10 Things I learned from my mentor, Michel Vallier (2/3)

This articles is the second one of a series of three. It follows the first part.

5) “Ne jamais passer à la suite avant d’avoir terminé son étape.

“Don’t move on to the next step until you have completed the previous one.”

In a world of distraction, one of the great diseases of our time is skipping. I can do that a lot: skip from one training program to another, from one method to another. Another word for this disease is the shiny object syndrome. The bright side is that you develop an agile mind and effective adaptability skills (see my article on The Art of Adaptability). Yet, there is also a price to pay. As Shirzad Chamine talks about in Positive Intelligence, if you dig a well to find water, and stop digging to start another well, you might end up digging 1000 holes, but still not finding a single drop of water.

Another author, Jon Acuff, wrote a whole book with a title that summarizes this principle: Finish: Give Yourself the Gift of Done.

In our trainings, we would end an intense day, and trainees would feel tired from all the movement, challenges, insights, fun, and also uncomfortable moments. They would be ready to go home (or back to their workplace for some – to check in with all the work that they had missed during that day of training – proof that they really needed to strengthen their organization skills). I would take a look at the training room, and more often than not, I would notice that it looked like a battlefield. So either I would ask the trainees to observe the room and see what they noticed, and have them clean up the room before we left. Or, I would let them slip off, and take a video of the room, to start the next day with a reflection on what they leave behind them…

Don’t move on to the next step until you have completed the previous one.

Completion can be measured in two ways:

Objectively and Subjectively.

Objectively, you know you have hit your mark, reached (or exceeded!) your target, that you have completed your milestone or delivered your project. That is simple.

What about some ongoing projects, or tasks? How do you know when it is good enough?

First, know that if you are trying to bring each of your projects to 100% of perfection, you are being highjacked by your Perfectionist saboteur. To learn more on Saboteurs and how they mess with your thinking and derail your life, have a look at Positive Intelligence. You can learn more and take the test to find out which are your top saboteurs here.

Instead of wanting to make everything 100% perfect, select and target the 20% of your projects that you want to bring to a High Level of Excellence, and focus your perfectionism on these. The other 80% can be good enough.

Second, learn how to know when a project feels complete.

For instance, when I write these articles, I use both:

To get myself to write, I start with a target of writing at least 800 words in an hour. Once I have hit that mark (objective completion of my task), I know I can stop.

The other day, though, I wrote an article that was 700+ words, and for some reason, I had nothing more to say on the subject. I relaxed a bit, tried to push through a little, but nothing came out. I checked-in with myself (to see whether my task felt complete subjectively), asking myself:

“Do I feel complete with this?”

The answer was a clear Yes.

And I stopped writing.

What is a task / project that you are wondering about?

How will you know when it is complete?

How will you know how to bring it to a completion that feels good to you?

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

6) “Tout donner, ne rien garder.

“Give everything, keep nothing.

Michel was a very generous person. He was generous with his time, with his attention, with his wisdom, and with his love. After long days of training, he would still have the energy to have dinner with the trainees, or take the time to talk with a director.

I would do that sometimes too, but most of the time, I felt so wiped-out and drained from all the extraversion I was putting in the trainings, that I would get a light dinner and go straight to my hotel room with a shower, a book and to bed. (That was early in my career. Since then, I have learned to facilitate workshops in my own way: more introvert with more silence, calm, and peace.)

Michel was generous in his way of training. He would give all the tools he had, share everything he had learned and experienced, to help the trainees become the best professional version of themselves. He would create games and animations, that would range from the most challenging and stressful games to teach time management, leadership and team organization, to the sweetest moments such as the “Chaud Doudou” (“Warm Teddy Bear”) where participants would pass to each other a real teddy bear, with little notes of appreciation for each other in a warm, cosy and loving atmosphere.

Michel was, in a way, teaching me what Rich Litvin later taught me later on: “Hide nothing, hold nothing back.”

Michel was so eager to teach me and train me, that he found a way to convince a client to have me attend a training delivered by Michel, so I could learn (and I am assuming that the client paid for my expenses as well).

It is hard to find other examples of something so intangible as Generosity. But there is a spirit of this principle that you can make your own.

Image by Peter H from Pixabay

For this principle, however, I would like to offer a moderating principle too:

As important it is to give, it is important also to ask, to receive, and actually, also learning to keep. Keep one’s word, keep secrets, keep money, …

And, it is important to know when not to give.

“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”

Matthew 7:6

Give when the other is ready to receive. If you think they are not ready yet, tell them, and let them know what they need to do to be ready for you to share the knowledge with them.

7) On being a Missionary

I don’t recall any specific saying from Michel on this principle. But I have a story to tell:

Michel was a true Missionary. In fact, when he was young, he wanted to go to the seminar, and become a real missionary to go preach in Africa. He was raised in a Jesuit school. For some reason, he ended up training at the Mime Marceau school in Paris as well as the Bouglione circus, and collaborating in theatre with playwright, director and filmmaker Roger Planchon. He became a Missionary of another type.

One day, I had a meeting with Michel, before a training I had to conduct in Iraq. The young, smart and ascending trainer that I was wanted to negotiate to have a “risk premium” on my training fees. I knew other companies did that, and I thought it would be great if I could have that too. I thought it was a smart move, even though in reality, I didn’t fear for my safety. To this day, I remember as Michel and I, sat in the Train Bleu café, at the Gare de Lyon in Paris, and Michel looked at me and said:

“Look, John (he called me like that, as all my trainees in the Middle-East did).

I understand we are sometimes training in challenging areas. But I don’t care. If it needs to be, I will wear a bullet-proof vest and still carry out these trainings in a war zone. We can plan for safety, we can minimize risks. We are liaising with our local partners, the local HRs and the Head Office, but there will be no safety premium.”

These words brought a vivid vision to me, of Michel with a bullet-proof vest and a helmet, training in the middle of the battlefield.

This image stays with me to this day, to show me that this was a Man on a Mission, a Real Missionary.

How about you, what Mission are you on?

What cause is so important to you, that would have you carry it out in the middle of a battlefield (with or without a bulletproof vest) ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: