Category: Book Notes

Notes from ‘Braveheads’

The book ‘Braveheads’ by Dave Harris is one headteacher’s guide to leadership. Although it is written to guide headteachers there is much that can be applied to any leadership position in a school. The guiding principal is that leadership requires bravery, “the good leader, indeed the great leader is marked out by the way in which his other internal roller-coaster of self-doubt, negativity and sheer desperation is rendered invisible to the outside world.”

The book begins with the motivations for leadership “The money is good and it serves as some form of compensation, but if you do the job for the salary you will soon realise that it will never be compensation enough for all that you go through. Nor will it compete with the feeling you get on those occasions when it all goes right and you see those young people – and their teachers – really shine in ways that you know you have helped make happen. Rather than simply serving as a boost to their bank balance, their pension or their ego, most of the heads I have met are in the job because they feel that they can make a genuine difference where it is needed.”

Although fear in some degrees is health Harris states that  FEAR can stand for ‘False Expectations Appear Real’ and at least half of the things that you fear are never going to happen.

He talks about the importance of school leaders protecting and nurturing the staff in their teams. “As a leader, your job isn’t to do what is asked of you at the expense of the people in your care. Your job is to do whatever you need to for the people in your care, and that includes often resisting doing what you are supposed to do. And that’s why people need you to be brave”. He talks further about leading staff stating “everybody wants to do a good job, and more often than not simply needs the right support from the top in order to achieve this.”. He goes on to state “good leadership, like good teaching, is all about relationships”.

Harris sums up his four rules for brave school leadership as:

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Be Yourself
  4. There are no rules. Be Yourself.

In conclusion, he states “Changing a school is tremendously demanding but recognizing the immensity of the task – and that there are no short cuts – is the first step. The only way to make real change is through determination and hard work and lots of passion.”

Notes from “Taking People with You”

This book centres around the idea that “You’ll never accomplish anything big if you try to do it alone.”

In order to help other people  you need to be yourself; some ideas to be yourself are:

  • Have convictions.
  • Know your stuff.
  • Know your environment.
  • Build Self-Awareness.
  • Be open and honest about what you don’t know.
  • Use positive self-talk and positive thought.
  • Get out of your comfort zone.

Help others be themselves by:

  • Believe in All People.
  • Provide individual development plans.
  • Create a Safe Haven.
  • Openly seek knowledge and perspective from others.

“I believe leadership is a privilege. I also believe deep down in my bones that all people, when given a choice, have an inherent desire to do the right thing, to contribute, and to make a positive difference through the work that they do.l And I’m absolutely convinced that it’s crucial to have this mind-set in order to get the most of people you work with. As a matter of fact, I believe that there is potential in very person, and as the leader, it’s my job to unleash it.”

Model for Developing a Plan

model plan

Tool: From-To

IMG

Three Steps Toward Gaining Alignment

  1. Share the reality…help people understand why.
  2. Ask for input..show that you’ve listened.
  3. No involvement equals no commitment.

The Mood Elevator

IMG_0001

(click for larger image)

  1. Where would I place myself on the mood elevator at the moment?
  2. Where do I think others would place me?
  3. The last time I had a struggle with someone on my team, where do I think I was on the mood elevator? How might this have affected my interactions with him/her?
  4. What are some quick things I can do to raise my mood when I catch it sinking?
  5. What are some long-term things I need to think about or work on to improve my own mood?

What to do when they say “It can’t be done”

  1. Listen and understand why.
  2. Incorporate valid objections into your plans.
  3. Listen, then lead.
  4. Do the right thing, and the right thing will happen.

“Anything can be done. The issue is never that you can’t do it. It’s how much does it cost, how long is it going to talk, and what are the resources? It’s what do you have to stop to get it done? I mean, you can do anything.” – Tom Ryan

Excerpts from Alan Bennett’s Diaries “Keeping on Keeping On”

alan-bennett

I was drawn to reading the latest excerpt of Alan Bennett’s diaries when browsing at the Idea Store Whitechapel. I found the writing style clear, concise and agreed with his philosophy on life. I have put below some extracts that interested me and will be getting hold of earlier editions when time permits.

15th November 2006

Abu Hamza, the radical cleric, loses his appeal, the only obstacle between him and extradition ot the United States the decision of the home secretary. The judge in the case, Judge Workman, admits that the conditions under which Hamza is likely to be held in the United States are offensive to his ‘sense of propriety’, thus briefly raising the hope that his judgement is going to be less workmanlike than it turns out to be.

