Purpose or Process? I know which I need to know first – and better.


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“Principles are the simplicity on the far side of complexity.” Stephen R Covey

Are your working practices dictated in a seemingly endless collection of Codes of Practice, Memoranda of Understanding, Process Documents and Manuals of Guidance? Unless you are the employer rather than the employee, or you work alone, I’d gamble that they are.

I would also expect that many of those procedural guidelines are based on best practices, born of years of experience and the making and discovery of errors. They are created out of a desire to do and be better, or to prevent ‘worse’.

Unfortunately, there is a tendency among managers to look upon these documents as The Holy Bible, compliance with which is expected and deviation from which must be punished.

And the funny thing is that they were created to replace the earlier practices that had equally been the Bible until found to be wrong or incomplete. In other words, for some, the fact that errors can be made in all manner of ways and circumstances, including compliance with current practice, does not stop them absolutely insisting on compliance.

Practices change with discovery, experience and greater learning. Remember that, boss.

On the other hand, and looking at Covey’s quote (above), Principles never change. The purpose behind a Manual of Guidance, which is usually clearly stated on page 1, gets lost in the millions of procedural absolutes that follow. Which is stupid.

Clayton Christensen describes how someone goes to a shop to buy a ½” drill bit. The sales staff discuss whether the client wants a steel one, tungsten tipped, twist-bit or step-bit, brad-point or spade, Forstner or Auger, or Installer.

The client says, “I want to make a ½-inch hole.”

That’s the difference between a practice document, and the ‘job to be done’ stated on Page 1. That’s the simplicity on the far side of complexity – the purpose of the work.

When you know what the job is, the Manual contains guidance and practices that will help get that job done. But life and learning may just provide you with some new information that might make the job get done quicker and better.

And, ironically, it also helps to create the next ‘Holy Bible’……..

Be the You that you were meant to be. REFINE.


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“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” Michelangelo

Observant readers would have seen that I have changed the top of the page to better reflect the objectives of The Three Resolutions in three words. The ‘new’ R-word that reflect The Second Resolution is Refinement.

Please don’t think I am going to promote or counsel the adoption of better speech, tidier dress and the lifting of the little finger when taking tea, even if adoption of the first two of those suggestions wouldn’t please me. If you want to be scruffy and sound like a half-wit, good for you.

I am writing about, and proposing the adoption of a focus on making your own behaviour more closely match the behaviours that you believe reflect the ‘best you’ that you can possibly be. The Second Resolution covered this in using the words ‘To overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension I resolve to work on character and competence’.

Refinement is the physical manifestation of the metaphor used by Michelangelo. It’s about chipping away at those things – habits, characteristics, emotions and activities – that don’t serve us or which get in our way.

Having decided (Resolved) where you aren’t behaving the way you know you should, Refinement means identifying and adopting the behaviours, values, etc. that you know will serve you much better.

Emphasise – YOUR behaviours, values, etc. – not mine.

That said, people of good character will, in the main, all behave in much the same way as each other. Their speech patterns and dress may be different but they will be honest, congruent, dedicated and just plain ‘good people’. Their values will be similar even if their way of executing on them may change.

BUT don’t be scruffy and tell me you’re rebelling. (Have you noticed how anarchists all dress the same?) Don’t say ‘actually’ and ‘obviously’ and ‘like’ every second word and then deny that you’re allowing yourself to be subject to environmental determinism. (Or use the new opening word that appears to have replaced ‘Yeah, I mean’, – the insidious viral term ‘So’.)

When you do those things you are no longer in charge of you. You’re not living. No. YOU’RE BEING LIVED. You are allowing outside influences to subliminally dictate your behaviours for you.

Refinement means YOU decide what characteristics you want to possess or demonstrate – and then chipping away at the marble until the real, self-designed you finally appears.

It isn’t easy. Right now I am battling with a constant desire to pick at food when I should be losing weight. (See my weight loss plan, below!)

