• Johan Taft

    “I help bright individuals and leaders in business, competitive sports and show business rapidly and powerfully improve performance, reduce fear, get fully focused, gain peace and certainty and generate extraordinary results putting the sparkle back in their eyes!”

    If you'd like to know more, get in touch here.

Keeping our self-value separate from our roles and results.

The roles we have (mother, husband, company director, electrician, goal keeper, etc) along with the results we produce will vary from 0 to 10, as will our levels of skill in these roles. This is normal. Levels of results and roles vary day by day as a result of a myriad of different things. Some directly under our control, others not.

Our self-value/self-concept/self-esteem, or how we view ourselves, should always be a 10/10.

When our results drop or we experience difficulty in our roles, our self-value should not be affected. It should remain at 10 all the time. This is our innate value as a human being. We arrived empty handed with no roles, and we will depart the same way. Why should our innate value drop just because we did not score the goal, or did not reach the sales target, or are struggling with managing our kids, or breaking up with a loved one, or are experiencing difficulties managing our health? These are all roles and activities. All external stuff that comes and goes.

Take a perfectly made computer. Call it a 10. Perfect in design!
Now put a novice operator on it, does the computer loose value? Of course not.
Same goes with our life and our self-value.

Take an amazing human being (You!). Now have its operator (Your actions, speech and thoughts) be a novice at something – say playing the trombone for example. In other words you have not yet mastered it and play a lot of false notes, perhaps messing up the orchestra’s harmony. Does ‘You’ the human loose any value? Of course not. Does it make you a lousy person? Surely not. Just perhaps a lousy trombone player or a trombone player with L-plates on.

So this is what I understood a long time ago (unconsciously) and what saved me when I got sick, when business got tough, etc. I always fully value and love myself. The rest is stuff to manage. Sometimes it goes smoothly and I win, other times it doesn’t and I struggle..with it, not with myself.
When I learn new better skills, wisdom and strategies then I succeed more with performance and roles.

Thing is, you have already succeeded with yourself! You were born into this marvelous body, mind and world. The miracle is clear to see!

Now if poor results or difficult circumstances have caused us to devalue how we feel about ourselves – which is not at all unusual given society never taught us to keep them separate – then we must become aware of this misunderstanding, grasp the concept and internalise it.

People who feel good about themselves, produce good results!

What works vs. being right

Getting “committed to what works”, both in business and life,  causes us to repeat and create successful strategies and powerful ways of being. It switches on our creative mind which opens up our access to infinite resources, possibilities, solutions and understanding. It fuels our growth.

On the other hand, being “committed to being right” engages our judgmental mind which feeds our ego. This might get us what we think we want, for a while, however it is inherently destructive and builds long term negativity. And negativity creates instability.

Easy self-evaluation exercise:

1. Carry a small note pad with you for a day.

2. In it, write down any judgment, any criticism, any comparison or any condemnation of situations, of other people or even of self that you hear yourself saying out aloud , or silently to yourself (like a thought). Also take note of when you may find yourself making others wrong.

Now this will mean that you will need to become a type of witness or observer of your own speech and thoughts for a day. That in itself might be a challenge to some as many of our behaviours are unconscious. For example we might be unconsciously looking to always be right, to having the final word, comparing ourselves to others, seeking the upper hand or putting others down without even realising it (until of course it is pointed out. But who likes to point out that sort of thing, risking objection, rejection or even conflict?).  A bit like a fish  not knowing it is swimming in water until it is removed from the water. So in a way, you are pulling yourself out of the water, for a day.

3. At the end of the day, tally up the number of judgments, criticisms, comparisons and condemnations for that day.

If it exceeds 9, then you may be putting a disproportionate amount of energy into being right rather than being committed to what works.

Captain Greatness

One of my ongoing “habits of Greatness” is to make a point  each month of meeting, learning from and, if possible,  having lunch with a “Man or Woman of Greatness”.

Last month was not a disappointment:

I was invited by one of my suppliers to participate at their annual convention. This year it took place on a 12 day cruise in the Mediterranean. We boarded in Rome, and stopped off in many exotic ports including Naples, Rhodes, Athens and Alexandria to name the best known. All those icons of antiquity that I studied at school finally came to life: the Acropolis, the Pyramids, the Sphinx, Mount Etna, the Coliseum…

With more than 2000 passengers including 850 in our group and 1200 staff on board I got to interact with some very interesting and great people.  But the person who stood out to me as an individual who has truly embraced excellence and is fearlessly expressing  greatness was Captain Patrik Dahlgren:

Captain by rank and current Master of the “Navigator of the Seas”, at 34 years old he commands the largest cruise ship in the world and is one of the youngest such Masters in the industry. Most are in their 50s or older, signs of a well established and slow-to-change maritime tradition of rank where age, connections and politics are often key ingredients to career advancement. His second-in-command was a Venezuelan woman in her mid-twenties.

