E69 - Productivity hacks from the Master of Implementation, Peter Cook

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Many leaders work with me on their productivity. It’s a fundamental for leading Self and essential to master if we are going to expand our impact. Getting stuff done, the RIGHT stuff is every leader’s challenge. In today’s workplaces, our biology is not equipped to thrive in conditions where our survival is mostly assured. So we’ve got to hack ourselves and make use of resources to counter our biological equipment. Stay focused when we’d prefer to chase the dopamine thrill of distraction. This delightful interview with Peter Cook, one of the most inspiring leaders I know and have had the pleasure to learn from, is a great resource for being best version of yourself, and getting cool stuff done.

In his book, The New Rules of Management, Pete lays out the process and principles for getting the right work implemented. The interview offers these highlights:

  • What people get wrong with productivity
  • Why projects are fundamental to business success and great workplace cultures
  • How the modern resume will list projects not just workplaces as indicators of professional nous and contribution
  • How to use projects to build habits
  • The inner game of productivity
  • How to build projects in to your personal life
  • What an Ishaya monk’s vows can do for productivity and quality of life
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Peter Cook is speaker and mentor, and a best-selling author with eight books under his belt. These include The New Rules of Management, The Thought Leaders Practice and the E-Myth Bookkeeper, which he co-authored with Michael E. Gerber.

He is also the CEO at Thought Leaders, and the Dean of Thought Leader Business School, a third dan black belt in Aikido, an Ishaya Monk and the proud father of Scarlett and Amelie.

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TRANSCRIPT:

Announcer:       Welcome to the Zoe Routh leadership podcast, your source of strategies and insights to make you a better leader. Influence, improve, inspire.

Zoë Routh:         Hi. This is Zoe Routh, and you know what? I have one of my most favoritist of peoples in the whole wide world on the podcast and webcast today. It's Peter Cook. And Pete is a speaker and mentor, my mentor, too, and a best selling author of, get this, eight freaking books under his belt, and these include The New Rules of Management, which we're gonna talk about explicitly today, The Thought Leaders Practice, and the E-Myth Bookkeeper, and notice this name drop. He co-authored with Michael E. Gerber of the E-Myth Fame.

Zoë Routh:         So he's a bigwig. He is also the CEO of Thought Leaders, the dean of Thought Leaders Business School, which I've been a participant and proud member for the last three and a bit years. He is a third dan black belt in Aikido, an Ishaya monk, and we'll hopefully talk a little bit about that. And the proud dada of Scarlet and Emma Lee. Welcome Mr. Peter Cook.

Peter Cook:        Welcome. I'm just gonna actually switch my router.

Zoë Routh:         You're switching your router I think. Your connection is crap. Did you just switch your router? Is that what you just did?

Peter Cook:        I did. And now I should be better and not freezing so much.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. Cool.

Peter Cook:        So from the top. Thank you so much for having me, Zoe. It's an absolute honor and a pleasure to be chatting to you on your very own podcast. How cool is that? You've got a podcast.

Zoë Routh:         It is pretty cool. It's been going for just over a year now, and it's becoming one of my favourite modalities in terms of sharing and thinking, major concepts that help us progress in our leadership and our work, because I've been interviewing some amazing folks and learning heaps myself along the way. And I love listening to podcasts.

Peter Cook:        Over a year.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah. Over a year. Yeah. I think this is episode 69.

Zoë Routh:         You're surprised.

Peter Cook:        It's taken you a year to invite me on.

Zoë Routh:         And there's the little dig. Yep. You are episode 69. So I've talked to 68

Peter Cook:        Wow.

Zoë Routh:         ... Not quite 68 other people, because some of them were just with me, but yeah.

Peter Cook:        Congratulations. That's prolific.

Zoë Routh:         Thanks, Pete. Yeah. It's prolific and productive, which is a very nice segue, thank you very much.

Peter Cook:        Awesome direction too.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. So we're here to talk about the new rules of management, otherwise known as implement. And you are the master of implementation. It's one of your foundational pieces for your thought leadership. In other words, how to get people to get stuff done. So you might have lofty aspirations but how do you buckle down and actually deliver on that. So what led you to getting obsessed with implementation?