But in the final analysis you can only say ‘I am who I intend to be’ when you have refined yourself enough to be exactly that. Until then, resolve to (re)design yourself – and then get to it!


Good start….


Energise your Drudgery

“Any idiot can face a crisis – it’s day to day living that wears you out.” Anton Chekhov

Never a truer word. I have noticed of late a peculiar state of personal being that I find both bemusing and annoying. I get out of bed on a work day, amble around muttering to myself how tired I am, and walking around slowly as my body warms up. Then any walk from car to appointment is equally labour-intensive.

But when I have a personal, mission-related activity that needs getting done – I walk quickly, for long periods, around a town centre where I bemoan everyone else – because they are ambling around, suddenly stopping in the doorway as they leave a shop (are they so amazed that there is an ‘outside’ that they forget what it was they were going to do next?), or just not looking where they are (barely) going. How very dare act they as I did when I felt like that?

Chekhov was right – routine wears you down, excitement overcomes the largesse of ‘just living’.

How can we use that observation? Two things come to mind.

  1. Whatever excites you usually relates to your values, mission and sense of meaning.
  2. We have a tendency to forget about the meaning that exists in just living.

The first reason needs no explanation (but here goes). When we are doing something we are passionate about, we don’t get tired or bored. We may find some of the activities tiresome, but knowing our purpose we make allowances and muddle through the tedious tasks.

The second reason needs addressing. It relates to the Third Resolution, where we overcome aspiration and ambition in an effort to serve a noble purpose.

Most people view ‘service’ as the provision of something extra, something inconvenient or some financial or time-generous act that serves people other than ourselves, or our families.

I don’t. I view service to others as including service to our families, which means that (when I remember that!) any activity, even routine, that serves my family invokes within me just a little bit of passion and a little burst of energy. As a 60/70s child my past was “Dad works, Mum looks after the home” background. By chance rather than design, that’s how I have lived my own married life. So when I pick up a broom/vacuum cleaner or duster, I get energised because I am serving my family by maintaining a nurturing environment. (Friends reading this are now peeing themselves laughing….)

Overcome the un-energising effect of routine drudgery by recognising when you are doing it for someone else, and realise that even small things matter to others. Even when you do feel worn out, it’s a much happier feeling.

Having a change of approach, but not a change of philosophy.


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“Change means that what was before wasn’t perfect. People want things to be better.” Esther Dyson
Epiphany. Defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “a moment of sudden realisation or insight”, and as a religious festival which isn’t quite what I’m looking to emulate. I have been conscious for some time that the terms that Stephen Covey used to describe The Three Resolutions, while profound and appropriate for their time and for his particular approach, may not be the best terms to use in the 21st Century. To an audience of those who need instant understanding and a willingness to participate in what is being communicated, expressions such as ‘self-denial’ and ‘noble purpose’ smack of a monastic approach to life, and that isn’t what The Three Resolutions website is supposed to be.

As from today, while I continue to use The Three Resolutions as my website address (‘cos I paid again for it last week), the tag line is no longer that sourced from Covey. Henceforth the tag line will be a little fresher. Now, it is:

Resolution, Refinement, Results.

If you’ve read my book (now unpublished while I completely review it with this new focus in mind), or the earliest posts when the 3R concept was first put on line, you will be aware that I consider that the 3Rs are a progressive approach to getting results, insofar as self-discipline leads to character and competence leads to serving in a way that benefits us all. That hasn’t changed, only the way I am going to describe it from now on.

Coincidentally, the three words I have now chosen mean the same ‘things’, and happen to fit the 3R logo.*

But make no mistake, the approach is the same –

  • decide what you need to do or stop doing, in order to
  • become the person you want to be with the skills you need to have, all with the objective to
  • ethically go out and make things happen that serves all concerned.

