I’m sat in the garden, looking at what used to be my window.
The garden’s lush, much more so than when I left here close to 10 years ago.
This, here in the Belgian Ardennes, used to be my monastery.
I used to do a lot of the work here, before leaving:
It was my task to maintain the building, do repairs, and plan and execute improvements.
Used to be a time when I could say: If there’s a nail or screw in this building that was put in after 2000, I’m the guy who nailed or screwed it in.
Not any longer: after I left, others took over, and much has been changed or added to the building.
I feel pity for those who came after me:
In a building 300 years old, doing repairs and modifications is rather a challenge.
Each time you try to hang a picture on a wall, the entire wall is likely to crumble down, or at least crack nastily and lunge into the room.
Connect a new tap to an existing water pipe?
Best have ten buckets and mops ready, and make sure you shut off the mains to the entire house – the pipework is total spaghetti: you never know which pipe you’ll be cutting into.
And then there were the sewage problems, and the roof leaking, and the cellar flooding, waterpump not working…
In short, in my years in the monastery, I became a Fixer of things.
I learned through one hard knock after another how to avoid and/or solve unpredictable problems.
I became an expert in finding creative solutions to problems or for building stuff.
Lots of that comes down to close observation, and learning to see things as systems.
People, walls, plumbing, making stuff, making stuff happen – all of it is a set of factors conspiring to produce some sort of outcome.
Together, that’s a system.
And when you’re looking at a system, you know it’s meant to produce a certain result.
And the result it gets you (or doesn’t get you) gives you clues about where the system needs to be improved or reinforced or changed.
That’s what enables me to make or fix things: looking at a system, asking ‘how could this produce a different result with as little effort and as much fun as possible?’.
So I’m sat here thinking about this, having spent the day in my former monastery, after 9 years of not visiting.
I see my handiwork in every single room, and I wonder:
“Yes, that’s all very great, Martin – but what about THEM?
“What does that matter to your people, your readers, your clients?
“What good does it do them that you can fix or improve systems?
“You’re not going to write about how that makes you a good coach – not again.
“You wrote about that last week, a month ago, last January too, and you were talking about it in your sleep last night.”
Yes, my inner critic and I have very lively conversations.
But, this time he’s right:
So I can make or do or fix things, whooptidoo.
And I’m aware that it’s because of the training I had while living here.
Well, anyone with 20/20 hindsight would see that too.
But then it hits me – THIS is why this matters to you:
Are you being deliberate about your process of making something new out of your experiences and learnings?
Because in my experience, the more deliberate you are, the more efficient, creative and productive you become.
And that’s because there’s something special about the word deliberate, as my coach pointed out the other day.
Long story, I’ll go into it one of these days.
For now, think about how much from the past, you currently use in the things that you’re good at.
Take your time.
Now, think about other skills you’ve learned too, but that you don’t actively use right now.
Identify one that you enjoy, and then, here’s where things get interesting:
Try to figure out a way to bring that skill into the mix of how you run your life and your business.
It might require some adaptation or transposing, but you ought to be able to find and incorporate a skill that works.
And when it works?
Then you’ll very likely see your work get more fun and more effective.
Give it a try, and hey: send me an email and tell me which of your skills is underused and fun, that you’ll start to work with?
Also published on Medium.