Peter Cook:        Yeah. I've been reflecting on this for weeks sent you through me through an email. And I'm not actually sure. And I was thinking, "How could anybody actually not be obsessed with implementation?" So you talk about teaching other people how to do that and helping other people get stuff done, but obviously it starts with me and how do I get stuff done. But I think anybody who wants to be successful in anything has to have a bit of an obsession about actually getting things done and getting things finished. I'm not sure where it actually came from, but it's been there for a while. And I guess for me it was an obsession about how do I get things done and coming from if I'm gonna be successful at anything, that's something I'm gonna need to master.

Zoë Routh:         It's surprising how many people get stuck, though. I have a lot of clients, and they want accountability, and they want breakthroughs in their blocks and so on. And they're not any less ambitious than any other people. They just find themselves not doing stuff. So in your work around this, what have you found are the mistakes that people make when it comes to implementation and productivity?

Peter Cook:        The biggest one is that we blame ourselves. So we think that productivity, implementation, success even, is internal. And when I don't get something done, there's something wrong with me. So I say, "All right, I want to get fit and I want to exercise," and I join a gym and then I don't go. And then my internal conversation is, "I'm weak. I'm ill-disciplined. There's something wrong with my character. There's something wrong with me, and here's more evidence for why I can't do it." And I think that it's actually much more about what we put around ourselves. We're not designed to implement long-term projects.

Zoë Routh:         What do you mean by that?

Peter Cook:        So I mean, I design in inverted commerce. If you look at how we've evolved, we've evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to survive in a savanna. So, that's what we're good at. That's what our biology's set up for, our neuro, our brain, you know, neuro chemistry is really good for dealing with a tiger crossing our path. A whole lot of things are gonna kick into place to help you, if you're walking down the street and a tiger walks out of a shop. Your adrenaline's gonna get pumped in. Your digestion will slow down. Your fight or flight response is gonna be there straightaway. That's what we're designed to do, not to run a 12-month project to get fit.

Zoë Routh:         Right.

Peter Cook:        I think about a bit like, I'm a child of the '80's.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah. Me too, bro.

Peter Cook:        And Wednesday nights my mum, she's a psychiatrist now, and she was studying child psychiatry when I was a kid. And Wednesday nights she was at university doing that. So that was the night that me and my two brothers and my dad were on our own. And it was A-Team night.

Zoë Routh:         I love the A-Team!

Peter Cook:        So we always watched the A-Team on Monday night. And many of your listeners who aren't familiar, the plot was the same every week. Essentially they would need to rescue some, typically a damsel in distress, and they would get caught by the bad guys and get locked up in a shed with all the bad guys on the outside with the damsel and the machine guns. And what you'd want in that case ideally is a tank.

Zoë Routh:         Oh, yeah. Bulldoze out of there.

Peter Cook:        Of course, there's never a tank sitting in the shed. There's always a tractor, some welding equipment in the corner, some steel plates, some hydraulic gear and a pile of watermelons. And so what they would do is weld the metal onto the front of the tractor, hook up the hydraulic gear, grab the pile of watermelons, then come blasting out of the shed in this tractor, shooting watermelons at the bad guys so that nobody actually dies and rescuing the damsel in distress and heading off into glory.

Peter Cook:        I think of ourselves a bit like that. We've got to hack all these things on around ourselves to get better at this. So, rather than blaming ourselves for not being ideal for this, it's better to say, "All right. I can accept this is not what I'm designed for. So, what are the things that I can put around myself? What are the external structures that are gonna make me better at implementing things, at getting long term projects fulfilled?" And the one you mentioned, accountability, is one of those things. Accountability is an external structure that can help you do that.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. So, poo pooing accountability is not the right thing to do. But, is that a water bottle with little purple hearts on it? Is that like your daughter's water bottle?

Peter Cook:        I can't believe this is the second time in a week that I've caught grief for this. They're little teardrops. It's a glass water bottle, 'cause our friend said I'm not allowed to drink out of plastic.

Zoë Routh:         Okay.

Peter Cook:        He just bought a glass one but it's purple. So, I think I perhaps do need a more masculine water bottle.

Zoë Routh:         Yep. Anyway, it's cute. I'm glad it's glass. That's good.

Peter Cook:        It is.

Zoë Routh:         So, example of how to hack yourself to support yourself is by having resources that support your biology and plastic is one of the things that is detrimental to your biology. So, I have a BPF free water bottle as part of my strategy.

Peter Cook:        Nice. That's why you brought that back. A little tenuous but you got there.

Zoë Routh:         So, accountability. It's a useful thing and if we're talking about hacking the A-Team and bolting things on and setting ourselves up to support, getting ourselves out of the Kalahari desert or the Sahara, or wherever it is, I'm sure I would not survive more than a day in. I'd get fried and starve and whatever. In any case, I get your point, though. We're designed for survival, not for long term plotting.

Peter Cook:        Yeah. And actually thriving in an environment where our survival is now a given.

Zoë Routh:         That's right.

Peter Cook:        You or me or anyone listening to this, chances are we have shelter, we have food, we have clothing. The basics are all taken care of.

Zoë Routh:         Yep.

Peter Cook:        And now it's a whole different game that we haven't evolved for.

Zoë Routh:         So, if you're designing the perfect ecosystem to support a professional who's going to be uber productive, we've got accountability is one piece. What else is there, Pete?

Peter Cook:        There's projects, actually creating a long term project that has milestones and has outcomes and looks very specific. So, rather than kind of nebulous long term intents, a project, and I talk about projects that matter. Something, an outcome that's going to light you up. Another is the right support. So, who are the people around you that who are helping you? Who are your mentors, who is on the team? Yeah. Not doing it on your own. We're social animals. And the right frame works, the right environment, the right physical environment, the right autonomic environment for our methodology.

Zoë Routh:         So, that's an interesting one. This fact that we're social animals. And I've been working a lot in this space of looking at remote workers who are the antithesis of that, basically. So, you're alone in your own work environment and yet there's this need to be social. Liam Martin, who I interviewed earlier was talking about this is one of the struggles he has with his remote working force, is this fighting against loneliness piece. In your experience, in getting the social context, in getting the social support around you, what does that look like and can it be adapted for remote workers?

Peter Cook:        Yeah, we had our, interestingly, last week our team, which we've got people all over Australia and in the Philippines and other people in Canada, it's been a challenge for us too. We had our first production day last week, where just for the day we got everybody who's in Australia together. And the overseas team dialled in on Zoom, kind of like this, and had a day that was just dedicated to moving projects forward. So, we called it a production day rather than a strategy day or a team day.

Zoë Routh:         Okay.

Peter Cook:        But there was an enormous benefit in terms of the social side of things too. And it's something that I've realized that I've kind of been remiss, not doing up until now.

Zoë Routh:         Bringing people together face to face, you mean?

Peter Cook:        Yeah.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        And been really remote by the founder of 38 Signals, whose name has just escaped me.

Zoë Routh:         It's not Eric Fried, is it? Or is it somebody else?

Peter Cook:        It's Fried, but I don't think it's Eric.

Zoë Routh:         Okay.

Peter Cook:        But you've got the right person, yes. And yeah, he runs a remote team as well and talks about some of the challenges with that. And it's a really good resource for anybody who's doing that and it's something that we've decided that once a year we're going to bring everybody together for a few days. And then do regular virtual work days together as well, where people who are located will come together and we'll be electronically linked up.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. It comes back to first principles, like, we kind of just glossed over it so far. This projects that matter piece, how do you know it's a project that matters? Or whether it's just business as usual. What are the key qualifiers, if you like, for projects that matter?

Peter Cook:        Good question. For me it's, does it kind of make my heart sing a little bit? Can I get juiced about it? In a business we're going to have tasks and there are things that are just, you know, there's a one off thing to do and there's systems that we run continually. And then there's the projects, which are the new things that product new outcomes. And as much as possible, I want to shift things further, have things systematised and easy. Have the business as usual be easy to free up as much of my time and head space for the projects as possible.

Peter Cook:        So, there's pushing things back. And then professionally, I think that the projects ... One way to answer this question is, okay, when you look back in 10 years on your career, what are the things you're going to be proud of? What are the things that would make it to your resume? And I think a modern resume is much more about what are the projects that you've done, that you've accomplished, rather than well, I had this accountability and this was my job description. What are the things you can look back and say, "When I was at Apple, I was part of the team that built the first iPod."

Zoë Routh:         Rather than I was just at Apple from 2009 to 2015.

Peter Cook:        Yeah. And this was my job description and essentially these are the systems that I followed. What did you create?

