Just play the ball!


Imagine the scene. Players on the 18th hole after a long and difficult match. The pressure is on. Playing an approach shot to the final green, one of the players is appalled when his ball hits a passing seagull, and ricochets off into the roughest rough there is. Not even a bunker, much worse than a bunker.

They gather round, and the debate starts:

  • The seagull had been around for ages. Why hadn’t somebody removed it?
  • Whose idea was it to select that club? A stroke with a different club would have missed the seagull.
  • This is an extraordinary event. The shot should be taken again, or a penalty free removal from the roughest of the rough to the merely rough granted without penalty.
  • The debate goes on. (I’m not a golfer, and am aware that there will be lots of rules to allow for this – but you get the point)

There are no rules for coronavirus, or any other act of nature.

We have to play the ball where it lies. Allocation of blame is a pointless waste of energy – it just wastes time. We can come back to understanding what happened when we’ve played the ball.

This applies to each one of us. Waiting for the “authorities” to rescue is could be a long wait. They’re doing the best they can, but in reality have no more idea than we do.

We have a choice.

“He who cannot obey himself will be commanded.”

Thus Spak Zarathustra. Nietzsche.

We may wish the ball wasn’t where it is, but it is.

We have to play it.

  • What clubs do you have in the bag?
  • How many ways might you use them?
  • How might you interpret the rules?
  • Are you prepared to take a penalty?
  • Who might help you?
  • Do you have a caddie who knows the course?
  • There will be a way to play it, that only you can play.

If you want to stay in the game, find a way to play the ball.

No other games are available.

Getting Unstuck

We all get stuck, particularly those of us who try to help others get unstuck.

I know when I’m getting stuck when I find myself repeating the same message in creative new ways. It means I’m not moving on, I’m making camp.

Amongst those I know are those who notice, who can’t be fooled, will call me out and move me on. I value them enormously.

Some of them I don’t know personally, but they have a talent for communicating that I get the same kick as if I did.

I was reminded of this listening to Margaret Heffernan on Radio 4 “Thought for the day” on Sunday. A good way to spend ten minutes listening to here challenge the ease with which we accept what we’re told.

Charles Handy has been a mostly unwitting mentor all my working life. A gentle but incisive philosopher of business, I find his work has a way a centring me when I’m stuck.

Rumi, Marcus Aurelius, Antoine de St Exupery. These are just a few amongst many. What I value is their honesty, their lack of lecturing or trying to be right. They question themselves as much as me, and in doing so create a way forward.

In the times we find ourselves in, a search for answers is much less productive than finding those asking great questions.

You don’t have to know them, just make space to spend time with them.

Stuck is mostly a choice

There are different sorts of stuck. Sometimes, things happen – our car breaks down or the weather closes in at the airport, – something outside our control. In observing many people and businesses though, mostly we get stuck in process. We get trapped in the way we think we should do things. In these cases, getting stuck is a choice.

I was reminded of the elevator ads when I read Seth Godin’s latest book  – What to do when it’s your turn”.  The ad is worth taking time to watch (and the book to read). It’s funny, and vaguely uncomfortable. Is your career like an elevator, and if it’s stuck, what will it take you to get off?