Hamza is not an attractive figure and his case is difficult to defend, but it should be defended and extradition rejected on Karl Popper’s principle that arguments should be rebutted at their strongest point. Nobody likes Hamza: his opinions are reprehensible and there is no question that he broadcasts them. But he is a British citizen and he should not be extradited to the United States under a non-reciprocal treaty which allows that country to extradite British subjects without due process. Let him be tried here and if found guilty imprisoned here, not in some super-max institution (offensive even to Judge Workman) where he will disappear without trace. Because next time the person the United States decides on may not have one eye and hooks for hands, disabilities which make him such a joke to the tabloid process. Next time the person chosen might be thought to be innocent and undeserving of such ridicule, and extradition might event bet thought to be unfair. But it won’t matter. The precedent has been set and gets stronger with every person so supinely yielded up to American so-called justice. Jacqui Smith, the vibrant successor to such champions of liberty as Jack Straw, David Blunkett and John Reid, is potentially a bigger threat to our freedoms than Abu Hamza has ever been. ITV News reports all this as ‘Britain has won the right to extradite Abu Hamza’. Translated this means that Britain has lost the right not to extradite anyone whom the United States chooses.

19th January 2010

D. Cameron’s notion that the better degree the teacher has the better the teacher is so wrong-headed as to be laughable; except he may be shortly in a position to put his cockeyed notions into practice. Somebody should take him on one side and tell him that to teach well you don’g need a degree at all. I got a first-class degree and was a hopeless teacher. Russell Harty got a third-class degree and taught brilliantly. There was a great deal he didn’t know but he know how to enthuse a class and made learning fun, much as he could work a studio audience.

19th April 2010

A propos the transport shutdown due to the volcanic cloud there have been the inevitable outbreaks of Dunkirk spirit, with the ‘little ships’  going out from the Channel ports to ferry home the stranded ‘Brits’. It’s a reminder  how irritating the Second War must have been, providing as it did almost unlimited opportunities for bossy individuals to cast them selves in would-be heroic roles when everybody else was just trying to get by.

8th September 2011

A directive must have gone out from the National Trust high command that in future notices telling members not to sit on the heritage chairs should be eschewed in favour of a more subtle message. These days seats that are not to be sat on sport the head of a thistle or a sprig on holly. Other possibilities that occur would be hawthorn, nettles or even a stuffed hedgehog. One wonders whether this genteel initiative had the prior approval of Health and Safety.

8th May 2015 (day after the general election)

A feeling of bereavement in the streets. I shop for supper and unprompted a grey-haired woman in the fish shop bursts out, ‘It means I shall have a Tory government for the rest of my life.’

In the library they say, ‘Good morning…though we’ve just been trying to think what’s good about it.’

I wanted a Labour government so that I could stop thinking about politics, knowing that the nation’s affairs were in the hands of a party which, even if often foolish, was at least well-intentioned. Now we have another decade of the self-interested and the self-seeking, ready to sell off what’s left o fa liberal institutions and loot the rest to their own advantage. It’s not a government of the nation but a government of half the nation, a true legacy of Mrs. Thatcher. Work is the only escape, which fortunately moves along a little.

keeping-on-keeping-on

Tony Benn’s Diaries

webTony_Benn31-8-11

Over a few years I have read most of the books that have been written by Tony Benn. Below are some of my notes and thoughts.

Part of the Editor’s note, written by Chris Mullin, from ‘Arguments for Democracy’ (1981), sums up Tony Benn quite nicely. “Mr. Benn asks questions that a lot of important and influential people would rather were not raised. Questions which large numbers of people who do not enjoy power or influence are very keen to see raised. What is more, he has not been bough or silenced by office or the prospect of office.

I really liked the book ‘Arguments for Democracy’ and would be an interesting read for all AS Politics students.

Unfortunately it is out of print; I have however scanned a chapter Arguments on Democracy

Some Quotes

Dare to be a Daniel

“Father once said to me, ‘Never wrestle with a chimney sweep’, which was a curious piece of advice to give an eight-year-old, but I now understand exactly what he meant: ‘If someone plays dirty with you, don’t play dirty with him or you will get dirty, to.’ My attempt to keep personal abuse out of political controversy has been shaped by that simple phrase about how to steer clear of chimney sweeps.”

‘Free at Last’ – Diaries 1991-2001

“Breakfast in the hotel [currently in New York]. Worked on my speech and then took a taxi to the Peace with Cuba Office, and the cab driver was a Hispanic, I would think. HE had served in the Vietnam War, HE said there wasn’t a single homeless person in NY who wasn’t responsible for it, either through lack of education, because they were illiterate or had mental problems. A real potential Nazi supporter.”

– Saturday 24th January 1992

“Went to St. Pancras, where I had agreed to meet Danish television at eight, before I caught the 8.30 to Nottingham. Left my bags on the train and went and the interview on Maastricht and the referendum.