Zoë Routh:         So, do you think if, in the context of modern workplaces, I mean, you and I are thought leaders, we craft our own businesses and our own projects, for folks who are in corporate land, do you think there's still scope to pivot and to have a project based approach to work?

Peter Cook:        I think it's critical. I think if you're a ... The industrial model is somebody else has created the system and then you follow the system. And that's becoming obsolete. If it's a system, the computer's going to be able to do it. Or somebody else, somewhere else will be able to do it cheaper. Or both. And if that's all you're doing is following a procedure, even if it's a high end procedure, if you're a doctor who's doing an operation, following a system, at some point that won't need to be you anymore. If you're a pilot who's taking off following a process for how to take off an airplane and take off an airplane, if you're an accountant following a procedure for how to do a tax return, if you're a lawyer following a procedure for how to grant a contract, there's a lot of training that we've done to do those tasks, but it is still following a system. And in another 10 years or 20 years, those jobs won't exist.

Zoë Routh:         That's right. So, business, the business world is attuned to that or savvy people are attuned to that. What about the public service? What do you think is going to happen there?

Peter Cook:        I have no idea. Give me an example, the public service. That sounds very broad.

Zoë Routh:         It does. Let's say Department of Human Services, which is by all accounts very process oriented. It's there to deliver services that support humans and social security and that kind of stuff. I think I just answered my own question as I'm speaking this. I can imagine that they will need to have projects on the go as well to adapt to the changes in society and to the political landscape. I'm thinking more about the individual worker, though. How can they take control of their workspace? I guess it's about lateral leadership and leadership upwards. Is that-

Peter Cook:        And finding, fighting for what's the bit that matters.

Zoë Routh:         I like that.

Peter Cook:        So, say, here's my whole job and these are the regular things that happen that I need to stay on top of. And these are the systems that I need to follow and that's part of pretty much any role. But then, Google's famous for their 20% time. Saying, all right, these workers can have, it's not all they have, but the workers can have 20% of their time to work on projects that matter.

Zoë Routh:         Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Peter Cook:        And it's kind of doing that yourself, saying okay, this is the stuff that matters and I'm going to fight to make space for that.

Zoë Routh:         Yep.

Peter Cook:        As well as doing whatever else I need to do.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah. I like that. And the other thing that you write about in your book is this whole, you know, project approach to progress, is that you recommend 90 day projects.

Peter Cook:        Yep.

Zoë Routh:         Why 90 days, is my first question? I'm like, why not 62 days?

Peter Cook:        It feels like it's long enough to get something substantial done, but not so long that we can just put it off.

Zoë Routh:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). Okay.

Peter Cook:        So, if it's a 12 month project to write a book, I can start that next week.

Zoë Routh:         What, a year. Can't you just knock one off in 90 days, Pete?

Peter Cook:        Exactly. So rather than have it being 12 months to do it, I would say have a 90 day project. And the 90 day project might not be the final version of the book. But there's much more traction in saying this is what I'm going to get done in the next 13 weeks.

Zoë Routh:         Do you think people overestimate or underestimate what's possible in a 90 day block?

Peter Cook:        They overestimate. People overestimate chronically, what they can do in a week or in a month or in a quarter.

Zoë Routh:         In a day, also.

Peter Cook:        And in a day and in an hour and in a meeting, everything. Except in a decade.

Zoë Routh:         And they underestimate what they do-

Peter Cook:        They underestimate what can get done in a decade.

Zoë Routh:         That's weird.

Peter Cook:        Yeah. But it's, you look back, through the mind experiment, you can look back on your last week and think what are you frustrated that didn't happen? And look back at the last month. But then look at where you were 10 years ago. Look at what you've done.

Zoë Routh:         How old was I? I can't even remember how old I am. Okay.

Peter Cook:        But yeah, if 10 years ago we were having this conversation and say you'd be running a podcast and 68 episodes and have written three books, your last decade is extraordinary.

Zoë Routh:         That's true. Yeah.

Peter Cook:        But, it's not like each week or each month or each quarter feels like that.

Zoë Routh:         That's right. Yeah, okay. Just a leap of fore again. 'Cause often we do these visioning exercises, 10 years imagine yourself, and people often have all these pie in the sky stuff, really we should encourage people to have pie in the sky stuff because if you put it out there, it's likely that you can actually grow into that.

