The Case for Designing Ergology

When you walk into my house, you notice something. Almost everybody does.

And it’s not the spacious layout or the views of the mountain and the sea (though they’re hard to miss).

It’s because I’m a total sucker for design. But not just the way a tool or phone or computer is designed.

I’m talking about a wholistic, global concept of design.

Because in the end, everything is the result of some kind of design – from governments, to cities, to societies, to the sofa you sit on and the Parker Jotter pen that’s gone unchanged for decades.

It’s a common notion that ‘everything is marketing and marketing is everything’, but we often overlook that everything is design, and design is everything.

And that’s what you notice in my home: everything here is designed to be just so.

I’ve turned this house into a perfectly tuned context for calm, well-being, connecting with people, and for working in the most focused way I have in me.

And you can’t avoid noticing that there’s ‘something’ here.

Obvious, because I’ve spent years perfecting the design of the perfect optimal environment for Martin’s life&work.

I’m telling you because the context and ecology of your spaces has an enormous influence on how you feel, perform, operate, and relate to people.

But very often we only pay attention to the obvious – the height of your desk, the folder structure on your computer, neatly stacked t-shirts – but omit to design the bigger, overall context.

I call it ergology (ecology and ergonomy) and it’s a separate project in my todo app.

I’m always tweaking things, optimising, designing.

And the result goes way beyond ‘a place for everything and everything in it’s place’ – instead, I get an ecological context where, the moment I walk into my home or my office…

… my *mind* is in the right place, be that for a client session, creative work, or spending time with friends.

So if you often struggle getting focussed, or you frequently feel overwhelmed, maybe ask yourself:

Are you paying enough attention to the design of your space, your work, your tasks and projects and plans – and most importantly: your mind?

Because the design of everything pertaining to how you live, work, think, and move through the world has far too big a bearing on your well-being and your results, to just leave to chance and ‘wherever you last dropped your keys’.

Design your life. It’ll do you good.




A few weeks ago, someone interested in working with me was on the fence about making the decision.

He saw the value and knew I’m not the rah-rah kind of ‘you can do it!’ coach, and yet… he had trouble making up his mind.

We talked, and then he told me one of the big conundrums he was facing:

Would Martin be yet another cookie-cutter, follow-the-programme coaches?

Someone who takes you through a curriculum, and tells you what to do?

I smiled, because that’s the perfect attitude – not just when working with a coach, but also in life.

Sure you’ve got all the answers in you, but that’s not the point.

What matters is that you’re able to find those answers for yourself.

To inquire of your subconscious what needs to happen, what you need to become aware of, and what it is that you need to decide.

It’s easy and oh-so comforting, to have someone spoonfeed you the answers and the steps.

But that’s called education, and not coaching. Nothing wrong with it, but different.

And it illustrates the value of a real coach, meaning: someone who enables you to take ownership of your process, growth, and development.

And that ownership thing, that’s in short supply these days, especially with all the hyped-up marketing tactics we’re being shown every time we go online.

Seems like everyone is trying to sell us a 1-2-3 ‘buy this and magic will happen, all by itself’ infoproduct, training, or course.

But there ain’t no magic.

There’s only clear thinking, sensible deciding, and elbow grease.

And the more you own your own involvement and actions, the easier things are and the more resourceful you become.

Good friends and real coaches don’t feed you the answers.

They listen and ask the questions that make you find your own answers.

Which brings me to an interesting point: very often I see coaches claiming that they have the answer to the question ‘can you help me with XYZ?’, and brand themselves as the dude or gal who yes, totally, can do.

I say be skeptical when you see that kind of claim.

There’s a lot that goes into the mix, in order for a coach to really help a client – starting with alignment, or attunement, on a personal level.

And until you meet and speak, there’s no way to know. So how can someone pre-empt the question, and say yes…?

It’s impossible.

Me I have no idea if I can help you.

But we can talk, and we can find out.

Want to?



Create a Rule-Book for Focus, Productivity and Well-Being

I walk into the hall and smile: it’s just as I expected.

Beautiful art on the walls. Lots of visitors, Spanish as well as foreigners.

Drinks, tapas, and a bunch of my artist friends, looking their finest and happily chatting with each other or the visitors.

I meander for a while, chat with a few people, see the art.

And then, just as I expected, I find myself on my own, with everybody else being busy serving drinks or getting called away or saying hi to newcomers.

I meander some more, have a few more conversations cut short, and about 20 minutes after arriving, I leave.

On the way home I reflect: it’s like this every single time. I just don’t like the kind of event, where no conversation lasts more than 3,5 minutes.

I like supporting my friends, but show openings, and network events and that kind of thing – if there’s no chance to actually connect with people I don’t like it and I always leave early.

