Self Delusion and the Martian Test


Have you ever been asked by a novice to explain something that you know or have done for so many years that it has become second nature? How did you do? Did the novice understand your explanation?

Sometimes we can become blinded to the complexity of an activity because we are so familiar with it. The classic example is driving a car. This is a complex task when you are learning, but the complexity quickly fades into the background as you notch up the hours behind the wheel. And as a fairly experienced driver, I know how easy it is to become not just deluded about the difficulty of the task, but more dangerously, about my own skill and prowess on the road.

But it isn’t just complex activities like driving that suffer from the ‘familiarity breeds contempt’ syndrome. We can be deluded about even the simplest of activities. Most of us get to the point where we are pretty much deluded (and this is FM’s word) about what we are doing with our bodies, and how we are doing it. We think we are doing the bicep curl like the instructor; we are actually throwing our chest forward and raising our shoulders. We think we are sitting upright; we are actually rotating our pelvis backwards and hunching our shoulders. We think we are flexing at the hips; in reality our hips are little troubled and our spines do the work.

It sounds like a problem of lack of awareness, doesn’t it? But it isn’t. If anatomy authors Depopoulos and Ibernagl are right, there’s no point trying to work on our awareness (improving our sensitivity). Our bodies are brilliant at picking up information from nerves and sending it to the brain. The difficulty comes in how the information is prioritised. So FM was remarkably accurate when he said in 1910

We must admit not only that there is a failure to register accurately in the sensory appreciation, but also that the fault is unrecorded in the conscious mind. And it is for this reason that the pupil must be given a new and correct guiding and controlling centre.*


Talk to a Martian 

FM sees the solution to this whole sorry mess as being to improve our ability to conceive of an activity and carry it out as we conceived it. So here are my tips for beginning along this road.

  • Don’t assume. We think that because we have walked or sat or stood since toddlerhood, we know how it is done. What if we really don’t know exactly how to do these simplest of activities?
  • Get some knowledge. Look at anatomy books. Watch other people and see how they do things. Look at yourself in the mirror. Arm yourself with knowledge and observation.
  • The Martian test. Try to explain the act of sitting as if you were teaching the activity to a Martian who had never done it before. What would the Martian need to know?

Our deluded sense of ourselves feeds on our assumptions, our lack of knowledge, and our belief that we ‘know’ how to do an activity. Fight these beliefs, and you’re a long way down the path to FM’s new “guiding and controlling centre.”

What will you say to the Martian?

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.59.
** Photo from stock.xchng 

Why you shouldn’t try to fix problems


Most of the world seems to work on the following basis:

  • Person x has a problem.
  • They go to see expert y.
  • Expert y tells them that they can see the problem, and tells them to do z to fix it.
  • Person x goes away and does z. Or not, depending on their commitment to solving their problem.

The Alexander Technique does not work in this way.

FM Alexander’s big problem with this way of working is that it deals with effects.

… it is assumed that the defective action on the part of the pupil can be put right by “doing something else.” … He forgets that in “doing something else” the pupil just use the same mechanism which …is working imperfectly, and…be guided in his action by the same erroneous conceptions regarding right or wrong doing.”*

Here’s an example of how this works in practice. A student of mine was told by a pilates teacher that their sore back was caused by not using their core muscles enough, so they should work on keeping their core muscles held firm.

But what if strengthening the ‘wobbly core’ isn’t dealing with the root cause of the problem, but only with a visible effect of it? Then my student would be piling a lot of muscular tension on top of an already existing problem. This is potentially bad because:

  • They have no way of knowing what knock-on effects that may have
  • They are masking the real problem
  • They probably feel rather virtuous in following the teacher’s advice so carefully.And a sense of virtue tends to cause people to be less willing to give up the behaviour they’ve cultivated.

Look for causes.

FM wants us not to jump to fixes, but to look for causes.

  • Is the problem caused by some influence outside of the person? Or is it inside?
  • If inside, is it structural (a medical problem) or functional (something we are doing to ourselves)?
  • If it is functional, can we stop doing the thing that is causing the problem? Can we prevent it from happening?

If we follow a clear line of reasoning, we are empowering ourselves. We aren’t fruitlessly thrashing around trying to fix things on a trial and error basis. Instead we are moving thoughtfully and efficiently towards a solution.

Can you take on the challenge of not looking for the fix?

*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.122.
Image by David Castillo Dominici 

Your amazing brain: 3 Alexander Technique tips to use it well

This is a post about the power of your brain, and how it can get you in – and out – of trouble.

