I love the way past students keep in contact with me after they have finished their studies. It is extremely gratifying when there is an invitation to an ongoing conversation about their learning experiences.

I’ve been particularly delighted at a recent email from Victor, a student who completed the UCT EMBA programme last year.

Victor's email updated me on his progress and insights since graduation. He relayed the enormous struggle he had faced in trying to stick to his newly learned practices of self-awareness. His return to his site of work and the absence of lectures and assignments meant that he was experiencing the full might of his muscle memory of how it used to be combined with the pressure of how it was still expected to be.  

One of the many valuable insights that he shared was that he knew that he had left the EMBA with many insightful learnings about himself and his presence and ways of interacting with his world, but he felt one particular absence keenly. There had been very few teachings that had specifically addressed the very real and difficult challenge of ensuring that these personal learnings could be used to transform the effectiveness of teams.  

Victor told me of the progress he had made in tackling this issue. He had found enormous guidance in two particular books and had used their insights to forge his own path in building the strength of his team. He described a particular writing process that he had introduced for his team that changed the focus of an EMBA data-gathering activity to one which increased the quality of thinking in individuals and in the team.  

My gratitude to Victor for writing his email had several dimensions. The strongest of these was my delight in observing the various ways he had found the strength and determination to face the issues head on and had explored a range of nuanced solutions to fit his particular context and colleague diversity. To me this speaks to a deeply evolved awareness of both challenge and possibility.

His actions resonate with Maturana’s concept of intelligence being the plasticity to adapt one’s actions to changing context and range of participants. The implication is that this intelligence cannot be taught in a series of lectures or a 5-point programme. Maturana regards such an offering as unhelpful as it leads to rigid, unchanging actions that can never be intelligent.

The timing of Victor’s email was another gift in that it arrived just as I was settling down to conceptualise my final session with the latest EMBA cohort. This final module is almost exclusively devoted to preparation for the final research report with the necessary induction into the necessary academic framework. So, in a way, the class has already left the world of personal leadership as they move from ‘I’ to the academic ‘one’.

Victor’s email reminded me that this phase would be followed by the necessary re-integration into the powerful pressures of institutional life that would inevitably eat away at creativity and good intentions.

So, while I do not believe that there is any value in trying to use this last lecture to offer an algorithmic 5-step programme for teams, I do accept that I need to do more to offer the class a collection of firm and stable standing points that can be used as a basis for improving teamwork.

My initial foray into identifying one of these possible standing points is drawn from my experience of the first meeting of a 3-module Personal Leadership and Working Together programme for a corporate executive team. I insisted that our sessions were strictly framed to take place in a disciplined structure that foregrounded punctuality, mindful presence and groundedness, and an absence of cellphones during our contact time - including during tea breaks.

The focus for the module was on self-reflection and increased awareness and curiosity about each person’s way of being in the world. After each offering, Exco members were asked to write down their thoughts and reflections about their own actions and assumptions in a journal. Each of these reflection pauses was followed by an invitation for participants to share appropriate insights with a different colleague.

I had been briefed that this was a conflicted team who preferred to keep quiet rather than contribute to discussions. However, as they started sharing with each other, I could feel resistance to connection lessening and invisible bonds starting to strengthen between participants. I was totally delighted on the second day when I noticed that everyone was gathered around the tea table, engaged in conversation with no-one sneaking off to use their cellphone. I strongly believe that excellent teamwork is impossible without both structure and ease of interaction.

This example can be built on by using Maturana’s encouragement for plasticity as an entry point to intelligence. It’s an enormous challenge to develop this plasticity in oneself. It makes far more sense to use the diversity of the team as a resource - especially in situations when we find ourselves unwaveringly stuck. Such a move towards the inclusion of diversity will need the open trust of participants through a well-developed social capital as well as the introduction of a suitable structure that ensures each voice gets equal airtime and is equally heard and respected. Nancy Kline’s Time to Think programme is very useful for this work.

Looking ahead to that closing lecture next week, it feels important for me to stress that the variety of tools and ideas that have been offered on the EMBA programme are unfinished and acontextual offerings. As Victor discovered and reported, journal writing may have been initially used as a source of data for an assignment, but it can be used for many other purposes. For example, I sometimes use my journal as a tool to document a range of thoughts and perspectives as I try to explore the threads of a particularly taxing problem. I also use my journal to name inner tensions or fears so that they can have a life outside myself.

So, with enormous gratitude to Victor, this year’s closing session will be very different from the one he experienced as I attempt to identify some solid ground that may be of service in facing the inevitable re-entry challenges that the class will face when they have to fully re-enter the world of work.

I ended Part Two of this series of three Love (and Work) in a Time of Corona reflections with the following intentions for future teaching:

It is time to start. I have a new determination to do this walking with a measured pace that takes time to play with the nuances of each situation. There is no destination in sight (or in mind), but there is a clarity of purpose that asks me to serve those who approach me to work with them. I want my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I want to encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I want to be part of a movement that encourages and assists a new form of leadership that shares this vision. Let the new journey begin …

The journey did in fact begin in earnest only a week after I wrote these words!

Yet another past EMBA student approached me to work with the full staff complement of around 30 of a company (ON) on whose board he served. The company had recently gone through a leadership change in both position and style, and he wanted to offer a learning programme that empowered every individual in the team to use self-reflection as a way of contributing more effectively to the team. He asked me to cover concepts such as personal bias, error and illusion, personal contribution to conflict and courageous conversations. In addition, he wanted me to work with selected senior team members in building and growing their personal leadership capacity. Given the inner place I had reached by the end of the last blog above, I knew I had to accept!

It was a magnificent journey that pushed me to the limits and challenged my understanding of what was possible using technology and how open and vulnerable participants would be prepared to be on an online platform - and how open and vulnerable I would allow myself to be!

We finished the programme in the first week of December after completing ten three-hour ZOOM sessions plus two one-hour homework check-in ZOOM sessions. I was exhausted after giving it my all and was thrilled to head off into the wifi-free Robertson mountains the following week.

During this downtime, I had the staggering thought that this particular programme had possibly been the best teaching and learning experience of my fifty-year teaching career. I was delighted to get some confirmation of this when I opened my email account at the start of the new year and found this gift: Chris Breen - We Thank You.

I wrote the above on my return to work on the morning of 6 January (here in Cape Town) in the middle of a second wave of infections and a new set of lockdown restrictions. I had a feeling that I needed to complete my inner 2020 story with a description of the subsequent outer action, but found myself writing hesitantly, and by the time I finished for the day, I was still not thoroughly committed to the writing.

Everything changed when I awoke this morning to the news of the storming of the US Capitol by dissatisfied voters during which, tragically, five people died. I remembered my italicised intentions for future teaching that I requoted at the start of this writing. They suddenly seemed to grow an importance of their own in which I knew that I had to complete this blog.

I've decided to highlight some of the core aspects that I think formed the cornerstone of the success of the programme, especially those that emerged from my inner COV-19 processes and struggles with coming to terms with the online format. My hope is that those who read this blog are able to resonate with my intentions and consequently find possible seeds for their own practices.

CLIENT SUPPORT. This particular programme was such a unique experience. Eugene had completed the EMBA a decade earlier and had tried to get me involved in doing some work in his previous workplaces on at least two occasions over the past decade. He was able to articulate the high level strategic outcomes that he was looking for in the programme, but was very happy to leave the design to me. I met with the coordinating team of three to present the proposed programme for approval and was met with enthusiasm. All three stayed in generous feedback contact with me throughout the programme and created a space of trust where I was encouraged and supported in continually tweaking the design and methodology in accordance with the feedback from each session. We met on ZOOM at the end of the first module to share views and plot the path ahead. The in-site company member signed up for some additional coaching sessions to make sure that he could make optimal use of each session in the daily running of the company. Finally, Eugene was always available to give feedback and advice, and was always supportive of my suggestions. I think that this trust in the process and in my skill and experience was a crucial element in the programme's success.

DESIGN. The design I proposed was initially based on the basic format of the Executive Personal Leadership programmes I had done inhouse for several companies in the past. However, my initial somewhat fraught COV-19 experiences (described in an earlier blog) had drawn me to David Whyte's work on The Three Marriages and, in particular, to the foundational importance of attending to our Marriage to Self. I incorporated these ideas into the basic design below, which was to be delivered in twelve three-hour sessions over three modules of four sessions each.

Module 1: Marriage to Self. Disrupting Certainty; Subjective Bias; Introducing Complexity; Marriage to Self; I am Good Enough; Reclaiming Self; Starting Habits to ensure Self-Care and Well-being.

Module 2: Marriage to Other. Vulnerability; Words Create Worlds; Shadow Projection Work; Hinge Moments; Archetypes.

Module 3: Marriage to Work. Diversity Conversations; Trust; Inter-personal Appreciation and Growth feedback; The Way Ahead.

PRESENCE. As described in the second blog in this series , I have spent the better part of over 30 years developing an interactive, perturbatory teaching style that is strongly located in Varela and Maturana's Santiago Theory of Cognition and enactivism. I had developed confidence in my ability to read my audience and select the appropriate amount of challenge, disruption or support for each occasion as it arose. However, this ZOOM platform created a whole new world where I was suddenly deprived of body language as a source of information. I had already muddled my way through my first ZOOM teaching session with an EMBA class of 60+, but I wanted to speed up my learning of the medium.

I decided to take the plunge and sign up for a six-week Improv Train the Trainer course run by Michelle Clarke, who runs the Coaching via Technology FaceBook group. I was already familiar with the enormous insights provided by Improv (see, for example, the Ten Commandments of Improv), and had both done workshops as a participant and included it as a core part of a previous UCT GSB Executive Leadership course (LEP). I wanted to be thrown out of my comfort zone as the teacher, and take on the role of an Improv participant on an online platform who had to risk and move out of my introvert safety. I wanted to be able to observe myself and others in action, and take note of my ZOOM presence.