So I decide: no more social events like that – unless I go there with a friend to chaperone me.

Just no. No more.

Felt good, too. Made me call a friend a few weeks later who went with me to another event and we had a great time.

And I decided (because hey, everything comes down to decisions, right?) to create a ‘No-List’.

Things I’ve said no to.

On it are such diverse things as:

– Takers. People who take but never give back or pay forward. You know what they look like: a black hole with legs under ‘em.

– People who eat my mind. That you keep pondering about because of something unfinished, some sort of open loop and your mind keeps churning on it.

– “Fixing the printer” – i.e. small jobs that I’m not good at, are not in my ‘zone of genius’ (google it) and that I can get done for a couple of bucks.

– Projects that are unrelated to my core business activity (obviously: coaching, and currently: launching my Calibrate Reality course).

And a bunch more, which are too personal to share here.

It’s nice to have a list like that, and damn useful too.

A mini rule-book for keeping Martin happy, focused, and productive.

Big contribution to my recent productivity, I can tell you that.

So maybe create your own no-list?

It’s bound to keep the crud out of your life and make you focus on what truly matters, in terms of people, your state, and your business growth.



The Problem With Good Drivers

Whenever someone tells me they’re a good driver, I double-check my seat belt, just to make sure I’m strapped in properly.

Because the only good driver is a defensive driver, and believing you’re a good driver is dangerous.

Traffic is an enormously complex set of dynamics and interactions, and no matter how well you drive, you can not possibly account for all the things that happen behind you or around the corner.

And the attitude of ‘I’m a good driver’ plays a trick on your mind, telling you that as long as you are in full conscious control of your vehicle and aware of your field of vision, you’ll be safe.

Until a tree falls over or somebody else’s brakes fail at a crossing. Oops.

The same mechanisms apply to business.

When you think you’ve got it all figured out, it’s all running smoothly, that’s when you’re most at risk.

A competitor might suddenly break through and, as they say in Spain: ‘eat your tortilla’. Oops.

Or Facebook might change their algorithm and from one day to the next you’re all but invisible to your audience. There goes your revenue off the cliff.

Just like in traffic, there’s a million moving parts, all kinds of things that can go wrong, or break, or disappear.

Your best bet for continued growth and success, is to be the defensive driver in your business.

Being on the lookout for threats that can damage what you’ve built.

That way, your subconscious will be on the alert, spotting trends or events before your everyday conscious mind becomes aware of them.

Just like a defensive driver in traffic is safer, a defensive business-driver will make it through the changes and challenges better.

Being confident about your own skills and acuity is good, but never underestimate the influence of that what’s outside your field of vision.



Who Do You Want to Be?

I don’t mean when you grow up, but: today, tomorrow, this week, three months from now?

Who do you want to be, in your business and your life?

See, we all have this image of ourselves.

We’re a business owner, a mother, a cyclist, an artist, a good cook, a loving son – all kinds of personas we identify with.

And we all have aspirations of how we want ourselves, and our lives and results, to be in the future.

But if your ideal image is just a better version of yourself, you’re playing small.

That’s not wrong, but where’s the fun in it?

Where’s the real growth?

Point in case: for the longest time, I wanted the next version of myself to be ‘more productive, less prone to procrastinate’.

A worthy goal, right?

Even signed up to an accountability programme for it, but never really made a big change.

But this summer I’ve been doing a ton of homework and reflection – on myself, my ideal client, and my business model.

And gradually, I shifted the goal ‘a more successful and productive self-employed coach’ to ‘a business owner, an executive coach, with a team and a scalable business model’.

And guess what? These days I execute on my tasks like never before. I organise myself and my projects, and procrastination… what procrastination?

Because for the owner of a business, these things are a given. Otherwise, you don’t grow your business.

So by identifying not with an improved version of myself but a significantly upgraded version, a much higher level kind of identity, I entirely bypassed the issue of execution and productivity.

To butcher one of Carl Jung’s quotes: the sign of a life well lived, is to work on the big problems.

Not being productive, or procrastinating, those are not a big problems. That can have big consequences, but in itself they’re lower level problems.

So when I ask ‘who do you want to be?’, I’m inviting you to reflect on the biggest ‘problem’ you could ever work on:

What’s the identity, the the highest level of self-view that you want to embody?

As always: what big-boy suit do you want to wear?



“But I Don’t Need Therapy”

Every time a client or potential client tells me that, I’m happy.

Not because I’m not a therapist, but because fundamentally, I don’t agree with the problem-thinking that’s at the basis of most therapy models.

You know the model: it the one that says that you’re broken, traumatised, damaged, and that you need fixing.

