Podcasts I’ve been listening to lately

For many years now I’ve been a fan of podcasts. I remember listening to Freakonomics back in 2010 after I’d broken my collarbone, I liked the fact that I could listen to interesting content on demand.

Since then podcasting has exploded and you can find shows on pretty much any topic you’re interested in. I like podcasts as a way to learn, to be entertained, and sometimes just to switch off.

Over the past year as I’ve got back into running, I’ve had more time to listen to podcasts. On easy runs, long runs and recovery runs you’ll always find me with headphones on, listening to my favourites shows. The only time I don’t run with buds in is when I’m doing interval training – I need to concentrate on what I’m doing, and I can’t do that if I’m listening to a show.

I like to listen to podcasts when I’m in the car. My commute to the office is around 20 minutes each way and I’ve pretty much always got a podcast on. It’s a good use of the time.

So which shows have I been listening to lately?

The James Altucher Show

Creative Chit Chat

How I Built This

The Beans

The Tim Ferriss Show

These are the shows I’ve listened to most frequently over the past month. Honourable mentions should also go to TED Radio Hour, Marathon Talk and Freakonomics. They’ve slipped back since the end of marathon training – there’s only so much listening time!

Do you listen to Podcasts? What are your favourite shows?

Niall McGill, Foremost Golf Professional of the Year 2017

Last Monday, my brother was voted the Foremost Golf Professional of the Year, one of the most prestigious awards of the year in his profession.

Niall’s been a Golf Professional for 25 years, but golf’s been a big part of his life since he was a small child. As an amateur golfer, Niall was outstanding. It was like he played a different game than the rest of us. He won a LOT of events, and it was no surprise when he decided to turn Pro. These were the days before mobile phones & the Internet, so no live scoring or twitter updates – we had to wait for a call from Niall to find out how he’d got on.

Fast forward to 2001 and after playing on tour for a few years, then living and teaching in Portugal, Niall took over the driving range at Noah’s Ark in our hometown of Perth. Straight away he put what he’d learned playing and working all over the world into practice. This was never going to be ‘just another driving range’.

A real student of the game, and blessed with an ability to explain a complicated game in simple terms (maybe something he inherited from our dad, who loved the game), Niall embraced technology and drove the sport forward. He’s now a respected coach, working with players of all standards from beginners to Tour players.

Despite the ‘Tiger effect’, golf’s struggled over the past few years, with some courses closing and clubs struggling to make ends meet. Not the best time to take over the running of a local municipal course. Yet, that’s exactly what Niall did back in 2014, taking over the running of the North Inch Golf Course in Perth, one of the oldest courses in the world. You can read more about how Niall’s transformed the fortunes of ‘The Inch’ here.

Through all of these years, Niall’s worked incredibly hard, often clocking seven day working weeks. He’s never had the normal weekends that those of us who work in offices are used to – golf’s busiest days are on the weekends. We don’t think about this when we rock up to the course or driving range, expecting to see the Pro there. We see them more at the weekend than their family do. For the Golf Pro, that’s just part of the job.

So, after 25 years in the sport, to finally be recognised for all of the work you’ve done, for all of the blood, sweat and tears, it must feel pretty damn good.

We’re all proud of you Niall, and I know that dad will be up there looking down more proud than any of us.

A quick running update

I’m halfway through the base training plan – 4 more weeks to go.

My body feels fully recovered from the marathon now. In my runs on Thursday and the long run yesterday, I’ve written in my training log that it felt ‘effortless’, and yet I’m doing these easy runs almost one minute per mile faster than I was back in March when I started running again.

This next block of training will continue the long steady runs, but with a sprinkling of faster workouts beginning on Thursday with a steady state (just below threshold) effort. I’m excited and looking forward to it.

I’ll also be ramping up the core strength work over the next 4 weeks before I move onto the next block of training, which will focus on hills and building strength.

This is my first winter of proper running training and I’m excited to see what difference it makes once I start racing in the Spring.

What do you do for training over the winter? Do you have challenges with the weather? Let me know in the comments below!

Where do good ideas come from?

I had lunch earlier this week with an old colleague. He currently works for a global business, gets paid well, but feels no joy in the work. He’d love to setup his own business, but doing what? He just doesn’t know.

We spoke about different ways to start the idea generation process. When I worked at the University of Dundee a few years ago, we did some work with Stanford’s BioDesign programme. It’s designed to create new businesses in the healthcare field and at the time their process had created over 120 new ventures.

The first stage in the BioDesign programme sees students being immersed in the clinical environment (Stanford University Hospital), where their only job is to identify problems. Over a six week period they are tasked with finding 200 ‘needs or problems’. Things that don’t work, where staff or patients are experiencing frustration or worse.

They are taught not to think about solutions, simply to find things that don’t work. In the Design Thinking model this is what we’d call the Discovery stage, where empathy is vital to understanding how others experience a situation.

So I shared this story over lunch. My friend loved it and has decided to start noticing things that don’t work and writing them down. I suggested creating a Google doc or Evernote file so that these ideas are captured and can be shared. You see, idea generation is rarely a solitary endeavour. It involves conversation, sharing ideas and collaboration. The more diverse the people you share them with the better.

The other thing I’ve done recently, with thanks to running coach and writer Mario Fraioli, is create something called a Spark File. Not only do I use it to capture needs or problems, but also interesting articles or ideas for blog posts.

The notion that you can’t be creative or come up with ideas is a fallacy – it’s just that many of us don’t know how. The creativity that we had as children has been taught out of us, so we think we can’t. But maybe we just need to be shown a different way?

How do you come up with ideas? Any tips you’d like to share?

Mind your language!