Up the Pyramid of Principled Productivity, so to speak. (Must write that one down. Oh, so I have…)

My focus is now going to be on that review and rewrite, so please watch my @3ResolutionsGuy Twitter feed for interim updates and things develop.

Personal Update Bit

One of my philosophies on life is that service to others does not necessarily have to involve self-sacrifice. It can also include doing something you love doing, in a way that others also benefit. This week I passed my Institute of Advanced Motorists ‘National Observer’ Qualification which will allow me greater opportunities to engage others in enjoying their driving while doing it better, safer and for the particularly adept, faster (but within legal limits, I stress).

And there is absolutely NOTHING in the 3R concept that disallows preening once in a while.

*(That took AGES to work out, finding words that meant discipline, character/competence and service, but which started with the letter R. I have new respect for advertisers……)


Education, schmeducation. Focus on quality, not quantity.


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“Knowledge will bring you the opportunity to make a difference.” – Claire Fagan

I love that advert for a major stationer, where Andy Williams sings ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ as parents escort their children around aisles teeming with paper, pens, books and other essential tools of learning. After 6 weeks (or 104 days in the US, according to the theme from ‘Phineas and Ferb’), parents have had enough of dealing with their first priority – family – and now want to pass babysitting duty back to their kids’ teachers. Tomorrow (subject to one of those Teacher Training Days that always appear to occur just after a week off), millions of kids will excitedly don their school clothes and trot quickly off to school.

That enthusiasm lasts 24 hours, by the way.

On a serious note, just as for us goal-achievement-failures who start a new project every New Year/Birthday/1st of the month/end of term/start of term, tomorrow is a great day to start teaching your children not only that education is important, but also that not all education is important. (Eh?)

We, as parents, have tendency to demand that our children excel in every single subject they study. If they have eight As and two Cs, we demand to know why they are failing in RE and Drama. The strange thing is that the reality of the UK education system is that we take 12-14 subjects at 16, and narrow that down to 3 or 4 at 18 – then down to one, or for the particularly clever, two subjects at University.

There is no question that we should encourage our kids to do their best in everything they do. But we should allow them the leeway that we allow ourselves and acknowledge that Einstein probably wasn’t a great biologist, Sir David Attenborough isn’t famous for being an expert on woodwork, and David Beckham is not the greatest English scholar ever known to man.

And our kids will generally be great at one or two things, good at some more, and rubbish at others.

They should, as early as possible, be encouraged to discover their strengths and to focus on those, while also managing any weaknesses and finding ways to deal with them.

I was absolutely overjoyed many years ago when my son, who was at the time an undiagnosed dyslexic, was asked to read something out at the primary school ‘graduation’, another American import to the UK we could do without. Did he read it? No. He learned it, and spoke without reference to the card in front of him. Word perfect. He can read, but at his own speed. He has since qualified in a field he loves – farming (not hereditary, I assure you) and is an absolute star mimic. He is happy.

But imagine the potential for someone who can learn quotes by rote and then has to speak in public. He is already well ahead when it comes to learning Public Speaking, something a lot of people dread and yet something they will all have to do at some time in their lives. He has a self-taught life skill because of a challenge.

At the same time, I am also the proud uncle of some kids who have done exceptionally well in their exams, this year. Learning suits some, but not every talent is necessarily served by the state’s syllabus.

Encourage your kids to learn well, to do the best they can, but to focus more of their time on the things that will matter to them. Utilise the Three Resolutions to instil within them the discipline to do what needs to be done to become competent in their chosen vocations so that they can serve their chosen clients to the best of their ability.

Instead of creating well-educated but exceptionally bored professional drones.

For more on the Three Resolutions, get the book at Amazon here.

3R Book

Turn the volume up to 11.


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“The needle of our conscience is as good a compass as any.” Ruth Wolff

I write about Conscience in some detail in my book The Three Resolutions. I write about how a conscience is developed and how we all have one, even the criminals amongst us. I also write about how, in identifying our most important priorities and values, we can utilise that inner voice to direct us in our daily activities. The conscience is a core ingredient of our character.