His employers (Royal Caribbean International) clearly value capability and performance over tradition.

If you were to stand the ship up vertically and you were sitting on the bow, you’d be looking down at the Empire State Building. It is gigantic! The navigation cockpit on the bridge is exactly the same as that of the American aircraft carrier USS Forrester!

At Sea (8)_small What impressed me about Captain Dahlgren was  his passion (it’s written all over his face!) and his progressive management style:

“My job is not so much to tell people what to do as most of them already know what to do. Many have been on ships like this for 10 years or more.

My job is to create an environment where the staff come from the heart!

If I can create an environment where they are actually  enjoying the cruise experience, then this will certainly reflect when they interact with our guests. I provide the staff with shore excursions, just like our guests. We have bars, parties and many activities for them. Also all staff get to eat the same excellent food as the guests do. These are just a few of the things we do to keep our staff enjoying the ship. Everyone is of course well trained in their specific roles but I never run any fancy “customer care” or “customer service excellence” programmes. They don’t really work. People coming from the heart works!

When we have problems, I ask them. They know. I spend a lot of time walking around the ship from one end to the other and speaking to staff as well as guests. Just like you met me on my round here today.

And when things go wrong, for instance say there is a fire, it’s amazing how calm everyone is. You would hardly notice. Ship discipline (which is a necessity aboard any vessel)  combined with everyone knowing exactly what they are doing creates this. We run mock situations all the time.”

Easy words from the captain one might think: ”the staff coming from the heart”…but I can tell you that the service and general friendliness from all levels of staff that I encountered over the twelve days was close to impeccable. His system clearly works!

And in an industry, certainly far more complex but not dissimilar to the fast food industry (that I know very well) in terms of pressures, staffing and managerial challenges, seasonal ups and downs, huge drive on efficiencies and profitability, that is quite an accomplishment indeed!

I was surprised to learn that as little as 8% of his activities involve navigation. More than 90% of his time is dedicated to the management of this mini floating city. So in addition to his Marine Master Licence, he has degrees in Economics, Marketing, Accounting and Organisational Behaviour.

But don’t be fooled, this man is a seasoned sailor. His career started at 12 and he has since sailed everything from private yachts of the rich and famous to  tankers, cargo ships, jumbo ferries, sophisticated military craft to the most expensive luxury liners such as the “Navigator of the Seas”.

What I also very much liked about Captain Dahlgren is that he is a “professional dreamer”: he  has his eyes set upon his next dream command:  the new generation of cruise ships: the “Oasis Class” , currently under construction in Finland, which will make his current command look very small by comparison!

And speaking with him, feeling his enthusiasm, excitement and great knowledge of these next ships,  one is left with little doubt that he will be there: he is clearly living it in his mind already, in full Technicolor!

The best time…

Many of my clients express to me how they wish they had begun their transformational programme many years sooner.

My response to them is this old Chinese saying:

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the next best time is today!

Fear of failure: is it real?

Fear of failure: a common chronic disease that can paralyse entrepreneurs, aspiring sports champions and professionals alike.

Interestingly, fear of success can have a similar if not greater effect. I’ll talk about that in another post.

Back to fear of failure: why do people have it?

The first reason is negative outdated conditioning of the mind. New expectations or goals combined with old contradictory programming. Like a new computer programme running on old outdated  software: it’s bound to crash!

The other reason is people suffering from fear of failure have not yet learned and internalised how to powerfully set up, run and manage a project from beginning to end.

They have not applied proper thought to all the controllables, all the variables, the external circumstances, their skill set, the resources, the risks and the expectations. The project has no greater context within which it lives and has not been mindfully planned.

As the old adage goes: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The 5 P’s.

The first problem is a right brain (creative brain) problem; the second a left brain (analytical brain) problem.

And both brains are not working efficiently together. There’s a gap, a discrepancy.

And that is where fear of failure finds its place. In this gap. And along with it comes its big pal: doubt!

Together, they spread to other projects and areas of life! And if you’ve been there, you will know that they have the potential to spread like wildfire! Flame 12

Are you following me so far?

And so, rather than focusing our energy on carrying out the appropriate proactive actions as part of a well thought-out plan, we get stopped, confusion sets in, we procrastinate and all we think about is the result, or more likely: the lack of it.

