Monday, November 07, 2016

Being Versus Doing

Elegant success results from being more and doing less.

Being more conscious of who we are and what value we are here to create.

Doing less, whilst ensuring that what we do has maximum impact.

But all of these home truths are mere platitudes until we live and own them.

As Kabir said:

"If you have not lived through something, it is not true."

Thus, until we dedicate ourselves to being elegantly successful and actually living the experience, we might as well not talk about this exalted state of being.

For more information on how to achieve elegant success, check out our Elegant Success Academy:

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Reduce To The Max !

Lao Tzu said that in order to acquire knowledge, you need to add something every day.

As hunters and gatherers of knowledge, we are all focused on life-long learning and sharpening the saw every day.

We attend courses, seminars, workshops, join universities and have turned ourselves into a continuous improvement project.

But then Lao Tzu went on to say that in order to acquire wisdom, you need to let go of something every day.

We need to unlearn.

We need to let go of much of our old knowledge-baggage.

We need to let go of knowledge we acquired in the past that is holding us back, preventing us from moving forward and creating real breakthrough success.

Indeed, we may find that the majority of knowledge-items we took on board in the past, through our formal education, through socialization or even through the advice of well-meaning parents and friends, will prevent us from fulfilling our true personal potential.

Old, often inappropriate values, norms, beliefs, traditions and self-concepts get in the way.

So should we throw them all overboard?


One coaching belief is that unless you learn to love your past, you will not be able to let it go and daringly design your destiny.

You can't let go of what you don't love first.

Letting go of past baggage does not necessarily mean that it was bad. To the contrary - learn to love those past memories (the good, the bad and the really ugly) for the rich learning they provided you with. But be selective about which pieces of past learning you take with you on your future journey.

The others?

You may polish them up and put them in your mental museum and go and visit them from time to time, if you really feel like it.

To acquire wisdom - learn to let go.

Learn to travel light.

Be very choosy about which beliefs you allow to form your future destiny.

The more you let go, the lighter you travel, the more you will become attractive to great new opportunities.

They say that's why angels can fly - they take themselves very lightly !

True elegance combines simplicity with complexity to create beauty!

Find out more about the true nature of elegance at

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Effortless Elegance

What does it take to succeed easily, effortlessly, elegantly ?

In order to succeed with elegance, we need to have a reserve - an inner reservoir of power.

Not too much, not too little - just the right reserve to provide us with the peace and uncluttered focus we need to succeed.

In his superb book "Half Time", Bob Buford tells a short story about Konosuke Matsushita, the chairman of the Japanese Matsushita company.

As Buford says, "Matsushita follows the practise, not uncommon in Asia, of retreating to his garden from time to time in order to live a contemplative and reflective life. "

And, according to Buford, the effect of this garden time is quite powerful: " When Matsushita walks into a room, the awe is palpable. Without saying a word, he bespeaks a powerful centeredness and elegant reserve."

This type of inner reserve does not need to demand respect.

It attracts respect, like a strong, powerful magnet.

For himself, Buford has learned from this to take time out to reflect, to get away from the business bustle. "My few hours of uninterrupted reading and thinking are the wellspring from which I draw living water to nurture the activities of the rest of my week".

What a change of perspective from the usual objective-setting game we normally get caught up in!

Instead of pushing ourselves to achieve, we might be better off by taking time out of our hectic schedule to get quiet, understanding who we really are, and by strengthening our personal magnet, attracting success effortlessly.

Now that's elegance !

And if we should go ahead with our plans and objectives, let's make sure we scatter some sunlight on the path before us, sprinkle stardust and magic to the people around us, and radiate light, peace and healing to the four corners of the world.

Let's increase our inner reservoir of energy, light, and lightness - and allow ourselves to succeed with elegance !

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Elegance Puts You Back In Control

The glamorous world of glossy magazines and celebrity designers makes fashion feel like fun, whilst dictating what is in or out, what is hot or not, explaining to us in colorful detail all of the current must haves, and the no-goes. Fashion dictates act as social norms most of us try very hard to comply with, in order to belong to the in crowd.

