Monday, January 30, 2012

A Skink's View of Life!

We have skinks at our place. For the technically minded, they are Common Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti), but we simply call them “skinks”.

We also have a cat.

The two tend to be mutually exclusive – so, as far as possible, we protect “the skink” from “the cat”.

The other day I was pottering in the kitchen when I saw a skink running across the floor. I also saw “the cat” sitting on the back porch – right in the skink’s path. I moved to catch the skink and then commenced a game of hide and seek that took me about 30 minutes to win. Fortunately “the cat” didn’t see “the skink”!

Eventually, securely apprehended, “the skink” was taken out another door and released into the safety of the garden.

Got me thinking.

My intentions towards “the skink” were entirely honourable – I wanted to save its life. The skink also wanted to save its life – survival is a strong instinct. We were in total accord – except the skink couldn’t get the message. It was totally unable to move its brain’s area of control out of “the red zone” – mainly because it has no “blue zone” – so it got increasingly traumatised and ran around oblivious to the real danger – “the cat”.

Fortunately there was a happy ending this time, but, as I say, it got me thinking.

How often are the threats from which we run not really threats at all?

Our “red zone” of brain control can’t tell what “threats” are real and what are not. When our brain is under the control of our red zone, anything different or that challenges our comfortable way of thinking and acting can be seen as a threat – even when, at the worst, it is benign or, at the best, it is very positive. Our red zone can prevent us from responding appropriately. We will respond to “the threat” by fight, flight, or freeze no matter what.

All too often our daily living reflects a skink’s view of life!

Of course this skink’s view of life in encouraged by irresponsible media who fail to call the government to account (Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Israel-Palestine relationships are cases in point) and by those who have a vested interest in keeping us scared so they can exercise control and explain how “they” can keep us “safe” by taking actions “they” deem appropriate.

But we’re not skinks. People have a blue zone – and we can learn how to shift our brain’s area of control into the blue zone so that we can live differently.

I can help you make this shift.

More information about me at

What do you think? Please make your comments below.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Focus on the Horizon

Very recently I drove a rally car and I have the video to prove it!

For my birthday last year, the family gave me a voucher for a rally car driving experience - drive 2 different cars, each for 8 laps, then do a "hot lap" with an experienced (and in my case, luckily, a very successful) rally car driver. It was great fun. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I learned quite a bit about handling a car under vastly different conditions from what are experienced in day-to-day road driving.

Lesson 1: focus on the horizon
Many years ago my first driving experiences were on rough roads in country areas and farms. I thought I understood how to control a vehicle on greasy road surfaces. I learned that there is a big difference between driving a car very slowly on mud and gravel when compared with driving it fast. When driving fast I have learned to focus on the horizon, keep the wheels pointed in the direction I want to go, and to be careful not to try and correct too much for all the slipping and sliding that occurs. It is counter-intuitive.

Lesson 2: transfer the weight
The cars I drove were either front wheel or all-wheel drives (one of each). I learned that braking hard transferred the weight of the car from the front wheels to the rear wheels and that, if I needed to make a sudden or sharp turn, the best way of doing this was to brake hard, turn the wheels in the direction I wanted to go, then let the car do the work. By braking hard when I came to a turn, letting the car do the work, then accelerating out of the corner I could achieve my objectives while maintaining control.

Lesson 3: listen to the experts
Over the years I've driven a wide range of vehicles (including tractors and ambulances) at just as wide a variety of speeds under almost every possible road condition. I approached this adventure secure in the knowledge that I was a highly experienced driver with a very good record regarding accidents. At the safety briefing all of those doing the course were advised to listen to the instructor who would be sitting beside us on the track. I'm glad I heeded this. My instructor had won a number of international car rallies and could see things I couldn't in regard to my driving. Listening to him enabled me to start slowly then develop to quite fast circuits - and I only spun out twice! Listening to the expert saved me embarrassment and possible injury while simultaneously enabling me to have fun and achieve my objectives.

Seems to me that there's some pointers there for business as well as for life in general.

I'd love to know what you think. Let me know in the comments below.

More about Doug Long at

Saturday, January 7, 2012

2012 - How Will You be Remembered?

The other day I was chatting with some friends when one commented that "John Howard was the worst Prime Minister in Australia's history!" Now, as my friends know, I am pretty a-political - I dislike equally all politicians and political parties - but I was amazed. I was even more amazed to find myself defending Howard and commenting that a good case can be made for him being one of Australia's best Prime Ministers. When I pressed my friend to explain her comment, the emphasis was on Howard getting Australia involved in Iraq and Afghanistan - for both of which there is a very strong argument that Australia should never have got involved - she had forgotten his introduction of the GST (which, prior to the election, he had promised would never be introduced) which has helped transform the Australian economy. She had forgotten his strong leadership regarding gun control following the Port Arthur Massacre. And so on. All she remembered was the invasions - the negatives.