As I went back into the station I heard over the loudspeaker: ‘Leave the station immediately. Everyone is to evacuate the station.’

I got to the platform and the security officers and I couldn’t go on. There were two security women and a huge gathering of people. They said ‘There is an unidentified bag on the train.’ And I said , ‘It’s mine.’ So I took them and opened my bag and showed my thermos and sandwiches. They were a bit cross”

– Friday 12th June 1992

In addition to Tony Benn’s diaries I have also been reading Alan Clark’s; they are very different in tone and reveal a very different persona.

This quote personifies Alan Clark for me:

“I was in a vile mood this morning, even on arrival. I had done a lot of washing-up, drying, wiping, etc., at Albany, and I always find this enervating. I do it so badly and so slowly. For someone as great and gifted as me it is the most uneconomic possible use of time.”

– Tuesday 10th April 1984 (Alan Clark Diaries – In Power 1983-1992).

Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

This was first drafted just over a year ago – but I never hit the publish button. So it is one of a few posts that I am finally publishing.

Notes from ‘An Astronaut’s Guide to Life’

astronauts guide to life

This is a great autobiography that combines Chris Hadfield’s philosophy on life with his biography. When reading I have distilled some of the advice that Hadfield gives. This is well worth a read.

  • To solve problems Hadfield pictures the most demanding challenges; he visualises what he would need to know and how to do meet it; then he practices until I reach a level of competence where he will be comfortable that he will be able to perform.
  • Anticipating problems and figuring out how to solve them is actually the opposite of worrying: it’s productive. Likewise, coming up with a plan of action isn’t a waste of time if it gives you peace of mind. While it’s true that you may wind up being ready for something that never happens, if the stakes are at al high, it’s worth it.
  • Hadfield said “My dad could be a stern taskmaster and on principle didn’t believe children should complain, but he also disapproved of whining because he understood that it is contagious and destructive. Comparing notes on how unfair or difficult or ridiculous something is does promote bonding – and some-times that’s why griping continues, because it’s reinforcing an us against the world feeling. Very quickly, though, the warmth of unity morphs to the sourness of resentment, which makes hardships seem even more intolerable and doesn’t help get the job done. Whining is the antithesis of expeditionary behaviour, which is all about rallying the troops around a common goal.”
  • Never ridicule a colleague, even with an offhand remark, no matter how tempting it is or how hilarious the laugh line. The more senior you are, the greater the impact your flippant comment with have. Don’t snap at the people who work with you. When you see red, count to 10.
  • Over the years I’ve learned that investing in other people’s success doesn’t just make them more likely to enjoy working with me. It also improves my own chances of survival and success. The more each astronaut knows how to do, and the better he or she can do it, the better off I am, too.
  • [When talking about spending time with his wife] I also make a point of actively looking for opportunities to spend time together. On Sunday mornings for instance, no matter what else is going on, Helene and I try to walk the dogs, then go get coffee and do the New York Times crossword puzzle together. Prioritising family time – making it mandatory, in the same way that a meeting at work is mandatory – helps show the people who are most important to me that they are, in fact important to me.
  • Over the years, I’ve realised that in any new situation, whether it involves an elevator or a rocket ship, you will almost certainly be viewed in one of three ways:
    • As a minus one: actively harmful, someone who creates problems.
    • As a zero: your impact is neutral and doesn’t tip the balance one way or the other.
    • As a plus one: someone who adds value. – Everyone wants to be a plus one, of course. But proclaiming your plus-one-ness at the outset almost guarantees you’ll be perceived as a minus one, regardless of the skills you bring to the table or how you actually perform. This might seem self-evident, but it can’t be, because so many people do it.

Notes from ‘Status Syndrome’

stat

 

This is an interesting book that looks at the factors effecting health; in particularly factors affecting health within countries. Marmot refers to this as a social gradient or ‘status syndrome’, and explains that this is not just just between the rich and the poor, but also between the rich and the very rich. An example quoted in the book is that Academy Award winning actors and actresses lived four years longer than the co-stars and the actors nominated who did not win.

Once a country has basic clean water, sanitation, and sufficient food a larger national income doesn’t provide better health for the country as a whole. Once a country has solved its basic material conditions for good health, more money does not buy better health. When comparing whole countries, there is no gradient in the relation between income and health.

The following example from the United States exemplifies the health disadvantage in the United States. Consider two typical American teenagers of fifteen: a young white man in an urban area of Michigan, and a young black man living in Harlem in New York City. Michigan is about as close as you can get to the statistical average of life expectancy in the United States. The white teenager has a 77 percent change of still being alive at age 65. The black teenager has a  37% change. Two out of three black fifteen-year-olds on the streets of New York will not see their sixty-fifth birthday. Three out of four white fifteen-year-olds in Michigan will.