We all want to be invited to the party, and the fashion gurus will tell us what we need to buy, be and do, in order to make the list.

The fashion industry essentially caters to our need for social acceptance, inclusion, safety and survival, whilst at the same time providing us with a sense of orientation and direction, a way for us to navigate the minefields of the social context we live in. Fashion will even help us to define our own identity, maybe as a Cosmo-girl, an Armani-guy, or would you prefer to be a sophisticated Prada-lady?

Fashion does an incredible job at pleasing the masses, providing a sensation of freshness and novelty through the updated styles, designs and color schemes the industry propagates every season, along with the perfect excuse for us to shop until we drop, feathering our nest with fun new things, activating our feel-good hormones, whilst keeping us temporarily amused and distracted.

Fashion provides a feel-good factor, whilst the shopping fix lasts, making sure we are supported by our local dealers with fix after fix, keeping us happy in a permanent fashion high.

Most major media companies support this fun factor by cooperating closely with the fashion police, catching fashion offenders red-handed and exposing their crimes publically, whilst providing us with perfect examples and photoshopped images of celebrities doing the right thing. The industry knows that fashion addicts respond well to social conditioning and mind-control.

Fashion provides a relatively safe way of having fun, as long as you comply and fit in.

Fashion is even more fun, when you get to create and dictate the norms, I am sure.

As Coco Chanel said:

“I don’t do fashion. I am fashion.”

The high priests of fashion wield an incredible amount of power and influence, not just within their own business empires. Their social impact is often world-wide, affecting more than just how we dress and paint ourselves. The media and marketing specialists make sure the fashion industry continues to make more money by ensuring that you and I toe the line.

However, if you scratch the surface of this glossy industry, you may find there is nothing beneath it. It is in many respects purely superficial, devoid of meaning or substance, keeping us in a permanent high, but never providing us with any true, lasting sense of satisfaction.

We are conditioned to live from one fix to the next, in order to forget the pain caused by the hole in our soul.

Interestingly, it seems that when we allow inner healing to take place and become whole, we no longer need the fashion fix. Making our own choices and becoming true to ourselves provides a much richer, more fulfilling life-experience than what fashion has to offer. Coco Chanel nailed it when she said, “beauty begins the moment you decide to be yourself.”

This unique, individual, personal type of beauty emanates a powerful sense of grace, poise, style, inner calm, and an irresistible attractiveness. Such elegant beauty emerges when individuals take back ownership of their lives and make healthy decisions on a daily basis. The fashion industry may try to persuade you not to go down this route, threatening to excommunicate you, if you do.

Elegance would invite you to take back control and get in the driver’s seat.

As Isabella Rossellini said: “Elegance is the manifestation of an independent mind.”


Find out more about how you can benefit from the secrets of true elegance:

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Storytelling Trickery

You tell children stories to put them to sleep,

and you tell them to adults to wake them up.

Jorge Bucay


Business storytelling seminars are currently selling like hot cakes.
With a little help from the storytelling gurus, business developers, sales executives and marketing specialists around the globe are learning to craft better stories that sell more – a lot more!

Many of the resulting business sales stories are so well crafted, with the underlying commercial intention woven into the narrative so elegantly, that their sales messages manage to bypass the critical conscious thinking filters, thus directly influencing and impacting the subconscious of the listeners.

Business sales stories speak directly to the part of the clients and prospects where the real decisions are made.

As a result, such stories can get people to make decisions they normally wouldn’t.

The fact is: stories sell!

But if you tell stories with the sole intent of tricking people into making decisions they normally would not, something deep down within your listeners will begin to distrust you - over time.

Manipulative storytelling tends to leave a lingering bad taste.

In recent years I have seen many business executives developing a strong resistance to such manipulative business storytelling techniques.

Now, don’t get me wrong!

I am not against storytelling.

To the contrary - I really love to hear a good story!

Storytelling is a wonderful, powerful leadership skill.