In the company of around twelve wonderful companions, these weekly sessions helped me find a way to 'read' the room on ZOOM and gave me the opportunity to 'see' myself in action (as you will see below).

METHODOLOGY. My first amateurish EMBA session brought me an enormous methodology gift. My normal face-to-face teaching in the later stages of a programme usually involve me taking more of a back seat through the use of video talks. In that infamous first online EMBA session, it soon became apparent that my internet link was not powerful enough for me to play the scheduled video TED talk, and I eventually had to send out the link so that the 60+ participants could each watch the talk on their own before coming back to the ZOOM meeting room to discuss it. This forced me to rethink my sessions and I returned to the ideas of an early mathematics education mentor, Dick Tahta. In the example of teaching a Geometry lesson, Dick would ask what the core concept was that I was wanting to address in the lesson. Once I had identified this, the next question asked me to identify the canonical image that would encapsulate this concept and the activity that would imprint this image on the learner.

My sessions in this ON programme consequently centred around the selection of the most appropriate activities to meet these criteria and the ways in which they could be introduced and held to maximise their impact.

TECHNOLOGY. The Improv course paid enormous dividends in improving my use of the ZOOM medium. I increased my versatility through the use of both Chat and Poll functionality (where appropriate) as well as improving sound quality through the use of advanced Share Screen options, Background Screens and Name editing. However, the most exciting tool was the 'hide non-video participants' feature. I could immediately see the purpose of this as many of my old activities involved the use of volunteers coming forward to demonstrate a concept or role-play something. Now I had a means to do this online and I soon got the chance to try this out in the course when I facilitated an activity!

(This extract highlights the many opportunities for learning. My presence might well be strong, but clearly the positioning of my face on the screen could be improved! One also needs to let go of control and be prepared for a participant taking a quick break ... And finally, it's always a good idea to try the activity out before using it in class; I belatedly notice that the medium has changed the dynamics of the activity and my partner is actually standing beside me and not in front of me ...! 

INTIMACY. I've come to believe that the crucial aspect of my work lies in the challenge to create a field of Intimacy in the programme where the focus is on heart and body engagement as well as the mind. The development of Trust between participants will depend on the levels of Intimacy established during the course and the skills learned will need to have an ongoing life after the course is finished. My second blog in this series had been deeply influenced by what turned out to be a prescient Charles Eisenstein Commune course on Political Hope in which he drew attention to the dangers of our focus on war-like othering without compassion for the variety of stories that underpin our lives as well as the crucial importance of a different focus on our interbeingness in the world. I have tried to highlight some of the ways in which I attempted to pay attention to this aspect as I developed my skills and the programme.

Movement. My training as a Biodanza facilitator and the impactful and insightful journey that this took me on over several years, showed me the importance of introducing more embodied learning through movement. I began setting up safe spaces for the introduction of exercises such as Mirror Movement as well as a more challenging 90-minute vivencial set of fifteen activities carried out in silence.

The final part of our Improv training invited each of us to facilitate an activity. I took the plunge and decided to explore the possibility of setting up a Mirroring activity. The group members were wonderful in accepting the challenge. I arranged them randomly in pairs using breakout rooms, and then I took them through a preparatory process where they first grounded and appreciated themselves with their eyes closed. They then opened their eyes and looked deeply into the eyes of their partner so that they could see their shared interbeingness. When the music began, they started to co-create the shared movement so that there was no leader or follower.

The feedback afterwards strongly suggested that this activity created a high level of shared Intimacy. The results encouraged me to introduce the activity into my next session with the 60+ EMBAs.

Music. One of the ways I prepare to teach is to spend the time immediately before the session listening (and sometimes moving) to music. The music usually starts out quite energetically and moves towards a peaceful and centred conclusion by the time we start. For this programme, I decided to be upfront about this and invited participants to join me in this fifteen minutes. (We had already established a rule of arriving in silence five minutes before the starting time). This became a wonderful process as I now had responsibility for putting together a playlist and I started linking the music to the theme for the session. Participants also gave feedback on the music they liked and even started sending me their own favourites for consideration for inclusion.

Feedback. The Chat function (set to only be for me as host) opened up a wonderful possibility of getting instant private feedback at the end of each session. While it was not compulsory, I did follow up by sending emails to those who kept silent and, in this way, opened up a different form of conversation. This feedback gave me the chance to adjust my next session to cater for any suggestions, address concerns expressed or write personally to open up conversation on what I felt to be private issues. On a few occasions, this led to separate coaching sessions, which were fully supported by the client.

Trust. Only in the last few sessions did we actually start explicitly focusing on Trust, but we had been developing it throughout the course. I firmly believe that I cannot ask participants to be vulnerable about their own lives and failings if I am not willing to do the same. At the start of each session, I would describe my main learning from the previous week and how I had been able to learn from my mistakes, or at last make progress in remedying a persistent issue. Trust was built up through the many breakout-room conversations that they shared. I introduced Nancy Kline's Thinking Pair quite early in the programme as a means to start sharing without getting comment or judgment. This moved on to giving specific focused vulnerable questions to discuss in pairs or groups in the breakout rooms. I made sure the breakout-room setting kept the group together until I chose to bring them back - no early avoidance exits!

One of the most rewarding comments during the programme came from a senior leader in the organisation when he said that, while it was hard to give specifics or identify any cause-result product, the team was working a whole lot better together. Members were talking far more respectfully, so he believed that the impact of the course had been amazing,

The above picture is just one of many taken from yesterday's invasion of the Capitol. Eisenstein's plea for Political Hope fell on deaf ears and the divide has widened, with drastic consequences.

I end this blog and my 2020 COV-19 journey recommitting myself to the core sentiments with which I started it:

I commit my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I will encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I will endeavour to support leadership that shares this vision. 

My teaching journey in 2021 starts in a fortnight's time so it feels important to carry these commitments with me as I meet and interact with the new group of participants. In light of this, it seems highly appropriate that this new group consists of academics/activists who have dedicated themselves to working to improve society.

Part One of this Love and Corona Blog described my journey from lying fallow (or paralysed by inertia) to being forced to dip my toes into the waters of ZOOM. It ended in a seemingly upbeat manner as I announced that I was ready to return to the world from my place of inner and outer refuge – I was back!

Those of you who know me well will not be surprised that what followed was not quite like that...

I found myself panicking about my lack of expertise in an online platform methodology (after all, I had researched and developed my own teaching style – of comfort – over 34 years). In the days that followed my 'being-back' announcement, I flipped between the excitement of a new purpose and a deep longing for the safety of my previous lying fallow state.

When I went on a deeply insightful and meaningful Vision Quest in 2014, I came away with a clear understanding of the pact I had made with 'the gods'. I would make myself available to serve a transformational human agenda in society through my teaching for as long as 'the gods' decreed I had a role to play. Now my rational self was saying that even though I had indicated that I was ready to be back, nothing was happening, so I could at last retire at 72 and not have to face this painful ambiguity that returning to 'work' was bringing up in me.

In Part One, I wrote of an interview set up by a previous EMBA student that I had enjoyed that had helped me move back into the world. Ah well. I should have known it was not so easy ...

The past student had first approached me around February and then disappeared. When contact was resumed several months later, we set up an interview with the CEO, which I have reported as going well. I rode the wave of excitement and submitted a draft discussion proposal for what I thought the leadership programme might look like. The reply of 'I'll get back to go by the end of the week' came about a month ago.

I felt irritated. I mean, I have done my inner work and am ready to rock-and-roll, so what's the delay? And of course I realised 'the gods' were being mischievous again. My inner ambiguity was being mirrored back to me from the outside world!

So I let go of this programme and saw it as further proof that the time had come for me to retire gracefully. However, my newly re-found friend Paul rubbished this interpretation and decreed that I was just waiting to be begged to return to work so that my ego would feel good!

Then some more past EMBA students decided to join the party and make contact with me. (Why did I ever agree to teach on this EMBA programme?)

I received an invitation to do a four-hour online workshop on the topic 'Response to Covid19 – The psychological impact on the workforce'. Seemingly giving credence to Paul's theory about wanted to be begged, I immediately accepted the invitation. And then woke in the middle of the night as my embodied brain cried out 'WTF have you done!'

The next morning, I described some of my dilemma on FaceBook and received some very supportive messages from friends. Ironically, two of the most supportive messages helped me find a path as they jarred and unsettled me. They said: 'You'll ROCK it' and 'Don't worry about four hours, you can wing it.'

And suddenly everything fell into place. My deep concern was that I really did not want to return to the pre-existing 'normality' of my very familiar teaching content and methodology. The huge challenge of these months of isolation must surely have been for a reason. I realised that I did not want to go back to life-as-it-was. I felt with great urgency that the five months of 'fallowness' should have heralded a new way of being. I knew that I could handle four hours online, and could both rock and wing it, but I was not happy with the whole situation. I want the future world to be different and I want to play an integral role in contributing to this rebirth. I had no idea as to how it should look – 'I don't know' was my common refrain – but I knew it should not be business as usual.

I sent an email to my hosts indicating that I was planning on withdrawing from the four-hour workshop, but that I wanted to talk to them first. I shared that I understood that my student's experience of me in class had led him to believe that I had something to offer his organisation, but I was not an expert on the topic and I didn't think the future world wants to rely on experts as much as it did before the lockdown. I thought the topic was wonderful in that it focused on personal health and self-care, and how organisations could assist with this. However, for me the responsibility has to rest with each of us to take decisions for ourselves and for our community. We ended up agreeing that we would change the brief and I would now run a two-hour interactive workshop during which staff would reflect on and share their own Cov19 experiences, and then brainstorm ways in which they were or could have been supported by the organisation.

