on Coaching and Competence Development

While working at into consulting last year, I had the chance to work, among others, with Luciano Garagna, a guru in Project Management and coaching, on an e-book related to learning, coaching, and competence development.

I know coaching as a term is nowadays interpreted in very different ways according to who you ask to, to me a coach is simply someone who helps you unleash your full potential (in any area of your life)…

Here’s a brief summary of the e-book (freely available here):

Traditional coaching focuses on specific objectives, to be agreed at the beginning of the coaching relationship. The proposed approach is based on adapting to the needs of the person being coached, as they evolve during the coaching process. For example, one meeting could be dedicated to the preparation of an impending steering committee, while the next session could focus on selecting the right team member between a group of candidates. The coach accompanies the less experienced partner when the latter is feeling the most acute need. Learning happens when it’s needed the most and when immediate results can give the confidence required to support the achievement of long-term goals. Coaching is also a great learning opportunity for the coach, who experiences how to lead in a non-directive way that supports the personal and professional growth of the partner.


Great coaches can follow the flow of the coachee and reach their objectives even in a non-structured way. However, before reaching that level of mastery, a coach should structure the session in a way that addresses all the main issues the coachee could have. In order to do so, the G.R.O.W. acronym (developed by John Whitmore) in used:

  • Goal: the coach starts the session by clarifying, with questions (see the “asking questions” technique further on), the purpose and the objectives of the session itself. A good question could be: what are your objectives?
  • Reality: after the objectives are clear, the coach moves on to help the coachee understand the current reality – what is happening in the present. A good question could be: what is currently happening?
  • Options: when the future and the present are clear, the coach addresses the options available to go from where we are to where we want to get. A good question could be: what can you do?
  • Will: the coachee commits to some actions, chosen from the identified options. A good question could be: what will you do?

Asking questions

Have a look at the following questions, what is the usefulness of each of them?

  • Is the budget of the project on track?
  • Should we con”rm the budget as it is, adjust it, or ask for a sponsor’s review?
  • How can we cover the budget gap on the shipping?
  • What is the objective of this budget analysis?

Depending on the context, each of these questions is useful, but they differ in openness and in level of detail.

The first question is asking for a statement (yes/no) useful to put a stick on the ground. You might find it helpful to create a common ground.

The second question is asking for a choice, focusing on alternatives. It can be valuable to keep the pace of the conversation going when you “nd it slows down and threatens the scheduled agenda.

The third one is an open question with a specific focus. It can be helpful to find solutions in the brainstorming phase of the discussion or when you want to bring down to earth a discussion that is becoming too speculative.

The last question is open and broad. It is extremely useful to move the focus at a higher level when the conversation is going into too much detail.

Putting a question mark is not enough; to make a good question there are many factors to be taken into consideration; in the examples above two fundamental ones for coaching have been highlighted: the openness and the level of detail. Notice that asking questions implies active thinking and that way the question is asked drives the answer! Whatever the content of the discussion, the coach’s goal is to influence the quality of the elaboration.

Like the size of a box must match its content, so the coaching questions need to be shaped in a way which is useful for the answer. Only with experience we can balance all the factors to shape the question.

Giving feedback

Guess which of the following are coaching feedback:

  • You were great today!
  • I liked your presentation!
  • Your presentation was very professional.
  • The limited number of slides and the fact that you were talking slowly with a strong voice made me feel comfortable and confident that I could understand.

These are all examples of feedback, but they provide the receiver with a different quality of information.

The first example tells you that today you did something (perhaps the presentation or maybe the meeting as a whole) I really liked, but you can’t tell

The second example adds the information that it was the presentation that looked good to me.

The third example adds a definition of how I liked your presentation.

The final example is more specific and describes the feeling I had while sitting in your presentation today.

Now, imagine you are going to present to your top management, which feedback would be most useful to you? The first three may help your self-esteem, but only the fourth contains the precious information you need to consciously change your behavior or deliverable. You may receive a lot of feedback, but how much of it is really helpful and allowing you to improve? Using coaching feedback increases accountability within the team because it provides a broader perspective.

Points of view

Let’s try to put ourselves in the following perspectives:

  • The Client
  • The Sponsor
  • The Deliverer

Managing a project means to aim, perhaps succeed, in satisfying the expectations of the Sponsor that pays for the project, of the Client who will use the deliverables of the project and of the Deliverer who will make the effort required to reach the targets. How often have you seen managers loosing track of one of these sides? It can be really useful to have someone that helps us by challenging our perspective. Pretend you’re involved in the project in a different position (changing roles among Sponsor, Client and Deliverer), from that perspective, a lot of things may look different, so a solution that seems impossible to find may just arise. As a coach, driving this exercise and challenging the different roles is very easy when your point of view is external and provides you with the added value that will look remarkable to your coachee.

Perspective is a key to managing a project. Expectations look so complicated when you analyze them only from your own side, but they may turn quite easy to understand and match together when you move away from your point of view.

Giving help or receiving it with this kind of coaching technique can be very simple, nevertheless the real achievement is to uncover something we didn’t think about and that can switch the light on.

The coaching role

The difference between a coaching session and a useful chat that ends with a piece of advice is that the coach doesn’t know the answer and she is not thinking about one.

Milton Erickson used a powerful anecdote to clarify this concept. He described a runaway horse his father found one day on his way home, he didn’t know to whom it belonged and how to bring it back home. He then realized that as soon as he moved the horse away from grazing the grass and back onto the highway, the horse knew its way home and after quite a few miles it naturally reached its owner. It was enough just to push it back on to the main track and focus its attention on the goal of going back home.

We need to manage the focus of the journey otherwise the delivery will be slowed down. The added value of coaching is to ensure the focus of the discussion with the aim of enhancing the level of quality and effciency.

The challenge in keeping the focus is to recognize when exploring a field is becoming a detour. When we help keep focus, we support someone in building their own solution, plus there is an improvement of their awareness of their role.

