Slides from #ppia

I have been ruminating all week about what I could say about #ppia. But I’m just not there yet. I want to say all these wonderful things that happened on Friday, but I haven’t taken it all in yet myself. There’s been a lot happening with the family, and we’re off on our holibobs from this weekend.

So in place of profound deep personal insight, I share with you the slide deck from the day instead. Hope you find it useful. I’ll catch y’all in mid-September.


Taking a moment

1st May 2012 and I send an email to David Goddin and Natasha Stallard asking for their input. I run passed them an idea that I want to hold an event focused on Positive Psychology with the intention to help others understand the topic better. It was off the back of a successful first unconference for L&D Connect, and I was abuzz with ideas.

Fast forward a month and on 1st June, I decide I’m going to go ahead and do it. We’ll figure out logistics along the way, but let’s make it happen. After all, what’s the worst that’s going to happen? I’ll lose some money. I won’t get people attending. I lose all faith in myself. The world crashes around me and I fall into a pit of despair.

Since that day a lot of other stuff has happened which has made life very bloody interesting. But I’ve been steadfast that this is what I’m going to achieve this summer. My personal project. Me pushing what boundaries I think I have and make things happen for me. I had some grandiose thoughts about the event. I wanted 100 people initially to attend, and then thought I may as well try and get 150. Bear in mind I had no money for marketing, PR, or promotion activity. I was going to rely solely on social media and relationships. To say part of this plan was naive is an understatement.

So it started with Twitter. Some time went by and I thought I better start blogging about it. After a few weeks no-one had made a booking and I was starting to wonder if I should just cancel the event altogether. That figure of 150 was looking very far. Then one day I had my first booking! I was thrilled! Someone actually decided to commit coming to the event and was willing to pay money. How awesome! From that booking, I didn’t care about not getting the 150, one person was willing to attend, and by Jove I was going to go ahead with it.

I decided to try using MailChimp as a service to send marketing emails to everyone I thought might be interested, and to a whole bunch of contacts I found at various consultancies and the likes. Although there was some initial interest from this service, it didn’t produce any conversions. I think this is more likely because the copy I used was not right for the audience, than the service itself. After all, a whole industry of CRM experts spend their lives making emails work hard and convert people to buying. That’s something I could have done better.

I reached out to my blogger network asking various people to help by writing a post about Positive Psychology, and offering their respective readers up to two free tickets to the event. The response was heartening and I’m so glad I did this. Donald Taylor, David Goddin, Doug Shaw, Vera Woodhead, and Rob Jones all took part. How bloody excellent.

With regards to sales ‘tactics’, I started by making earlybird tickets available. This certainly helped get initial sales. I then made available ‘student price’ tickets as I realised I was omitting a possible audience that might be interested in the topic. For one day only I made available a special promo code which I was hoping would entice more people to book. That promo code produced one booking. And in the main sales have come from regular priced tickets.

I blogged as much as I thought was reasonable to help provide continued awareness of the topic to people who weren’t going to attend. That’s part of the thing I enjoy about blogging is that content can and should be provided to others who aren’t able to attend an event so that they can access it at their leisure. This is why TED is so successful as a format. Eventbrite provide a variety of useful widgets you can use on your website, such as the one on the top right of the page.

One constant throughout the time I’ve been promoting the event is that my reach was limited. This is why I enlisted the help of my bloggers network. But more than that I needed a big reach. Through a useful chat with Mervyn Dinnen, I wrote a guest post for Jobsite. Through another useful chat with Roger Philby, he offered the help of Chemistry Group to get my event out to their network. The good people at Action for Happiness have been displaying the event on their calendar on their website. Over at Training Zone, they’ve been doing the same too. I’m not beyond understanding the support of a sponsor in these events is often key to success, but I was very careful about how I went about this. By far the help from Chemistry Group was certainly the most beneficial.

And finally, I’ve asked Martin Couzins – content strategist extraordinaire, to be part of the event capturing content as he sees fit to share out to the world. He also offered to write a Q&A with me on his blog. Mervyn Dinnen will also be attending as a blogger, and I’ll leave it to him about how he writes up the event after the date.

So where am I at? As of this morning, I’ve had 793 page views on the Eventbrite booking page. 25 people are booked to attend – that’s a mix of paid bookings and complimentary tickets. I’ve got a very reasonably priced venue with Park Crescent Conference Centre, and considering they are based just outside Great Portland St in Central London, I am seriously impressed with their pricing.

I’ve come way short of the 150 I was targeting. But by God have I learned a lot in doing this exercise. 25 is really excellent. A plenty good number to do a lot of useful activity and sharing learnings. I’ve got the agenda sorted, bought my supplies to keep me on track, and been keeping in touch with the people attending.

Everyone I’ve mentioned in this post deserves thanks and I’m very grateful to all of them.

Positive Psychology in Application. It’s tomorrow. Here’s the booking page.

I’m excited.