I had only just reached this equilibrium when my next EMBA lecture to the 5 000 (actually around 65 students) came around. This time I was ready to rethink ZOOM, and the starting point for my planning was to explore the new possibilities that ZOOM opened up for me and to consider how could I optimise these positives. I subsequently ran a deeply personal and reflective three-hour session on the topic of hinge moments using breakout rooms and targeted questions. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive and I was surprised at the spontaneous comments that spoke about the increased safety that participants had felt in sharing personal stuff at a deep level in the ZOOM breakout rooms.

South Africa then moved to a Level 2 lockdown and yet another EMBA student emerged from the past. Another interview - another proposal (thank goodness I still had the earlier one to work with!). Result: A Personal Leadership ZOOM programme for a team of around 30 people spanning 12 three-hour sessions over the next three to four months!

I really am being called to be back at work and the strange thing is that I feel unusually grounded as I contemplate this new programme which will take me beyond my existing comfort levels into the unknown.

What is going on?

In a strange way, I am extremely grateful for the enforced pause and disruption that the lockdown brought into my life. Suddenly all my comfortable taken-for-granted aspects about my work and income disappeared and I have been forced to go inwards and find a new alignment between inner and outer purpose.

I've recently started watching a programme called Political Hope by Charles Eisenstein and his first two lectures have really hit home on two crucial issues that articulate my new alignment with great clarity. He names the fundamental cause of wrongdoing in the world as being our separation from all others (human, animal and inanimate others). He claims that this leads us to adopt a mentality of war where we repeatedly invoke judgment to support and bolster our desire to set up categories of separateness.

One of my greatest comforts during this mid-winter lockdown period has been settling down in front of a beautiful fire, which I've built with exquisite and loving attention, and then cuddling up with Louise to watch an episode or two of a TV series. I'm struck by how often it is the theme music that stays with me for many days. I was particularly drawn by the haunting theme music of a British series called 'Unforgotten'. The song, entitled 'All We Do', is by Oh Wonder. It was only recently that I paid attention to the lyrics and intention of the song when I sent this YouTube link of the music to a coachee.

There is a beautiful circling back from this video on what it means to be human to Part One of this blog, where I realised the crucial importance of LOVE as what matters most to me. It all seems to be coming together and my commitment to the future seems clearer than it has ever been, both in my personal life and in my teaching.

I now have the beginnings of a basic question I need to ask when considering future work: How does this action/event/workshop serve in foregrounding what it means to be human?

This is quickly put to the test when a longstanding client asks me to re-imagine our existing annual leadership programme in a way that makes use of the internet as a learning platform. In my response, I'm almost carried away by the excitement I feel about my newly acquired ZOOM skills. I stop in time.

I have spent more than thirty years developing a transformational methodology that is aimed at disrupting taken-for-granted assumptions and beliefs. In many ways I have done this through a focus on developing an embodied emotional wisdom with the heart and body taking their equally valuable places with the mind. My ZOOM experiences suggest that I can adapt and use the platform to increases the playing fields of the mind.

However, this seems to be at the definite expense of the body and also of the interactive emotional interbeing with others.

I become worried that the killing fields of the human spirit will move from the workplace to the home as work relies on the distanced and structured interactions of ZOOM platforms where one is encouraged to raise an emoji hand before speaking. Home may well be one of the few spontaneous places left and where will we be learning the necessary skills for home life?

It's time to stop thinking and start doing. Enactivism posits that our intelligence is to be found in our actions not our thoughts. I can see that, despite all my previous learning, I am still looking for clarity about the way ahead when, in one of my favourite poems, Antonio Machado clearly advises that the path can only be laid while walking.

It is time to start. I have a new determination to do this walking with a measured pace that takes time to play with the nuances of each situation. There is no destination in sight (or in mind), but there is a clarity of purpose that asks me to serve those who approach me to work with them. I want my teaching to serve humanity in attempting to find a way to end our separatist views of the world. I want to encourage participants to join me in taking personal as well as collective and organisational responsibility for adding positively to the human and non-human spirit in the world and planet. I want to be part of a movement that encourages and assists a new form of leadership that shares this vision.

Let the new journey begin...

These past five months have been a really strange, disturbing and personally intense roller-coaster experience.

The first thing I had to get used to was being classified as a member of the high-risk category. Not only do I fall into the aged category at 72 (well over 60!), I am also a male with 'underlying medical conditions' (asthma and high blood pressure). Suddenly I had my children phoning to check up on my health and I was no longer able to visit my even older (91) mother, who was in a special care section of an old age home, having descended into the world of Alzheimers a decade ago.

Within a week or two, a new 'condition' was added as each of my teaching engagements for the year was cancelled. I became an almost totally out-of-work 'high risker'!

I started off confidently. I mean, I have been teaching about complexity and uncertainty and the skills that are needed to stay grounded and intelligent in the face of chaos for many years, and I have always prided myself on making sure that I practise what I preach.

The first step was to convince my partner, Louise, that she did not need to pack up everything and move in with me. She had huge editing deadlines and would work much better in her own space. We could continue spending weekends together, as this was South Africa and there was always a way to beat the system.

My next step was to get organised. Within a week, I was enjoying the new freedom of being able to join dance sessions without leaving home; starting to learn Spanish on DuoLingo in the hope that we could still travel to the very south of Argentina in October; getting 'my affairs in order' by starting to sort through and order all my memorabilia (having fun dwelling on some of the pictures and writings); resting, reading and so on. My only sadness was that I was photographed and 'shamed' for breaking the lockdown rules by going off kayaking on day one of lockdown - somewhat ironically (given the actual photo, which heads this blog), I was apparently not self-isolating properly!

I had soon drawn up a schedule of these different activities on my office whiteboard and identified an optimal arrangement where I would study Spanish for at least 30 minutes a day, in addition to including at least two different resting activities, two different organising chores and two different relaxing spaces. All was good and for a short while I seemed to have Paradise within reach ...

And then it all changed. Suddenly I lost all desire to learn Spanish, as I was spending longer and longer periods on Duolingo competing with strangers to get promoted to a new league. My long-dormant competitive self had, in a short space of time, managed to KPI all my spontaneity and joy to death, and I was in trouble. I had single-handedly created my own hamster wheel!

Time for a change of plan. So I flipped the focus from doing (in my mind) into my learnings about being (in my heart). I let go of this overwhelming drive for structure and organisation. I started making more contact with friends and family. I paid even more attention to making sure that I was able to totally immerse myself into the love bubble that Louise and I always create when she comes to stay over weekends. I also reconnected with several people for the first time in decades, and this led to a warm and stimulating regular weekly call with Paul, reanimating a friendship that had been formed on a Schumacher College course run by James Hillman way back in 1994.

And all was good again ...

... for a while.

I could not totally silence the inner voice that wanted to talk and think about WORK. When could I expect to get back to doing the work I loved doing? When would things get back to being 'normal'?

You have to understand that I had devoted my whole academic career in UCT's School of Education to developing and researching my own practice in an attempt to develop a methodology that foregrounded personal and systemic transformation as embedded activism. During this time (and in the 12 years since then), I have created a methodology that attempts to construct real-life, real-time experiences for participants. This experience allows them to examine their own actions in some sort of 'unsafe safety'. I played the enactivist role of the perturbator with increasing skill and abandon over the years as I 'forced' participants to acknowledge and then examine their hitherto taken-for-granted beliefs and assumptions to see whether these still served them. I had developed a range of classroom persona as well as an ability to play with the environment (and the participants!) in service of building a space that foregrounded equality, diversity, vulnerability and intimacy.

Now, very suddenly, COV19 and lockdown had sliced through this personal face-to-face contact and forced everyone to start ZOOMing from home!

Panic struck. All the sophisticated and familiar trappings of my 'normal' teaching style had been stripped away and I was standing naked.

I looked online and saw many of my colleagues in the field of facilitation seemingly ZOOMing into the future with alacrity as they were able to re-tool themselves to work in the new media. People were offering new online programmes that seemed to suggest that the facilitator had a handle on what was happening. I noticed some fellow academics dusting off older papers with the suggestion that they contained wise thoughts that could be appropriate guides for others to find a way out of today and into tomorrow. LinkedIn was rapidly being taken over with seemingly wise words of advice.

I felt myself disappearing. I felt another 'at risk' factor had arrived: the risk of being IRRELEVANT!

I disappeared into an inner place that some might have labelled as lethargy or even depression. I started focusing on coming to terms with finally retiring (12 years after I first officially retired at 60). As I started this line of thinking, my mother contracted COV19 in her old age home and quickly passed away with more peace than she had had for many years. This meant I became the oldest in the family and statistically the next in line for death! The outer world was even more bleak, as it was devastated by poverty, corruption, death and increased polarisation ...

These existential crisis times of 'retiring thoughts' were fortunately interspersed with amazingly regenerative times of love bubble.

This went on for several months, and then the gods struck.

In the space of a few days, they hit me two different invitations that were initiated by a past student and a current student, both of UCT's EMBA. I was invited to do a podcast interview on the topic of Change, where one possible question would be, 'What excites you right now?' In the other invitation, I was approached to run a leadership programme with the company's Exco.

My immediate response to these invitations was to go to a very familiar place of panic: I'm definitely 'not good enough' for these tasks. I really don't know. I don't have any answers. I'm not sure that I even have any skills any more.