Relative deprivation in the space of incomes can yield absolute deprivation in the  space of capabilities.
The reason that people with higher incomes are more likely to have better health is due to a matter of resources; they have the resources to take control of the situation, rather than have events control them. These resources may be knowledge – how to operate the system; financial – the ability to bear the cost of the solution without pain; psychological – the confidence to know that they can do what is required and people respond to the confidence.

health ik_0001
There is a large body of evidence now exists that supports the demand/ control model:  people whose jobs are characterised by high demands and low control have a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease than those in other jobs with more control. The lower in the hierarchy you are, the less likely it is that you will have full control over your life and opportunities for full social participation. Autonomy and social participation are so important for health that their lack leads to deterioration in health.

The book also talks about the fact that those who participate more in social networks have better health. This is because of four primary pathways:    
  1.  Provision of social support;
  2. Social influence; 
  3. Social engagement and attachement
  4. Access to resources and material goods.
In New York city the life expectancy drops by 15 years from Fifth Avenue to Harlem.The major contributors to premature loss of life in the deprived areas are coronary heart disease, violent deaths and the consequences of HIV infection.

The league tables for school performance are a a remarkably good indicator of deprivation of the area in which the school i located. The more deprived the area the worse the average school performance. If you look up a school to see how it is performing, you are actually reading off an exquisitely sensitive indicator of depuration. The league table is telling us something, but if it is sol closely linked with deprivation, it may not be telling us much about schools.

There will always be inequalities in society but the magnitude of their effects on hearth is in our control. Why not make things better? It is in all our interests.
 
health ik_0002

Notes from “This much I know about Love over fear…”

trulygreat

One of the many books that I read over the summer holidays is this book by John Tomsett. This is one of the best books that I have read on the field of education ever.

You need to know your core purpose – what is it that gets you out of bed each day to come to work? Schools should be re-structured to accommodate their core purpose; and that core purpose should guide every difficult decision. For example Hutchinson School’s core purpose is “to inspire confident leaners who will thrive in a changing world’.

“Target your resources on what matters most and just make do with everything else. Teaching is the thing that makes most difference to children’s academic performance so invest high quality continuing professional development CPD – train people to be good teachers.”

“In order to stay focused on professional development we need to stop worrying about things we cannot control and focus upon what we can do something about – our own practice. The only way to develop truly great schools is through each one of us taking responsibility for improving he quality of our teaching. We need to break the glass ceiling which surrounds great teaching so that we all aspire to it and see it is achievable. We need to foster a growth culture which is founded on the belief that all of us can improve.”

In the book John Tomsett quotes Professor Chris Husbands:

“We can all teach well and we can all teach badly.  Even good teachers teach some lessons and some groups less well; even the struggling teacher can teach a successful lesson on occasion. More generally, we can all teach better: teaching changes and develops. Skills improve. Ideas change. Practice alters. It’s teaching, not teachers.”

Taken from: https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/great-teachers-or-great-teaching-why-mckinsey-got-it-wrong/

Another key quote, this time by Tomsett is:

“The one thing that destroys the energy of a workplace culture is a climate of fear. Conversely, people’s energies are maximised when they feel loved and safe. Love wins over fear every time. Ron Berger has never been so right when he says ‘Culture Matters”

Tomsett also quotes Roland Barth when talking about school culture:

To change a school’s culture requires mustering the courage and skill to not remain victimised by the toxic elements of the school’s culture but rather to address them.”

Some other notes that I took from the book:

  • Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention. Because we fail all the time.
  • In building a classroom culture, I have based my whole career upon a line from Virgil, ‘Success nourishes them: they can because they think they can’ [when working with a difficult group Tomsett stated], I never, ever ,ever, ever diverged publicly from believing that every single one of them would get a minimum of a grade C.
  • When teaching hard classes, laugh with them and let them laugh at you. Trust them. Choose your moment and use the phrase, ‘I’m going to rust you to do this,’ looking directly into their eyes. On some things you have to compromise. I know it encourages learnt helplessness, but just buy a stack of biros and don’t get precious if you lose a load.
  • When giving explanations, pare down what you are explaining, have more than one way to explain something, and try to use subject specific vocabulary in your explanations.

Tomsett also gives some strategies to make time:

  • You have to privilege the time for teachers to work on their teaching if you want to grow a truly great school.
  • Beware of asking colleagues to do anything which impinges on their time without it being to their benefit.
  • Work in twenty-five-minute chunks and use the Pomodoro Technique.
  • Cut corners if you have to – sometimes just good enough is good enough.
  • Some things won’t get done. Period.