Peter Cook:        Yeah, I think definitely for a decade, by all means. And the risk is that you didn't and much smaller for the next 90 days.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah, okay.

Peter Cook:        So, how we can let ourselves off the hook is to say in 10 years, I'm going for this big thing. And it can be so big that there's nothing you can hold yourself to account for.

Zoë Routh:         That's right, yeah, 'cause it's just too big, can't put your hands around it.

Peter Cook:        Yeah.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. You talk also about recommendation, 90 day projects in your professional life, I get that, and 90 day projects in your personal life. How do you choose a project for your personal life? Is that like, 90 days, lose nine pounds or nine kilos, whatever? Is that the kind of thing or is it imagination in this.

Peter Cook:        It can be whatever. If it's around health, whatever's important to you.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        And part of it too is, I use projects to create habits.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        So, for me now going to the gym is a habit. I've got a personal trainer. So, there's external accountability. But, it's three times a week and doesn't take much willpower anymore for that to happen. And we'll still set projects like what do we want to achieve by when, what do I want to be able to lift, what are we trying to do?

Peter Cook:        But, to actually get it going, like a 90 day project to get that habit up and running. You know what I'm saying? This is a real intense focus for the next 90 days. I want 13 weeks or 39 sessions at the gym by this date. Let me put it up, tick them off. I know that it's a risk that most people join a gym and not go, tell people about it. What are all the things that I can do to give myself the best chance of that happening?

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        Read the research, actually put the sessions in, like what day and what time am I going to go? Pay my trainer so he's there. So, that's a project that I'm looking to use to create a habit. But, that can also have been, like, I'll have projects with my girls that can be ... One of my eight books.

Zoë Routh:         You just had to put that in there right? My eight books compared to your three.

Zoë Routh:         He's just gone off to find it on his bookshelf for those of you who are listening to the podcast instead of the video. And in the video, we have a great view of Pete's mondo microphone. Before we started recording it was like, who's got the biggest and bestest microphone? Pete wins.

Peter Cook:        He doesn't win. I'm trying to find the book.

Zoë Routh:         Where's your project?

Peter Cook:        This was a book that I ... Okay, it's gone. So, the book, which I can't find, is Catsville, I wrote a kid's book with Scarlet. So, I was joking, one of my books is a kid's book.

Zoë Routh:         Oh, you didn't put that in your bio.

Peter Cook:        And we only did 30 copies of it. But, it's my favourite book of the ones

Zoë Routh:         I love this story. So, Scarlet was how old when you started this project?

Peter Cook:        Two.

Zoë Routh:         What? Two.

Peter Cook:        Yeah. And she said she wanted to write a book with me. And I said okay, great. And so, this story just evolved from this one time when we went away and forgot to bring books. We went away for the weekend and forgot to bring any kids books. So, I had to make up a story and she wanted a story about cats. So, I started this story about Catsville. And then she just wanted that every night. We read her books and then she'd want the next update of Catsville. And she would always dictate the plot.

Zoë Routh:         I love this. I love this kid.

Peter Cook:        And anything that didn't work in her life, she would resolve in Catsville.

Zoë Routh:         Okay.

Peter Cook:        So, when she didn't want to go to daycare, which was on Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday, in Catsville, Monday and Tuesday and Wednesday all got old and died.

Zoë Routh:         Wow.

Peter Cook:        So, it just went from Sunday to Thursday so that Catsville didn't have to go to daycare anymore.

Zoë Routh:         She has a strong sense of autonomy, your daughter, I'm guessing.

Peter Cook:        She does. She does. So then, we created the book. And it took two years. But now she's a co-author.

Zoë Routh:         That's awesome.

Peter Cook:        She's a co-author and we get, we create projects together about things that she wants to do and they're obviously, she's now five, but they're projects that are appropriate for a five year old. But, it's still, what are we going to do together that's something that's over time, it's kind of building that muscle for her.

Zoë Routh:         That's awesome.

Peter Cook:        And the cool stuff that we get to do together.

Zoë Routh:         That's really awesome. Did you apply the same principle to get to your third dan black belt in Aikido?

Peter Cook:        I actually did have that, when I started I said I wanted to be a third dan. I heard, when I started someone told me that one in 200 people who start, get to a black belt. And I was like, one in 200. Look around. I'm the one in 200. And then made it actually a project to get to third dan by the age of 40. And I'm fired on that project, it took me till 42.