Recently I had the opportunity to spend a day working with two of the world’s best designers. It was an inspirational day, learning from people at the very top of their profession. In sport it would be like being able to spend a day training with Lionel Messi or Eliud Kipchoge (one for the runners!).

During my years of working in and around the design profession, I’ve noticed that with the best designers, everything they do is thoughtfully done. Right down to the words they use.

Designers are more likely to use open questions. Instead of saying, “do you think we could do X?”, they’ll say, “How could we do X?”. It’s a subtle but important difference. The answer to the first question could easily be “No”, whereas the second question invites discussion. Good design is about conversation.

On that day in question, there was a word & phrase that our world class designers kept on using. They were even committed to print on our agenda! What were they? Let me tell you.

The phrase was “How might we…..”. Every question or discussion was prefaced with these three words. How Might We is an actual design technique developed by IDEO to turn challenges or problems into opportunities for design. Each of these words is there for a reason:

  • How invites us to be curious, to be inventive and to imagine
  • Might suggests there could be multiple ways to solve this problem
  • We encourages collaboration

So from now on, whenever you’re faced with a challenge or a problem that needs solving, use these three words. How might we…..

The other word that was used a lot, particularly in the breakout sessions in the afternoon, was Argument. After being set the challenge “How might we…” do something, we were then told to ‘have an argument’ about it within our groups. Not a discussion, but an argument. I’d never seen this approach used before, and will admit that when I run workshops I ask my groups to have a discussion.

I guess the reason for telling us to have an argument, is to encourage people to speak up and have different views. Often a discussion ends up being led by the strongest of the group. I saw this happen at a workshop we did at the University recently – you’re left wondering what ideas weren’t shared and about the possible solutions that never emerged.

However, giving us permission to have an argument, to share our views no matter how diametrically opposed they are, makes sure that we get everything on the table. It was incredibly clever, and I’ll be stealing it for my own workshops. In fact I’ve already tried it a couple of times!

In our busy lives, it might seem inconsequential to spend time thinking about the words we use. However, until the robots take over then we’re designing with and for humans, so using the right language in every situation will make a big difference in the outcomes we achieve.

Do you ask open or closed questions? How might we help you change? Let’s have an argument about words in the comments below!

Getting on with it

As some of you know, I’m a member of the McMillan Run Team, which means I get my training plans from them and have access to coach Greg McMillan. Greg’s one of the best know running coaches in the world, and I’ve learned a huge amount from him in the past few months.

It’s now 7 weeks since I became a marathoner. I’ve been pretty quiet on here since. There’s only so much you can write about the recovery process, however I’ve been following Greg’s advice and slowly allowing my body to recover from the stress of the marathon.

For the first four weeks I followed Greg’s Marathon Recovery Plan. That was a great way to help me ease back into running and by the end of the plan I was feeling recovered and ready to move on.

Next, Greg suggested I do a base training plan – an 8 week program made up mainly of easy runs & long runs that will build a strong aerobic base for the training that follows. As Greg says, we need to do the training to do the training to do the training. Alongside the base work, I’m also doing core strength work three times a week and already I can feel the benefit.

Week two of the plan coincided with us jetting off to Lanzarote for a late autumn week in the sun. Rebecca flew in from London to join us, and as she’s training for a half marathon in March, we agreed to get some runs in. What a difference it made to run in 20c and sunshine!

Bex ran four days, I ended up running every day. The toughest run was my long run last Saturday, 11 miles in the morning sunshine. By the time I reached mile 10 the temperature was well into the 20s and I was struggling with the heat – we’re not used to that in Scotland!

Sunday was supposed to be a rest day, but having looked at the forecast for when we got home I decided to do an easy 5 miles on the Sunday morning – it’s going to be a long, cold & dark winter, so I was keen for one last run in the sun.

This week coming is a recovery week, then we start to add some steady state & leg speed workouts. I’m looking forward to increasing the pace and testing myself a little.

Back in 2015 I did a full season of running but then got back on the bike at Christmas, so I’ve never had the benefit of a winter of training to take into a race season. I’m really excited to do that properly this time around.

How might we travel in the future?

Over the past couple of months I’ve been reading Yuval Noah Harari’s books Sapiens and Homo Deus. It’s been a fascinating deep-dive into our past, present & future.

One of the things it’s made me question is how we use transport – in particular the car. Joanna & I are no different to many families today in that we have two cars. We live in Inchture, work in Dundee, and in my case I do quite a bit of driving to and from meetings. But is owning two cars really necessary? Let’s think about it.

Our two cars spend about 90% of their lives sitting unused. Overnight they sit in our drive. Then we use them to drive to work the next morning – usually a commute of between 15-25 minutes, depending on the traffic. Whilst we’re at work all day they sit idle, before making the journey back home at the end of the day.

A couple of evenings a week we’ll have stuff on; stuff that requires us to travel back in to Dundee or sometimes to Perth. And of course we use them a bit more on the weekend.

But most of the time they sit there unused. Then there’s the cost! The cost of ownership, of fuel, insurance and servicing. It adds up.

If these were business assets, as an accountant I’d be seriously questioning their worth. Yet because we own them personally, and it’s kind of what humans do, then we don’t have that conversation.

We should though, shouldn’t we? Are there different ways we could travel to work? How might we re-design our working days so that only one car is needed? Or none? How will car ownership work in the future?

If you live in a bigger city, then you can already make use of services such as Zipcar where you hire instead of own the car. Not only does it cost a lot less, but it’s also much better for the environment.

How many cars sit idle for 90% of the time? I’d guess around 90%. That can’t be sensible in anyone’s book.

It’s time to reinvent the way we travel. So how might we do that?