Living with the enemy
After giving me directions to his beautiful Kilmacolm home over the telephone, personal development guru Jack Black assures me that I will get lost somewhere along the way. Having seen Black talk on a number of occasions in the past I decide to adopt his ethos of positive mental attitude and assure my colleagues at the office before I depart that I will be sitting in Jack’s hillside cottage within the hour.
Twenty years ago if anybody had told you to adopt a positive mental attitude chances are you wouldn’t have a clue what he or she were talking about. But now, that phrase, along with others such as ‘personal development’, ‘right brain/left brain thinking’ and ‘thinking outside the box’ are what many people in the legal sector have built their careers around.
In most part that is thanks to Jack Black, who during the last decade and a half has blazed a trail across the UK, Europe and beyond by supplying business professionals with the tools and techniques they need to allow them to meet the various challenges that work, and indeed, life in a broader context throws at them.
But now Black is back (not that he ever went away) with a new, and he believes improved, take on his previous teachings as he prepares to host his new Mindstore for Business course in Glasgow next month.
Black explains why he chose to go back to the drawing board and re-write much of his Mindstore programme: “When I started out doing this my work was seen as being pretty weird and wonderful, but I built my reputation on delivering a very specific training programme based around setting goals, stress management and achieving success. But during that time the world has changed and people have changed too. Back then if I had asked a room of strangers to close their eyes for me they would have asked ‘what’s going on here?’ But now people have the confidence in you to close their eyes for you almost immediately and let you take them where you want to go. Ultimately that means I can teach people my tools and techniques much quicker now than I could before and we can do more things and push people further.”
In recent years Jack’s work has changed significantly and he says that his new Mindstore for Business course is now teaching people a range of tools and techniques that will enable them to deal with destructive and negative emotions immediately on the spot, something which is often crucial for the marketing and creative industries where thinking and reacting on your feet is so crucial.
Black has been able to develop ground breaking new techniques as the understanding of the psyche - what drives people forward and ultimately what holds them back from achieving success - has improved in recent years.
“There are really five characteristics that we work on during the course: stress management, positive mental attitude, sense of direction and right and left brain thinking. The fifth characteristic has emerged in more recent years and that is the awareness of emotional intelligence.
“Being aware of emotional intelligence is a very important thing. We really did not have methods to manage emotions until quite recently, but now we can. Some people become so challenged by anxiety that they just do not perform well in given professional situations. Now we have certain tools and techniques to get rid of that very quickly indeed.
“Dissipating anger is also something that people can be taught to do very quickly and in a controlled way. Anger is very destructive in business and to the people around you, so managing anger is something that you can now deal with instantly by using our various tools and techniques rather than trying to force it down until it comes out elsewhere later.
“Another classic emotion in business is envy. Envy is a very destructive emotion to have in business, particularly here in Scotland, where I think we as a nation have a big problem with envy. There is a difference between jealousy and envy. Jealousy is the sort of emotion where you look at someone and what they have got and you want it too. You wish you had it, which can be a fairly healthy emotion. For example if I see someone with a particular skill then you might wish you had that skill too. Where envy differs from jealousy is when you want the skill that person has, but you don’t want them to have it. You hate him because he has it. That can be very destructive. Envy can destroy a lot of relationships in business. The envy thing can overtake people and they can become a destructive influence, but people can learn to manage these emotions quickly.”
Black has worked in virtually ever-professional sector in the 15 years he has been delivering the Mindstore programme and says that despite every type of audience being different everyone can learn and benefit from learning the Mindstore tools.
“In the marketing and communications world creative thinking is critical. The advertising and marketing world is fast and furious and the stress levels are through the roof, so this stuff that I am teaching now is critical for these people. You can feel the energy when you walk through these places, but how do you pick yourself up after you have just worked flat out on a pitch and lost it? It’s tough, but with our new tools you can do it much easier. You would always update the software on your computer, so why would you not update the software on your brain?”
Understandably, the prospect of putting all your people onto a Mindstore personal development course might sound daunting, but Black is realistic about the best way to introduce staff to a development course which some may view as intimidating or even a waste of their precious time.
“The best way to introduce your business to this stuff is with a ‘softly softly’ approach,” advises Black. “How I like to go about working with people is to perhaps initially meet the management team and take them through a two hour workshop to get from them an idea of where they are at. They can get used to me, I get used to them and I can find out what the issues are that their business faces. I find that it is best if we are led by the people that are actually going to receive this training and not those that have it forced upon them by their management.”
Black is also realistic about quantifying the tangible benefits that his new Mindstore for Business course can bring to firms.
He says: “It’s difficult to measure the tangible impact that this stuff has on a business and its people. Nobody has ever really been able to track that impact accurately. One company I worked with, Leyland Trucks, measured its success by noting how many of their people were still using the techniques three years after we did the training course. There is lots of anecdotal stuff, such as a woman that I worked with ten years ago recently contacting me to say she has just been given her own TV series, she has reached her goal that she set with me ten years ago and has used the tools to get there. There are endless people that I have worked with that are now the boss of the company or have reached the top of their field from sports stars to corporate people. If people use the techniques you will see a shift in culture and you will be giving people tools that allow them to perform better, able to listen and communicate better and be more creative in their approach to work.”
Black says that anyone in any field can benefit from his new Mindstore for Business course, but those working in the challenging media and marketing arenas can use the tools to their best ability.
“We are all performers essentially. We all have a degree of mental thinking and rehearsal to do before we approach anything such as a pitch or presentation to a client. But, if you can do that mental rehearsal in a relaxed state of mind, as we demonstrate as part of the programme, you can prepare better, so your end performance is better. If in the middle of a pitch and things are happening that you had not anticipated then there are tools we can give you to use in that situation. It is about processing your brain to the possible outcomes. Even techniques for working with clients that you don’t necessarily like are available.”
Before closing the interview, I ask Black for the one piece of advice that he would like to offer readers of The Drum: “The first thing is to be very clear about what you want to achieve and not listen to those little voices in your own head, or someone else telling you that you can’t have it,” he says. “Once you have figured out what you want to achieve, don’t worry too much about the ‘how’ you’re going to achieve it because it is the ‘how’ question that puts most people off. You must focus on why you want that particular thing and you will achieve it. The ‘how’ always shows up in the end. Keep focused on your dream and eventually the other part of your psyche, the one telling you that you couldn’t do it, will eventually get in tune with you and stop doubting you. It gets you over hurdles.”
And talking of hurdles, I found Jack’s Kilmacolm cottage with no obstacles whatsoever – this positive mental attitude stuff really works y’know.
Jack Black will host his new Mindstore For Business course at the Radisson SAS Hotel in Glasgow on 10 and 11 October. The Island event is being held on 22 and 23 October at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. For further details please visit www. mindstore.com.