The fact that this feeling of not being good enough felt very familiar to me made me smile when I came across a Rainer Maria Rilke quote that said, "Ultimately each one of us experiences only one conflict in life which constantly reappears under a different guise." (It might also be why I have already written three blogs on the topic!)

For 20 years, I have lived with the rule of saying yes to everything, particularly when it takes me out of my comfort zone. I recognised that I was in this place again and all I could do was face it. I took a deep breath and moved towards the panic, choosing to embrace it and to accept everything that this act brought.

And suddenly I found myself in a familiar place, riding my kayak and talking to the gods (who, as you might not know, live in the Kalk Bay mountains!). My mind and whole being were suddenly ignited and on fire with ideas and grounded possibilities.

As I started entering this unknown space of opening to the unknown and my clear imperfections, I connected at a deep level with what matters most. I knew with incredible clarity that for me, this has to do with Love.
* Love for beloved Louise and my two wonderful children.
* Love for my extended family of sisters and nieces and nephews who ZOOMed together recently to honour the passing of my mother, who found something in COV19 that could beat her incredible fight to keep living despite years of Alzheimer-induced absence.
* Love for my four amazing grandchildren and my superb daughter-in-law.
* Love for my students and friends, who make contact and share their experiences and battles in e-mails or Skype calls.
* Love for the strangers who connect with me in human ways in the streets or in shops or for the first time in ZOOM calls.

My podcast came and went with a total frustration of continuous stop-and-start internet connectivity on my side. Yet I found myself still alive the next day, although it took a few days after publication of the podcast before I could listen to it!

I really enjoyed my interview and saw new possibilities ...

Then I did my first teaching on ZOOM: a group of 68 EMBA students for three hours. I found that my ability to live with uncertainty, to cope with chaos and to shapeshift according to the situation stood me in good stead as my internet link played up and there was no way I could as I had planned. The students were great, helping me move through the block and create a new possibility. I somehow managed to mess up a breakout room session and left the call prematurely by mistake. I couldn't get back and had to end the session talking via my cellphone to someone else who was online.

Chaos! But I had broken the ice.

Where does this leave me at this moment of having just dipped my toes into the unfamiliar waters of a new world of ZOOM?

I have been thinking about my learning so far, and believe that, in addition to my earlier insights around Love, the following are also important:

Margaret Wheatley has spoken about the dire state of the world for a long time and reported that she had reached a place where she had to learn to live without hope and without fear. This is an extremely liberating concept (once one gets past its depressing side) as it helps to clear the noise and allows me to focus on aligning my outer actions with my soul's wisdom. Wheatley says that we have to act in accordance with our true higher self. I think that this can only end up being an activist role, as the fear of doing wrong or getting into trouble is taken away.

Welcome back world - here I come!

[To be continued ...]

But it's all right now, I've learned my lesson well
You see, you can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself.

I've been meandering through old photographs, newspaper cuttings and various other memorabilia found in my cupboards during this forced Covid-19 lockdown period, with the inevitable consequence that many intentionally 'forgotten' memories have come flooding back ...

One of these past early chapters is my application for a Rhodes Scholarship ...

There is a window of opportunity of three years for applying for the Rhodes Scholarship, and I had left it to the last year of eligibility to apply. In the previous two years, I had been reluctant to apply and had had the weird experience of receiving phone calls from other prospective applicants wanting to know if I would be in the field that year. They had decided that I would be a certain winner, so if that were the case, they would submit their applications in a different year ...

You see, I had the credentials in the things that they deemed to be the most important criteria. I was the top mathematician in my last year at school, coming first in the country in the Matric Advanced Mathematics paper. I was also an international track athlete, who would almost certainly have competed for South Africa in the Olympic Games in Mexico in the 400-metre hurdles if South Africa had not been expelled for its apartheid laws. In addition, I had recently shown my leadership credentials as Captain of the UCT Athletics Club, where membership and camaraderie had grown significantly, to the extent that the organisation had achieved the impossible by beating Stellenbosch University in the top local team competition. I was studying the enormously difficult degree of Chemical Engineering and keeping myself in the top two in the class.

So in this last year, I decided to go for it and I applied, was short-listed, interviewed and then waited ... and waited...

Having been told the decision would be made within a week, I became concerned when there was nothing but silence from the school until the formal letter arrived telling me I had been unsuccessful.

I had failed!

The repercussions were enormous: most significant was that I had failed both my parents.

My mother had always been a reluctant parent and I quickly learned that I could only get her attention through success. However, there was a twist in this attention as it always demanded further success. 'You got 95% for maths, where did you lose the 5%?' 'You broke the school record, so what's the provincial record?' (all the way up to the world record!).

So success had become a crucial ingredient for survival and scraps of love. I suspect I chose the 400-metre hurdles (the most exhausting and demanding athletics track event) as a symbolic overcoming of my limitations as an asthmatic when young. I certainly chose to study Chemical Engineering at university because people told me it was the most difficult degree that used both mathematics and science (great method for choosing one's future career!).

My father, who had come from Cockney working-class roots, had devoted himself to making a successful life that would allow him to send his children to the best schools in his new country so that they could have a better start than he had had. He had started the process through elocution lessons and then worked his way up from junior to senior levels in the company. He consequently took enormous pride in my achievements; for him, the crowning glory would have been for his son to win a Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford University, something he could never have aspired to himself.

It turned out that I had given an appalling interview. My total exclusive focus on success in the lecture theatre as well as on the athletics track had left me with little or no time to educate myself properly in current affairs and issues of philosophy. My answers to the panel's questions were deemed to be very shallow: definitely not befitting a future Oxford student!

It was a bitter pill to swallow at the time, but I shrugged it off (in the same way I had let go of my Olympic ambitions the previous year) and continued my quest for perfection and success in the years that followed in my roles as a teacher, a husband and then a father.

Fast forward twenty years. I thought I had cracked the key to successful intimate relationships by observing my father's 'mistakes' in handling my mother, so I married with confidence. I followed my plan and my (apocryphal) story is that over the years, I handed over more and more of my power to my wife, with increasingly diminishing returns. Somewhere in my mid-forties, I became totally tired of myself!

One evening I decided to take the plunge and begin the process of taking back my power. So without any warning or preparation, I suddenly said (as firmly as I could), 'Tonight, I want to choose what we are going to do.'

In this version of the story, my wife took the wind out of my sails by saying, 'Sure, darling, what do you want to do?'

I was shocked into silence by the frightening realisation that I had absolutely no idea what I wanted to do. It had taken so much energy and focus getting the courage to stand up and say this sentence that at no stage had I given any thought as to what might come next! Even more horrifying in that moment was my realisation that I actually did know what every single person who had had some influence or power over me at some stage in my life would want me to do (whether it was through love [wife, children, parents] or through position [teacher, lecturer, coach or boss])!

The ground opened up in front of me and I realised that my whole life until then had consisted of pleasing other people.

The next day was even worse as I observed myself in action and saw that everything I did during that day had an ulterior motive of getting recognition from someone else for how clever/funny/intelligent/… I was.

This was a huge moment for me and fortunately the start of a whole new personal journey where I started with the task of pleasing myself through my own actions and choices instead of prioritising others. (Thank you,Rick Nelson)

This journey led me to explore two main paths ...

The first path asked me to let go of my attempts at seeking validity and affirmation from others through the impossible and unrealisable pursuit of attempted perfectionism and continuous success.  I needed to work on knowing that I was good enough. Brene Brown, in her TED talk on Vulnerability, encourages us to know that ‘I am enough’, but this was paradoxically 'not enough' for me. I needed to address the overwhelming demands of my past, which had turned me into a continuous self-generating KPI monster who is always setting the bar just out of reach! I had to add the word 'good'!

My teaching experiences over the past 12 years in the field of Personal Leadership led me to make my learnings from this path accessible through a blog on being Good Enough. A year or so after writing this supposedly definitive blog, I realised that this work  is actually a lifelong commitment and that there had been (at least) two more major shifts that needed to be told in follow-up blogs, Good Enough 2 and Good Enough 3.

The second path became clearer when I came across David Whyte's concept of The Three Marriages. He speaks of the importance of the ongoing conversation and contracting that needs to happen between the Marriages to Self, Other and Work.

For him, Marriage to Self asks us to be still and seek silence so that we can go inwards and see if we can listen to our soul's inner knowing. Marriage to Self is extremely difficult in these complex times because it places such different demands on us from the other two marriages, which call for us to be busy, doing and communicating. The problem, he believes, is that we cannot hope to have a good marriage to Other or to Work if we do not give our best attention to nourishing our marriage to Self.

These ideas find resonance for me in James Hollis's  description of the challenges of the second half of life, where we are asked to radically consider who we are apart from our history, roles and commitments. He says that to enter this second half of life, we have to be willing to listen to 'the voice that arises from the depths of our souls'.

I try to introduce the concept of Marriage to Self in my Personal Leadership classes. I start by asking everyone to estimate the percentage of time they devote to each of the three marriages, with all three allocated percentages adding up to 100%. Prior to Covid-19,  there was a definite dominant pattern in the responses: the overwhelming majority gave answers along the lines of 80% Marriage to Work, 15% Marriage to Other and 5% Marriage to Self.

If Whyte is correct in saying that we cannot have good marriages to Work and Other without having a good marriage to Self, this is frightening data. Even more worrying is that the 5% for Self often includes time spent by the participants beating up their bodies in the noise of a gym rather than peaceful contemplative time.

I ask participants to begin a journey of reclaiming the Marriage to Self through two powerful class exercises that form the basis for intermodular homework.