There is also a section about the things that are needed in order for teaching to become an evidence-based profession; creating structures in schools where classroom teachers:

  • Work in an environment where continual improvement is the cultural norm.
  • Can access good evidence easily.
  • Feel encouraged and safe to change their practice in the light of the evidence.
  • Are supported by a school-based research lead with a higher education connection.
  • Can evaluate the impact on student outcomes of the changes to their pedagogy.

The final take away from this book is this quote:

“The bottom line is that to be any good at teaching it has to matter to you, properly, right there in your chest.”

Get this book on Amazon here.

Notes from ‘Differentiated Coaching’

I read this book about six months ago and have just got round to typing up my notes; I found it less to be about coaching per say; and more how to use coaching and the pre-conditions needed for coaching to succeed.

dcoach

Six key steps for using coaching for effective staff development:

  1. Use a common framework for unbiased reflection on education.
  2. Understanding the strengths and beliefs of the teachers, instead of relying on our own ingrained beliefs of why teachers resist change.
  3. Provide information and evidence to influence teacher’s beliefs about how students learn.
  4. Meet the needs of individual teachers, often through coaching; however not all teachers would want a coach in their classroom for a significant amount of time.
  5. Focus on the problems teachers want to solve.
  6. Encourage deep, reflective collaboration.

A quote from Michael Fullan summarises what school reformers have learnt over past decades:

“The hardest core to crack is the learning core – changes in instructional practices and in the culture  of teaching towards greater collaborative relationships among students, teachers and other potential partners. Stated differently, to restructure is not to reculture – a lesson increasingly echoed in other attempts at reform. Changing formal structures is not the same as changing norms, habits, skills and beliefs.”

Pre-observation conferences are necessary to discuss:

  • Build trust.
  • Clarify the lesson goals and objectives.
  • Seek the coached input on what should be observed.
  • Help the coached clarify how they think the lesson would work.

Coaches often help teachers understand the benefits of practitioner research. Many teachers  seem to suffer from “research anxiety” stemming from several causes such as:

  • It will be too time consuming – a coach can help reframe action research as a part of a normal part of looking at student work.
  • I won’t discover anything useful – a coach can help a teacher identify the questions he or she wants answered and why other teachers might be interested as well.
  • I ‘m not a researcher – a coach can help tailor a research effort to match a teacher’s strength.
  • I don’t know what to measure or how to measure. – A coach can point out useful data besides assessment data.

Coaches can take on several roles, including:

  • Helping teachers select and define a problem that (a) interests them, (b) is within their realm of influence, and (c) involves measurable outcomes.
  • Brainstorm solution sets.
  • Providing guidance in selecting options.
  • Working with teachers, and helping teachers get beyond their habitual beliefs.

What gets in the way of teacher collaboration:

  • A culture of silence – that discourages teachers from talking about their classrooms; teachers are  afraid of being viewed as incompetent, or of being censured for questioning conventional wisdom.
  • Teachers as individual entrepreneurs or executives. Executives do not take kindly to others’ critique of their methods, decisions, or demeanour. Teachers reign in there individual classrooms and therefore take on executive characteristics.
  • Teaching as creative expression – a common theme is teaching can’t be taught; each teacher discovers his or her own norm of practice.
  • Bias towards noninterference.
  • Lack of common goals and meaning.
  • Intensifying work.

What is required for collaboration:

  • Time for reflective discussion.
  • A common framework for discussion teaching and learning.
  • Trust, respect, and honesty.
  • A willingness to probe one’s own beliefs and acknowledge boundaries of one’s experience.
  • Articulated goals to measure effectiveness.
  • If these are not present, a coach’s role is to help a team develop them.

A framework for authentic school change:

  1. A deep understanding of teachers’ strengths and beliefs.
  2. Concrete evidence that influence beliefs and shows that change will be worth the effort.
  3. Communication and assistance (coaching) in ways that meet each teacher’s learning style and needs.
  4. A focus on problems that concern the teachers.
  5. Deep collaboration.
  6. A common framework for unbiased discussion of education.

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them. Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.- Buckminster Fuller

Notes from ‘Busy’ by Tony Crabbe

This book was an interesting one; and one that is relevant in all walks of life. However there are some clear ideas that can be applied to teaching. The below are my notes:

busy

‘Busyness’ is that frantic, always alert, multitasking that propels us through overburdened lives. It involves being always ‘on’, glancing regularly at our phones and jumping from task to task. It is the juggling, cramming, and rushing that makes up so much of our daily existence. It is urgency, distraction and exhaustion.

Why is busyness a bad thing?