I have played recorder since I was six, but it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I started getting RSI-like wrist pain. I did all the usual obvious routes: doctor, physio, specialist, osteopath… Nothing really helped. In fact, it got so bad that I stopped playing.

Even after I started experiencing improvement in my arms after studying the Alexander Technique, it took years for me to pluck up courage to start playing recorder again. And when I did, I got some help from an experienced and very wise teacher friend, Jill Tappin.

Jill quickly became fascinated with the way I was using my hands. We discovered together that I had a very odd idea about the way my fingers moved. I believed that they should bend where the crease line is at the bottom of my fingers, here:


Of course, that isn’t right at all. They flex much lower, at the knuckle. That’s where the joint is:


But even though it wasn’t anatomically possible to flex my fingers higher up, I had managed to create a set of complex and exhausting muscular contractions that had the net effect of moving my finger where I believed it was correct.

My brain power overrode my anatomy.

And this is what most students do (though not often with fingers!). FM Alexander says that a student’s “misdirected activities are the result of incorrect conception and of imperfect sensory appreciation.” * That is to say, they have beliefs about the way their head should move, the way their back should curve, where their legs should start – even if these have no basis in anatomic fact. And then they use the power of their amazing brains to make their beliefs a reality, often at the expense of their wellbeing.

The moral of this story? Don’t assume you know how your body works! If you are having a problem in a specific area, discomfort in your hips when walking for example, you’ve probably tried all sorts of things to fix it. But what assumptions have you missed?

  • Learn the anatomy. Check online or in a book, and find out how that part of the body is built
  • Don’t go by surfaces. I got fooled by my skin into thinking I moved where I didn’t. Try to develop a kind of x-ray vision, and think under the skin.
  • Experiment. Test out your new ideas of how things work. You can do this by yourself, or you can get an Alexander Technique teacher to help you. If there isn’t a teacher nearby, a bunch of us now do Skype consultations and can give advice via webcam.


* FM Alexander, Constructive Conscious Control of the Individual in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.293.
Photos by Jennifer Mackerras

On ‘fixing’ your posture – a polemic


Want to fix the poor posture you’re convinced is making you tired and sore?

Great! There are loads of different things you can buy that can fix that for you (they say).

Buy that fancy new chair.
Get those wobbly sole trainers. Heck, get the knee boots too – you’re worth it.
Spend a fortune on a new mattress. Buy a new pillow, too.
New mouse. New mousemat. New monitor platform. New keyboard.
Ladies, junk your gorgeous handbags for sensible backpacks. And don’t even think about high heels.
And now you can even buy a phone app and cover yourself with sensors so the phone can tell you off for slouching.


Go off and spend money on all those things. Because we all of us have an unlimited supply of money and can use it to do stuff for us so we don’t need to think, right?

Um… Well, no, actually. In the first place, most of us don’t have an unlimited supply of cash. So we need to use our resources wisely.

Which leads me to the second point.

What if throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve it?

What if it’s not the chair, but the way you sit in it?
What if it’s not the shoes, it’s the way you walk in them?
What if it’s not the bed, it’s the way you lie down?
What if it’s not the computer, it’s the way that you use it?

Because if that’s true, you can throw any amount of your hard-earned cash at your difficulties and end up with a house full of cool stuff, but the real problem will lie untouched.

FM Alexander believed that it was the way we use ourselves (mind and body) as we go about our daily activities that can get in our way. He believed that it was possible for us to use our brains to improve our lives rather than the opposite.

In fact, FM said that in the human mind “lies the secret of [our] ability to resist, to conquer and finally to govern the circumstance of [our] life.” * Spend a little time learning a toolkit of ideas and principles, and we can think our way out of our difficulties, by ourselves, for ourselves, any time we choose.

Now wouldn’t that be worth paying for?

* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.17.
Image by dan from 


Be Methodical! Planning, Creativity and Alexander Technique

This is the fourth post in a short series on what FM Alexander can teach us about steps to creativity. The first post was called Make Mistakes! The second post was called Make Decisions! Last week’s post was called Make Allowances!


I’ve been having an argument with some of my teenage students at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama lately. I have been trying to teach them about the usefulness of planning, how it has a central place in Alexander’s work, and how it can help them achieve their creative goals. They don’t like the idea of planning. They think it will stifle their creativity. “But it will destroy our spontaneity!” they insist.

So… What’s the relationship between planning and creativity? Does being methodical bring results? Or does it ruin your spontaneity?