I took the first exercise from something offered by the Brazilian Biocentric educator, Liliana Viotti, at a workshop in France. She asked us to divide a sheet of paper into four quadrants, as in the sketch below. We were asked to scan our lives for the various activities that we like (DIG) or don't like doing and whether or not we do them. The instruction is to write down ideas in a free-flow way without judgement as quickly as you can. Just keep writing ...

In my classes, I decide when it seems the lists are long enough, and we stop. Obviously, each item does not carry equal weight, but it is surprising how often we find that it is the two same two columns that are the longest (the 'I Dig and I Don’t Do' column and the 'I Don't Dig and I Do' column). What is it about our lives that leads us not to do the things we like and to do many things we don't actually like?

This exercise gives participants some insight into the choices they make along with the priority they give to their own lives and desires. They discuss their lists and insights with another person, and then select two specific items to work on before the next round of sessions starts in around two months’ time. They have to choose an item that they like and start doing it, and stop doing another item that they don’t like doing. In essence, they are being invited to prioritise themselves in making choices: a start in paying attention to the Marriage to Self.

It is interesting to hear the energy that this discussion generates and the enormity of the challenge that this homework places on some participants. I try to ease their path by referring them to the work of Charles Handy, who identified three crucial lubricants for change. One of these is a Proper Selfishness.

The second exercise comes after we have watched Shonda Rhime’s powerful TED talk.

Again, each participant discusses the impact the talk has had on them with a fellow participant, and then selects a daily activity that they plan to incorporate into their post-module life for around 15 minutes that will bring them JOY. They do not have to follow Shonda in playing with their children, although this activity is, in many ways, the most fulfilling and easiest to incorporate into the day - always assuming our children haven't given up on us and are still prepared to play with us! Another step of proper selfishness that focuses on Marriage to Self …

These are small beginnings, but both activities seem to open up a whole new world of presence and positivity for those who are prepared to pay attention to their lives and do the necessary work.

For the past few years, I have run a six-day senior leadership programme for two different companies. The six days are split over three modules, with a one-day follow-up session six months after the third module. As part of the sixth day (the last day of the actual teaching programme), each participant makes a short videoed commitment to their colleagues on the programme in which they outline their intentions for changing their behaviour based on the insights they have garnered from the programme.

A month ago, the participants of each of the most recent of these programmes joined me in separate lockdown-enforced online Zoom follow-up days. The aim of the follow-up day is to hold each participant accountable to themselves and to their colleagues on the programme. With this in mind, the day is framed around individual presentations during which each person reports back to the team on where they have succeeded in introducing positive change into their lives in line with their previously stated intentions as well as outlining what challenges they have faced in doing so.

This year's reports were very striking. The fact that everyone had spent at least three of the six months in coronavirus lockdown, meant that the reality of their lives and the many challenges they faced had been brought into sharp relief.

Listening to the reports, it soon become clear that the vast majority of those programme participants in the two groups (20 participants in all) who had set an intention to pay more serious attention to their Marriage to Self had made some significant progress in this regard. They reported a change in lifestyle that now saw them spending time gardening, switching off their cellphones at home, painting, playing with their children, reading, walking in nature and so on. What struck me particularly strongly was the improved strength and groundedness with which each of these people spoke. It seemed that this increased focus on Marriage to Self had made a significant difference in how they were present in the world and how they were handling the difficult challenges they were facing.

Several of them told us how this enhancement of their Marriage to Self had emboldened them in their workplace: they had been able to negotiate changes in their jobs or their relationships with their colleagues with a far stronger emphasis on boundaries. They spoke with pride and satisfaction, going on to say how this boundaried strength was now spreading to their interactions with extended family members. Several participants also reported how the work they had done to improve their Marriage to Self had helped them start drawing lines in the sand to protect themselves from being over-available to assist others, and to take on extra work and responsibilities!

It really felt as if they confirmed David Whyte’s assertion about the central importance of the Marriage to Self.

In contrast, those who had not foregrounded changes in lifestyle that would support an improved Marriage to Self or who had given up on this aspect of their previously stated intentions for change by succumbing to the many pressures that working from home had placed on them were really struggling. They had coped with this pressure by devoting more time to their Marriage to Work, and as a result giving less attention to their Marriage to Self. This had left them feeling exhausted and frustrated (seemingly bordering on hopeless at times) in many spheres.

Today I have been reading the assignments of a group of EMBA students with whom I spent two days on their first module. I am struck by the increasing demands and struggle they have faced as the effects of the various lockdown stages have made themselves felt. Their initial optimism has come under huge pressure as they try to meet all the conflicting demands on their time from home and work and their studies. The first casualty inevitably seems to have been the progress they had been making on their Marriage to Self.

I am due to see these students again in the coming week, unfortunately via Zoom and not in person. There is an intensive timetable of content lectures and new knowledge scheduled for them this week.

I have been sitting thinking about the stories I have shared in this blog from my own life (as well as the many others that I have not shared).

I know that my life only really started when I began to pay attention to the Marriage to Self. I know that it is only now that I am in my 70s that I can feel satisfaction at some of the progress I have made that has allowed me to live far more authentically with deep listening to my soul. The feedback given by participants during the follow-up days for the two senior leadership programmes confirms many of my beliefs.

I am thinking about my session in two days' time. How can I broach this topic in a new way that allows the EMBA students to have a second bite at the topic? How can I re-enthuse those who have given up? Is this even my responsibility as an academic on the course when there is a huge amount of new 'proper' theoretical material to be covered? I am reminded of a few students in previous years who got impatient with the continued presence of this 'soft' stuff that became repetitive to them because they had 'got' the message and didn't need it repeated. I weigh this against those students who have said this 'stuff' was the most important learning on the programme ...

As I write the above, the central question becomes clearer to me.

What really matters at the context of the current chaotic and challenging time where the future has to written as it emerges?

It's time to pay attention to my own Marriage to Self and go for a ride on my kayak and listen to my outer environment as well as my own inner voice.

I know I will be much clearer about my decisions for Tuesday once I have done this.

Francisco Varela (1946 - 2001) was Chilean theoretical biologist who, together with his mentor, Humberto Maturana, is best known for introducing the concept of autopoiesis to biology, and for co-founding the Mind and Life Institute to promote dialogue between science and Buddhism.

Both Maturana and Varela became very important to me when, way back in the late 1980's, I was researching my own practice as a mathematics education searching for an appropriate teaching methodology for transformation. I was working from a grounded theory perspective so it was really important that I found a theoretical framework of cognition which could embrace both what I was trying to do and what I was observing in my classrooms. I finally found my pot of gold in Maturana and Varela's Santiago Theory of Cognition and the concept of enactivism.

The Santiago Theory of Cognition identifies the process of knowing as the activity that allowed the self-generation of living systems – cognition is the process of life. In the case of humans, this includes language and conceptual thought. The physicist Fritjof Capra believes that the Santiago theory of cognition is the first scientific theory that really overcomes the Cartesian division of mind and matter and unifies mind, matter, and life.

In 1992 Varela gave a set of three lectures to an audience at the University of Bologna on the topic of ethical thought. These lectures were later published by Stanford University Press with the title: Ethical Know-How: Action, Wisdom and Cognition. The lectures cover a wonderful range of theory from contemporary scientific thought to philosophical reflection that includes non-Western traditions.

In the first lecture, Varela introduces the topic of micro-worlds and micro-identities.

His starting point is that we each inhabit a whole range of micro-worlds in our lives (as parent, child, employee, direct report, spouse, friend, lover, …), and for each of these we have a specific distinct and well-developed micro-identity that we bring to each of these micro-worlds. These micro-identities are not so much masks that we put on to hide our true selves but rather behaviours, skills or characteristics that we successfully foreground in spaces as we navigate this micro-world's specificities.

Before introducing this topic of micro-worlds and micro-identities in my Personal Leadership programmes, I use David Whyte's concept of Three Marriages and ask each participant to allocate the percentage that they on average give to each of the three marriages - to Self, to Other(s) and to Work.

The most common response by far finds participants acknowledging that they spend at least 80% of their time on their marriage to Work. (The most neglected marriage is the marriage to Self which scores between 0% and 10%. This is particularly alarming when Whyte claims that it is impossible it is impossible to have a good marriage to either Work or Other if one does not have a good marriage to Self!! I may follow this thread some time in another blog)

Discussing the implications of this over-commitment to the marriage to Work, I include a question about the ways in which this marriage to Work impacts on the lives of and interactions with their family when the come home at the end of the day. The most common responses include greeting the family while on the cell as they arrive home; immediate disappearance or collapsing in front of the TV on the grounds that they have had a hard day; continual cell phone use even at the dinner table and in the bedroom; an abruptness with the children with a heavily transactional mode of engagement (have you done your homework, tidied your room, time for bed, etc.); and a downloading of the worst experiences of the day with their spouse when at last they have some 'quiet time' together.

These responses are often given both with a degree of guilt but also a shrug of the shoulders that suggests that such behaviour is what is expected of them - so what can they do? However, they do look sheepish when I comment that their partners and children must SO look forward to them coming home each evening with their daily dose of misery and the intrusion into the home of their work. They also nod in agreement when I jokingly say that it must be such a pity for them that the people at home do not respond to instructions as quickly and as easily as their subordinates do at work!

It's important to pause and say that these are just ordinary men and women at all levels in the corporate world who are doing their best to survive (in many cases) or get ahead. The reader will no doubt have recognised some of their own behaviour in the above description and can easily add a few more similar examples!

I find Varela's concepts extremely helpful in both naming the behaviour and in finding ways to change these practices.

In essence the source of the disjuncture lies in the fact that the returning worker has entered the new micro-world of the home without letting go of their work micro-identity.