When we listen to our conscience, we live lives of peace and productivity. When we ignore it, we feel guilt, angst, and occasionally some confusion.

Yet ignore it we so often do. We actively seek to stifle it when something potentially pleasurable presents itself to us. We don’t want to miss out on that attractive experience, and so we ignore the conscience, or turn its volume down to 1. To add to the stifling effect, we raise the volume on the ‘Why I CAN do/have this’ button, to make sure we can hear what is calling us forward to the psycho-hypocrisy that is about to occur. We find a rational excuse for what we are about to do and lie to ourselves. As Covey put it, we tell ourselves Rational-lies. Then, immediately or soon after we execute on the lie we just told ourselves, we feel that pang of guilt.

Conscience does not go away.

No, I am not a saint and I am as guilty of this as anyone. Perhaps more so, in the sense that as a writer on the subject I find myself doing it when perhaps I ought to be setting an example. I am often extremely conscious of that expression, “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.”

On the plus side, however, this knowledge and understanding arguably presents me with a better opportunity for positive change, eventually. Those who don’t realise what they are doing have no motive to change. They don’t know that they can.

Funny thing is, they will spend a lot of time justifying their poor behaviour. They will argue quite strongly and loudly that the behaviour they are displaying is okay, for some reason or other. (Good examples are smoking and drinking.)

The funniest thing about their shouting is because they know while they are doing it, they (and I quote), “ignore the conscience, or turn its volume down to 1. To add to the stifling effect, they raise the volume on the ‘Why I CAN do/have this’ button, to make sure they and we can hear what is calling them forward to the psycho-hypocrisy that is occurring.”

Now where have I read that, before?

Time LEADERSHIP – doing the right thing.


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“The key is your ability to discern between two activities and determine which is more important at the time.” Stephen R Covey

Just a quick on this week, because I have just returned from a holiday and have a million and one things to do, as you can imagine having experienced that yourself. One of the priority items is you – you’re reading this because I consider my readership to be important.

That’s not to say that this was the first thing I did on my list, because a daily plan may not permit the most important to be done first – less important things may have a time element that promotes them. A quick but less important telephone call may have to be made when the intended recipient is available, and leaving it until after the most important task may render the call pointless.

People routinely make the mistake of thinking that because something is urgent, it is by definition also important. More often than not – and I mean that most sincerely, folks – the urgency is not commensurate with the importance. In fact, it often isn’t urgent at all.

I recall one day in police world when someone said I had to attend a report of an overnight burglary ‘now’ because it was urgent.

My response was ‘Why, is it going to be un-burgled if I go in 20 minutes?’ was met with open-mouthed shock. It WAS important, but dropping everything that instant was not necessary – I had time to organise other stuff, and even do a small task or two, before dedicating two or more hours to one project. (Dead bodies, on the other hand, we go NOW.)

When assessing what task to start, and when, the criteria ARE importance and urgency. But plumping for either of those without due consideration means risking a wrong decision – putting off a telephone call because it isn’t urgent only to find that it becomes urgent because we miss the recipient, is pointless. And while we can’t do something important like attend an appointment until the appropriate moment, its importance does not justify sitting around doing nothing else.

The right thing, in the right way, at the right time. That’s the key to effective productivity. Takes thought, that.


For more on time management, go to Amazon, HERE

Purpose – and process.


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Interim blog this week, just to keep you all refreshed.

The company that owns the intellectual property rights to The Seven Habits®, FranklinCovey, currently utilises an interesting diagram to illustrate a ‘process’ through which people can come to properly apply the 7 Habits Principles in their circumstances.

That diagram is this:

7H Egg

(Copyright © 2016 FranklinCovey, Inc)

I absolutely endorse and believe in the process that this diagram so beautifully illustrates, and suggest that whatever life philosophy you choose – and I recommend the 7 Habits® as a great one, and the Three Resolutions® as a viable alternative – this process is the method you should use to properly adopt that ‘new way’.