FM and the mirror

Being methodical and going about things in a stepwise manner is at the very root of the work we call the Alexander Technique. When FM Alexander decided to find out the cause of his vocal problems and first stood in front of his mirror, he went about things in a stepwise manner. He decided to watch himself first in ordinary speaking. He knew that he was suffering when he tried to recite, so he looked at his way of going about ordinary speaking first, so he had something to compare to. He saw nothing unusual. Then he watched himself while reciting, and saw that he did things with the relationship of his head with his body that didn’t seem helpful.

But did he stop there? No! He watched himself in ordinary speaking again. And he saw the same changes with his head-body relationship, but smaller.

Now, this is a classic example of a methodical thinker. FM wasn’t satisfied when he found the difference between ordinary speaking mk.1 and reciting. He tried ordinary speaking again – just to be certain.

And FM’s creation of his work is full of this sort of methodical thinking. He would do some observations, gathering as much information as he could. Then he would have a good think. And then he would try an experiment, and give himself time to really work on it. Then he would go back to the mirror, to check what was going on.


Being methodical didn’t destroy Alexander’s creativity. It gave it a framework. Because he was so methodical in his observations, he ws able to make reasoned, targeted experiments. Because he had a framework, his creativity had a direction and a purpose. It wsn’t trial and error. There was room for spontaneity precisely because he ‘knew the territory’ so well.

The framework

Do you have a framework built around your creative experimentation? If not, then try Alexander’s:

  1. Observe. Cover all the bases.
  2. Have a good think.
  3. Experiment!
  4. Observe again

Try using this framework. You may find, like my young actors who gave it a go to try to prove me wrong, that it really does help you to be not just more organised, but more effectively spontaneous too.

Let me know what you think in the comments!

Image by nuttakit from

Make decisions! 3 Alexander Technique aids to decision making in creativity.

This is the second post in a short series on what FM Alexander can teach us about steps to creativity. Last week’s post was called Make Mistakes!


Decision making is a shadowy discipline in creative ventures. We all do it, but we don’t necessarily give our decisions their full value or significance. Will I play that phrase legato or portato? Does my character say that line because he is in love with the girl, or because he is pretending? Should I blend in the vermillion, or leave a harder edge?

The Alexander Technique has a lot to teach us about the value of decision making. FM Alexander’s account of his creation of his work (in The Use of the Self) is full of it! Here are the elements ofAlexander’s endeavours that I have found useful:

1. Examine the evidence.

Alexander’s account of the evolution of his technique is bursting with words descriptive of examination and deliberation. “This led me to a long consideration…” “I observed…” “It gradually dawned upon me…” “On discovering this, I thought back to see if I could account for it…”

Alexander gathered evidence, and then he evaluated it at length. Nothing was discarded or discounted. He even included this step as part of is plan to employ his reasoning processes, as analysing the conditions present.

Do you gather and examine the evidence? All of it?


2. Make the decision!

Once FM analysed, he used his reasoning processes to make a decision, and he acted upon it. So often we try to avoid making a decision, especially if it involves difficult or equally problematic alternatives to choose from. But we need to make a decision. Until we do, we keep ourselves stuck.


3. Make the decision, then STOP WORRYING!

Often, our reluctance to make a difficult decision stems from worry about whether we are choosing the right alternative. What if we get it wrong? What if the other choice was better after all?

There are no guarantees for us, and there certainly weren’t any for FM. He was facing the loss of the career that he loved. He had no idea if the theories and physical experiments he was trying would work. But he tried them anyway, and when they didn’t work, he tried something new. The prospect of success was worth the risk of failure.

In his book Rich Dad Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki writes, “Failure is part of the process of success. People who avoid failure also avoid success.”

Are you prepared to risk failure in order to succeed?

Image by jscreationzs from

The Engineer and the Actor: Enthusiasm, Alexander Technique, and New Year’s Resolutions


Over the Christmas holidays, I took some visiting family to see the SS Great Britain, a local tourist attraction. It is a remarkable ship designed and built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in the 1840s, the world’s first iron-hulled screw-propeller steamship. It is not only beautiful, but a marvel of engineering and a monument to enthusiasm and experimentation.

Brunel first designed the Great Britain to be a paddle steamer, and building began with the paddle-wheel design in July 1839. But when Brunel saw the SS Archimedes arrive in Bristol in early 1840, things were destined to change. The Archimedes was a prototype vessel with screw-propulsion, and the new technology excited Brunel. Even as the Great Britain was under construction, Brunel began experimenting with designs for screw propellers. In December 1840, fully 18 months after construction had begun on the Great Britain, Brunel made a major change in the design, and made engineering history.