This is clearly a problem and inappropriate so I invite participants in my course to start working consciously working with the shift between micro-worlds.

The first challenge I give them is to start practicing with a challenge that should be simple. When we next go on tea- or lunch-break they will be shifting micro-worlds from classroom learning to social interaction. The task I set them is to be aware of their return to the classroom and the need to change to an appropriate micro-identity.

The specifics of the exercise are that I ask them to treat the doorway that separates the classroom from the outside tea space as the portal them that takes one from one micro-world to another.

I challenge them to see if they can stop at the doorway and become aware that they are about to cross the threshold. Once they stop they should take a deep breath and ground themselves and then say aloud 'I'm in!' as an indication of their readiness to change micro-worlds, leave the concerns of work and break conversation behind, and commit themselves to the learning that lies ahead.

This is far more difficult than it sounds and I, for one, really struggle to catch the moment of crossing the threshold.

There are some rules that are aimed at supporting this change of microworlds such as the chairs being in a circle, silence and no technology allowed in the circle,  gentle music playing, and an expectation that everyone is seated two minutes before the designated starting time of the session so that they have this time to close their eyes and do a mindfulness practice that brings their mind, body and heart into the learning space.

The process within the room is much easier to manage as all it needs is some self-regulation in the context of a shared objective. It is an amazing experience when we get this right and everyone is grounded and present as the timer goes for the start of the lesson. The increased quality of attention and contribution is amazing.

Participants are then asked to extend this practice in an appropriate form to the transition between work and home micro-worlds as a homework assignment between teaching modules. Each participant is encouraged to find their own appropriate ritual but I offer the following as a suggested exemplar for those who travel to work by car.

"Keep a stone in your car’s cubby hole. When you get into your car to go to work, take the stone out of the cubbyhole and put it in your pocket. Use the drive to work to think about the day that lies ahead of you and prioritise activities. Try not to be put off track by the unexpected crises of the day. When it reaches time for you to go home, try to make all necessary calls before you leave for home. On the journey home, your thoughts will almost inevitably stay at work and you will remember other calls you should have made. When you get near to home, consciously choose to park a block away (preferably where there is some greenery) and make those last calls. When you are finished with them, turn your phone off. Then take the stone out of your pocket and put it back in your car’s cubby hole. Ground yourself and think of all the reasons you have to be grateful for your home and the people there. When you are ready, drive home and enter the house with gratefulness ready to engage with an open heart with your loved ones as you navigate all the complexity that this entails'.

Sometimes I offer this activity as homework at the end of the first day of a two day module. The report back responses next day are very touching and also, at times, quite funny.

The majority report how much they enjoyed being home for a change and how they were able to see and enjoy their spouse in a new way. They found time to play with their children and this was a new and pleasurable experience. The lighter notes included spouses looking suspiciously at them and asking them what they had done, why they were acting as if they were guilty of something, or just 'what do you want?' Once this obstacle had been overcome all went well. One of the funniest comments came from a man who was started at how quiet it was in the house this evening and how smoothly everything went. 'Even the dogs were much quieter than usual ', he said. 'I can't believe that I have been such a disturbing influence in the past!'.

This attention to changing micro-worlds can dramatically change all aspects of our lives and drastically reduce tension.

For example. My phone rings while I am talking to partner. This is an invitation from another micro-world. I have a choice whether to accept this invitation or not. If I choose to accept the invitation, I take responsibility for taking a moment  to let go of my conversation with my partner and change micro-identities appropriately so I am ready to answer the call. I do not have to answer it as it starts to ring. The chances that I will regret my responses during the call decrease proportionally to the length of time I take to answer the call.

My partner and I have added some variations to this scenario through co-operative engagement and creativity. We do not live together so enjoy a regular early morning Skype call. The trouble is that I am a (very) early riser while Louise prefers to take her time (but would still be regarded as an early riser by normal standards!). I wake ready to run while Louise believes she is only fit for conversation after her first cup of tea of the day. You can see the problem that might occur when Louise wakes and goes through her tea routine and then lovingly starts the Skype video call. It's my beloved calling so I answer, and because I have already been up and thinking and maybe working for two hours there is a total mismatch in our micro-worlds and micro-identities which does not lend itself at all to loving, safe conversation.

So we talked about the situation and together came up with a new ritual that works well for us. It involves Louise taking her time as part of her tea ritual to check in with herself and find what she needs to let go of before making the call. She then types 'Talk?'

I may be busy or (hopefully, when it is legal again) even out on my kayak. When I see 'Talk?', I take a moment or two to check in with myself, let go of my current micro-world and it's focus, and prepare myself to enter the new micro-world of loving relationship. It's a very different, slow and grounded  and open-hearted micro-identity and can sometimes take a few moments. When I am ready I start the call and every time we have the most amazing conversation.

It may sound like excessive control is being exercised but the rewards of the huge amount of freedom (and absence of tension and friction) that arises from this boundaried beginning are well worth it.

My final offering came from a Follow Up session I ran last week with a group of senior corporate leaders who had completed a 6 day 3 module Personal leadership programme with me the previous year. This Follow Up Day takes place six months after the completion of the programme. It is held with the explicit purpose of giving participants the opportunity to report back to their peers their successes in fulfilling the intentions that they had shared with us (and had televised on day 6 of the programme).

This Follow Up Day had to be held virtually on Zoom as we were well into the tended total lockdown in South Africa.

One participant had a lovely anecdote as t how he had made use of the micro-world learnings on lockdown.

Each morning I get up and have breakfast with the family. Then I get ready to go to work and before leaving I say goodbye to the children and then I kiss my wife goodbye. I then leave and go into the spare room, which has become my office, and I close the door. I reverse the process when I leave my 'office' for the day. I close the office door when I leave the spare room and go 'home' and greet my children and my wife. All work artefacts (cell phone, computer, diary, notes, etc.) remain housed in my office behind the shut door and are generally only available when I go off to work the next day. 

His comment on this process was that he has never spent so much fun and loving time with his wife and his children before. He also spends far more time than before on his marriage to Self!

Thank you, Francisco Varela.

Hinge Moments are the amazing moments that occur when one is happily minding one's own business and is then suddenly interrupted by life. When this interruption is also one of our triggers the resulting response can be very unhelpful.  Catching hinge moments is a game that has an enormous pay-off when one succeeds and echoes Victor Frankl's statement  "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom".

In my last Rumi Guest House story (November 2018) I told of a series of missed Hinge Moments at an airport.

July 2019 saw me at another airport and a sense of deja vu - what is it with airports and hinge moments and me??

I'd finished a week's teaching in the beautiful and peaceful Kripalu Yoga Centre in the Berkshires outside Boston and was treating myself to some down time in Cape Cod before heading back to Cape Town via Amman where I was to spend some time with my son and his family.

I spent the night at the Hilton at Boston Logan International Airport and went to the car rental at 9.30 in the hope of making a reasonably early start for the drive to Cape Cod. I joined a long queue where I was 16th in line at 10am. There were two people serving at the desk and by 10.15 I was still 16th in line!

Hinge 1: My maths background clicks in and I do the calculation - at this rate I am here for infinity!! I remember Kripalu and breath deeply and find my grounded presence...

Just then an official comes and says we should try to use the nearby machines – although he warns that some of them don’t seem to be working. The machines are closer to back on the queue so the immediate rush to the machines sees them all full and I’m still number 16 in line - just with less people behind me! I watch for 5 minutes and it seems as if some people are having success. I've now moved to number 15 in line!

Hinge 2: What shall I do? Is it worth seeing if I can use the machine? My odds of getting the car today by waiting in line have dramatically increased in the last 5 minutes.

Go on, give it a go and step into the adventure...

I ask someone to keep my place and move to the machines. All goes well and I enter all details such as credit card and driving licence numbers, date of birth etc. I’m flying through and my heartbeat starts racing as I am nearly there! I go to the last step – and my credit card payment is declined! The onscreen message says, ‘please use another credit card or else speak to an agent’. I don't have any card!

Hinge 3: I breathe deeply and re-join the queue.

A lady who has been hovering around behind the service desks suddenly shudders into action and becomes a third agent and the queue starts moving! I finally get to talk to a live agent. We start the whole process again right from the beginning – Ground Hog Day has started. We get to the final step and...

... she frowns and then tells me my credit card payment has been declined! Definitely Ground Hog Day!

Hinge 4. I know I used the credit card earlier that morning so there is no problem with it. I also know there are no problems with spending limits. She tries again with the same rejection message.

Hinge 5. I breathe deeply and suddenly realise that I can pay the outstanding amount with cash so tell the agent that the problem is easily solvable.

"No cash allowed", she says.

Hinge 6!!!

I breathe again (thanks goodness for the Kripalu Yoga Centre and Dave's morning meditation practices!) and then she looks up to tell me that payment has been accepted and I can go upstairs to get my car...

And upstairs there is another queue with a lone harassed-looking agent rushing from person to person trying to appease the tangible impatience.

She gets to me and I look at her and I can feel her dispersion and recognise a kindred spirit who has been having a similar morning to mine.

"Take a deep breath", I say, "and pretend to be talking seriously to me for the next minute". We do this and she relaxes and smiles and says that is just what she needed. And then she says she’ll make sure I get a nice car. And sure enough – when my car comes it is a brand new never-been-driven Cadillac XTS 3.6. (I booked a cheap compact car!)

The engine is powerful and a pleasure to drive as I head down to Cape Cod. I’m thinking how useful it was that I spent the previous week in a Yoga centre so that I caught the hinge moments this time and stayed adult (no pompous 'I am a university professor' this time). I feel really good and tell myself a story how my compassion for the frantic agent was so wonderfully rewarded with this very special brand new car upgrade!! I start thinking about the pay-it-forward concept and how I was quickly rewarded for my compassion.