Book Summary – Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

My bullet-summary of Richard Carlson – Don’t sweat the small stuff [1996]

Gratefulness & perspective

  • Peacefulness = accepting imperfections.
  • Life isn’t an emergency (concentrate on my values).
  • My in-basket will never be empty. Nor it will be empty when I die…
  • Purpose of life: NOT getting all thing done, but ENJOYING each step along the way and live a life filled with love.
  • Don’t interrupt others. Be a listener. Communicate.
  • Become extremely patient: nothing can bother me.
  • Ask myself: “will this make a difference a year from now?” (perspective)
  • Life ISN’T fair: ACCEPT IT –> do MY BEST with what I have and try to improve.
  • Allow myself to be bored (few mins/day), to do nothing –> I’ll relax.
  • Write a heartfelt letter to someone once a week: express love and gratitude.
  • Choose my battles WISELY + accept imperfections.
  • Don’t have everything perfect, don’t fight/argue on small stuff.
  • “This too shall pass”: everything changes, it’s just a matter of when! –> be grateful for what you have BEFORE it’ll go away: maintain my perspective!
  • Be kind more than insisting on being right.
  • In doubt, it’s my turn to take out the garbage. I won’t be taken advantage of.
  • Say something nice to someone (praise) at least once a day.
  • Find the BEAUTY in EVERY situation.
  • Don’t criticize and if I do, do it with style…
  • Be grateful when I feel good. And when I feel bad: accept it because those bad feelings too shall pass!
  • Concentrate on what we have, not only on what we want: think positive, be grateful.
  • You’ll become what you practice –> BECOME AWARE and pay attention to what you practice!
  • It’s ok not to be perfect: you make mistakes and it’s ok. You’ll do better next time. Have no regrets: stay calm!
  • Have “my time” with no one to bother me, every day.
  • In a 100 yrs, all new people…
  • Nurture a plan: love unconditionally.
  • Do small things, without wanting anything in return.
  • Don’t always try to solve others’ problems.
  • Give love more than wanting to receive it.
  • Ask yourself “What’s REALLY important?”
  • Mind my own business (don’t judge).
  • Look for the EXTRAORDINARY in the ordinary. We see what we want to see in reality. Be GRATEFUL!
  • Live this day as if it was my last, it might be. My to-do list will never be empty.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff… And it’s all small stuff!

Book Summary – Conflict Management

My bullet-summary of Ken Cooper – Conflict Management [1987]

  1. Prevent (2 people are needed for a conflict, don’t be 1 of them!).
  2. Handle in case I can’t prevent.
  • Prevent. The worst punishment I can give is IGNORING someone –> recognition (that’s why kids misbehave: they prefer punishment to being ignored). You can give recognition:
  1. of habits (I do it as a habit – not very powerful) – e.g. “hi, how are you?”;
  2. of performance – e.g. “good job with …”;
  3. of personality/character (the best one: I appreciate you as a person, because you are a person): “I’m glad you exist, I’m glad you’re my son/wife…”.
  • Don’t have negativism in my life! See only the positive (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil). And give away many positive feedbacks to others (e.g. if someone does a bad job: “nice try!”).
  • Give recognition to others, to minimize conflict, especially unexpected recognition (“I love you!”), everyday to everybody “you’ve been doing a great job!”
  • Ask myself, at the end of the day:
  1. “what have I done today to make someone (anyone) want to see me again tomorrow?” What good have I done today? –> take positive action.
  2. “what have I seen done today that I wanna see done tomorrow?” –> recognize it & compliment others!
  • Let people know when they’ve done a good thing, and when they’ve done a bad thing tell them “nice try” and how to fix it.
  • If someone is upset: look past the words in a conflict, to see what’s really upsetting him, what’s the major problem behind?
  • In those times the brain is not connected to ears and mouth. There’s no communication going on –> I need to calm the other down without fighting! –> Listen and empathize! Ask for more and remain calm. Don’t try to calm down the other, say: “tell me the details, what happened? Why?”
  • Get his emotions out of the way: emotion orgy. No resistance, ask for the details so afterwards the emotions go down (as I accept and listen to the complaint of the other to get it out of his system: this way the other starts to think again) and we can solve the real issue.
  • If others are mad at me: if I don’t get mad, there’s no conflict.
  • Everybody’s opinion is VALID (maybe I don’t agree with it, but still it’s valid (or they’d not have thought of it), be open to it, they’re providing me with feedback). ACKNOWLEDGE the other’s point of view and that I’ve listened to their criticism, REPEAT it back (“yes, you can be right, thanks for the feedback”). Empathize and then ask for details, the exact reason, proof of their criticism (go for facts).
  • If you want to criticize someone, say it as a feedback (deceive: “there’s something you can do to improve in …”), and not in public.
  • Dealing with nasty people: tell them they’re nasty! (as a quality) “but not as nasty as this other guy…” turn it around, deal with it, have fun!
  • CONFLICT MGMT: use ASSERTIVENESS (let other people know my expectations, boundaries, issues, and so on)! WATCH OUT: IT TAKES 2 TO MAKE A CONFLICT –> I AM RESPONSIBLE AS WELL! It’s never only one’s fault.
  • Some examples of assertive behaviour include:
    • Asking for help rather than pretending you are not confused
    • Expressing dissatisfaction in a healthy manner
    • Speaking up for yourself in groups of all sizes
    • Making good eye contact with others while you are speaking
    • Declining or saying “no” when appropriate
  • Assertiveness skills are all about expressing yourself and standing up for yourself in all kinds of situation.
  • When people attack you (apparently for no reason), generally they actually have another problem behind: be assertive!

Book Summary – Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers

My bullet-summary of Robert Kriegel & David Brandt – Sacred Cows Make The Best Burgers [1996]

  • Important things to take care of in business: maximizing individual performance, effective communication, conflict resolution, team construction, stress reduction, and change management.
  • Sacred cows are those who are afraid to abandon what once made them successful. Today’s organizations must make room for creative ideas and new thinking in order to grow.
  • The change-ready process include five stages:

1. Rounding up sacred cows: people do their jobs while keeping an eye on outmoded ideas and practices. The best sacred cows hunters are people closest to the customer and value chain process. Hunt in teams, with customers: have a fresh perspective!