Indeed, I sense that many corporations are in dire need of an engaging, inspiring, trustworthy Chief Storyteller.

But having said that, if your only reason for telling stories is to push your products or solutions, you will find your audience wising up to your tricks very fast.

When this happens, you will see your clever plans fail quickly and miserably.

The key is to tell true stories, free from manipulative intent, focused on enabling an honest, respectful, deep dialogue.

Creating Engagement And Commitment

Throughout history, there have been people with a special gift and responsibility to uphold traditions and impart age-old wisdom to their people through stories. Fables, fairy stories, parables, metaphors and folklore all conveyed deep insights and learning to the young children – and anybody else willing to listen attentively. Some stories were based on experience, some on pure fiction, and many would seem to consist of a blend of both, resulting from conscious reflection and subconscious processing of events into a tapestry of wonderful tales and legends. In the days before Hollywood these stories would provide mental movies, filled with emotion, tragedy, victories, and happy ends.

Some would contain subtle messages, providing opportunities to gain new insights, to learn and grow.

Others would drive home their points with a sledgehammer.

But all of these stories used words to paint pictures and energize emotions as the raw material which our subconscious needs, in order to pattern, structure and design our lives. 

Why is it that most of us like a good story?

Why do children want to hear the same story over and over again, and never tire of it?

And why do they want to hear the story told in the exact same way again and again, no modifications or enhancements allowed?

Stories fuel our subconscious mind.

Mind-movies paint pictures of the world.

Storytelling helps us identify patterns and meaning in the midst of the frequently hectic, chaotic context we live in.

As far as we know, a large part of our mental processes are based on creating and recognizing patterns. Even small children feel intuitively drawn to pretty patterns, elegant designs, and well-defined structures.

Stories extract patterns out of the chaos we are surrounded with.

By listening to stories, we begin to sense that chaos itself may just be a different form of order, with a more subtle pattern to it.

Business stories help us to identify the relevant patterns in our business context. They also speak to us at a deep level of our being, involving us emotionally, thus producing a positive bonding effect.

In contrast, many high-tech PowerPoint presentations and prescriptive pep-talks tend to speak primarily to our intellect. They allow us to lean back, evaluate what is being said intellectually and analyse what effects the presenter’s talk might have on us, our business, and our personal plans – without necessarily creating any sense of true engagement.

Relevant stories respect the fact that the listener has all the resources he or she may need to solve problems. Our subconscious mind responds to the challenges, which such stories provide, by finding unique solutions that fit our personal experience and needs. Such solutions are much more likely to find our commitment and willingness to take action towards producing the desired results, as the process allows us to participate in the creation of the solution and actively design it with our unique set of resources.

Relevant business stories naturally lead in to a deep dialogue, engaging all parties involved in exploring the situation, the underlying causes and the resulting problems, various options and potential solutions, relevant scenarios and required resources, as well as possible obstacles and ways of overcoming them.

Such profound business conversations tend to result in a substantially higher degree of engagement, commitment and a willingness to take focused action.

So don’t try to trick your clients and prospects with clever business storytelling techniques.

Instead, tell your powerful business stories in order to open up a profound, respectful, two-way conversation.


Friday, June 10, 2016

Beware Of Your Blind Spot!

Like Jane Doe in the NBC Blindspot series, we are all covered in tattoos, scars and wounds our life experiences have etched on our being. Most of the time, these tattoos remain invisible, as we have all learned to cover up, in order to fit in. We have forced ourselves to camouflage the pain of the past so well, that we may no longer be conscious of it.

Over time, these tattoos seem to take on a life of their own

If you have ever found yourself procrastinating or getting in your own way, you may have encountered the tattoos, scars, wounds and self-sabotage forces active in your blind spot. My experience as an executive coach indicates that no amount of strategizing, objective setting, prioritizing, visualizing, affirming, meditating or taking massive action will stop these negative forces from sabotaging your success, until you learn to deal with them appropriately.

Instead of covering them up, we should learn from lessons contained in the scars.

As in the Blindspot series, the clues are in the tattoos!

If you learn to analyse these clues and solve the riddles they pose, you can effectively turn your blind spot into your sweet spot!

In order to do so, you first need to uncover your personal life-tattoos and find out what forces are at work in your blind spot. Let me start with a word of warning:

Don’t get hypnotized in the process!

For as Nietzsche said:  

If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.”

You need to know enough about what is going on in your blind spot in order to be able to take positive, remedial action – but not more.

Don’t get sucked in.

Or else you may go missing in action…

Engaging your blind spot may often feel like staring into a deep, black hole, made up of painful fragments of a past you might prefer to forget.

For most of us, our lives seem to consist of incompatible fragments.

The changes we experience virtually every day in our lives hardly link up to the past, as we knew it. Shifts in our reality happen as radical breaks with the past, with our history and age-old traditions. In addition, the permanent pressure to remain agile, mobile and in a constant state of flux prevents us from pushing down roots, blooming where we are planted and really nurturing deep social relationships.

In this context, it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to see our past, present and future and our emerging identity as a coherent, consistent story. During our lifetime, we all create a mental map of the world and how it works, an abstraction, which helps us to navigate our encounters in society. However, most of us also suffer through some negative experiences in the process, and we tend to mark these on our mental map of the world as dangerous, hazardous, risky places. Over time, such areas on our mental maps can turn into our personal Bermuda triangle, a no-man’s land, a taboo zone in which emotional forces reside, which take on a life of their own, sabotaging our ability to create satisfying success.

This taboo area is what I call the blind spot.

In medicine, the blind spot is the area in the visual field, which corresponds to the zone on the optic disc of the retina in your eyes, where there is a lack of light-detecting photoreceptor cells. The brain interpolates the missing input-data, which is not available in the area of the blind spot, based on information gained from the surroundings, as well as information obtained from the other eye, so that we are usually not aware of the blind spot’s existence.

Similarly, in our personal blind spot, we may seem to be unable to take in new information. Our past experiences have shaped and cemented our beliefs, assumptions, and expectations of how the world works to such an extent, that we have literally become blind to what is really going on in and around us in such an area. The life-tattoos have taken over and rule over our perception of reality.

We interpolate, making assumptions about what is going on around us, based on factors we are no longer conscious of, forces at work in our blind spot which are no longer under our control.

In fact, these subconscious factors often control us.

More often than not, the forces active in our blind spot will sabotage our ability to make effective decisions to change our life for the better.

So, what size is your blind spot?

You probably have no clue.

Most people don’t.

In my coaching work with executives and business owners, I frequently find that this blind spot is quite large and powerful.

For many individuals, I have found the following negative elements tend to be at work in their personal blind spot:

- People they avoid due to traumatic past experiences

- Negative associations of anger, hate, fear, guilt, hurt, or trauma

- Fear of failure, based on past experiences or perceived risk

- Conflicting personal priorities, beliefs, assumptions, values and motives

- Unsatisfied needs, desires, dreams and hopes

- Memories of past punishment for breaking social rules, taboos, etc.

- Social, linguistic and religious conditioning

- Etc.

How could you verify what is really going on in your personal blind spot?

One place is to be fully honest with yourself about your cravings, compulsions and addictions.

Whether you are a workaholic, shopaholic, alcoholic, diet-addict, fitness-fanatic or if you feel compelled to convert everybody you encounter to your own world view or religion, you may need to ask yourself what is really going on.

Compulsive behaviour is often caused by the need to stuff the hole in your soul.

The first thing I would suggest is to ask your best friend, your spouse or significant other about what they see in your blind spot. They may not know everything about your blind spot, but they probably have a relatively good idea of what it includes, as well as hunches about where and how it may be helping or sabotaging you.

Ask them to provide you with their insights constructively.

Their feedback may be difficult to digest.

The more intense your reactions to their insights turn out to be, the more relevant and true their feedback may actually be, too.

So, be brave!