  • Busyness is bad for your health – accelerated wear and tear on the human body.
  • Busyness is bad for relationships.
  • Busyness is bad for your happiness – people who focus on external values – money, stuff and status – are less happy and less healthy than people who focus on things that busyness kills: relationships, personal growth, or contribution to your community.
  • Busyness is bad for your career – it is not quantity that matters – the thing that matters it is attention and differentiation: people who are able to cut through the frenzy of activity are who get notice.
  • Busyness is bad for business – creativity is needed over busy.

Why we’re really busy

  • Lack of control – we give up our sense of control and feel helpless in the face of so many demands.
  • Lack of choice – We are too lazy to think of alternatives; busyness is the easiest option.
  • Lack of boundaries – work life boundary is diminished due to technology.
  • Lack of focus.
  • Lack of confidence.
  • Lack of momentum.

How to find time – quick ways to create space in your life

  1. Use the word ‘because’ – when turning down a request that will take up time use the word because; this makes the listener respond as though there must be a good reason.
  2. Switch off – be deliberate and intentional when you ‘check in’ on main and messages.
  3. Turn off the notifier – turn off the ping or email notification.
  4. Kill a meeting – either cancel a meeting or don’t attend.
  5. Think of the time … and double it – when planning how long a task will take, estimate it and then double it.
  6. Watch the clock – if you want to get through a large amount of tasks carefully watch the clock as this will focus you and help you work quicker.
  7. Finish on time – this helps raise time awareness, and it also stops creating space and time in our diaries.
  8. Start Quicker – read through a task or think through a task early on – then leave it and work on something else – your subconscious will be thinking through the task which will make it easier when attempting the main body.
  9. Clear your head – write down ideas rather than remember them, don’t analyse things when you record them. Go through your brain-dump list regularly.
  10. Hold on a minute – think through a task before you start it to ensure you are doing it the most efficient way.
  11. Take a (good) break – When you take a break (and do) make sure it is a valuable one and do something different than you have been doing.

Feeling More In Control

You cannot control the demands made on you, however you can feel in control of your response to those demands.

  • Let go – let the inputs wash by you, and focus on the outputs you choose to make.
  • It’s not your fault you can’t do it all – let go of your desire to do it all.
  • Create a rhythm to you day, build in breaks and recovery tim to reduce you allostatic load and to increase you ability to immerse yourself in the things that are important.

How to Make Better Choices

  • We make great choices when we’re cold, but in the grip of temptation (when we’re hot) all our best intentions disappear. So stay ‘cold’ for longer, and make better decisions about your priorities.
  • When the brain is tired, we’re more likely to do the thing that requires less choice, less risk/ That means the busy, depleted brain is less able to make the choices to step beyond busyness. Make your choices when your brain is fresh.

Setting Limits

  • Boundaries restrict us, but they also protect us; we have to set them, and negotiate them ourselves.
  • Manage your boundaries in three ways: offer more to get more in return; be clear about which boundaries matter for you.
  • When negotiating don’t offer just one option; but three; more often than not, people will choose the middle ‘compromise’ option.

Being Different: Positioning and Differentiation

  • There are two ways to succeed: through productivity (the ‘More’ game) or through differentiation. The best way is to differentiate yourself; do things better.
  • There are four strategic positions you can take: everything, everyone; audience-based; product-based; niche. Everything, everyone is the most common, and it’s rubbish. Audience-based differentiation means serving the unique needs of your key stakeholders; product-based differentiation means developing unique capabilities or expertise.
  • Trade-offs: choosing not to pursue great ideas in order to go deep on others is hard, but that is strategy.

Efficient Thinking

  • The big thing to remember if you want to think better is to minimise your multitasking. Switching regularly between tasks makes you slower and dumber, even if you feel productive.
  • Do one thing at a time by getting things out of your head and externalising your thinking.
  • Cut down on the amount you switch your attention between tasks by working in bigger chunks of time, and minimising distraction.

Stop Procrastinating

  • Busyness is a form of procrastination: doing lots of simple, un-taxing activities rather than a few important ones.
  • The four horseman of procrastination are: Perfection, Mood, Fear and Dependence.
  • Deal with perfection by creating momentum through thin-slicing and swiss-cheesing. (Thin-slicing is tackling a task for dedicated fixed periods of time; whereas swiss-cheesing is tackling bits of a task one by one).
  • When you’re ‘not in the Mood’ make progress despite that by selecting useful, but easier tasks; reverse your mood with music or movement.

Confidence

  • To make a less defensive, more positive approach requires confidence. To build confidence you need to work on your self-esteem and self-efficacy.
  • Low self-esteem makes us poorer judges of the best focus of our attention, focusing on keeping everyone happy all of the time, and trapping us in a prevention mindset.
  • Have the courage to be imperfect, vulnerable, and to make mistakes – all three things we need to move beyond busyness.
  • High self-efficacy makes you more able to take the ‘road less travelled’ – it increases your belief, lets you persist longer in the face of challenges, and you experience more flow.
  • When you’re confident you will be able to cope no matter what ; you will have self-efficacy.