  • Complaints are often the medium for spotting sacred cows that are in disguise or invisible. Challenge assumptions. Motivate and give special rewards to hunters who have spotted cows. Eliminate duplicating processing: leanness! “we’ve always done like this” is not an excuse for suppressing & improving habits!
  • (Bureaucracy) It should be eliminated any thing that doesn’t contribute to: Adding value to the customer in terms of improving quality or service, Increasing productivity or cutting costs, Improving morale or encouraging action.
  • (Meetings) in the new economy, time is the currency and consensus takes forever!
  • (Speed) speed kills quality, service and innovation. In sports, the rule holds that a passionate 90% effort is more effective than a panicked 110%. And a passionate 90% effort will yield 110% results. Have unstructured time in the day to relax, reflect or meditate; having more time to sharpen intuition, self-discovery and self-awareness; and allowing time for fun and enjoy breaks.
  • (Experts) ironically, experts with a conventional mindset are experts in the old paradigm. Most of the time they operate with antiquated ways and charts. The key to keeping ahead of a changing environment is to think not like an expert but more like a beginner. While experts tell you why something cannot work, beginners see only the possibilities. Hire outsiders to bring a fresh perspective to the organization, Identify ineffective operating practices and traditions, Assign rookies who are optimistic, open-minded and wide-ranging in their interests to design new products and services, Change employee assignments and jobs regularly, Create an environment that encourages asking stupid questions, Look for solutions in related or unrelated areas, Think like a beginner.
  • (Cash cow) don’t rely entirely on past successes. Complacency breeds failure. Conventional wisdom states that success comes to those who are able to find a niche and own the market. But in a fast changing environment, businessmen must learn to avoid pigeonholing brought about by too narrow a vision.
  • (Competitors & customers) sometimes doing things the opposite ways of competitors is successful (e.g. Domino: pizza home instead of customers coming to the pizzeria). Delight your customers w/ added-value services they don’t expect. TRY to be your own customer to see what it’s like…
  • (Quick reactor) quick response to change is a sacred cow belief. This no longer works! The key is to be proactive, not reactive. LEAD the customers instead of just listening to them. Use the customer’s imagination to “pre-view” the future along with understanding the demographic, socio-graphic and psycho-graphic trends of customers; and tracking the emerging social and cultural directions and new advances in technology.
  • (No Mistake) get it right the first time, no mistakes rules are a sacred cow ethic. This credo, while originally designed to improve work practices, products and services, fosters an atmosphere of extreme caution that makes people afraid to take risks or gamble on brilliant ideas. When people become too cautious, innovation, creativity and originality disappears and the possibility of gaining a competitive advantage is lost. Encourage experiments; failure is not a sin but failure to learn from failure is.
  • (Downsizing) reinvention is the alternative strategy. Businesses need to move from bottom-line solutions to top-line approaches that emphasize growth and expansion. Increase spending in growth drivers like R&D, plant equipment and marketing at least as fast as the revenues go up (Gillette’s philosophy).
  • (Technology) it can never replace the up close and personal experience that comes with direct contact. High-tech must be combined with high-touch.
  • (Teams) not every organizational task requires a team. Form the right team for the right task: Problem solving team (Addresses a specific problem and then disbands), Work team (Does the actual labor), Virtual team (Accomplishes assigned tasks and responsibilities by communicating via telephone and computers), Quality circle (Meets intermittently to air problems and upgrade procedures), Management teams (Coordinates management functions such as sales and R&D).

2. Developing a change-ready environment: People are the gatekeepers of change. They can make or break a new program. To effectively implement change, the focus must be on the people who will implement the change (and they normally resist to it). The key is to create an environment in which people are more open to innovation and new ideas. Foster a change-ready environment all the time. 1-min mgmt, caring, respect, empathy, recognition, understanding, honesty, integrity, openness, trust. Inform others on every thing (but private personal information). Lead by example: be a role model. Treat people as human beings with needs, aspirations and fears. Hold people accountable for their actions. Be demanding of performance and be supportive of the person. Empathy means standing in someone else’s shoes. It means the ability to think and feel into another person’s experience.

3. Turning resistance into readiness. Resistance to change: fear, feeling powerless over change, moving out of one’s comfort zone and exerting more effort and not fully acknowledging the personal benefits behind the change. Find the reasons of the particular, personal, individual resistance.

4. Motivating people to change: overcoming resistance is about neutralizing negativity. Motivation is about lighting a fire. When people are filled with enthusiasm, they will take the risk, go the extra mile and fully commit themselves to change. The four keys to lighting the fire are urgency (burn your bridges, have natural leaders on your side to help motivate, don’t cry wolf), inspiration (have a shared vision), ownership (delegate & create accountability for results), rewards & recognition (reward good tries, not just successful results; reward the team but treat employees differently). It’s like we are in a house that is burning, we need to escape or we’ll die!

5. Developing the 7 personal change-ready traits: passion (determination), resourcefulness (making the most of any situation, solve the problem with what you have at disposal), optimism (change = opportunity, not threat), adventurousness (risk-taking innovator), adaptability (flexibility and resilience), confidence (self-esteem; failure = learning possibility, the road to mastery!) and tolerance for ambiguity (calmness in adversity). Be proactive, not reactive to change. Create it!

  • Change fails if it is too much and/or too fast, or if we enter in panic zone (few resources, too many challenges) or drone zone (too many resources, few challenges) –> implant change progressively, do a zone check regularly (balance challenges [rate: challenge of the situation, degree of change, steepness of learning curve, required effort and speed of implementation] with resources available [rate: team size, competence, energy, motivation, available time, technology and information]), recharge batteries (let the tired players sit out for a short period of time every once in a while).

Book Summary – It’s not about the Bike

My bullet-summary of Lance Armstrong – it’s not about the bike [2001]

  • Concentration and focus: turn every negative into a positive! –> work SO hard. Suffer without complaining = ENDURANCE.
  • No one will make it for me!
  • Excellence comes from self-discipline and incremental improvements. Success comes from long-term vision and going with other people to the finish line with me, with patience.
  • People die, why continuing then? Because people live, too!
  • What’s the purpose of my life? Vision, mission, definite purpose: have them clear! Be tested by life and through pain and discipline I’ll succeed: keep it in perspective!
  • Have no self-pity.
  • The real good friends come to see me when I am in danger/pain.
  • Do my homework: study my situation in order to know my odds, in order to see what to do. I AM responsible!
  • Do like children do: NO FEAR, no failure, just HOPE. Ignore odds and percentages, fight like hell (get all information available, 2nd 3rd and 4th opinion on my health, etc.). BELIEVE I can succeed!
  • Everything is a positive learning experience, even in front of death –> focus on improvement.
  • CANCER: Courage, Attitude, Never give up, Curability, Enlightenment, Remembrance of my fellow patients. Pain to gain.
  • My life is important for the community.