Zoë Routh:         Are you planning to go ... 'Cause there's more than three dans, right? There's more?

Peter Cook:        Yeah. My teacher, who's now dead, but was one of the original students of our sensei who started Aikido was an eighth dan.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        But, no, when Emmy was born I stopped, decided to take some time off and just training three times a week with two kids, a three year old and a baby wasn't really ... Six months later I realized that I didn't miss it. And that I didn't hurt anymore. Perhaps I'm getting too old for this, time to move on. I'm doing yoga instead now.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. That sounds much more gentle and zen.

Zoë Routh:         I'm curious also, one of the things I wanted to talk to you about is, and it's interesting you started the podcast with this, what's the inner game of productivity and I said, "What's the biggest mistake?" And you said, "People blame themselves." And then proceeded to say productivity is all about external instructors. Is that right? Or is there an inner game that we need to address as well? And if so, what do we do to deal with that?

Peter Cook:        Yeah. Definitely there is an inner game. And it's not the low hanging fruit. I think there's kind of quick wins around external stuff and absolutely there's ... I think of it like the 80/20 rule, 20% is internal and let's work on that. Look at meditation and mindfulness is become kind of the flavor of the month. But the amount of successful people who are good at achieving long term success and fulfilling projects, the amount who have some kind of mind from this practice, is astounding. And I think that's a way of, that's one of the things you can do to win the inner game and quieten the voices that tell are gonna tell you that you're not able to do it. That it is your fault.

Zoë Routh:         Let's talk about the Ishaya, how do you pronounce it?

Peter Cook:        Ishaya.

Zoë Routh:         Ishaya monk practice, 'cause I'm trained basic level in Ishaya practice. You introduced me to this meditation methodology. You've been doing it for how long now?

Peter Cook:        I did the initial course five or six years ago, about three and a half years, been gone three and a half years since I went to Spain and I've been doing it seriously.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. People are going to be curious what does it mean to be a monk? Do you not have sex anymore? Is obviously what people are gonna want to know. Now, we don't need the detail, I just need a yes or no answer to that question. And then, what does it involve and how has that helped your productivity? Not the sex part.

Peter Cook:        So, there are three elements, I've got a relationship with my teacher, my spiritual teacher, a lifelong relationship. I have a meditation practice. For the last three and a half years or a bit more, I've meditated for at least an hour every day.

Zoë Routh:         Is that in one sitting or do you divide it up?

Peter Cook:        No, divide it up.

Zoë Routh:         So, you do three sessions of 20-

Peter Cook:        Two or three sessions, yeah.

Zoë Routh:         Wow. Yep.

Peter Cook:        Ideally, three. But sometimes the middle one, depending on my day, that one doesn't always happen and then I'll just go a bit longer at night. And the third is I've taken vows. So, these are vows of telling the truth and non violence. So, some orders translate that as celibacy. We translate it as self-restraint, which is much better.

Zoë Routh:         I'm down with that.

Peter Cook:        And so, one of our rules, if you like, is we don't have sex outside of a committed relationship.

Zoë Routh:         Okay.

Peter Cook:        But, within a marriage, I'm all good.

Zoë Routh:         Okay. So, why did you decide to become a monk? Why did you take the vows? And why did you subscribe to this? Yes, there's a benefit to productivity. Is there anything else that feeds into what made you choose to do this?

Peter Cook:        No, it wasn't about the benefit to productivity. No, it wasn't. That wasn't the driving motivation. It almost felt like not a decision. When I was in that environment, I was on a one month retreat and that was when I asked to be my teacher, was when I was on a one month retreat. And it was, I guess having a look at the two paths that my life could take, either having this practice or not. The one that called me, if you like, was definitely having this as a practice. And then, given that, I was going to be all in. I didn't want to do this, and for me it's easier to doing it all. If I have a teacher and I've taken these vows, then it's not a decision any more. This is now, the rest of my life is done. I don't need to think about that anymore. It's like I'm married. That's a life long commitment. I don't have to now think about who am I going home with or ... That's all done. There's no more mind space taken up with that.

Zoë Routh:         Mm-hmm (affirmative). So, what have you noticed in your life and world since you made this life long commitment to the Ishaya practice?

