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February 15, 2022 - 11,702 comments

Less is More

February is the shortest month of the year.  And so, I am committing to Less is More and giving more Nos this year!  

For anyone who knows me, this is an almost impossible task. As an eternal optimist, I see everything as an opportunity. And following Richard Branson’s advice, I say Yes first and then find a way of doing it.  My default position has always been – “What if it’s good?” 

And yet, when we say Yes to something, we must consciously say No to something else.  A skill not easy to master for most of us, with the constant pull between Yes and No, and between opportunity and threat.  Being able to say more Nos is a sign of success. Warren Buffett said that most successful people are NOT the ones who say Yes to everything, they are the ones who say No to most things. 

Building tolerance for giving and receiving Nos is an art. Most people dread hearing a No, so they never ask. Many people dread giving a No, so they avoid the conversation all together. 

There are gracious ways of giving Nos. “Thank you so much for asking me. That is really kind of you. However, I am focusing right now on something which is very important to me. So, I will be a gracious No for now.” 

In his book “Never Split the Difference” Chris Voss emphasizes the power of giving and receiving a No, in enhancing any relationship, and especially in negotiations.  It seems counterintuitive, but Voss argues that you need to get a No first, to get to a big Yes.   He argues that a No to a properly phrased No oriented question is worth at least five Yeses.  

A simple tool to encourage a No from someone else would be to ask the question: “Do you disagree with this idea?” And if the answer is “No”, you carry on…. Or “Do you think this is a ridiculous idea?  No. So, let’s talk about it then.”  When someone says Yes, but they mean No, the commitment is almost useless. It’s a confirmation without buy-in and therefore without agreement. It’s what Voss calls a counterfeit Yes.  

To avoid giving a counterfeit yes, I teach my clients to say “No for Now” or “Yes for later”!   

It has taken me many years of practice to learn how to say No by reframing it, especially to my son Dan who cannot hear a No.  And in that time, we ended up with two dogs (three if I count our first failed attempt).  I said No to my son’s request to having a dog for many years.  After a counterfeit Yes in 2014 and not coping with our first dog Sally, who ended up with our friends in Romania, I gave in again to a genuine Yes and welcomed Lulu to our family in 2016. My ability to hold another No lasted for two more years, until I gave in again to welcoming Lucky, our second dog, into the family. I am pretty sure that my son knows that it’s only a matter of time before he gets his own horse! 

Until then, I am committing to holding my Nos and practicing the uncomfortable Less is More.  

According to Julia Sperling-Magro, “at any point in time, 11 million bits of information hit our brain, only 70 bits get processed consciously and we remember properly only 7 in our short-term memory.” (McKinsey article, “Bring your brain to work”, Jan 22). 

Because of our limited capacity to process information, neuroscience has found that 7 is a magical number, plus or minus 1 or 2.  That’s why phone numbers have 7 digits.  And apparently 4 is the ideal number at which we chunk information and 3 is the optimal number of speaking points in a speech and power point slide! 

Because of this enormous filtering effect, our brain seeks patterns that make it easier for it to perform. And so, I am leaving you with this 3x3x3 intentional learning approach to practice in the next few months: find 3 things to say No to in the next 3 months, engaging 3 people to support you and hold you accountable.  

My first clear No is saying goodbye to alina_d_addison on Instagram over the next few months (sorry Instagram lovers) and relying on Kora, Carmen and Tatiana as my accountability partners.  I will be cutting down my number of newsletters in 2022, as we are welcoming Sylvia into our team. As I am embracing the Less is More, I look forward to Sylvia’s newsletter in March and I will write to you again in three months, rather than the usual two! 

ADA, February 2022 

November 24, 2021 - 15,332 comments

Work hard, play hard, and be kind

I looked up the definition of workaholic today.

It’s very simple. A workaholic is a person who works compulsively at the expense of other pursuits.  Those other pursuits are often: health, family, relationships, love and of course... the pursuit of happiness itself.

In my work as a coach to corporate high achievers I’ve helped many workaholics... probably becauseI’ve been one myself. I know the cost of holding work as a constant priority above everyone and everything else.

During the month of NOvember, we chose to access our Inner Child, here at Adaptaa, be childish and say more Nos.  Work less and play more. Be carefree. Not easy for someone like me.