Book Summary – the Art of Happiness

My bullet-summary of Dalai Lama – The Art of Happiness [1998]

  • The purpose of life is happiness.
  • Happiness is determined more by the state of one’s mind than by one’s external conditions, circumstances, or events, at least once one’s basic survival needs are met.
  • Happiness can be achieved through the systematic training of our hearts and minds, through reshaping our attitudes and outlook.
  • The key to happiness is in our own hands.
  • Purpose of life: to seek HAPPINESS, by lingering on the things that make you happy and eliminating the things that make you suffer.
  • Sources of happiness – it’s based on:
    • a peaceful state of mind: how we perceive ourselves –> inner compassion and serenity unaffected by changes in external material circumstances –> calm, peace of mind –> inner discipline to achieve it;
    • not (only) on external events: health, wealth, friendships/relationships, affections….
  • If I have peace of mind, I don’t care for external material things –> discipline to be happy in the moment, enjoy the moment, carpe diem.
  • Instead of trying to have what we want, let’s want what we have: contentment! –> inner sense of worth –> liberation = no sense of suffering.
  • Ask myself: “WILL THIS ACTION BRING ME HAPPINESS (in the long run)?”
  • Learn to eliminate negative emotions and negative states of mind; and increase the positive ones.
  • Don’t miss the opportunity: the law of cause and effect implies that we have to eliminate the causes for unhappiness (negative emotions) –> classify causes in positive and negative –> we need to learn how to recognize them –> positive emotion: compassion = loving kindness –> use each day positively, every moment! And at night critique the day to see if I took full advantage of it (with the purpose of improving the next day, not for self-blame!) –> self-disciplined mind to act as a role model. The power is in my own hands.
  • Feelings of love, affection, closeness, and compassion bring happiness –> “Buddha nature”. Be gentle, not aggressive.
  • Aggressions come because of frustration to achieve/get love.
  • Worthwhile activities (proper utilization of time): we work on the future on the basis of the HOPE that we’ll be here tomorrow! SERVE others in order to value life. Be a good person, with good positive feelings: compassion, serenity, love.
  • You never feel lonely if you have compassion: belief in openness to others, to give and receive affection, to feel untouched by rejection, judgment, fear, anger, doubt, indecision.
  • Self-reliance is actually an illusion: we all depend on others (for food, clothes, etc.) –> we’re all interconnected!
  • Relationships need to be based on mutual respect. Appreciate the other and their dignity, have genuine affection but don’t idealize the other (more is less…).
  • Compassion = state of mind that’s non-violent, non-harming and non-aggressive. Let others be free. Be committed, responsible, and respectful of others.
  • Start with the wish to be free of suffering, and then embrace others in this wish.
  • Compassion is different from attachment (which implies the tendency of controlling others – especially friends and loved ones). Compassion is towards everybody (as human beings), not only friends. Don’t be attached: everybody strives to be happy, regardless of being my friend or not –> genuine, universal compassion towards the right of other people to be free from suffering.
  • By understanding suffering and embracing the suffering of others in myself, with empathy, I can generate compassion (nobody wants to suffer: reflect on the suffering of others and apply it to myself –> compassion is generated).
  • Know that there are problems in life that are inevitable (ill health, old age, death) –> suffering and fear arise by wanting to struggle against the sad things of life –> we instead need to ACCEPT them as a part of life.
  • Directly confront old age, ill health, and death. Prepare for them and they won’t be so shocking.
  • Suffering: accept it as natural –> be more tolerant towards it as part of a life that hasn’t reached illumination yet. Remove the causes of suffering: ignorance, cravings, and hatred (know yourself).
  • Death of others: carry on their wishes, and check your feelings in order to keep living in happiness. Don’t get depressed: others had and have similar or worse tragedies.
  • Don’t fear, avoid or reject suffering; it’s natural and needs to be dealt with:
  1. Don’t self-create suffering!
  2. I’m responsible for my own suffering and can do something about it. Don’t be a victim.
  3. Don’t think/act negatively. Think positive. Choose HOW TO respond to a difficult event: I’m not the only one who’s suffering this; I CAN find a solution.
  • On unfairness: it’s the result of the law of attraction –> I’m still responsible! Often unfairness, when contextualized and with detachment (e.g. noisy kids & his father doesn’t say anything because their mom died…) can be reframed and accepted without feeling hurt and suffering. Don’t blame myself or others.
  • Suffering = resistance to change (most of the time; more in general: a situation that has an outcome that is not as we want(ed) –> it generates anger, frustration, suffering…) –> but life is always changing!
  • Think on events from different perspectives, to reach calmness of mind. Everything is an opportunity.
    • Law of attraction for things related to me.
    • Law of attraction (invoked by others) for things related to others (e.g. loss or ill health of others: I didn’t “ask” for it, they did…).
    • Others have suffered more and survived (e.g. Jewish in concentration camps).
    • –> Be flexible and adaptable (but know what you want!).
  • End the suffering by finding the meaning of it: hope that my suffering is of help to others so that they won’t go through the same suffering again (e.g. Jesus)…
  • Pain (physical: good to protect ourselves) ≠ suffering (mental: to connect with others).
  • Visualization/meditation: open ourselves to others’ suffering. Don’t be selfish. Wish and transmute my positive qualities to people who are suffering: we’re all human beings –> COMPASSION –> learn (suffering and its causes: habits to change), conviction (of change towards positive thoughts), determination (to change), action, effort (towards enthusiasm and sense of urgency to change [life is short!]).
  • Bad things contain good… Control them by knowing them, don’t be controlled by them.
  • Negative behaviour = destructive –> don’t do it. Discomfort (go out of comfort zones) to condition myself to change (out of routine).
  • Change and mental development takes time and a consistent effort.
  • Take the long term view.
  • Learn and train to go from negative (anger, hatred, attachment) to positive (love, compassion, forgiveness) emotions.
  • Negative emotions destroy us, and they have no valid foundations deep down: they’re based on ignorance –> WISDOM FACTOR: learn that negative emotions are caused by ignorance.
  • Cultivate the positive to counteract the negative, and the positive will beat the negative whenever I feel negative emotions. Concentration and discipline.
  • RESHAPE THE NEGATIVE: anger brings generally to hatred and let you unable to judge properly. Hatred is my only real enemy, and works 24hrs/day against me! –> leave him no opportunity –> cultivate the antidotes: patience and tolerance –> I’m fighting and seeking victory and I might lose sometimes. Generally directly confront and analyze anger and hatred. Is it an appropriate response? Is it constructive or not? Cultivate the positive!
  • If I get hurt by someone, and on top I get mad, I add destruction over me! –> be strong and think positive: humility (you can retaliate, but you don’t) and patience).
  • Sometimes strong countermeasures need to be taken if people are hurting us, but take them always out of compassion towards the others –> patience and tolerance that bring to forgiveness.
  • Getting angry = I lose my composure and peace of mind, and I become ugly and unpleasant (as others do when they get angry…): visualize it in order not to get mad again!
  • Be determined not to let others make me angry (or suffer), it doesn’t matter what they do or how they treat me. It only matters the result I want (have it clear): peace of mind + reaching my current objective.
  • All people have the Buddha nature (in potential) –> it’s not possible to have self-hatred, or to self-punish ourselves. Besides, we can change what we don’t like in ourselves…!
  • Think of the illuminations I had –> try to have more and keep the thought in my mind! And keep it also and especially when with others, even if they didn’t reach it yet.
  • Spirituality: to benefit one-self (calmness, happiness) –> each religion is fine and should make people and the world better.
  • Consider prayers as reminders of my values (compassion, forgiveness, kindness, caring), everyday (to start right); but don’t make it a nightmare… =)  Then I can pray 24hrs/day by LIVING following my values. Translate disciplined state of mind into one’s daily actions.
  • Meditate on my mind: feel it! Meditate: have NO thoughts but be mindful. Feel my conscience in the NOW (in a neutral state). Breathe…

