not specific enough and you can do better.

# My second a-ha moment is related to the stories we tell ourselves vs the outer environment. And why sharing your ideas and thoughts with others can provide so much insight and thus lead to change. And saying I don’t know is not the end of the world, hahaha. There’s also that gap between what we see as a possibility and the array of possibilities out there, that could help you tell a better story.

# I realised what acting as if is referring to, how it changes our narrative and how yesterday’s impossible becomes today’s maybe.

# Open yourself to possibility. Be open, opener than you think you are when you’re saying you’re open. Yes, exactly that. Embrace openness with no expectations whatsoever.

# There’s magic in using a constraint. Let go of scenaritis. You know, that train of thoughts in which you build scenarios on situations that only happen in your head, and you panic and fuuuuuuuuudge!

# There’s magic in teams. We’re all weird, and smart, and different, and tell a unique story about ourselves to the world. Perhaps there is a thread of similarity in some of the challenges we experience, but we all internalise and solve things differently, and that’s okay. So, let go of doubt and bring your best self to work. Trust yourself, and trust that everyone is coming in with an open heart and an open mind. And embrace the possibility that anything and everything can happen.

# Trust the process. Always trust the process <3 It’s easy to be doubtful when embarking on new journeys. Keeping an open mind and an open heart does wonders to the process ?

The thing is, the story we tell ourselves is important too, and we need to act as if, not just think we act as if. It’s so easy to forget this magic of sharing and caring, and it’s so difficult to do it intently. And this is how and why I decided to start a podcast!

Dear Frank,

Firstly, let’s introduce you to the world. World, meet Frank — Frank is my part of my committee that resides upstairs. If you’re wondering, there are also Pablo (my Muse), Harper (my cowardness) and the Universe (needs no intro) in this committee, but more about them another time.

Frank gives voice to my fears, my doubts; he is the nagging voice creeping in when I’m doubtful. Frank is the manifestation of my Resistance. Why not make it fun, give it a name and converse with it regularly?

Frank, meet the World. Now, I’m sure each and every one of you out there has a Frank in some way, shape or form. I’m not pretending my Frank is unique here. I am, however, inviting him to the conversation, wining and dining him, and giving him the space he needs.

|

I’ve noticed you haven’t really behaved this past couple of weeks. I mean, I’ve been a super busy bee, from attending an improv training to delivering edits on a few articles for a client, planning for this quarter and publishing a few musings of myself. I’ve also read two books, planned for the upcoming podcast and had multiple joyful conversations around it.

So, what is it with you, that you keep nagging me what I’m doing is not enough? Oh, and I also had a coaching session about time management. How’s that, eh?

You know what, Frank? Not today. Really, no time for you today. I’ve got a bunch of things to go through, so I’ll be ignoring you for the rest of the week. No, I’m not busy, I’m working. Mind your own business, Frank 😉

If oats can become milk, you can become anything

Saw this on Mantra Mag, on Instagram. As amusing as it may seem, it’s true. It’s one of those things we don’t think about, nor do we realise the true power behind these words.

A couple of years ago, I went on a trip to Thailand, in which I had the pleasure of spending a day at a Thai cooking school. [Shoutout to Let <3, defo stop by if you’re in the area, or consider booking a class in advance if you’re planning a trip to Samui] Among other delicious things, we were thought how to make our own coconut milk.

Newsflash: it’s a lot of work and the result are the more so rewarding. I mean, you can make your own milk. From coconuts. Using your very own hands, strength and patience.

You’ve guessed it right – the secret is in the patience side of things. Quite a lot we can learn from a process as simple as making your own non-dairy milk.

In this day and age, patience seems more like a luxury than an asset, and we need to change that. Having patience IS an asset and we should behave accordingly. Hurry slowly the saying goes, and it couldn’t be truer. Try this: check your emails twice a day – once in the morning and once in the late afternoon; skip social media, or only check it if necessary (i.e. is your job to do so).

You’d be amazed to find out that the world hasn’t gone anywhere, you haven’t imploded because of FOMO, and on top of that, you might actually not know what to do with all this free time you have, all of a sudden. Hint: do some work, stop being busy ? Good luck!