And I have a beautiful time in Cape Cod and then on Nantucket Island the following day and then start packing for the journey home. I find the rental documentation and discover that when the rental agent had asked me whether I wanted a separate GPS system or would rather prefer a car with a built in system, my preference for the latter had the unexplained consequence that I had just asked for and subsequently paid for an upgrade on the car! (And this is what triggered the credit card crisis...)

So my story of excessive generosity from the harassed lass was probably just a figment of my own imagination and I laughed and let go of most of it. However, I’m sticking to my story that the brand-new car was proof that she made the effort to respond to my peaceful support. I like that story and it feels as if there should be more good news stories like this even if they are (partly) dreamed up. It certainly added to the pleasure of my slow traffic-filled drive down to Cape Cod.

And my sudden change into a more expert Hinge Moment catcher than in my previous story? Maybe I should hang out at another Yoga Centre? Thanks, Kripalu!

Hinge Moments occur when the natural flow of one's life is suddenly interrupted by an outside force. At that moment, a door of opportunity opens for us to make an intelligent adult choice of action. Unfortunately, on most occasions the hinge moment passes with us blithely ignorant of its presence with a common instant child reaction.

I woke early this morning with a deep sense of satisfaction. The previous day I had finished my last intensive 6-day Personal Leadership programme for the year. This last module had been an amazing experience! Fantastically courageous participants had the courage to share their personal stories at an extremely deep level on day one and do some amazing work under the magical guidance of Di and Genie. On day 2 they were with me alone and each person made powerful public commitments as to the changes they planned to make in their lives by the time we meet again for a check-in session in six months’ time.

The group had also written some powerful affirmations in each person’s diary and I read mine just before going to sleep.

I was still glowing with their words this morning as I drove to the airport at 7 am. This was well in time for my 9am flight - those who know me will know that I am a very seasoned traveler and do not like to arrive at the last minute!.

All was good and as it should be…

And then the gods stepped in!

My boarding gate was D6 with boarding due to begin at 8.20. I arrived just before this time and was greeted with the sight of everyone seated and the sight above - no plane at the end of the boarding corridor outside!

Clearly the plane has been delayed. I take a seat away from the maddening crowds and start watching a show on my tablet – of course keeping one eye open for the arrival of my plane. There were a few false alarms as planes appeared to be heading towards me but then they moved on…

Suddenly something made me look up and, instead of looking at the empty gate, I looked around me. To my horror I discovered that the whole space was empty and I was alone apart from a single person at the D6 gate.

Hinge Moment 1. Panic!

Oh, heck they’ve obviously changed the gate without my knowing. I’d best get a move on. I jump up and rush to talk to the man. “Where has everyone gone? Which is our new gate?”

He looks strangely at me and says, “They’re already on the flight”. He points to the plane which seems to be sitting at gate D7.

“That can’t be true”, I say, and start pointing out how logic says that the bridge that comes out directly from D6 must be the one with no plane.

He is not interested in my logic. “The walkway goes along the building first and only then moves out. And I’m sorry to say that the flight has closed and you have missed your flight!”

Hinge Moment 2. Ah no! More serious PANIC!

The last time I missed a flight many years before, I had made an error in my online booking and actually booked for the following day. I had arrived at the airport only to be told of my mistake at check-in. All flights for the rest of that Friday on all airlines were booked and I had to fly down on the Saturday – unable to attend the U2 concert for which I already had an expensive ticket!

I started babbling. “Oh no. This can’t be happening! I was at the airport way in advance of my flight. I’ve been sitting in that seat over there for 40 minutes waiting for the flight to arrive. I can’t miss my flight. The doors are still open. Please open this door and let me in”.

He phones someone and they say no – the flight is closed.

I foolishly decide to get pompous in an attempt to up the ante. “I am a university professor", I offer. "I have never done anything like this before. I really need to get back to Cape Town on this flight. Please can’t you make it work for me and get me on the flight”. I play what I think is my trump card, “and I have a bag on the plane”.

He phones someone else who seems to be taking a while to answer. I burst out a loud “oh thank you, very much”.

He puts down the phone and, when he turns to me, I can see by the look on his face that I am not going to enjoy his answer.

Hinge moment 3. I am not going to get onto this flight!

I realise I have lost and accept it. I take a deep breath and let go.

When he turns to me and says there is no way he can get me on the flight and my bag has been taken off the flight! He starts apologising. I stop him and say that this is clearly all my fault. It was my mistake and I appreciate all he has done to try to get me on the flight. We chat a bit more and shake hands before I start heading off back to the departure hall.

Something makes me stop. My intelligence has returned to me. I realise that I don’t have my cell phone with me. Sure enough, there it is sitting on my isolated seat. I collect it and take another deep breath.

I retrace my steps to the Departure Hall and make my way to the SAA ticket office as I now have to buy a new ticket!!

I get to the counter and am greeted by Macmillian Mokoena. “Good morning sir how are you today?”.

“Not too great”, I say, “I have just missed my flight”.

I hand him my boarding pass. “Please do not laugh when you see that my boarding pass says ‘Professor Breen’. After you hear my story you will know that I can only be a Professor of Stupidity”. We laugh and he starts looking for a flight for me.

Hinge Moment 4. He looks up and I can tell from his face that I am not going to like the news.

“The day is about to get worse, Chris Breen”, I say to myself and take another deep breath and make sure my feet are grounded.

“Sorry Sir, I’m afraid the first flight I can get you on is at 7.30 pm and even then, you will have to pay for a new business class ticket”.

This can’t happen, I think. My car has been at the garage all week getting a new clutch. It’s Friday. I need my car for the weekend. The garage will be closed by the time I get back tonight!!

Macmillian advises me to try the other airlines and see if I can get a cheaper and earlier flight. I decide to follow his advice and rush off. I queue and when I get to the front I discover that there are no flights available all day at Mango. U2 déjà vu starts hitting…

I STOP. Enough! I give up.

I take yet another deep breath and make my way back to Macmillian who is miraculously still there and free. “I’m back”, I say, “hit me with that 7.30 pm ticket.

He gets to work on his computer. He looks up and, when he looks up, I can see that he is worried I am not going to like the news.

But now I am on a roll! This isn’t a hinge moment. I am getting used to the waves and they are giving me the illusion that they are getting smaller.

He tells me how much I am going to have to pay for the ticket and I give him permission to go ahead. He makes a plan to put me on automatic stand-by for all the flights prior to 7.30pm. The next possibility will be at 13.55 as the 10.15 flight is totally full. I hand him my credit card and we do the deed.

I thank him and tell him the truth about my work. I tell him that I have been running a leadership programme where the aim is to help people handle chaos and crises by staying intelligent and, instead of not losing it, trying to find solutions from a place of calm.

I tell him it’s obvious that today has been specially set up to see if I can practice what I preach!!

He laughs and says he will assess me at 10 out of 10 for my success at handling the situation. He says he was surprised I didn’t start getting angry when he told me the price of my ticket and also that I was laughing at myself and accepting that it was all my fault.

I smile sheepishly, remembering my childish babble at the gate about being a 'professor' which would have got a fail mark of less than 4 out of 10!

He does the last of the paperwork and then introduces me to his ‘young friend’, Lumkile Mnintshana, who is going to take care of the rest of the situation and ensure I find my offloaded baggage.

And sure enough Lumkile does look after me and checks me onto by 7.30pm flight even goes on his own to get my baggage.

When he gets back with the case, he goes back to the system and then his face lights up – there is suddenly one seat available on the 10.15 flight. He swings into action and sorts everything out, and I am writing this blog en route back to Cape Town!

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a gift from beyond.
(Rumi – The Guest House)

So this blog is dedicated to Macmillian and Lumkile – definite gifts from beyond – and to the gods for teaching me that success is a fleeting gift that needs to be savored deeply at the time and then released as new challenges inevitably arise.

What happened today consisted of so many beautiful examples that I will use to counter moans about the quality of service at SAA and more generally in the country.

Thanks to both Macmillian and Lumkile and the wonderfully helpful unknown guy at D6 for their amazing service and way they each interacted with me.

And the gift keeps giving as it highlights the importance of catching and handling inevitable hinge moments.

Intelligence-in-action occurs when we recognise the hinge moment as it happens and, before going into our usual habitual pattern of over- or under-reacting, we somehow manage to STOP and take a deep breath and stay adult.

And I now know that it's worth getting data from a multiple set of perspectives before making any assumptions (as to where the plane is departing from!!)

If we can do the work to catch the moment, not only do we lower our own blood pressure but we also avoid damaging the human spirit of those around us.

And as I come to this somewhat ‘preachy’ conclusion, I notice how touch-and-go it was for me at the beginning of the incident. I can hear my voice become a bit whiny. I know I rushed with no presence and left my cell phone behind. But it’s the pompous blown up child who said “I am a Professor” that really embarrasses me (which isn’t even true – I’m a lesser known ‘almost’ professor).

And all I can do is join the gods in their laughter and thank them for today’s humbling gift…

I have revised this piece of writing from a year or two ago and re-posted it as I will be referring to aspects of Biocentric Education in a future post and it helps to have some background available to interested readers.

Biocentric Education is a branch of the work inspired by the creator of Biodanza, Rolando Toro.

Biocentric Education’s objective is connection with life. Of crucial importance is the development of internal rules of life, not intellectual or technological information. It must stimulate the Genetic Potential, the basic structure of Identity, and foreground the Sacredness of Life, the enjoyment of living. The absolute priority is the development of Affectivity and an amplified perception of the expansion of ethical consciousness. Its methodology is the Vivencia.