As if the only way to get happier in life (or whatever you want/need) is to take you into a sort of garage workshop for people. Fix ‘er up and change the tires while you’re at it.

Thing is, you’re not broken. Couldn’t be if you tried.

Provided that you understand what ‘you’ actually means.

You is a shell, a mask, or what psychologists call the ego. It’s a learned set of perceptions and interpretations.

You’re born without it, and you build it around you over time.

And when I say ‘mask’, that refers to the origin of the word ‘person’, which is ‘persona’. Mask.

That’s the you that you live with, your tool for interacting with the world.

And it changes, and grows, and learns and fails and yes, sometimes it can receive a nasty blow and be left with scars.

But it’s not the same as the ‘I’ that you are. That would be the ‘Id’, the thing that you were born with. Or born as, more precisely.

And guess what?

That part of you is unchangeable, unhurtable, and constant.

So when someone tells me they don’t need therapy, I’m happy. It’s a sign that the person is wise to the fact that you grow faster if you identify with the ‘I’ behind your person, rather than the personality that moves through the world.

And, it’s a great starting point, where you get to improve on what’s there, rather than try to fix something that’s broken.

You, your persona: you’re fine. Perfect as you are, whatever scars or scuffmarks you may have.

You are RIFE with potential and built for growth.

And given that: what would you like to create, change, develop?

From problem-thinking to potential-thinking…

Seems a pretty obvious choice, right?

And all it takes is a choice: identify with who you are, vs identify with what you are, fundamentally…



If Questions Are the Answer… (Stop Asking How)

Asking questions helps, creates clarity, gets you answers.

But to get quality answers, you need to ask quality questions.

I spent some time this morning, reflecting on the relationships I’ve had with teachers over the years. And I remembered when I was 10 or so, trying to work out maths problems and asking my teacher how to do it, she replied: “You’re asking me to do it for you”.

And I realised (this morning – not age 10) that asking people how to do something is actually a low-quality question – depending on who you ask.

The only person you should ask ‘how’, is yourself. Asking it from another, is a way to disempower yourself. You put the onus of finding a solution on the teacher, but it’s much better to put it on yourself.

My coach, when I ask him ‘how to do thing A or B’, will throw the question back at me.

And if I then say ‘I don’t know’, he tells me the penalty for saying ‘I don’t know’ is $10.

Strong way to force me into finding my own answers.

From my experience, some of the most powerful and effective questions to ask yourself, are all formulated so as to make you fully responsible for finding the answer.

“How do I solve for xyz?”

“What can I do to change this (or create that)?”

“In what way is my attitude an obstacle in this issue?” “What shift in my behaviour or habits will lead me to an eventual breakthrough?”

“Which belief do I cling to that keeps me stuck, and what new belief would I like to put in its place?”

That’s the kind of question that actually helps. Especially if you ask yourself.

Of course you can also ask them of others – teachers, mentors, peers, coaches.

But be careful who you ask.

Because if someone proceeds to answer the question, it’s their answer and not yours. Which might help, or it might send you into the reeds.

The best kind of help, is the kind that pulls out the answer from you.

Enter the world of coaching, where answers are triggered, not given.

If that’s what you want, hit reply and let’s talk. See if we’re a good match.

And if not, at the very least, develop a practice of asking questions of yourself.

The right kind, the type listed above.

And for best results, journal your answers. It’s the best way to get out of your head, and access your deeper levels of intelligence and insight.

You have a lot of answers in you. Ask the right questions so as to bring them out.

Or talk to me, and I’ll ask them.



A Good Reason to Not Be Like Me

This notion of living with effortless mastery, how come it took me 12 years in a monastery and the better part of a decade afterwards, to reach it?

And, how can I claim that ‘you can develop effortless mastery in business in life *without* having to spend 12 years in a monastery?’

The reason it took me so long is that I was stubborn, headstrong, and yes: foolish.

I remember telling my abbot way at the beginning that “I’m not the kind who needs to learn through trial and error. I can learn from teachings”.

After which I proceeded to try, and err, for two decades. Whooptidoo.

So, you know: don’t be like me.

There’s teaching all around, and if you commit yourself to a) learning a method and b) doing the (home)work, you can save yourself a ton of time, as well as errors.

So the question is: do you want to go it alone, do it your way, and get better by and by?

Or, are you unlike I was back then, and willing to learn from teachings – the way those teachings are intended?

There’s no easy answer to this, mind you. It’s easy to think like I used to, and just as easy to be mistaken about it.

What you can do though, is look at the state your life and business are in:

Have you created the outcomes that you want?

If not, can you identify where that’s because you neglected or ignored instructions?

Outcomes point back to decisions.