Don’t interrupt them.

Listen deeply and digest what they tell you.

As a note of caution – don’t be surprised if you suddenly start having psychosomatic reactions when encountering your blind spot, including:

-                     Rashes

-                     Allergies

-                     Headaches

-                     Pains in your abdomen, your neck, back and joints

-                     Heartburn and indigestion

-                     Nightmares and difficulties finding sleep

-                     Etc.

If the symptoms and reactions become intense, get professional help.

Having said all that, I have found that the forces active in the blind spot are often not only well intentioned – they often actually hold the key to the truly satisfying type of success most of us desire!

So what are the possible positive ingredients of your blind spot?

What positive clues may be hidden in our life-tattoos?

These often include:

- Childhood dreams of who you were truly meant to be

- Things you truly enjoyed being, doing and having, before you were forced to fit in

- Hidden talents you may have never tapped into since you were a child

- Dormant potential which could help you to create truly satisfying success

- An intuitive sense for what is right, just, and meaningful

- A place of rest, peace and inner joy

- Etc.

My sense is that society has forced many of us to hide the true side of ourselves for so long, we may need to enter the blind spot to find out who we really are!

Learn to read, understand and redesign your own life-tattoos.

If you would like to find out more about how you can turn your blind spot into your sweet spot, check out our Stop Self Sabotage self-study course, which you can get through our webshop at

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Engagement By Elimination

Many years ago, my art teacher showed me how to create engagement by elimination.

Breathing down my neck, he startled me by shouting:

“Stop trying to draw that horse, Andy! What you are sketching here is a highly-strung Arabian thoroughbred, which will never stand still long enough for you to get it down on paper.”

He had sidled up behind me, as I sat there in the little zoo behind the circus tent, and proceeded to give me a lecture at the top of his voice, so that all the other students and visitors could learn this lesson, too.

I cringed.

“Andy, what you need to do is to NOT draw the horse. Don’t even look at it! Draw everything around it first and just leave out the space where the horse will emerge!”

He was doing his zen thing again.

Draw without drawing.

See without seeing.

Uh oh!

But I complied, trying not to look at the horse as I sketched the context around it until – swoosh!

It was as if the white space I had left out for the horse started vibrating!

I touched the paper with my pen and within seconds it looked as if this horse was going to gallop right out of my picture!

“That’s it, Andy! See! Don’t focus too single-mindedly on your objective. Create the right context instead, and your desired object will emerge! Now how’s that for an Aladdin’s lantern, eh?”

I later learned that many leading artists applied the concept of elimination by creating white space in their paintings to stimulate the observer’s imagination. By leaving out key pieces of information in their works of art, they were able to get their audience’s inquisitive mind to fill in the gaps. Creating a vacuum is seductive, as our subconscious mind will invariably grapple with the fact that something is missing. Our curiosity drives us to try and solve the riddle the artist has presented.

Great art stimulates the mind by creating cognitive tension.

Essentially, the gap creates engagement.

As Matthew E. May describes in his book In Pursuit Of Elegance, there are three steps artists, designers, innovators, negotiators and business leaders must use, in order to create an irresistible sense of attraction to their product or solution. If you wish to create a strong sense of engagement and commitment in the people you encounter, try using the following steps:

First, arouse their curiosity by demonstrating a moderate gap in their knowledge (without becoming an obnoxious know-all). If they perceive the gap as being too large, it may seem like an insurmountable problem, which their mind may refuse to take on. On the other hand, if the gap is perceived as being too small, it may seem irrelevant and again fail to create engagement. So the trick is to make the gap just the right size, to generate optimum engagement.

As a second step, you should provide your counterpart with just enough additional, relevant contextual information to help them develop a solution to close the gap.

And finally, you should give them enough time to really engage and grapple with the gap.

Essentially, you want to allow them to draw their own conclusions.

This may sound like a dangerous approach, as you might incur a loss of control, but if you facilitate the process well, you will find the opposite to be true.

