“It’s the centrifugal force” I said, as my daughter Cristi gave me a bit of a strange look!
In attempting to make home made pizza at the weekend for the first time ever, I learned a lot about the key ingredients and the due process of making the dough. Both are essential for perfect pizza.
Strong plain flour, yeast, salt, olive oil, warm water and a little warm milk mixed together create a perfect dough.
Then the fun begins.
Kneading the dough on a well floured surface for 5 minutes creates a smooth and slightly tacky texture. Then, you pop the ball of dough into a bowl, cover it with a wet cloth, leave it for 90 minutes, allowing it to rise to perfection.
Time to knock back the dough.
Gently lifting the dough out from the bowl, kneading it again, then leaving it for another 45 minutes to rest a while. The passage of time is key.
Now, roller in hand, it was time to roll out the dough.
The first two bases were impressive and I determined not to toss the dough, frightened that I’d make a mess of my perfect creation! However, on the third base, after watching a “how to throw dough” video, I incorporated the toss into my routine. Gently balancing the rolled dough on my fingertips, I tossed it into the air, with a gentle rotating spin action at the same time and capturing it again on the back of my hand. Performing this action three times, allowed centrifugal force to stretch out the pizza base to perfection!
Adding on the toppings, making sure the oven was on full blast, pizza trays were already hot and getting the oven timings right were crucial finishing touches.
The result. Perfect Pizza’s!
However, it has to be said, although Pizza’s 1 & 2 were good, adding in the toss for Pizza 3, made the difference between good and great!
In my allegory filled mind, there are dozens of pictures forming about this due process. There are multiple comparisons to be made and lessons to be learned. Time, ingredients, process, heat, practice, that little extra toss.
What allegories come to mind for you?
To move from good to great, sometimes you just have to throw in that little extra…. (toss!)
Now to do it all again, this time Gluten Free!
In difficult times, I frequently find little gems of insight by revisiting defining moments in my life. Fortunately, I have recorded lots of those occasions in my journals. This weekend was a challenging one and I turned to my journals reading excerpts from 1982 and 1983. A powerful lesson emerged that I’d like to share.
What was happening in 1982?
My journal entries reveal a lot about what was happening in 1982. The Falklands War. Margaret Thatcher held a huge majority. Italy won the World Cup. ET, Gandhi and Chariots of Fire were all in the cinema.
Friday 14th May 1982 was my last day at school and 5 days later I turned 17. I had no immediate plans and found some casual work through family and friends. (It was a number of years before I made it to University.) My entries reveal that it was a time of testing and trial. Mum & Dad gave me regular encouragement, in time becoming my cheerleaders. Summer quickly passed into autumn and a regular pattern emerged in my journal.
It was abundantly clear that I had loftier aspirations, and my journal indicates that I expended daily effort to find alternative employment. In fact, there are entries aplenty of a journey of exploration into lots of different possibilities, where I focused on writing letters, making applications and securing numerous interviews. It was evident that I was determined to make progress. On reflection, all these years later, I recognised that establishing habits and routines made me strong enough to endure the constant disappointments of the almost daily rejections I received through the post. Quite incredible really, for a young 17 year old. Sticking to a task, with gritty determination to succeed, appeared to be my mindset of the time.
And it came to pass…
One entry stated in early October stated that I had 47 live applications in due process! 47!! Eventually, success arrived. After six months of trying, on 23 December 1982, my efforts were rewarded with a job offer from Standard Life Assurance (as they were then). A few weeks later I walked to Dunfermline Station, starting in Edinburgh on 10th January 1983 and I caught the train into Waverley Station. I worked with Standard Life, for around 12 months before embarking upon another great adventure in London.
My life has taken many twists and turns in the ensuing years, travelling near and far in the leadership development world. Remarkably, after 37 years, in some serendipitous twist of fate, I have come full circle. Over the last 18 months, (as an associate with https://www.ontrackinternational.com) I have had the marvellous opportunity to work with Standard Life Aberdeen (as they are now) once again. I have been lucky to facilitate a whole range of learning and development programmes and absolutely loved it. Now, these same sessions continue virtually! When working in Edinburgh, once more I walk to the same station and catch the train into Waverley, feeling a sense of deja vu! At peak travel times, sadly some of the rolling stock still looks very similar from years gone by. Fortunately, I do earn more in a day now, than I earned in a whole month in 1983!