First, as with any philosophy or plan, you have to truly decide, genuinely and freely commit to whatever you have elected to apply. Without that commitment there will be no success, only something you can ‘talk’ about but which you don’t walk. (Yes, I know………)

Then, apply Jack Canfield’s Principle ‘Act As If’, and start to model fully what it is you tell others you ‘are’. This is where integrity is born. This is where, even if you wander off the chosen path, you recognise that there is a path and you want to be walking along it. You ‘do’ what you have elected and promised to do, even if while doing it you feel as though there is a secret, internally felt element of pretence about what you are doing. You “fake it ‘til you make it”, but you do so specifically in order to make it, not to just seem to be making it. If that makes sense. (It does to me.)

That Modelling of your ideal ‘you’ is then reinforced until you are no longer faking it – you are doing it, you are doing it consistently, and people around you can see just how committed you are. In fact, they might not see it because they have accepted that it IS you. There is no change evident – you have arrived, so to speak.

But nothing happens without first making that commitment, so the advice I give in my book The Three Resolutions remains valid – do not commit until you are truly willing to put everything into your performance of your adopted philosophy.

And once you have done that – remember the above illustration.


If you haven’t done so yet, please visit Amazon HERE and ‘Look Inside’ to see more about The Three Resolutions and how it might change your life on your own, better terms.


“Shut up – lest thy tongue make ye look a proper nana.”


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“You don’t understand Gandhi,” Desai responded. “You see, what he thinks is what he feels. What he feels is what he says. What he says is what he does. What Gandhi feels, what he thinks, what he says, and what he does are all the same. He does not need notes.” Mahadev Desai, Gandhi’s assistant.

I’ve mentioned before my publicly stated disdain for the speech patterns which pepper the English language, these days. Not local dialects, odd as they are. No, for me it’s the careless way people follow others’ linguistic idiosyncrasies. Last time I mentioned them it was because of standards. This time it’s because people do this to avoid telling the truth. Not a factual truth – politicians use it to do that, as do lawyers – but their truth.

People use these things to avoid telling us how they truly feel because they don’t want to be judged. This is partly because they are not confident about their ability to properly and reasonably express an opinion that is not the current fashion; and also in the quite reasonable belief that the person they are speaking to wouldn’t even listen if they could express themselves well.

You hear these pauses between question and response. You hear them when the interviewee says, “I mean” before they’ve said anything that needs re-interpretation. You hear it when they say, “like”, “sort of” and other gap words which are interspersed between thoughts because other thoughts are emerging which they have to think about while they’re still thinking about the one they are expressing now.

They are talking too fast, and worry that they may betray themselves in some way.

Gandhi didn’t do that. Gandhi knew what he had to say, and that what he had to say was something he truly believed. There was no deception, no two-facedness about him.

Oh that we allowed other people to be like that, by shutting up and letting them talk. If they have a truly held belief, let’s hear it. If it does not comply with current trends as decided by the media, let’s hear why. You can’t reasonably argue with an opinion you haven’t understood – all you can do is impose yours on someone else. In which case they have as much right to dismiss yours in the same way you just dismissed theirs.

I was recently at a meeting where one party spoke of a technique he used in training courses, and anyone there would have seen me grimace as he did so. I thought that the method used wasn’t in keeping with the tenor of the training that the rest of us were trying to promote. But even as I grimaced I thought to myself, “He said two words – you ‘know’ what that means, but you don’t KNOW what that means. So you can’t challenge its efficacy in ‘our’ programme until then. So shut up.”

I shut up. And didn’t make myself look a fool, as may have happened if I’d challenged him only to discover that what I thought I knew was in fact wrong.

Give other people the same respect, and give yourself the same chance NOT to look stupid.