Over the past seven years, I have explored the topic through a variety of courses and conferences in France. I most recently attended one which theoretically empowered me to open a School to teach the principles of Biocentric Education. Most of the teachers are strongly rooted in the work of Rolando Toro and I found this usually limited the potential and creativity of what was on offer. An exception came from the teaching of Liliana Viotti who said that, to her, biocentric education comes from the work of people such as Varela, Maturana, Bohm, Prigogine and Capra as well as Rolando and that Rolando’s gift to the world of biocentric education came with the introduction and creation of the vivencia. In the vivencia, Rolando had presented us with an exquisite exemplar of biocentric education in action!

This excited me as it mirrored my own thoughts and I thought it would be useful to document a few of the ideas that broaden these foundations of biocentric education and briefly touch on some of the implications…

My main source of inspiration comes from two of Rolando’s Chilean colleagues – one of whom was a former university colleague. Humberto Maturana and his student, Francisco Varela, outlined what they called The Santiago Theory of Cognition (or enactivism) which gives strong theoretical and accepted underpinnings for a teaching approach that is based on complexity. In complexity we move away from an ego-based approach to learning that is based on the rational mind and systems and structures and rote-learning. Instead we move towards an ecologically-based approach where our foundations include others and the context and uses all our sources of wisdom (mind, heart and body). Relationships, intent and shared information form the focus of this learning in complexity.

This approach links strongly to Edgar Morin’s Seven Complex lessons in Education for the future as well as to the basic principles of Biocentric Education. It moves away from Descartes’s I think therefore I am to a new position of I act therefore I am.

Another missing piece about Intelligence also comes from Maturana. In 1998 he co-wrote a presentation called The Biology of Business: Love Expands Intelligence that strongly supports Rolando’s work on Affective Intelligence from a very different perspective. Maturana does not accept that there are a whole lot of different intelligences (cognitive, emotional, affective, spiritual, etc). He says that there is only one Intelligence which he defines as being the flexibility to adapt to changing behaviour and relationships. This means that you can evaluate a person’s intelligence in how they act and not through what they say. He says that any behaviour that is fixed and rigid and ignores changing circumstances, is not intelligent. Maturana believes that our intelligence is expanded or diminished according to our emotions. For him, the only emotion that broadens or expands vison and intelligent behaviour is love. Fear, competition and ambition diminish our intelligence! If you want to work successfully with others, you have to accept that we are all equally intelligent or you will not trust that the others will act competently. And if you want to encourage autonomous behaviour, you just need to open a space of love, and intelligence will appear! You don’t have to do anything else – just accept that the other person is equally intelligent, even if they have a different lived experience, makes different life choices, or has different beliefs. You validate the other through your own behaviour. When the emotion of love is there, vision expands.

These are all fundamental principles of biocentric education and Rolando’s belief in affective intelligence. So our focus for any intervention using Biocentric Education can be included under an intention to foster an environment that allows everyone to become more intelligent.

Some Implications, Challenges and Dilemmas for the Teacher

The act of foregrounding Intelligence has several serious implications, challenges and dilemmas for the Teacher.

There are two crucial aspects that need to be included as a thread in the whole curriculum on the themes of awareness and noticing. Caleb Gattegno said that ‘only awareness is educable’ and this becomes the major challenge of the teacher. Formal practices of starting the day in silence and checking into the three wisdom areas of mind, heart and body and making the conscious choice to be present in the moment of what is happening here and now, need to be introduced into the curriculum. In additional specific practice and training in being present with the other in deep and respectful non-judgmental listening can only add to and enhance the learning possibilities.

These are especially important practices for the teacher who has the additional challenging responsibility of embodying those behaviours that s/he is introducing to the group. This is a huge challenge. If intelligence can be seen in our actions rather than in our words, then it is not enough for the teacher to pass on information as to how to live a life according to Biocentric Principles. Teachers have to live these ideals to the best of their ability – and not only during the workshop.

The challenge of producing good results and intelligent decisions in the moment means that it is simplistic to claim that ‘love is all you need’. The teacher has to be fully aware of the role that Power is playing in the dynamics of the group and how to make sure that Power is used in service of the learning of the participants. Teachers need to be fully aware of their own shadow and trigger points and blind spots so that they can continue to hold the space with care and safety with strong boundaries even in the most difficult of times. It is especially important in those moments of stress for the teacher to stay present and grounded and not to snap or reprimand as a result of having been triggered by the other.

This responsibility of the teacher to hold the space with Power as well as Love is an important aspect as we move towards more presence and intelligence-in-action. Holding the space with love and encouragement and appreciation is a wonderful starting point but the teacher also needs to be able to hold a mirror up to the way participants interact with themselves and others. Too much self-reflection in isolation (with too much appreciation) can reinforce and encourage old stories from the past that have served their time. In all cases the challenge for the teacher is to pick up the sword of discernment and hold the mirror up to the other with love and in service of learning and not to allow it to be done from an irritated or ego-driven source.

The key insights from complexity require education to move away from a linear ego-centred to an intelligent ecological focus. The ego-centred approach is driven by a cognitive rules and procedures formula where people are regarded as machines and there is a correct way to do everything in all situations.

When moving to an ecological approach, the teacher knows that what is taught and how it is taught strongly depends on the content being taught, the participants and the context in which the learning is taking place.

In terms of methodology, the teacher faces the challenge of needing to have a deep understanding of the specific content that is being covered in the session and to be aware of the core concept that lies at the heart of that content. The question that needs to be faced in the next step is to explore what methodology and what activities will best serve the learning of that specific core concept. And even here there is a challenge. The challenge of complexity is to offer as much embodied learning as possible so that the participants can make use of all three centres of wisdom. Talking asks participants to go into the source of words which is the mind and takes them away from the embodied experience. Even when they have been offered an experience of feeling, talking about that feeling sends them into the mind! So the teacher needs to vary methodologies to maximise access to heart and body learning.


One of the least satisfying aspects of teaching comes at assignment submission time. Suddenly my email inbox is flooded with all sorts of pleas for late submission.

This year I decided to do something different. A month before the assignment was due I sent out the following email:

Sent: Tuesday, May 9, 2017 5:50 PM
Subject: Chris Breen assignment: Due Date 5th June

Hi Everyone

I hope you have educated that outer witness so that you are satisfying your curiosity about yourself in action.

Your assignment is due on the 5th June.

Please do not email me on the 5th June asking for an extension because your cat has eaten your dog or any other extra-ordinary excuse! In fact, do not write to me to ask for an extension – you will be wasting valuable time.

Your assignment is due on the 5th June. Make a plan now to make sure it is submitted on time. Expect something to go wrong.

The folder for the assignment will be closed at 23.55 on 5th June. I will mark all assignments immediately after the closure of the folder. Any assignment not in the folder when it closes will receive a mark of 0.

Look forward to reading your insightful assignments.

All the best.



Surprise, surprise – I had 100% submission by the 8th June!

So in my naivety I assumed the class had learned the lesson so I did not send out a similar warning before the second assignment which is due by midnight tonight (20th October 2017).

Two days ago I received the following email.

Sent: 18 October 2017 16:38

Subject: Request for Extension

Dear Prof Breen

After much deliberation and in the hope that I will meet your assignment deadline, I wish to humbly request for an extension.

I am currently in New York attending … (a very important meeting)

I am 40% complete but due to a very heavy schedule, I am strained at meeting my assignment deadline. I am the focal person for this weeks events starting everyday at 8am and concluding at 6pm with High level dinner engagements in the evenings that is not affording me the opportunity to completed my assignment. Prior to my NYC mission I was also part of a technical team to draft reports on ….which also compromised and impacted negatively on my academic schedule.

I am really enjoying working on the assignment following our conversation in July, as it directly relates to my current work situation, and I plan to conclude with very interesting conclusions.

I return to South Africa on the 25th October and would highly appreciate an opportunity to submit on the 31st October 2017.

I certainly hope that you will please find it in your heart to afford me the opportunity to extend until the 31st October, this is by no means a lack of planning however it has been extremely difficult physically and mentally to manage the multiple deliverables and take, however I am doing the best I can.

I thank you in advance Prof Breen for your understanding and favorable consideration.


This writer is good and knows how to make a case. And, of course, the compassionate part of me wants to be friendly and helpful. But another part of me is in touch with the unfairness of giving one person an extension of an extra 11 days when this option is not open to others who may be in a similar current situation but have made a plan. And, of course, all the credibility about adherence to deadlines that I established through the first assignment would go out the window if I did give the requested extension.

And so I wrote the following:

From: Chris Breen

Sent: Thursday, 19 October 2017 8:19 AM

Nice try. I'm impressed with the power of your words and plea-bargaining.

First off, you give me a story based on how hard your life is at the moment. I really believe you and feel your pain. But the assignment was given in July so this point really just points to a lack of planning because I am sure this trip and responsibility was not suddenly sprung on you!

And then you appeal to my heart! What makes you think I have one??

So please send me a new email that goes something like this:

"Chris, I'm sorry. I have screwed up. I did not plan my work and time properly and so I have not completed your assignment. My current situation is such that there is no hope of getting it to you on Friday. Please hear that I am really sorry and I have learnt a lesson about the need to really make choices and plan my time better. I would like to still submit my assignment but this is likely only to happen at the end of the month. If possible, please could you allow the folder to be kept open until the end of October so that I can submit it then. I know that there will be a marks penalty for this late submission".

I look forward to receiving this revised letter before Friday midnight...

All the best for your challenging work week.


It’s deadline day and I’m waiting to see what will develop…