This story fascinates me because it reminds me so much of FM Alexander. FM had different reasons for beginning the experimentation that led to his creation of the work we now call the Alexander Technique (Alexander was motivated by the prospect of giving up his acting career). But both men were experimenters. Both men had a passion – one for engineering, the other for acting – and it was their passion that drove them to continue experimenting, even in the face of external difficulty or apparent failure. Both men had enthusiasm in spades.

But both men also used their heads. To quote FM, “as to enthusiasm, I will claim that no one is a greater enthusiast than I am myself, but I will not permit my enthusiasm to dominate my reason.” *

FM spent a long time experimenting, testing out different ideas and watching himself in a mirror. His account of his creation of the Technique in his book Use of the Self is full of references to time passing. Similarly, Brunel didn’t see the Archimedes, get excited, and run straight to the dry dock to halt the construction of the Great Britain. Rather, he spent months working on designs and testing them.


Enthusiasm, Reason, and New Year’s Resolutions

In January most of us do some sort of udit of the previous year, and make goals, wishes or resolutions on how we are going to change our lives for the better in the year to come. We begin full of enthusiasm. But how often does our enthusiasm wane under the pressure of trying to implement our resolution before we know how best to go about it?

My advice today is to follow the examples of Brunel and Alexander. Enthusiasm is great. But the likelihood that we will be able to make major changes in our lives instantly and perfectly is low. So let’s not go down that route this year. Instead, try this:

  • Make a goal/wish/resolution
  • Do a bit of research around it. For example, if your goal is losing weight, read some books on the subject. Look at different types of diet.
  • When you feel you are ready, either make a plan of how to achieve your goal, or experiment with using a ready-made one (like a diet book). Experiment. Try it out. See if it is workable for you.

And most important of all…

  • Be prepared to fail, get things wrong, or backslide occasionally. This is normal and understandable. And completely human!
  • Hold on to your enthusiasm. This is your dream. Don’t let it be taken from you.

Do you have a goal or resolution for the year? How are you going to go about making it a reality?


*FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.90.

5 Alexander Technique steps to everyday happiness: 2. Rejoice that you are fallible


In my teaching room, I have a cupboard. It has two main uses. Firstly, it stows my computer away out of sight. This is its practical use. But it has a far more important function than that.

It stores all of my students’ sticks.

Sticks? I hear you ask.

Yes, sticks. The sticks they beat themselves up with.

Mental sticks

Obviously I don’t mean actual physical sticks. I’m talking about something far more insidious, though just as damaging. I am talking about the things that people believe about themselves and say to me during their lessons.

“I have such terrible posture.”
“I sit really badly.”
“My right leg is okay. But my left leg is really bad.”
“I know that my walking isn’t good, but there’s nothing I can do to make it better.”
“If my furniture at work was better, I wouldn’t have this neck pain.”


Why these statements are sticks

1. They are examples of what I was talking about last week: they are examples of thinking that is stuck in a groove. They are conclusions masquerading as statements of fact, and the reasoning on which those conclusions are based has long been forgotten. The assumptions are hidden. And hidden assumptions are dangerous!

2. They are conclusions that assume that improvement is impossible. When someone says “I have terrible posture,” typically the unstated ending to the sentence is something like “and it can’t change.” And the student sincerely believes this, because so far they haven’t been able to change what is bothering them. But that doesn’t mean that it can’t change.

3. Because these statements assume that change is impossible, they are a means of abdicating self-responsibility. Think about it. If something can’t change, the how much responsibility do we need to take for changing it? None! Instead, we claim the apparently unchangeable behaviour and use it to make ourselves feel bad.


Give up the stick!

This is what I tell my students. I fact, I hold out my hand and require them to give them up! Here is why.

1. Change is possible.

2. Change begins by owning up to the things that we do to ourselves. Or as FM Alexander would put it, we need to “acknowledge in fact that [we] suffer from mental delusions regarding [our] physical acts.” *

3. Doing this is not an admission of failure. It is an admission of power. As soon as we stop beating ourselves up and own up to the unnecessary muscular activity we are doing to ourselves, we have gained power over it. We are no longer slaves to discomfort. We have, in fact, taken the first major step to mastering it.

So give up your sticks. Send them to me – write them down in the comments and leave them there. And then you’ll have taken a leap away from discomfort and towards everyday happiness.


* FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.59.

 Image by Mati Martek, stock.xchng

Banishing stage fright with the Jazzmen, part 2

Last week I told you the story of Darryl Jones, who played bass for Sting when he started his solo career with the album Dream of the Blue Turtles. Today I want to tell you about another of Sting’s musicians, so that we can learn another useful tool to conquer stage fright.

To recap the story…

If you recall, Sting was trying something totally new. He was leaving a very successful band, and was striking it out on his own with a whole new group of musicians. They were about to play their first concert – a new band, playing a  set of songs where half were completely new and unheard, and all of which were being re-interpreted. Sting, if you recall, hadn’t got together just any old band. He had found a group of jazz musicians, and was creating a whole new jazz-rock fusion sound.

Director Michael Apted filmed the build-up to the concert. He asked each musician in turn if they were nervous. Last week we learned from Darryl Jones’ reply. This week we turn to saxophonist Branford Marsalis, to see what he can teach us.


The other jazz man.

Branford Marsalis is another profoundly inventive jazz musician. Back in 1985 he was just at the beginning of his career, but he already had an impressive resume. And he was never one to mince his words! So when Michael Apted asked him if he was nervous about the upcoming gig with Sting, this is what he said:. 

“If I was Sting I might be nervous but I’m not Sting, I play jazz, I know what it’s like to be shat on, you know what I mean? I am a jazz musician, I know what it’s like to play some stuff that nobody wants to hear.”*

I know this is a little stronger language than normally appears in my articles, so bear with me… 🙂

Branford Marsalis isn’t nervous. Why not? Because he is used to an audience not necessarily liking the music he is playing! Marsalis here leads us towards what I believe is a very strong motivating factor that lies behind many performers’ stage fright

they fear the audience’s bad opinion.

Fear of the audience is a strong reason why people fear going out to perform. Back when I worked in professional theatre, I can remember actors nervously  peering out from the wings, scanning the audience suspiciously, and wondering if they would be a ‘good’ house that night. And by ‘good’, they meant an audience that liked them and liked the play.

Wanting to be liked is completely understandable and natural. The problem arises when we think about the audience so much that we begin to lose sight of what it is that we need to do in order to win their good opinion.

We need to perform.

In other words, we need to summon up all that we have learned from our hours of research and rehearsal, all the work that we have done, and carry out the performance in a way that we have reasoned out is going to best achieve our goals.

‘But shouldn’t we be thinking about the audience?’ I hear you cry. Well… Yes, but not in the way that most people do. Obviously we need to remember that the audience is there. But do we need to tie ourselves in knots to try to please them? Well, no, not according to Branford Marsalis! His experience very clearly included situations where, in pursuit of his creative goals, he played in such a way that the audience just didn’t like it. On that day. At that time.

The thing is, not everyone can be happy all the time. But what might you sacrifice in order to satisfy your audience? What if Stravinsky had burned the score of The Rite of Spring straight after its controversial first performance? Western classical music would have been very different!

FM Alexander said, “where the ‘means-whereby’ are right for the purpose, desired ends will come. They are inevitable. Why then be concerned as to the manner or speed of their coming? we should reserve all thought, energy. And concern for the means whereby we may command the manner of their coming.”

Branford Marsalis, when faced with the choice of playing the way he wanted, or trying to be ‘right’ for the audience, chose to play in the way that he had decided was best. He stuck with the process he had chosen. And fear of the audience’s reaction became unimportant as a result.

What about you? Will you stick to the process you’ve reasoned out will get you to your goal?

* Sting, Bring on the Night, directed by Michael Apted. Quote occurs at about 60.58 on the DVD release.
** FM Alexander, The Universal Constant in Living in the Irdeat Complete Edition, p.587.

You’re hired! Why FM Alexander would win The Apprentice


The BBC TV series The Apprentice is my not-so-secret obsession. I love watching it. There is much that this programme can teach you about how (and how NOT) to set up and run a business, and how to deal with people. For those of you who don’t watch the show, this is how it works. At the beginning of the series, sixteen candidates come to London to vye for the chance to run a business (and a £250 000 investment) with entrepreneur Lord Sugar. Each week the candidates are split into two groups and given tasks relating to selling, branding, marketing and entrepreneurial skill. And each week one candidate from the losing team is fired.

While watching the most recent series, I’ve come to notice something very important. I think I’ve found the secret of Apprentice success. It’s the reason why so often the candidates fail in the tasks set for them by Lord Sugar. It’s the reason why FM Alexander, were he alive and interested, would be a strong contender to be hired. And, even more exciting, it is a secret of success that transcends mere televisual entertainment.

Have I got your attention yet?! Good!


First … Why the candidates fail.

Every week’s Apprentice episode begins with Lord Sugar calling all the candidates together (usually very early in the morning) and explaining the new task to them. He does this succinctly, carefully and thoroughly. For example, in last week’s episode, the candidates were called to a warehouse, and the teams given pallets of goods to sell. These are the instructions Lord Sugar gave the six contestants:

I’ve got you an arrangement of goods over here… I expect you to sell that stuff as quick as possible and smell which item is the best seller. Come back to places like this and buy some more and just keep going… At the end of the two day period you’ll have some stock left over, which is fine. We’re gonna count the value of the stock and the money in your hand and at the end of the task the team that has the greatest amount of assets left will win…It’s the simple principle of business – turning your money over, increasing your assets.”*

Clear instructions. A simple task, yes?

No, apparently not. Both groups strayed from Lord Sugar’s instructions. They variously failed to reinvest, or didn’t restock the bestsellers, or decided to sell to high street retailers instead of the public, or stopped restocking from fear of being left with unsold stock at the end of the task. And this isn’t an uncommon experience – it happens almost every week!

So what happens? Why do the candidates fail to follow Lord Sugar’s instructions? As far as I can see, the answer is very simple. They allow their enthusiasm to dominate their reason.


Enthusiasm vs. Reason.

FM Alexander recognised as early as 1910 the danger of allowing one’s enthusiasm to run away unbridled. Recalling his creation of the work we now call the Alexander Technique, he wrote:

“one of the greatest, if not the greatest danger against which I had to fight was my own enthusiasm… I should never have worked out my principles, if I had allowed it to dominate my reason.” **

A £250 000 investment is a strong motivating factor for any individual. I suspect that, in their efforts to stand out from the crowd and (hopefully) please Lord Sugar, the candidates let their enthusiasm run away. They forget about the task. They forget the instructions. Each week one candidate or another becomes fixated on an idea or concept (in episode 7 it was Melody and Helen wanting to sell to retailers instead of the general public), and allows this to skew their decision-making processes to the point where the original goal of the task is totally lost.

This is, of course, what makes the programme such good viewing. We love to see Lord Sugar’s aides Nick Hewer and Karen Brady shake their heads in amazement at the bizarre decisions that are made. Indeed, we enjoy it so much that when one of the contestants, Tom Pellereau, began the series by taking notes during Lord Sugar’s opening address, the viewing public mocked him mercilessly.

But aren’t we all guilty of this, at least on occasion? How many of us lose sight of our goals, allowing our enthusiasms and transitory whims to sidetrack us and take us away from what we really want to achieve?


Simple Steps to Success… FM – You’re Hired!

So why would FM Alexander be such a strong candidate on The Apprentice? Because he kept his enthusiasm in check. He never lost sight of his goal, and worked according to principle.

What does this mean in practice? Well, I can imagine FM sitting neatly on the packing cases in the warehouse. He would listen carefully – very carefully – to Lord Sugar. He would take note of the goal of the exercise. Then he would analyse the conditions present. He would look at the stock on the pallet, and take note of the location of the selling pitches. He would take note of warehouse locations.

Then he would start to plan the steps that would lead him to his goal of having the most assts. He would take care to send stock to each location where it would be most likely to appeal to the passing customers. When stock began to sell, I can imagine FM sending one of his team off to the warehouse to purchase more. And if circumstances changed and items began to stagnate on the stalls, I can imagine FM being flexible enough in his thinking to alter his strategy to make the best of the current conditions.***

So these are the steps to success:

  1. Keep your goal in mind.
  2. Analyse the conditions present
  3. Construct a series of steps to lead you from the conditions present towards your goal.
  4. Carry out those steps, but be flexible enough to change if circumstances demand it.

What is your goal? What are your present conditions? What is the first, smallest step you can take towards your goals from where you are now? Tell me in the comments!



* Transcribed by me from Episode 7, Flip It. See for episode details.
** FM Alexander, Man’s Supreme Inheritance in the Irdeat Complete Edition of Alexander’s books, p.90.
*** I apologise if you find my use of FM here a little flippant, or not sufficiently respectful. From my reading of Frank Pierce Jones and other authors, I have a strong faith in FM’s sense of humour. I hope he wouldn’t mind!