I forgot to be playful early in my life. I was this serious, curious, and guarded little girl. This little girl learned to conform early in life, as she navigated the nursery boarding system from the age of three!   She learned to follow the rules to protect her younger sister and avoid punishment and humiliation in the communist school system.

And as an adult, she became an expert in being serious, strong, a fighter, an advocate for others, who carried on like a soldier.  In fact, she became a general.  It didn't matter that life was not a war!  She learned to overcompensate for the inner seriousness, with big smiles. 

In my last few years of deep inner work, I am learning and re-learning to let go of soldering and be mischievous and playful.

I recently attended an Improv class with Patricia Ryan Madson, the author of the great book “Improv Wisdom”. A powerful experience of learning a new skill. Learning to let go and “relax your clever”. Improv is about being present. And being playful. Not being clever.

I’ve learned that innovation is about what’s “inside the box” and not what’s outside the box. And seeing it with new eyes. An improviser is like a person walking backwards. They have no idea where they are going.  They just know where they are! And they get excited about receiving gracefully whatever is presented to them! And the memory they create is more real than a real memory. Pure magic play!

Where are you in your life? Is your life all about grabbing the brass ring on the corporate merry go round or is there a part of you that knows in your heart you want it - you need it -  to be about more?

Chasing the lifestyle, we THINK is success is something many of my clients have confessed an addiction to... as well as the emptiness they found when they got there.

Success on the outside does not always lead to feeling successful on the inside. And success does not lead to happiness. It’s happiness that leads to success.

I’ve learned that in life all is love and play, everything else is a misunderstanding.  So play hard, work hard, and be kind!

ADA, 14 Nov 21

September 3, 2021 - 8,485 comments

Slowing down to speed up

When was the last time you had nothing on your mind? 

I never used to. I always had something on my mind. Until recently, on a coaching retreat, when I intentionally created space both physically and mentally. I totally emptied my cup. 

When you are a high performer, it can feel uncomfortable to have nothing on your mind. It’s a busy life. There are things to do, figure out, build, oversee, plan for. 

If you are like me, chasing some of your impossible dreams, you’ve probably had moments where your cup felt so overflowing with things “to do” that you didn’t know what “to do”. And when you’ve got no space or time to think straight, everything becomes important… which means nothing is. 

When your cup is overflowing, you need to empty it and start again.  Or bring a much larger empty bowl and learn new tools, new practices and new perspectives in order to fill it.  Expand into a larger cup.  Otherwise, you remain stuck and overwhelmed with your little overflowing cup and never fill the space beyond it.

I learned that feeling overwhelmed is a high-quality problem. It means you are being invited to raise your awareness to a broader perspective and see your life from a higher viewpoint.   It means that soon enough this larger empty bowl could be filling up with new ways of being and operating.  It means that you are being invited to experience a new level of ease, grace and vitality you never could have attained from your little cup. It’s called growing and expanding.

I can do “speeding up”. At 14, I was a 100m finalist in the National Championships of Athletics. Metaphorically speaking, I’ve been sprinting my entire life. So, yes. I can really relate to people who like to move quickly. 

And yet here I was, in a moment of having nothing on my mind. The space created in a week of emptiness and stillness has been extraordinary. The type of experience I only read in books.

Science has proven that slowing down is essential to the process of “acceleration”.  Slowing down to speed up has been an elusive concept for a sprinter like me. 

Think of a Formula 1 racing car. Winning the race is dependent on slowing down from 240 mph to a complete stop in order to change tires.  Otherwise, the tires will inevitably wear out, shred or burst into flames. And as much as it doesn’t make sense to slow down, doing so is what makes the winning difference.  

So, those who think high performance in business is a constant state of “go” might need to watch more Formula 1 races to catch up on reality. Being a TRUE high performer means that you understand what it means to sustain your own vehicle instead of shredding your treads, burning out or losing your grip on the racetrack. 

And the more you’re a high performer, the more you need to hold your renewal zone - as sacred.  When we remember to go into our own renewal zone and give ourselves time and space to breathe, that is when we feel regenerated and can springboard back creatively, solving problems and having more energy for what’s next. 

This is why we co-created our own coaching retreat in Transylvania for our community of audacious leaders. To accelerate our work, our life and our mission by slowing down, renewing and regenerating.  To empty our cups and access our mind, heart and gut and come back ready to create the next level of success in our lives and careers. 

Understanding the true nature of acceleration is what has you win this life race... and we want you to win. 

ADA, August 2021

March 8, 2021 - 22,588 comments

The Eagle Spirit – fearlessly choosing Love

Today is my daughter’s 14th birthday. A time of celebration, pride, gratitude, and love. And exactly 4 years since I wrote my first ever blog on Trust and Love. Still remember how terrified I was…

I rarely mention my daughter. My son is usually the main character in my stories. And my first blog was no exception. My children have been my greatest teachers in this extra-ordinary journey called life.  And so, I am dedicating this blog to you Carly, to read it when you are “full” and down.

Extra-ordinary things require that little extra.  And any extras, come with moments of over-flowing and overwhelm.  I am no stranger to overwhelm. In fact, I have become an expert. 

If you are like me, chasing some of your impossible dreams, you’ve probably had moments where your cup felt so overflowing with things “to do” that you didn’t know what “to do”. And when you’ve got no space or time to think straight, everything becomes important… which means nothing is. 

When your cup is overflowing, you need to empty it and start again.  Or bring a much larger empty bowl and learn new tools, new practices and new perspectives in order to fill it.  Expand into a larger cup.  Otherwise, you remain stuck and overwhelmed with your little overflowing cup and never fill the space beyond it.

I have learned that feeling overwhelmed is a high-quality problem. It means you are being invited to raise your awareness to a broader perspective and see your life from a higher viewpoint.   It means that soon enough this larger empty bowl could be filling up with new ways of being and operating.  It means that you are being invited to experience a new level of ease, grace and vitality you never could have attained from your little cup. It’s called growing and expanding. 

At 14, I got my first identity card. It was confirmation of my transition into adulthood. Birds raise their babies and teach them to fly, with the purpose of letting them go and never see them again. As parents, we find it difficult to let go. I know I do. 

I realized that you, my wonderful daughter, are ready to fly. I raised you to be ready for an extra-ordinary journey of ups and downs ahead. 

The last 4 years, since that first blog, we have been on an extra-ordinary journey of growth, expansion, ups and downs and enormous perspective shifts for which I am truly grateful.  It’s been said that we become the average of the 5 people we spend most time with. To keep stretching and expanding, I surrounded myself with people who inspire and scare me a little. I hope you will do too! 

At our first 4PC reunion of 2021, my community of extra-ordinary coaches and leaders, we all received a card with an individual message. And as always, there was no coincidence. Everyone got the message that they needed to hear!  

Mine was Eagle Spirit.  Soaring high to see deep within. Seeing some truths from a higher vantage point to bring perspective and clarity. 

The message was very clear. Spend time on the important things you love. Keep your focus on the big picture. By taking care of the things that matter the most to you, everything else will take care of itself.  

The Eagle Spirit is supposed to guide your way. When you are uncertain which way to go, fearlessly choose the direction of love. 

Keep flying fearlessly, my dear daughter!

With lots of love to you Carly and all our amazing family, friends and wonderful communities. 

ADA, March 2021

November 16, 2020 - 8,696 comments

10 Insights in 9 Days – 10/9

This is my last article in the series, reflecting on my biggest insights from what I rate as a 10/9 experience with my own mentor and his extraordinary community of leaders.  The 3 insights of the first 3 days were: Acceleration, Audacity and Advocacy. The following 3 days insights were: 3 x Authenticity.  And as I am writing my book where the only letter in my alphabet is A, the last 3A (or rather 4!) insights are: A to B, Astonishment AND Appreciation.

  1. From A to B

If you are a high performer, you are likely to have set many big stretching goals over the years.  You planned your journeys from A to Z. You marched towards your goals with passion and enthusiasm. 

In her brilliant session, my dear friend Georgie taught us many lessons on how to connect with powerful people.  You see, Georgie is writing her book on Stratospheric CEOs. High performers who got to the top of their game by applying certain behaviours, principles and lessons of success.

The one lesson that resonated with me most, was the tiny steps approach. Walking from A to B. Not worrying about the A to Z, which may feel really overwhelming.  Sometimes the more attached we get towards our big goals, the more creative opportunities we may miss along the way.  The whole idea is to enjoy the journey and not worry about the destination. One step at a time. Slow down, so you can put one foot in front of the other… 

My insight?  Focus on the tiniest actions that can make the biggest impact. Move from A to B and then from B to C. And that’s how you will get to your Z much faster and happier! 

  1. Astonishment 

And how else to finish off my series than on the high note of client astonishment? Astonishing your clients to help them achieve those big goals.

My dear friend Mandy led a session on coaching playfully, using some fun games during the session. This was such an alien concept to me. In my world of high achievers, serious finance and corporate professionals, it surely couldn’t work… Right?  

Wrong!   Mandy is an extraordinary coach to an identical audience of corporate players - investment bankers, lawyers, CEO and successful entrepreneurs. And her motto?  “Coaching is too important to be taken seriously!”

And Mandy’s session was soooo much fun!  I loved it.  Using games to help her clients interrupt their thinking pattern. Getting them out of their heads. And into their hearts. Accessing the path to innovation through play. Enabling them to grow through sheer astonishment.  And I was really astonished as to how using a cabbage (yes a cabbage!) in a coaching session can be so impactful and insightful.  The result?  I have been a lot more playful in my sessions ever since! And both my clients and I secretly enjoy it!

My insight? Playfulness is a mindset. It’s a place to come from, not to get to. 

  1. AND

The session led by Erin was called And.  I felt intrigued. I know what it means to live in an AND world.  My son is Ambidextrous. He can use his both hands to perform most tasks, from writing to playing.  He is able to move quickly between things that seem contradictory. He is also able to hold multiple emotions to be true at the same time. Anger and Appreciation. Love and Hate. They co-exist. And it’s his superpower. 

And the ability to use the word AND in our narrative and drop the BUTs and the ORs is a superpower too.  The ability to accept both sides of the same story.  Dropping the BUTs which negate a previous statement.  Dropping the ORs which imply a tradeoff. What if more alternatives are possible?  Adopting a possibility or infinite mindset. Being a beginner AND an expert in everything we do. Being a teacher AND a student of our own life.  Trusting ourselves AND asking for help when needed. Being compassionate AND straightforward. 

I learnt the power of being attached to the vision & purpose AND un-attached to the outcome!  Being a Master AND a disaster. Embracing failure, as an essential part of success.   And if you are a high performer, you’ve probably experienced many extraordinary highs AND some absolutely epic lows. It’s what it means to be human.

My insight? AND is a powerful word. Use it consciously and often and experience its magic.

  1. Appreciation

AND my last word is Appreciation!  Appreciation to our wonderful mentor, Rich Litvin for creating such a fantastic community.  Appreciation to the whole community itself for creating such an electrifying energy. And most of all, appreciation to Shelley, the leader of my small and special group of Amazing humans. She taught me how to truly slow down and I have been reaping the benefits since the event finished 4 weeks ago. Creating some magic in small steps from A to B. Or rather more accurately from A to A, in my A-world!

And I have realized it’s been exactly 12 months since I published my article entitled: “Love, Loss and Rollercoasters”.  And I appreciate that despite the many rollercoasters of 2020, our eco-system is solid. My son is enjoying his new college and is thriving. My daughter is enjoying her friends, school and playing guitar. My parents are healthy and today celebrated their 51-year wedding anniversary. That’s the biggest privilege of all! And we are lucky to be surrounded by some amazing people. 

With lots of love and appreciation to ALL.

ADA, 15 November 2020

November 9, 2020 - 10,632 comments

6 Insights in 6 Days – 6/9

This is my second article, reflecting on my biggest insights from days 3-6 of my 9-day personal development uplifting experience with my own mentor and his extraordinary community of leaders.  For those of you who didn’t read my first article “3 Insights in 3 Days”,  I am reflecting on the most powerful A insights for me, as I am writing my book where the only letter in my alphabet is A.  The 3A insights of the first 3 days were: Acceleration, Audacity and Advocacy. The following 3 days insights are: Authenticity, Authenticity and Authenticity.

  1. Authenticity

Authenticity leaves a Legacy.

The event was called 4PC Accelerator. It was meant to accelerate the growth of the extraordinary group of coaches and leaders attending it. Acceleration that occurred for all leaders both through facilitating brilliance sessions as well as those attending them like me. 

One of the sessions I chose to attend on the 5th day was run by Angela (yes serendipitously an A named leader!) called – “Leaving a Legacy”. 

You see, in 2007 Angela was inspired by a man with a big vision. With a vision that big that it sounded crazy. However, Angela really believed in his crazy vision and did what most people thought was the craziest thing at that time. She took a year out of her life to support him with his mission.  This man, with a big vision, was Senator Barack Obama and Angela took 3 years out of her life to support him in his campaign to become the President of the United States.  The story has a happy ending. He won and Angela continued to support him in the White House for almost 7 years.  

However, like all happy endings, there is a lot in the middle that never gets told. The ups and downs of all life stories. The struggle that’s inherent in any success. The one thing that’s always the same in all stories with a happy ending. The unshakable belief in standing for something bigger than you and making a positive difference. 

I was truly inspired by Angela’s story and authenticity. And even more inspired by the way she tells her story quietly. Always from the back of the room.  Always in a true supporting role! You have to listen really carefully to hear her!   And when she speaks, everyone goes truly quiet!  Mesmerized….And I am even more inspired by her desire to write her own book about leaving a legacy and helping other leaders out there to leave their own legacy. Angela is one of my role models of (quiet) Authenticity. 

My insight? Authenticity is both visible and invisible. It is about “I am who I am NOW!” both inside and outside. 

  1. Authenticity

Authenticity is not possible without Vulnerability.  

It’s been 7 years since Brene Brown’s blockbuster TED talk entitled “The Power of Vulnerability”.  She smashed the myth that “life's messy, clean it up, organize it and put it into a box" was a good strategy.  Keeping all our messy things in a box comes with a high price to our happiness, wellbeing and of course the ultimate success – feeling fulfilled in life! 

In her research at the time, Brene Brown found that when you ask people about love, they tell you about heartbreak. When you ask people about belonging, they tell you their most excruciating experiences of being excluded. And when you ask people about connection, they tell you their stories about disconnection. 

And all humans have a massive fear of disconnection. It’s called Shame. We all have it. We just don’t like to admit to it. The only people who don't experience shame have no capacity for human empathy or connection. No one wants to talk about it, and the less you talk about it, the more you have it. And the thing that underpins this is excruciating vulnerability. If we want connection to happen, we must allow ourselves to be seen, really seen.

And although I have read all Brene Brown’s books and seen her TEDs, I forgot all about it, when I signed up to another brilliance session called “Visibility and Vulnerability” run by Alexis (yes another A named leader) and Matt!

Boy, was I in for a treat? The stories in that session were 20/10 in terms of vulnerability and authenticity! And the human connections created in that session have been extraordinary. At least for me.  I have a feeling they will be amazing connections for life!  Actually, I am already certain that is the case. 

I pride myself on my Audacity. The vulnerability experienced in that session flipped into the opposite side of Audacity, which for me is Anxiety! And which I claim I have little… Not that day! I experienced anxiety at its highest level and leaning into it and allowing myself to be really seen and really see others paid off.  It’s not for everyone and can only be facilitated by masters of connection. I am hugely grateful to Alexis and Matt for making it possible. 

My insight?  You can’t have Authenticity without Audacity. And you can’t have Audacity without the Anxiety caused by Vulnerability. 

  1. Authenticity 

Authenticity is not possible without Alignment. 

Alignment to your deepest values. During the session above, I have connected with some extraordinary human beings. And I am extremely grateful and excited to have connected with George, someone who I feel in total Alignment.  Our energies matched like 2 flames of the same candle.  We are aligned with the same ultimate value of Forgiveness. 

And as always in life, there is no coincidence.  I have talked in the past about Synchronicity.  When the student is ready, the teacher will appear. And in this case, we are both a teacher and a student, learning from each other on our own amazing journeys. 

And one of the lessons George has taught me was to “empty my cup regularly and clean it with forgiveness first, before filling it up again with gratitude, acceptance and love!”  Emptying one’s cup before it spills, is crucial to slowing down to speed up. A skill that I am still learning. But the cleaning of the cup with the Forgiveness sponge first, was a magical discovery for me! 

My insight? Authenticity is a choice. And a very difficult one too.

What will you choose to accelerate your own growth?

ADA, 7 November 2020