Look around you…

In Positive Psychology there are three main concerns the field tries to focus on – positive emotions, positive individual traits and positive institutions. Positive emotions tend to be those that elicit some immediate sense of joy which is very connected to the present. Positive individual traits are those which we can learn about and adapt to enable us to live better lives. Emotional Intelligence fits quite well with this. Positive institutions are those which surround us and help us to lead our lives in a better way. It’s this last one I’d like to take some time to think about.

Understanding positive institutions entails the study of meaning and purpose as well as the strengths that foster better communities, such as justice, responsibility, civility, parenting, nurturance, work ethic, leadership, teamwork, purpose, and tolerance.

I’ve taken that quote from the FAQs page from the Positive Psychology Center at the University of Pennsylvania website. It really helps to define what we should be thinking about when we think about activities which reach beyond ourselves. We all have a duty to do more and better for society, but what should that look like? When should we do these things? How do we engender better institutions? How do we encourage better behaviours in those around us?

I tend to think of a list of institutions, as defined like this, and record them in this way:

Your partner

Companionship in life is both wrought with great joy and great sadness. Couples can enjoy long periods of calm, enjoyment and fulfillment in each other’s lives. They can also endure periods of sadness, disappointment and apathy towards each other. This is true of life, and in finding the right partner in our lives we are faced with a decision of if we are living a positive life with our partner or without them. This raises deep and serious questions about what a person believes they need from themselves and from their partner in order to do this. Some will be able to find joy, others will not.

Your family

The first support network we all feel or are compelled to have in our lives is a family unit. In this, we find we are with people who at once know how to make us laugh and rile us up. Yet a permeating fact is we always feel ‘at home’ with our family wherever they may be. In this, we have to consider if the family unit is a positive one. How are you helping it to be so? Are you emulating the behaviours you want to see in others? Are they reciprocating and being this way, or are they rebelling? Are there the ‘right elders’ in the family unit who can help guide and provide sage advice where it is needed? In most cases this family unit will be a very subjective definition. And if it’s not positive, how do we overcome that? Are we meant to leave them? What of our relationships with family members? A lot of questions again raised here about where support can come from.

Your friends

As we start to think beyond the immediate people we know, we start to think about people who we enjoy spending time with. A social circle is of vital importance to our health and well-being. We gain support, encouragement, friendship, loyalty, and a range of other supportive and helpful things. And with them we can start to see if the friendships we have help us to be better people, understand our personal motivations, see things from our point of view. All of which are important in helping us to be positive.

Your education

The best hope for anyone in the modern age is that they can gain a meaningful education which gives them a base set of knowledge that enables you to go on and live a positive life. Our schooling needs to be a carefully considered approach, as does our further and higher education. Regardless if it’s state or privately funded institution, the knowledge passed on should only be there to help others understand how they can make a positive difference in their life and for others.

Your work

When we enter the workplace, we’re suddenly faced with a plethora of factors which can either make it an enjoyable existence, or, quite simply, not. A lot of work is put into creating engaging work environments, with the right reward and recognition schemes, with the right policies and cultures, all with the aim in mind to create a positive working environment. The challenge here is most organisations are not geared up to give this due consideration. Most are concerned with creating profit and bringing in revenue.

The other aspect to this is engaging in work that you find to be positive and fulfilling in your life. Are you able to derive meaning from what you do? Do you feel some sense of achievement by the work you are engaged in? Have you found your signature strength and using that to drive not just the work you do, but everything you are involved in?

Your community

Building on the earlier point about the importance of social structures, your community is vital to helping you understand and see what it is you could potentially be part of. And I talk about community in its widest sense here – the community you live in, the community of professionals you are linked to, the community of cinema-goers you’re part of, the community of book club members. As humans, we will always find ways to engage in communities, and in doing so we create new support structures for the positive directions we would wish to be taken into.

Your society

This covers a lot – justice systems, protection services, military, adminstrative systems, governments, retail services and the list goes on. There are those among us who will be actively seeking ways to make any and all of those work better so that they help society to be a better place to live and gain positive interactions from. And in such endeavours, the key is to understanding what role do any of them play in helping people live a better life, and how are they making that happen. Idealistic indeed, but no less desirable.

I think that’s enough for now. A lot to just chew over really, isn’t it?

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology like the one in this post. Book now to attend and learn more.

The Gratitude Visit

Saying thank you is such an interesting cultural phenomenon. I’ve ingrained it into my five year old twins that they say thank you when someone does something nice for them. Even my two year old daughter has learned this thing. It’s seen as common courtesy in most Western cultures for pretty much any ‘transaction’ that takes place. From buying your groceries to being served to speaking on the phone to being picked up from the station. It’s just something we do.

So powerful is this simple turn of phrase in fact that when done genuinely, the recipient often doesn’t know how to receive it. Thanks for taking the time to answer my query. Thanks for hearing my side of the story. Thanks for changing your plans to spend time with me. Thanks for delivering on time when you said you would. Thanks for lending me that money for lunch. We mean those words, because the person did something meaningful for us.