When this happens, the gap gets even wider and fear occupies even more mind space. Like a Japanese knotweed or a Russian vine spreading in a garden, out of control.

It’s a desperate situation! Like a poorly attended garden, a poorly attended mind is a haven for negativity.

So what can you do to reduce the fear?

Here are a few simple steps that will get you pointed in a better direction. It won’t solve all your problems but it’s a simple starting point to put things back in the right perspective.

Firstly recognise fully that it’s your lack of “gardening and good husbandry” that is the cause of the problem. Stop blaming the weeds. Stop blaming the “weather”. Stop blaming yourself. Stop blaming! Take full responsibility for your lot. And forgive yourself if needed.

Start seeking deeper understanding of how to better utilise the incredible bio-computer that is your mind. A good book for this is Ron Holland’s latest best seller “The Eureka Enigma”.

Next, read and act on Shad Helmstetter’s classic book: “What to say when you talk to yourself” and learn to hear the noise in your mind and get a grip on it. Do the exercises in the book.

Thirdly, divide your life into key areas such as: business, sports, relationship, family, travel. Write these on a piece of paper.

Now look at each area and evaluate how well you are doing on a scale of 1 to 10.

Be honest with yourself but not overly critical.

This will give you your True North Evaluation, as John Assaraf calls it. That’s your new starting point. Do not judge the scores. Instead use them like a navigator uses his bearings. You cannot effectively move towards a new goal unless you know exactly where you’re at. Again, do forgive yourself if you are feeling guilt, pressure or disappointment.


So is fear of failure real?

To those who suffer from it, it certainly feels real.

But remember: in all matters there is Cause and Effect. Action and Result.

Better, wiser actions lead to increased results, and to more desired effects. 

A powerful, orderly mind enables better, wiser actions.

Take on the mindset that there is no failure. There is only feedback!

Those who are committed to the path of continual growth and improvement will easily understand this: fear of failure is a perception, not a reality. It’s a symptom, not a cause. Fix the cause, and you reduce or eliminate the symptom!

Repetition is the mother of learning!

Fotolia_2670785_XS This is a phrase that my ju-jitsu instructor used a lot. And he was right!

Anyone who has reached a respectable level of skill in their art, sport or profession knows that repetition is the mother of learning!

A Premier League striker does not get good by just kicking a ball a few times. He practises the shot hundreds of times per day and well before the match!

In class, we practised a lock, throw or strike many hundreds of times too. The instructor knew that without massive repetition, we would not internalise, refine, fully understand and instinctively own the moves. Our old ineffective ways would still reign and his teaching would have been pretty much wasted.

It was no secret that those who got really good practised outside of class too. And practised a lot!

Boring I hear you say?

This type of seemingly endless repetition can indeed seem boring, especially to beginners.

Stage 1 is to get past the boredom factor. For some, holding onto a vision such as getting as good as Bruce Lee for example, is enough to get them through. For others it just won’t work. And that is why there is discipline and an instructor, the ‘Sensei”, who’s in charge.

Did you know that the Chinese word “kung fu” does not actually mean martial art?

It means, and I translate this loosely, “time and energy applied until one reaches mastery”. (“Wu shu” is used to describe martial art)

For example, one could possess good “kung fu” in cookery.

So my question to you this week is: are you putting in the time, energy and repetition necessary to master the key behaviours in your trade? Are you “paying your dues”? Has repetition become the mother of your learning?

Or are you perhaps still sometimes blaming external factors when you don’t quite achieve desired outcomes?

Why New Year resolutions don’t work


With the New Year now upon us, many of us will have made New Year resolutions. And for good reason: we are not entirely happy with how it went last year.
Be it that our jeans  have strangely become too tight, or our bank account somehow has not expanded, or our new business didn’t reach the targets that we so diligently set… the list goes on.
So we seek fresh hope. (Hope: the tip of the iceberg of despair!). And what better time than the New Year to create it?
But will it work? Did it ever work? Does anyone ever realise their New Year’s resolution?
It’s no secret: a few do… but most don’t!

Think back to the  resolution you made last year: if it survived past Valentine’s Day and didn’t get forgotten, scrapped, downscaled or replaced, then you are in the minority. If it actually survived past February and you reached it or got any measured result then congratulations to you! No need to read further: just reset some new ones.
If not, then perhaps you would like to know a few reasons why your resolution never really had a chance anyway.

The 3 main reasons are this:

1. Most resolutions, good intentions, goals and plans are formed in the conscious mind. This is the part of you that thinks and reasons; yet it’s the non-conscious mind that causes our thoughts, behaviours and actions. It controls 96-98% of perceptions and behaviour. It’s our conditioning, from childhood until now.