Book Summary – The Instant Millionaire

My bullet-summary of Mark Fisher – The Instant Millionaire [1990]

  • Most people are afraid of asking for things, and when they finally do, they don’t insist enough: that’s a mistake.
  • Think seriously on WHY I’m not rich already.
  • Love what you do –> successful people hardly take vacations as they love what they do…
  • Believe I can succeed!
  • Seize opportunities and take risks!
  • Use other people’s money to become rich!
  • Take action NOW, even if in imperfect conditions. Don’t wait for all the things to be perfect or I’ll never start and miss lots of opportunities.
  • Burn my bridges: I have no choice but to become rich. Make sure I have no choice: put my back to the wall: use all my inner strengths to succeed or die –> take risks! BUT always cover my back! Be conscious, but not too much or I’ll lose my opportunities!
  • Have integrity.
  • If you do the same things, you’ll get the same results most of the time (not always).
  • Mozart: “true genius resides in simplicity.”
  • Have faith! In myself and in becoming successful.
  • Life gives you what you ask for! –> be clear!
  • Focus on my goal: e.g. “I want 1M€ by age 40”. Quantified, precise objective. Have clear how much money I wanna earn this year: e.g. 80k€ –> this amount is what I think I’m worth in a year –> work on myself to have a HIGH self-image!! (e.g. Tiger Woods: 100M$/yr)
  • The outside world is what I internally think of it –> attitude is everything: change my thoughts! Rational thoughts are instruments, but are not enough to get to success! Have faith in the power of my mind, regardless of naysayers! “I can get rich!” Everything is possible if I think it is!
  • You have 1 hour left to live!” words have strong meanings: imagination always wins over logic! –> Success is not only reason, but also heart!
  • The greatest limitations are the ones we impose on ourselves! The greatest obstacles are mental ones. Expand my mental limits and comfort zones. Have wider & wider boundaries.
  • Your objectives and goals should be bold (ambitious) but reasonable! But don’t be overly conservative. Destroy my mental limitations, expand my boundaries.
  • Secret to my financial destiny (clear written goals with a deadline): “I’ll be a millionaire in 6 years to the date: 16-3-2019.” Then 10 millions in the next 6 years… ANY GOAL/DREAM CAN BE WRITTEN THE SAME WAY.
  • Take note on the impressions the written sentence gives me: the goal/dream needs to be in my innermost thoughts! Think about it every moment!
  • Attitude of the millionaire: words combined with images and emotions/feelings. My character is my destiny –> DESIRE firmly to become rich. Have FAITH I’ll succeed –> through the repetition of words (to the subconscious).
  • Experience is a much better teacher than mere theory. Experience is life!
  • Thoughts –> words –> POWER!
  • My mission: mastering of my destiny and fulfilling my dreams!
  • The problems I face have nothing to do with me! –> be detached and don’t make them bigger than they are! They will look small in a few years time.
  • Life can be a rose garden or a hell on earth: think of roses most of the time, especially when I have problems. Don’t shoulder the burden of my problems. This is not just optimism! My life conditions depend on my inner thoughts!
  • Secret of success: love what you do and love for others!
  • “I’ll be a millionaire in 6 years to the date: 16-3-2019.” Accept this formula as the truth: have faith! Convince the subconscious, through my words & emotions –> create the self-image I want: accept as truth I’ll be a millionaire: pretend it’s TRUE! Repetition of self-suggestions –> the power of self-image! Use my subconscious & its powers!
  • Assets = total wealth (money, car, jewels, investments…) after all expenses.
  • E.g. Now I have 32’000EUR. Double my assets each year for 6 years, and I’ll be a millionaire!
  • “By the end of the 2012 I’ll possess assets worth 32’000EUR. I’ll double my assets every year for 5 years so that I’ll be a millionaire by 2018!”
  • Have also short term objectives and an annual goal. Write on paper. Plan & charts, project the plan, dream to be rich and quantify it, with dates –> quantified goal with a deadline (–> I need side activities if I work for someone else, or change job! Otherwise I won’t meet my deadlines!). REPEAT my goals over and over, and seize any opportunity without fears! Don’t hesitate!
  • Issue my subconscious with orders: double my assets each year! It will obey!
  • Have self-confidence –> high self-image: I’m WORTH a lot more than I think!!
  • “I’ll be a millionaire by 16-3-2019!” Say it 50 times per day. DISCIPLINE: persist, say it loud! Conquer my doubts: I will succeed! Be an instant millionaire by thinking I am! Master my destiny!
  • Formula: “every day in every way I’m getting better and better!” repeat it endlessly. Never lose happiness for the search of money. Be alert. Don’t lose my perspective! Don’t be afraid. Remember that money is a medium, not a purpose. Don’t be a slave of money! Money is my slave!
  • Know clearly what I want so I can avoid mistakes: think!
  • Key to happiness: “if I had to die tonight, have I accomplished everything I should have this day?” –> plan each day & do what I love doing.
  • Do what you love –> KNOW what you love/want! Don’t give up your dreams! If I had 24 hours to live, I’d do what I love to do! –> Do it every day! Don’t fear to lose my security! Be a genius by doing what I love! …and maybe I will die tomorrow… there is not a lot of time if you don’t use it well (Seneca) –> DO! Take action! –> Live each day as if it was my last, and live it to the fullest by doing what I love! Have the courage to do what I love! My dreams have to be bigger than my fears. DARE! What do I really enjoy? Of course every job has some drawbacks, but if I had 1M€ in the bank, would I still do the same job? If not –> this job is not what I like! –> do what I like!
  • My character IS my destiny. Get control over myself, be the master of my life by mastering my mind: “every day in every way I’m getting better and better.”
  • When I’m angry, think tranquillity as power: “Be still, and know that I am GOD!” –> this will give me calmness. I could do anything. Repeat this formula: it’s the most powerful ever!
  • Write all I want from life, in detail (it will show how narrow I think: have great ambitions), every dream for the next 5 years. E.g.: house, car, 500k in cash, 500k in stocks, 500k in real estate, 6 weeks of vacation, <40hrs/week work, philosophy and art, history, a maid & a cook, wife & children, travel around the world. DON’T THINK SMALL! Don’t be too specific though (e.g. I can’t live in Buckingham palace… but I can live in something similar).
  • The stronger my mind becomes, the greater dreams I’ll achieve. “Faith moves mountains” (Jesus). Believe in myself. Follow my intuition.
  • Live in the here and the now, don’t dwell in the future or the past. Concentrate in what I’m doing, focus on the present. Learn to concentrate –> attention to details, in everything! Don’t be distracted!
  • Don’t be overly anxious. By concentration I’ll know why I’m here, now –> I’ll see clearly, and accept my starting position. Ask luck to help you, and she will!
  • Concentrate: reflect, meditate on the rose; any problem will transform in a beautiful rose! “Be still and know I’m God!” Things are as important as the mind says so. The problems are problems only if I make them so –> inner peace, concentrate: the problems have no hold of me, they don’t exist! They’re just situations (and opportunities)!
  • At a certain height there are no clouds –> if I’m struggling, it’s because I’m not high enough!
  • My subconscious will lead me to the field where I’ll work. Just command it with what I like and know what my goals are. Ask, and my subconscious will find the answer.
  • Find a work that satisfies my heart!
  • Connect with my essence, and I’ll find WHY I’m on Earth.
  • Never give up before trying! And when you try, have faith you’ll succeed –> the power of my thoughts will do the rest. Be in harmony with myself. Have no doubt (as it’d be a thought that materializes itself)! Ask for what I need! Ask with faith (and kindness) and I’ll get what I want!
  • The value of work is the strength of my thoughts and desires! –> the outer world is a reflection of my inner world –> be positive, without doubts, ask being convinced that I’ll get it, as if it were already mine (power of self-suggestion). Nevertheless, ask thinking of the good of people, or my thoughts will go against me…
  • Have no fear! Conquer it!
  • Money must flow freely in order to grow.
  • The power of the mind is the greatest. Greatest goal: FREEDOM, not money! And freedom is reached through detachment. Have desire and help others: there’s no coincidence! The truth will set me free: discover who I really am!
  • Books: read them, but only the great ones (of the competent)… not all are good! And test every method you learn.
  • Share this legacy with others.