The great thing about this process lies in the fact that our mind absolutely detests a vacuum. At the same time, filling in the gaps is a satisfying process, which provides us with a great sense of completion, accomplishment, and significance - feelings we all deeply crave. By using this elegant process of engaging their creative mind, you get the people you engage with to invest in the creation of the final solution, for which they develop a strong sense of ownership.

In sales and business negotiations, this creates opportunities to get clients to willingly accept larger investments, at higher price-points, because they have already created a bond with the solution at a deep level of their being.

So, next time you find yourself working hard, trying to get people to engage and commit – don’t!

Instead, create an elegant gap, and let the cognitive tension generate the desired engagement and commitment for you!

Find out more about how you can benefit from the secrets of true elegance:

Monday, February 08, 2016

Prevent Pointless Peak Performance!

Tragically, just over a week ago the world’s best restaurant chef decided to end his life. He was at the very top of his game when he decided to leave.

Many executives I meet in my coaching practice are totally focused on achieving peak performance. To strengthen their will-power, they compete in iron-man races, the New York Marathon, or else they go cycling 100 miles before breakfast to watch the sun-rise just for fun on weekends.

It sometimes seems to me that these executives can only either burn-out or bore-out.

Many of these peak performers are focused so laser-like on success, that when they fail to succeed according to their own high standards, they kick the bucket and all of their success becomes meaningless. We’ve heard of too many successful executive and celebrity suicides in the news in recent years.

I have found that peak performance bears special risks, which are not immediately obvious. Frequently the peak experience brings with it an initial rush of adrenalin, endorphins and euphoria, followed by a sense of overwhelm, emptiness and a lack of significance.

Victory is often followed by depression.

The sequencing is tricky here, because we may celebrate and party with the peak performers right after their successful achievement, but then we leave them alone when the dark night of the soul visits them. Despite (or maybe because of) their greatest achievements, peak performers may lose their sense of direction, purpose and meaning. Many peak performers experience that their focus on external success forces their inner and outer realities to drift apart, resulting in a gap, which can grow into what many experience as a hole in the soul. And, as many of these victims of the peak performance craze have found, you can’t stuff enough titles, trophies, toys or status symbols into this hole to fill it up.

Things simply won’t heal it.

We need to unlearn some of the success gurus’ principles, and create the right context for great success to emerge on a sustainable, truly satisfying, wholesome basis.

In a way, success really isn’t such a big deal.

Success is simply a side-effect, a by-product, a result of our actions.

The word success simply means: it follows.

Thus the good news is that we are all highly successful and we always succeed, whenever we get results.

We might just not always like the type of success we reap.

Depending on the quality of our input, the resulting output or success may be good, bad, or downright ugly. Judging by the successful celebrity and executive suicides in recent years, even peak performance may not provide us with the sense of satisfaction, significance, or the inner peace and joy we may secretly be seeking.

Many peak performers I have talked with are not very clear about their true motives, the underlying drivers of their need to succeed. I have often found that these drivers include a need to prove themselves to someone, a desire to belong, or an inner compulsion to overcome some personal flaw they perceive in themselves. Many of the underlying emotional drivers tend to be negative. Sometimes I ask myself what demons of their distant past they are still running away from so desperately.

What is driving you to perform?

If we drive ourselves to achieve peak performance, setting ourselves stretch objectives, visualizing success, and taking massive action to secure our goals, out of a sense of lack or neediness, we may find when we reach the very peak, the feelings we were running away from will be there to welcome us.

Right after the peak performance party.

When we are all alone.

With nobody there to help us.

If you attach intense negative emotions to a result you wish to generate, your subconscious mind will typically provide you with more of these emotions. It seems that our mind sets priorities in how it operates based on the frequency and intensity of input. Thus, the more you hate, need, fear or dislike something and use this energy to fuel your passion for peak performance, the more you may find yourself manifesting these emotions over and over again in your reality.

If this is true at all, what type of intensely positive emotions would you need to attach to your life objectives, in order to ensure that when you finally arrive, you will feel truly fulfilled?