Our hidden self-image resides here.  The non-conscious mind looks for patterns and images in our outside world that match our inside “reality”. Information that doesn’t match up gets dropped. And that is the principal reason why New Year’s resolutions die a death; they are simply not in harmony with the inner conditioned non-conscious mind.

Until the non-conscious mind is updated and “reprogrammed” and both minds are singing from the same song-sheet, I’m afraid the resolution does not stand a chance.

It’s like the captain of a ship sending the command to steer towards port, yet all the crew, mechanics and sailors are fixed on starboard. 50 of them against 1 of him! In essence a mutiny. They reject his instruction and leadership. And this is similar to what is happening in our mind. A shift in consciousness is needed. Albert Einstein said: “a problem cannot be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it”.
2. Most resolutions are a reaction to something that we do not want. The simple law here is “what we resist persists”. For some, avoiding the problem (fat, broke, alone, second place, etc) even becomes an obsession!
3. Most resolutions employ the strategy of “trying harder”. “This year it’ll be different: I’ll work much harder at it!” Ever heard someone say that?
Trying harder is like a fly desperately trying to fly its way through the window pane. It’s a strategy that unfortunately will not only kill the fly’s chances of reaching the outdoors, but it will kill the fly too! Yet only a few meters away there’s a door it could so easily fly through. Trying harder is not always the best strategy for success!

Does any of this resonate?
If so, here are 3 simple strategies that I invite you to take on:

1. Forget about resolutions. Get serious about expanding your understanding and capacity of how visions and goals are properly accomplished, from beginning to end. Find a good role-model or mentor whose “past is your future” and who can show you the precise step by step processes, help elevate your awareness and consciousness, steer you when necessary and hold you to account over time.
2. Change your thinking from moving away from a problem (ie: “I don’t want to be overweight”) to moving towards a principle (ie: the principle of optimum vitality) and get busy learning about the principle, embracing it and taking the step by step actions in order to actualise it into your life.

Time is going by anyway. It’s up to you what you do with it. Time doesn’t care if you don’t meet your goals or don’t accomplish your desires. It’s up to you to get the understanding and apply it. Chance is it was unfortunately not taught to you at school, university or in business. Better now than never!
3. Focus initially on the doing of the actions in the correct sequence and invest your energy in improving your performance, wisdom  and skills rather than on the results. Take it step by step and celebrate the small victories of achieving the steps. Your results will improve accordingly in time. Succeeding in small steps and learning from them will make you feel good about yourself. People who feel good about themselves produce better results.

Do track the results, though, so as to keep you moving in the right direction. Adopt an attitude of “continual learning and progression” rather than success or failure. Get better at playing the game of actualising visions and goals rather than continually measuring your self-worth against the score board.

Wishing you success in this New Year!

To find yourself is to lose yourself


To know our true self, we must cease to identify with the illusory identity which feels seperate from the whole under the survival instincts fed by the ego.

For the real to come, the false must leave…

(Zen koan)

The main thing

The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!

Take 30 seconds to answer the following 4 questions:

  • What is my purpose?
  • What is my vision?
  • What is (are) my goal(s)?
  • What is my plan?

Pearl divers and the agitated mind

pearl diverOur agitated mind too often prevents us from realising our true potential.

But rather than calming the agitation, when life gets tough, we tend to turn even more towards external circumstance and put yet more energy into that circumstance, hoping it will change, hoping we will find a way.  Does this sound familiar?

What do I mean by agitation?

Imagine a pearl diver. His/her job is to find pearls in the sea (oysters first of course)

But because the sea is very agitated, visibility is poor and he cannot find any oysters. So what does he do, he pops his head above water and deals with what he can see: the other pearl divers and so he gets involved and wrapped up in conversations with them, judgements about them and dramas involving them.

All the while, he is reducing his chance of finding pearls.

Now of course a pearl diver  cannot calm down the choppy seas; but using the image of the sea as a metaphor for our mind activity and thoughts, the good news is we can calm down the activity and produce clarity and stillness in our mind. It is not so hard to do. So, rather than agitation being the default starting place for our mind, stillness and clarity become the starting point.  And from there, pretty much any state of mind is readily available, on demand.

And when the mind is still and clear, we can more easily perceive the greatness and gifts within us. We find our pearls. We no longer become so distracted by our circumstances and no longer need external validation for our existence, because we clearly see and realise that the most precious gifts are already within us.

Learn to still the mind!