But this got me thinking. How do we remember people and how will we (and they) be remembered at the end of 2012?

My mind wandered to one of my more pleasant brushes with fame. Back in 1977 I was visiting Sydney and staying at the Boulevard Hotel. Together with a few friends, on the Saturday, I went to Doyles Restaurant in Rose Bay - then a justifiably famous and popular seafood restaurant. During the meal we became conscious that the folk music singer, Burl Ives, was also lunching there - in fact he was only 1 table away. Lunch went on and eventually the crowd thinned until there was only Burl Ives and his party as well as me and my friends present. One of Doyles staff came and spoke with the great man and, after a few minutes, left before returning with a guitar. For the next 30 or so minutes, Burl Ives entertained us with an impromptu concert. It was great. A little later, after returning to my hotel. I got in an elevator to again find myself face-to-face with Burl Ives. We chatted and I was impressed with his friendliness and obvious enjoyment from engaging with his public. I'll bet that Burl Ives never remembered meeting me, but 35 years later I still remember meeting him!

When I think back over recent years I am sure that people have mixed memories of me. I certainly don't think there would be agreement that accorded with how I would like to be remembered. And those memories significantly impact on how these people think of and interact with me today.

Its like our current crop of political leaders. My view of the Prime Minister, based on her performance in 2011, is that of an ambitious, possibly Machiavellian, person who is prepared to compromise at times in order to get legislation passed - 2011, despite there being a "hung" parliament, saw an almost record number of pieces of legislation passed. Based on her past performance, I suspect a lot more legislation will pass this year. My view of the Leader of the Opposition, is that of an equally ambitious, possibly Machiavellian, person who has a limited vocabulary - he knows how to say "No!" Based on his past performance I suspect we will see a continuation of this in 2012.

My perceptions may be quite wrong - I've never met either of them. They may both be very nice, approachable, highly principled people who are very positive and strong on engagement. Both may act quite differently this year. But my views are based on what I've seen and heard up to the end of 2011.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions, but thinking about all of this has given me a drive to be a bit different this year. At the end of 2012 I'd like to find that there was a pretty good agreement between the way I think of myself and the way others think of me. And that will mean I have to make some behaviour changes.

At the end of 2012, how will you be remembered? What are you going to do in order to bring a greater consistency between the way you see yourself and how others see you?

I'd love to know your views. Your comments are welcomed.

More about Doug Long at

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Boldly Forward into the Unknown

I'm looking out my home office window and there's my garden in all its glory - not!

Last winter I carefully prepared the soil and ensured plenty of nutrients were present. In late winter and spring I planted a wide variety of vegetables and seeds then carefully watered and fed them, but, apart from some lettuce and spinach, nothing's gone as planned. Sydney's weather has meant that things I couldn't control have had a huge negative impact.

For me, there are parallels with my 2011 experience.

This time last year everything seemed rosy. I reviewed 2010's results, revised my annual plans and was totally convinced that 2011 would be one of my best years ever. It wasn't! Circumstances beyond my control meant that, while certainly not (or even near) a disaster, 2011 could not really be described as "the best thing since sliced bread"!

How will my current gardening results affect me in 2012? Well, I'll harvest and use what I can then, in winter, I'll again prepare the soil for next year and start all over again. I know that there are always things like the weather that I can't control. But I also know that the only way I will have totally fresh vegetables is to grow my own and so I will continue in the knowledge that some years are always better than others.

I guess I'm a bit like Chauncey Gardener in "Being There". I understand and accept nature's cycles.

Chauncey, of course, was naive and his simplicity was manipulated and abused. But, we all know (even if sometimes we don't want to accept and face it) that there are powers greater than our own that impact on everything. All of us who teach and facilitate business planning at any level are at pains to point out the need to build in contingency aspects and to constantly review actual against plan so that remedial action can be taken.

The truth is that the only things we can really control are our attitudes towards the future and our response to what actually happens. Customers may or may not buy. Commodity prices may or may not rise or fall. Exchange rates may or may not remain stable. World economic woes may or may not continue (although personally I believe they are more likely to continue). Clients may or may not pay on time. Et cetera! We can plan. We can work to our plan. We can do everything right - and still the desired results might not eventuate. That's the reality.

As you move forward into the unknown - into 2012 - what's your attitude? Are you allowing any negatives from 2011 to dominate? Is there an anxiety because of the realisation that desired results depend as much on what others do as on what you do? There are things that you can do within your own mind to change that (you can move into the blue zone of courage rather than remain in the red zone of fear) and there are also plenty of people available to provide coaching, mentoring, and wisdom to help you on your journey.

Move boldly forward into the future. Your 2011 experience (whether positive or negative) is paralleled by that of countless others. You can make 2012 your best year ever - and if you need help, there are many sources from which you can get it.

I'd love to know what you think. Make a comment below.

More information about me at