And not making a decision (about things like making an investment, doing the work, learning a method, eliminating time-drainers and so on) is in itself a decision.

What decisions have you made, if you look at your current outcomes?

And: time to make some new, overdue decisions, perhaps?



Calibrate Reality, Anyone? Dig THiS

So this Calibrate Reality Dojo training I’ve been rapping on about…

Which, I hope, you want to ask me “But when will it be READY, Martin?”

Yeah sorry for the delay. I’ve been working like made to make it really, really, really good.

To give you something that will actually show you how to change, and calibrate your reality.

So I’ve been going through the slides, over and over again, to get everything right.

At the moment, it’s in the very capable hands of my designer, and yes: once I get it back, I’ll go over the content again.

But here’s the kicker: a few weeks ago, when I had *just* completed the first outline, the most roughest draft, I ran the training by my friend Paula Mould.

And apparently, it stuck with her. Just won’t leave her alone.

This is what she sent me yesterday, to use as a testimonial:

“Mind bending. Reality changing. This is the effect of the Calibrate Reality Dojo on anyone who’s ready to untell their stories and ready to really upgrade their lives.

It’s been a month since I experienced the webinar presented by Martin Stellar and I am still feeling the effects every day.

We all build walls around ourselves, defining how things are and how they have to be.

Martin’s webinar shows you how to see the walls and how to tear them down effortlessly.

I highly recommend the Calibrate Reality Dojo if you’re ready to see clearly and take massive action.”

Woah, right?

And that’s just from the rough, unpolished version, which I delivered in a clunky and stumbling way.

And yet, this is the impact it had. Caveat: it must be said that as a client, Paula already had long-term experience with the methodology in Calibrate Reality, but never in a such a structured and action-oriented way.

In other words: maybe I am indeed building something good. I’ve never seen her resonate with my work this much.

Right, so I’m thinking the webinar will launch in about two weeks.

And if you raise your hand, I’ll put your name on the guestlist.

That will get you some interesting perks, which I’m still working out. But for one click of the mouse, you’ll find it worth it, I promise.

CRD Guest list, yes/no?




Dull Axes and Boxes of Unused Stationary

Back in my tailoring days – before the bankruptcy hit me – I had a lot of decisions to make.

Should my website run on Joomla, or WordPress?

Should I advertise, or blog, or network? All of the above?

Some decisions were bad: for an end-user, Joomla really isn’t a handy platform to use – but I was sold into it, and each time I had to publish a blog post, it was a struggle.

Other decisions were good: to start blogging, and to interact on forums. Got my name out, built trust, and got me clients.

And then there were terrible decisions. For example, I knew I needed stationary. So I debated: do I get a quality printer and print at home – or do I buy in bulk from a professional printer’s?

I decided the latter – which was pretty dumb, because ‘best price’ meant ‘1000 letterheads and 1000 envelopes’. Cost me almost a grand, and guess what:

When my company finally tanked a few years later, I hadn’t even used 5% of the stuff.

Because honestly: if a suit takes me 80 hours to make, and there’s another 20 hours of business operations, travel, and marketing to spend for each suit, how many invoices would I be sending each year?

Exactly. Just a handful –  certainly not 1000. If I’d bought a good printer, I’d have saved a lot of money.

But, I didn’t think it through. Tried to, but ended up making an irrational decision.

Have you ever made decisions that brought you wasteful or unwanted outcomes?

Ok, silly question. We all do.

But there’s a solution, and it’s called rational thought.

And you’re perfectly capable of that – AND of making sensible, logical decisions.

Just means you need to sharpen the axe.

Supposedly, Abe Lincoln said “If I have 6 hours to cut down a tree, I’ll spend the first 5 sharpening the axe”. So sensible, right?

Yeah I know. So here’s sense for you:

Sharpen the axe that’s called ‘your mind’.

Which is surprisingly easy.

Step one: stop to think. Don’t rush.

2: Watch for assumptions and guesses. Question them.

3: Write stuff down. Journal, brainstorm, doodle. Don’t try to do it all in your head – even mathematicians and chessmasters use chalkboards, and there’s a reason for that.

4: The big one: only decide if, and when, you’ve reached logical, rational clarity. And even then, consider your ‘best choice’ decision a hypothesis to be tested, not a ‘this is it!’ answer to everything.

5: Adjust your plans, actions, and decisions as results come in – instead of clinging to what you thought was the right choice but is turning out to be imperfect.

Repeat, over and over again.

Of course there’s more that goes into sharpening the axe called ‘your mind’. But without at least these steps, you’ll just continue guesstimating, throwing spaghetti at the wall to see if it stick. And getting the outcomes you’ve always gotten.

Change your ways, maybe?

Choices, choices…



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