In Positive Psychology, one of the techniques taught is about carrying out a gratitude visit. Keep in mind, that the range of techniques used from Positive Psychology are about helping increase the long lasting effect of well-being and feeling good about oneself. Also bear in mind, Positive Psychology is about therapy, and as such involves requiring patients to carry out interventions. With that in mind, let’s carry on. In its purest form the gratitude visit is this:

Through conversation, you encourage Bob to reflect on moments in his life where someone did something that made a positive difference in his life. Bob may identify more than one person, and he needs to focus on one of these people. Through further exploration you need Bob to explain exactly how this person made a difference in his life. That’s the first step.

The intervention requires that Bob goes to meet this person, and explain his gratitude about the difference made in Bob’s life. It is often advised to script this out so you’re clear on what needs to be said. This is the hard bit. Can you imagine it? Having to visit someone with the explicit intention of letting them know why they’ve made a difference in your life? Face to face. With full wavering of voice, face full of emotion, shaking hands, the whole nervous wreck. I’m nervous just thinking about doing this – and I’m awesome at delivering face to face messages.

The lasting effects of such an action are felt months after the act. Read that again. The lasting effects of such an action are felt months after the act. That’s how awesome this intervention is.

Some things to be careful and mindful of. This needs strong support in the whole journey. Bob can’t just be left to his own devices after the event. Not that he’ll derail, but because you have to be able to articulate what’s happened, its importance to you, and what it meant for you. Bear in mind, this is largely used as a therapy technique.

So how do we make this more practical and less intense? Well here’s an option.

Take pen to paper. Or fingers to the keyboard, but that’s such a weak saying. Do the lite version of this right now. Like this.

Think of someone who has made a difference to you, and caused you to do something different. Articulate it in words. Send it to them. And that’s it.

If you get a response, wouldn’t that be wonderful? That lasting effect of feeling good is just waiting around the corner.

So, here’s my gratitude.

David Goddin, thank you in recent times for being someone I can turn and talk to when I have needed it. You have shown me such patience and empathised with me that I am only able to say thank you. I enjoy our conversations, and enjoy the way you help me build on my thinking. I enjoy knowing that I have in you a friend whom I trust implicitly even though we’ve only connected in the last year. Sometimes life brings along a friend you didn’t know you needed, and I regard you a friend.

What do you reckon? Comment below, and share who you would like to say thank you to.

On Friday 17th August I’m running an event called Positive Psychology in Application. It’s going to cover a range of topics to do with Positive Psychology like the one in this post. Book now to attend and learn more.

I. Need.

Vanity. It’s an odd vice isn’t it. We’re all guilty of it. I mean for God himself* to have made it one of the seven deadly sins, there must be something to it. But what is it for? I need affirming. By you. You feed me. I need your approval. I. Need.

And here we are. I write in the hope that you will read. That you will create with me a connection that means that at some point we both gain something. But what is my writing for? A desire to be praised? To be recognised as someone who has an opinion in his field. Dare I say, to be a thought leader? Well, dammit yes. I. Need.

Which leads me to some recent realisations. I’ve enjoyed a lot of events this year. A chance tweet from Sarah Durbs, turned into a joint venture with Natasha Stallard to deliver an awesome piece of work under the guise of Altruistic HR. That was awesome. A group of us came together and formed L&D Connect, and decided to hold the first unconference for the L&D community. Lots of great stuff happened as a result of that, and by God it made me proud. HRD12 by the CIPD was particularly enjoyable this year as I got to enjoy the whole event from the perspective of an official blogger. And along the way, good things have been happening on Twitter, and with family. All things that have helped me on a journey.

It came to a point some weeks back where I wanted to achieve something else. For me. A sole venture to test my resolve. What could I achieve? Now there is the question to hold yourself to account for. What could I achieve? I decided I needed to hold a public event, where people would spend time with me, and I help them develop their knowledge on a fringe topic. I had to be careful that it wasn’t work related, that it would be cleanly detached from work commitments, and I could be free to go forth at my will. And so Positive Psychology in Application was born.

My goal here is to prove that I can do this. I have an ambition to one day deliver a TED talk, or a Do Lecture. I also have an ambition to help others understand more about Positive Psychology. It’s such a rich field full of insight into the human condition that I want as many people to know about it as possible. I’ve studied it a fair bit, practise it where I can, and help others to understand it through my blog, and even talks at work. I get it, and want others to get it.

I’ve set myself a fair target. I want 150 people to attend. I’m charging for the event as I want to hold it at a decent event space, and create a sense of commitment from people wanting to attend. The pound signs aren’t important though. What’s important is that I make this happen. For me. I. Need.

There’s no call to action here. I could provide a link to the Eventbrite page, but that’s tacky. It screams desperation. Instead I’m going to be better than that. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have seen that I tweet about the event daily. I’m also sending out emails, and getting in touch with potentially interested people directly. There’s interest out there. It just needs to be nudged in my direction.




*Allegedly. Also, not entirely true, as its a bi-product of pride. According to Christian lore.

I’m totally being hypocritical and linking to the Eventbrite page so you can get your asses over there and booking 🙂