It is important to ‘Make Good Intentions Stick’

Building Momentum

  • Good intentions don’t last long; if you intent to do something, take action quickly! It’s all about momentum.
  • It’s easy to get overwhelmed and lapse into inertia. So start building momentum by getting really clear about the behaviour you want to change, and the context you’ll make that change in.
  • Start really small, build on the fact that we like to be consistent and make the next step for yourself obvious.

Willpower

  • To make lasting changes you need willpower. But one thing is almost certain: your willpower is weaker than you think it is.
  • Willpower is limited; it gets used up, leaving us ego depleted and less able to resist further temptations.
  • The good news is that you can strengthen your willpower. A strengthening of willpower in one area spreads to other aspects of your life.

Notes from ‘Prisoners of Geography’

This book is an interesting read that looks at the impact of Geography on global politics; I have made some notes from my reading. However there is much more in the book that I left out of my notes!

prisoners

The land on which we live has always shaped us. It has shaped the wars the power, politics and social development of the peoples that now inhabit nearly every part of the earth. Technology may seem to overcome the distances between us in both mental and physical space, but it is easy to forget that the land where we live, work and raise our children is hugely important, and that the choices of those who lead the seven billion in habitants of this planet will to some degree always be shaped by the rivers, mountains, deserts, lake and seas that constrain as all -as they always have.

There are numerous examples of how different countries are limited by there geography, for example the author states that “In Russia we see the influence of the Arctic, and how its freezing climate limits Russia’s ability to be a truly global power. In China we see the limitation of power without a global navy.” Or alternatively how geographical decisions in the past impact the future: “The conflict in Iraq and Syria is rooted in colonial powers ignoring the rules of geography, whereas the Chinese occupation of Tibet is rooted in obeying them; America’s global foreign policy is dictated by them” These claims, among others made in the introduction are later discussed in further chapters.

Russia

Russia is not an Asian power for many reasons. 75 per cent of its territory is in Asia, only 22 per cent of its population lives there. Siberia may be Russia’s ‘treasure chest’, containing the majority of the mineral wealth, oil, and gas, but it is a harsh land, freezing for months on end, with vast forest (taiga), poor soil for farming and large stretches of swampland. Only two railway networks run west to earth. There are few transport routs leading north to south and so no easy way for Russia to project power southward into modern Mongolia or China; it lacks the manpower and supply lines to do so.

China

Until now China has never been a naval power- with its large land mass, multiple borders and short sea routes to trading partners, it had no need to be, and it was rarely ideologically expansive. Its merchants have long sailed the oceans to trade goods, btus its navy did not seek territory beyond its region, and the difficulty of patrolling the great sea lanes of the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans was not worth the effort. It was always a land power, with a lot of land and a lot of people – now nearly 1.4 billion.

[The reason for the Chinese control of Tibet] is the geopolitics of fear. IF China did not control Tibet, it would be always be possible that India might attempt to do so. This would give India the commanding heights of the Tibetan Plateau and a base from which to push into the Chinese heartland, as well as control of the Tibetan sources of three of China’s great rivers, the Yellow, Yangtze and Mekong.

China has locked itself into the global economy. If we don’t buy, they don’t make. And if they don’t make there will be mass unemployment. If there is mass and long-term unemployment, in an age when the Chinese are a people packed into urban areas, the inevitable social unrest could be – like everything else in modern China – on a scale hitherto unseen.

Western Europe

Western Europe has no real deserts, the frozen wasters are confined to a few areas in the far north, and earthquakes, volcanoes and massive flooding are rare. The rivers are long, flat , navigable and made for trade. As they empty into a variety of seas and oceans they flow into coast lines which are, west, north and south, abundant in natural harbours.

Greece suffers due to its geography. Much of the coastline comprises steep cliffs and there are few coastal plains for agriculture. Inland are more steep cliffs, rivers which will not allow transportation, and few wide, fertile valleys. What agricultural land there is is of high quality; the problem is that there is too little of it to allow Greece to become a major agricultural exporter, or to develop more than a handful of major urban areas containing highly educated, highly skilled and technologically advanced populations.

Geographically, the Brits are in a good place. Good farmland, decent rives, excellent access to the seas and their fish stocks, close enough to the European Continent to trade and yet protected by dint of being an island race – there have been times when the UK gave thanks for its geography as wars and revolutions wept over its neighbours.