Book Summary – The Richest Man in Babylon

My bullet-summary of George Clason – The Richest Man in Babylon [1926]

  • A man is what he thinks.
  • Wealth increases the possibility of happiness and content.
  • I claim my share of a happy life –> study + learn theory & practice.
  • 3 LAWS:
  1. Live on less than you earn.
  2. Seek financial advice from those who are competent (through experience… E.g. you don’t talk about cars with the bread-maker, you just talk about bread! With a car-maker you talk about cars, not bricks…). Seek wise counsel.
  3. Make gold work for you (together with its children) –> a part of all I earn is mine to keep. “Think about it morning, noon and night. Impress yourself with the idea. Fill yourself with the thought. As it grows it will stimulate you.” Make gold be your slave.
  • “Opportunity is a haughty goddess who wastes no time with those who are unprepared.”
  • “Will power is but the unflinching purpose to carry a task you set for yourself to fulfilment. When I set a task for myself, I complete it. Therefore, I am careful not to start difficult and impractical tasks (e.g. I can’t lift 1ton alone!), because I love leisure.” –> each time a bigger task though!
  • “Wealth grows wherever men exert energy.”
  • Get a millionaire as a partner!
  • Have the desire to prosper before getting there!
  • The 7 Cures for a Lean Purse:
  1. Start your purse to fattening: “For every ten coins you place within your purse take out for use but nine. Your purse will start to fatten at once and its increasing weight will feel good in your hand and bring satisfaction to your soul.”
  1. Control your expenditures: “Budget your expenses that you may have coins to pay for your necessities, to pay for your enjoyments and to gratify your worthwhile desires without spending more than nine-tenths of your earnings.”
  1. Make your gold multiply: “Put each coin to labouring that it may reproduce its kind even as flocks of the field and help to bring to you income, a stream of wealth that shall flow constantly into your purse.”
  1. Guard your treasures from loss: “Guard your treasure from loss by investing only where your principle is safe, where it may be reclaimed if desirable, and where you will not fail to collect a fair rental. Consult with wise men. Secure the advice of those experienced in the profitable handling of gold. Let their wisdom protect your treasure from unsafe investments.”
  1. Make your dwelling a profitable investment: “Own your own home.”
  1. Insure a future income: “Provide for in advance for the needs of your growing age and the protection of your family.”
  1. Increase your ability to earn: “Cultivate your own powers, to study and become wiser, to become more skilful, to act as to respect yourself.”
  • “Good luck waits to come to that man who accepts opportunity.” We all have countless situations where we regret afterwards not acting swiftly enough. Procrastination very often gets in the way of good luck! We desire riches, yet, how often when opportunity presents itself, the spirit of procrastination urges delays in our acceptance and we become our own enemy.
  • To attract good luck to oneself, it is necessary to take advantage of opportunities.
  • Men of action are favoured by the Goddess of Good Luck.
  • Gold is reserved for those who know its laws and abide by them.
  • Don’t approve of giving without evidence of the ability to acquire, protect and multiply wealth.
  • The 5 Laws Of Gold:
  1. Gold comes gladly and in increasing quantity to any man who will put by not less than one-tenth of his earnings to create an estate for his future and that of his family.
  2. Gold labours diligently and contentedly for the wise owner who finds for it profitable employment, multiplying even as the flocks of the field.
  3. Gold clings to the protection of the cautious owner who invests it under the advice of wise men in its handling.
  4. Gold slips away from the man who invests it in businesses or purposes with which he is not familiar or which are not approved by those skilled in its keeping.
  5. Gold flees the man who would force it to impossible earnings or who follows the advice of tricksters and schemers or who trusts it to his own inexperience and romantic desires in investment.
  • Wealth that comes quickly goes the same way.
  • Wealth that stays to give enjoyment and satisfaction to its owner comes gradually.
  • You should know that to borrowing and lending there is more than the passing of gold from the hands of one to the hands of another (there’s the risk associated to it). If you desire to help your friend then do so in a way that will not bring your friend’s burden upon yourself!
  • Loan process. Keep a token chest, a token for each loan until it is repaid. Some tokens will always stay in the chest.
    • The safest loan is where the borrower has possessions greater than the value of the one they desire. Such loans are based on property.  If necessary, these can be sold to repay the loan.
    • Others have the capacity to earn to repay the loan and interest. They will have income as long as they are honest and suffer no misfortune. Such loans are based on income.