In the midst of times of trials, we can choose how we wish to respond. There are two kinds of knowledge – cognitive (what we learn and know in the mind) and experiential (what we learn by doing). Upon reflection, I’ve recognised some key knowledge principles that got me through the challenges of 1982 and throughout my career too, yet they seem even more valid for the struggles of 2020. It is a simple formula for success, let me share it with you….
Encouragement: The action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope
+ Effort: Use of energy to do something; physical or mental exertion; a try and attempt
+ Exploration: To search out, to look into closely, investigate, to examine
+ Endurance: Ability to last, continue or remain, to hold out
= Rewards: Something given in return for effort, service or achievement
- 𝙀𝙣𝙘𝙤𝙪𝙧𝙖𝙜𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 + 𝙀𝙛𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙩 + 𝙀𝙭𝙥𝙡𝙤𝙧𝙖𝙩𝙞𝙤𝙣 + 𝙀𝙣𝙙𝙪𝙧𝙖𝙣𝙘𝙚 = 𝙍𝙚𝙬𝙖𝙧𝙙𝙨
I recognise that these 4 E’s have been constants in my life. Indeed, they have been key principles that have enabled me to get through the toughest of challenges and most difficult of times. I’ve learned never to give up.
As you reflect upon your own challenges of today, please consider who encourages you, what efforts you need to apply in your own life, what do you need to explore and how can you endure it well? Although the road made appear to be filled with many obstacles at times, I know that following this simple pattern, always leads to success.
- Who gives you encouragement to succeed?
- Are your efforts appropriate for the challenges of today?
- Are you exploring your possibilities?
- What daily habits and routines have you established to enable you to endure well?
As a coach, facilitator, mentor and trainer, I regularly use this formula to help others find their way.
Summer holidays were always something to look forward to for our family. Dad was a train driver. In summer we would always travel as far away as possible on our free family rail tickets!
For several years, we headed down south to Devon & Cornwall. Ilfracombe, Baggy Point, Lands End, Cornish Pasties and ice cream with a big dollop of clotted cream on top are all fond memories. The beaches were always the very best!
We were staying in a caravan in Ilfracombe. That particular summer, dad took some time to share with me the intricacies of flying a kite. I recall going into a large field on the caravan site, and getting it ready to fly. I’d never flown a kite before, but he patiently taught me the rudimentary skills in order to get it to launch skyward.
We unravelled the string, and he showed me what I needed to do. Firstly though, he held the string and I was asked to throw the kite into the air, to catch the wind. It took some effort and persistence, but after a few attempts, the kite soared into the air. After watching it fly for a little while, he handed me the string. Like magic, as I tugged on the string and let out a little more and more length, it would soar higher and higher. It took some getting used to, but I just loved watching that kite glide gracefully in the air.
Since that day in 1972, I have flown several kites. I have also enjoyed some lovely occasions teaching my own children kite flying skills. One of the most powerful lessons I have learned in life I can trace back to that day, when I learned how to fly a kite.
Its as simple as this – as long as a kite is attached to a string, it will fly high up in the sky. You may think that since it is pulling and tugging on the string, that it would go higher if it was to be set free. But it is not so, if you let go of the string, it will just plummet to the earth. It seems odd that the very thing that keeps the kite down is actually what keeps it up.
And this is true not only of kites but of life.
There are many strings tied to us from our childhood. Those rules and regulations that seem to hold us down, are actually holding us up. In my childhood, I began to understand. Through life experience I grasped the value of obedience and compliance to rules and regulations. Obedience brings safety, peace and reassurance to one and all. Indeed obedience can be classified as a cure all, for a multitude of woes and challenges of society today. Our success or failure will depend upon personal self-discipline and observance to the rules of life.
When I obey, I begin to understand.
In our families, our homes, our communities and our professional working lives, lets be obedient to the laws, the regulations and the guiding principles (the strings) set up so that like the kite, we too can soar high in all of our earthly pursuits – whatever they may be.