Africa

Africa’s coastline? Great beaches, really, really, really loverly beaches, but terrible natural harbours. Rivers? Amazing rivers but most of them are rubbish for actually transporting anything, given that every few miles you go over a waterfall.

As long ago as the fifth century BCE the historian Herodotus said: ‘Egypt is the Nile, and the Nile is Egypt.’ It is still true, and so a threat to the supply to Egypt’s 700-mile-long, fully navigable section of the Nile is for Cairo a concern – one over which it would be prepared to go to ware. Without the Nile, there would be no one there. It may be a huge country, but the vast majority of its 84 million population lives within a few miles of the Nile. Measured by the area in which people dwell, Egypt is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

The Africa of the past was given no choice – its geography shaped it – and then the Europeans engineered most of today’s borders. Now with its booming populations and developing mega-cities, it has no choice but to embrace the modern globalised world to which it is so connected.

The Middle East

The Middle of What? East of Where? The region’s very name is based on a European view of the world, and it is a European view of the region that shaped it. The Europeans used ink to draw lines on maps: they were lines that did not exist in reality and created some of the most artificial borders the world has seen.

Groups such as Al Qaeda and, more recently, Islamic State have garnered what support they have partially because of the humiliation caused by colonialism and then the failure of pan-Arab nationalism – and to an extent the Arab nation state. Arab leaders have failed to deliver prosperity or freedom, and the siren call of Islamism, which promises to solve all problems, has proved attractive to many in a region marked by a toxic mix of piety, unemployment and repression.

In impoverished societies with few accountable institutions, power rests with gangs disguised as ‘militia’ and ‘political parties’. While they fight for power, sometimes cheered on by naive Western sympathisers many innocent people die.

India and Pakistan

India and Pakistan can agree on one thing: neither wants the other one around. This is somewhat problematic given they share a 900-mile long border.

Pakistan is geographically, economically, demographically and militarily weaker than India. Its national identity is also not as strong. India, despite its size, cultural diversity, and secessionist movements, has built a solid secular democracy with a unified sense of Indian identity. Pakistan wis an Islamic state with a  history of dictatorship and populations whose loyalty is often more to their cultural region than to the state.

With India, it always comes back to Pakistan, and with Pakistan, to India.

Korea

How do you solve a problem like Korea? You don’t, you just manage it – after all, there’s a lot of other stuff going on around the world which needs immediate attention.

North Korea is a poverty-stricken country of an estimated 25 million people, led by a basket case of a morally corrupt, bankrupt Communist monarchy, and supported by China, partly out of a fear of millions of refugees flooding north across the Yalu River. The USA, anxious that a military withdrawal would send out the wrong signal and embolden North Korean adventurism, continues to station almost 30,00 troops in South Korea, and the South, with mixed feelings about risking its prosperity, continues to do little to advance reunification.

The geography of the peninsula is fairly uncomplicated and a reminder of how artificial the division is between North and South. The real (broad-brush) split is west to east. The west of the peninsula is much flatter than the east and is where the majority of people life. The east has the Hamgyon mountain range in the north and lower ranges in the south. The demilitarised zone (DMZ), which cuts the peninsular in half, in parts follows the path of the Imjin-gang River, but this was never a natural barrier between two entities, just a river within a unified geographical space all too frequently entered by foreigners.

Latin America

Latin America, particularly its south, is proof that you can bring the Old World’s knowledge and technology to the new, but if geography is against you, then you will have limited success, especially if you get the politics wrong. Just as the geography of the USA helped it become a great power, so that of the twenty countries to the south ensures that none will rise to seriously challenge the North American giant this century nor come together to do so collectively.

The River Amazon may be navigable in parts, but its banks are muddy and the surrounding land makes it difficult to build on. This problem, too, seriously limits the amount of profitable land available.

The Arctic

The effects of global warming are now showing more than ever in the Arctic: the ice is melting, allowing easier access to the region, coinciding with the discovery of energy deposits and the development of technology to get at them – all of which has focused the Arctic nations’ attention on the potential gains and losses to be made in the world’s most difficult environment.

the Arctic Ocean is 5.4 million square miles; this might make it the world’s smallest ocean but it is still almost as big as Russia, and one and a half times the size of the USA.

There currently are at least nine legal disputes and claims over sovereignty in the Arctic Ocean, all legally complicated, and some with the potential to cause serious tensions between the nations. One of the most brazen comes from the Russians: Moscow has already put a marker down – a long way down. In 2007 it sent two manned submersibles 13,980 feet below the waves to the seabed of the North Pole and planted a rust-proof titanium Russian flag as a statement of ambition.

Perhaps the Arctic will turn out to be just another battleground for the nation states – after all, wars are started by fear of the other as well as by greed; but the Arctic is different, and so perhaps how it is dealt with will be different.