    • Others neither have property or enough income. Their borrowings are guaranteed by family or good friends (collateral).
  • I do not discourage borrowing gold. I encourage it. I recommend it if it be for a wise purpose.
  • It is easy to lend. If it is lent unwisely, it is difficult to get back. I like not idle gold, even less I like too much of risk. Better a little caution than a great regret.
  • We cannot afford to be without adequate protection.
  • The hungrier one becomes, the clearer one’s mind works.
  • Ill fortune pursues every man who thinks more of borrowing than of repaying.
  • No man is otherwise who cannot respect himself and no man can respect himself who does not repay honest debts. Your debts are not your enemy and you shouldn’t run out of town to escape them. If you stood up and fought like a man, you would find respect.
  • You have shown me a vision; already I feel the soul of a free man surge within me.” Where the determination is, the way can be found.
  1. Firstly, the plan provides for his future prosperity. One-tenth of his earnings were put aside for his own to keep.
  2. Secondly, seven-tenths of his earnings paid for all living expenses.
  3. Thirdly, two-tenths of his earnings provided a way for his debts to be paid out over a time.
  • “Work is the best friend I’ve ever known. Work, well done, does good to the man who does it. It makes him a better man.”
  • Act like a free man and succeed like one!

Book Summary – Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus

My (man’s perspective) brief bullet-summary of John Gray – Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus [1992]



Don’t offer unsolicited advice to Martians because men would feel incompetent otherwise. Don’t try to change a man’s behaviour when he makes a mistake. Don’t offer solutions to problems Venusians have, just give support (and a hug) and let her talk. Don’t try to change her feelings from bad to good by offering a solution, or you’ll probably invalidate her feelings.

Solutions and advice can be given: it’s just a matter of timing and approach!

Stress: when men go to their cave, women have to leave Martians alone. Stress: women talk about their problems, hence men just have to listen and support (empathy).

Communication: talk about it, at the right time!

Men are motivated and empowered when they feel needed. Women are motivated and empowered when they feel cherished. Martians need to show empathy.

The Martian (information) and Venusian (feeling – words not to be taken literally!) languages had the same words, but the way they were used gave different meanings.

Men support one another by not worrying or minimizing their troubles. A woman wants her man to worry for her when she’s upset.
Men need to understand to talk more, communicating better what they feel (e.g. “I’m OK, I’m handling this alone, I’ll be back”). Women need to be reassured they are loved and that everything is fine when a man is going into his cave.
If a man feels blamed, don’t blame back, just say “I feel blamed.” Double-check is always necessary. When she needs to complain, don’t take it personally! Venusians have to reassure men about their complaining by saying “it’s not your fault!” This way men don’t feel blamed and can listen more carefully.
When a man loves a woman, periodically he needs to pull away before he can get closer. He has to assure her that he’ll be back. When a man springs back, before a woman can open up again to him she generally wants and needs time and conversation to reconnect.
Even when a man is succeeding in supporting a woman she may become even more upset.DON’T try to fix her: when negative feelings are suppressed positive feelings become suppressed as well, and love dies. A woman’s self-esteem rises and falls like a wave. When she hits bottom it’s a time for emotional housecleaning (she goes in the well).

In relationships, men pull back and then get close, while women rise and fall in their ability to love themselves and others.

Men argue for the right to be free while women argue for the right to be upset.

By supporting her need to be heard she could support his need to be free.

When he’s in the cave and she’s in the well:

  1. Accept your limitations
  2. Understand her pain
  3. Avoid arguing and give reassurance
Men need to receive (primary needs for him, secondary for her):

  1. trust
  2. acceptance
  3. appreciation
  4. admiration
  5. approval
  6. encouragement
Women need to receive: (primary needs for her, secondary for him)

  1. caring
  2. understanding
  3. respect
  4. devotion
  5. validation
  6. reassurance
A man commonly makes the mistake of thinking that once he has met all of a woman’s primary love needs, and she feels happy and secure, that she should know from then on that she is loved. The secret of empowering a man is never to try to change him or improve him.The best way to help a man grow is to let go of trying to change him in any way.
To avoid been hurt, a man usually fights or flies. To avoid been hurt, a woman usually fakes or folds.

Most arguments escalate when a man begins to invalidate a woman’s feelings and she responds to him disapprovingly.

Arguments arise when the man feels that the woman disapproves of his point of view. Arguments arise when the woman disapproves of the way the man is talking to her.
Men are most prone to argue when they have made a mistake or upset the woman they love. The most common way women unknowingly start arguments is by not being direct when they share their feelings.
Most men strive for greater and greater success because they believe it will make them worthy of love. When a man is in a negative state… treat him like a passing tornado and lie low.
Martians idealize Fairness. Venusians idealize unconditional love.
Martians give when they are asked. Venusians say yes even when the score is uneven.
Martians give penalty points. Response Letters are the best way to teach a man about a woman’s needs.
Sometimes feelings can hide other feelings: anger for pain; indifference for anger; feeling offended for feeling hurt; anger for feeling afraid; ashamed for anger or grieving; peace for anger, fear, disappointment, and shame; confidence for inadequacy; aggressiveness for feeling afraid. Sometimes feelings can hide other feelings: concern and worry for anger, fear, and disappointment; confusion for anger, irritation, and frustration; feeling bad for embarrassment, anger, sadness, and regret; fear for anger, hurt, and sadness; grieving for feeling angry and afraid; hope for anger, happiness for sadness, love for anger.
If a woman’s not asking for support, a man assumes he’s giving enough. On Venus their motto is “Love is never having to ask!”
When a man hears a demanding tone, no matter how nicely you phrase your request, all he hears is that he’s not giving enough. His tendency is then to give less until you appreciate what he’s already giving.Just as a woman is more sensitive about being heard and feeling understood when she’s sharing her feelings, a man’s more sensitive about being accepted just the way he is. When asking a man for support, assume that he doesn’t have to be convinced. Be appropriate in timing, have a non-demanding attitude, be brief and direct, use correct wording (will/would instead of can/could). Men are more willing to say yes when they have the freedom to say no.When you ask a man for support and you don’t reject him for saying no, he’ll remember that and next time he’ll be much more willing to give.When a man grumbles it’s a good sign – he’s trying to consider your request versus his needs.BE SILENT after you asked for support.

How to heal relationships: Motivation, Responsibility, Practice (with some inevitable mistakes!).

USE the Love Letter Technique (EVERY TIME you’re upset with someone or something, it doesn’t matter who/what it is, just skip step 3…):

  1. Write a Love Letter expressing ALL your feelings, in this order: anger, sadness, fear, regret, and love.
  2. Write a Response Letter expressing what you want to hear from your partner.
  3. Share your Love Letter and Response Letter with your partner.
  • Writing Love Letters is for sharing negative feelings IN ORDER TO find the positive ones. The partner needs to be understanding and respectful. Don’t deny, disapprove, or blame the partner for sharing his/her negative feelings!
  • Sharing negative feelings is part of loving communication!
  • If as children our inner emotions had been repeatedly heard and validated in a loving way, then as adults we wouldn’t get stuck in negative emotions.
  • The very act of avoiding our negative emotions gives them the power to control our lives.
  • Books can inspire you to love yourself more, but by listening to, writing out, or verbally expressing your feelings you are actually doing it.
  • A relationship is healthy when both partners have permission to ask for what they want and need, and they both have permission to say no if they choose.
  • When things are going well and we’re feeling loved, love brings up unresolved feelings of the past. The same thing happens when you get what you want (at a social level it’s called crisis of rising expectations, e.g. when people gain freedom from tyrants).
  • These past unresolved feelings come up to be healed and released. This happens when we are safe to feel. THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR PARTNER, so don’t blame him/her! About 90% of the upset’s related to our past, while 10% is related to the present experience –> We are NEVER upset for the (present) reason we think! Write a healing letter: love letter to your partner while feeling about your past re-addressing the receiver (from your partner to…). OR get the help of a therapist. Because you feel safe with your partner, your deepest fears have a chance to surface. When they surface you become afraid and are unable to share what you feel.
  • To keep the magic of love alive we must be flexible and adapt to the ongoing changing seasons of love! A relationship is like a garden: if it’s to thrive it must be watered regularly: spring (falling in love, everything seems perfect), summer (work on the relationship as it’s not perfect), fall (harvest the results), winter (solitary growth: cave and well), spring again…!


And if you have some spare time, here’s the video of Dr. Gray at TEDx:

john gray mars venus tedx

Book Summary – As a Man Thinketh

My brief bullet-summary of James Allen – As a Man Thinketh [1902]

  • The man is always the master of his condition.
  • As a man thinks in his heart, so he is. As he continues to think, so he remains.
  • Only by patience, practice, and ceaseless importunity can a man enter the door of the temple of knowledge.
  • A man’s mind is like a garden, you decide what you grow. What you think is what you grow, and what you grow is what you’ll get…!
  • Man commands his destiny and reality through thoughts.
  • Circumstances are means, they don’t make the man; they just reveal how the man is to himself.
  • Men don’t attract what they want, but what they are –> be what you want first (act as if…)!
  • I can improve my circumstances only by improving myself: be blessed and think positively about reaching my goals.
  • I can’t control circumstances, but I can control my thoughts which can ultimately bring about the corresponding positive (or negative) circumstances –> think only on what I want!
  • Have happy thoughts to be healthy in body and spirit! The body serves the mind! (lose weight: eat healthy, eat less, exercise, think positively)
  • Never accuse events or people, just do something about them.
  • Set a legitimate purpose in my life and make it my supreme duty and devote myself to its attainment. Have strength of character to overcome any obstacle and drawback.
  • Think only on my purpose, have the power and energy to achieve it.
  • He who has conquered doubt and fear has conquered failure.
  • Achieve much by sacrificing much. E.g. I’m sick: to heal, think positively –> I’ll get better; and ACT on getting better as well!
  • The dreamers are the saviours of the world (e.g. Columbus) –> Dream, and dream BIG (as Donald Trump says)!
  • I’ll become as small as my controlling desire, and as great as my dominant aspiration.
  • To desire is to obtain. To aspire is to achieve.
  • Have a great vision (not just a wish), and you’ll achieve it…
  • Be a MASTER of my mind. Become one with my ideals.
  • Serenity: have peace of mind. Have courage, self-reliance, and decision. Be a strong, calm, serene man. Achieve serenity by understanding others, life, compassion, love…
  • You are what you think about most of the time.