Peter Cook:        I think the main thing is from the meditation practice. And it is a practice that's about building the muscle of being more present. So, noticing, when I sit and have my meditation, it's consciously noticing when my mind goes into the future, into the past and bringing it back to the present. But exercising that muscle, then in the rest of my life, makes me more present. So, I'm more present as a dad. I'm more present as a husband. I'm more present as a thought leader. My thinking is better and my speaking is better. Life is just better, being more in the present moment.

Zoë Routh:         Yep. It sounds like a huge benefit to me. That's why I continue to practice.

Peter Cook:        How's your practice going?

Zoë Routh:         I'm once a day, 20 minutes, more often than not. So, I've maintained a practice. I've been trying to work in Qi gong practice following the meditation practice.

Peter Cook:        Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Zoë Routh:         ...As well. I think I need to put that into a project. To have it more. Sort of what I'm building in terms of developing and calming and calming the mind down. It's been two or three years since I've been doing my meditation practice and physiologically what I've noticed, 'cause I check my HRV at the same time as I'm meditating, my heart rate variability, which is an indicator of your nervous system is, my heart rate's gone down, my nervous system strength has gone up. And because I do it over 20 minutes, I notice it shows the drop after 10 minutes. My system is way more relaxed. And for the first year that didn't happen. It just kind of stayed scattered. So, now I can go into that state. And I've got the proof, the measurability of it in my app that I use.

Zoë Routh:         So, I've noticed that just from external resources. But from my inner practice it's just like a little reprieve and just as settling. And I know the busier I am, the more important it is to do it. Even for 10 minutes, is to get some sort of settling. Because I think you're right, that muscle gets developed and so you can get to that state a lot more quickly.

Peter Cook:        Yep.

Zoë Routh:         Has it helped with my productivity? I'm not sure. I think so. I'm a highly productive person as well. I really work on executing and delivering on my projects. I think what it's helped, though, is just take the anxiety out of stuff.

Peter Cook:        Yeah.

Zoë Routh:         That's been a project I've been working on for some time, is to get less out of the head and be present in all things. Absolutely.

Zoë Routh:         So, Pete, I do actually want to ask this question. I know we're getting close to time. One of the vows is speaking the truth. And you and I had a separate conversation around a business matter of mine a while ago, about a month or so ago, and I asked you at the end, "Okay, Pete, thanks for all that structural stuff. What would you do?" And you said, "I would speak the truth." Basically, was the answer.

Peter Cook:        Yep.

Zoë Routh:         And that has really stayed with me in terms of living up to that bar and it's not that easy to live by that standard. Can you speak a little bit about what that means to you and what you found easy and hard about that?

Peter Cook:        Yeah. Once you actually take a vow to tell the truth, what you notice is all the places that you automatically don't.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        So, I was at the gym this morning, and my trainer, says to me, "Ah, can you say hi to Trish for me?" And in the past I would say, "Sure." And maybe I would or maybe I wouldn't. And then I, as I consciously thought about how do I answer that question, can you say hi to Trish for me? If I'm going to actually promise, then I'm gonna have to track it. I'm can't say yes and then just rely on my memory. And then if I'm gonna track it what I need to do is get out my phone and make a note and say I gotta say hi to Trish. And then I think, well, if I'm gonna do that I might as well just text her 'cause that's just as easy. And bloody hell if I'm gonna text her, well he could just text her.

Peter Cook:        So, what I said to him is, "I might. If I remember, I will." And now it's like this ongoing joke that whenever he says, "Say hi to Trish." I'll say, "Yeah, I might."

Peter Cook:        There's this kind of consciousness and knowing and noticing, having paying more attention to what comes out of my mouth. And noticing where an automatic lie ... Again, I remember, we were coming out of a supermarket, it was a couple of years ago and Scarlet wanted to play on the thing that sits outside the supermarket that you put two dollars in and it goes around and around. And I had like the shopping and it was hot and I was trying to get her to go and she was saying, "can I buy this?" And I said, "No, it's broken. Come on, let's go." Where did that come from? The lie was so easy.

Peter Cook:        And I think how it ... There's a rigor that comes from, all right, I'm actually going to be conscious of what comes out of my mouth and not allow lies. Even in the conversation we talked about, if there's a consequence, even if it's difficult, I'm still gonna tell the truth. And how that translates into productivity, is I now have a really high level of trust for myself. If I say this is gonna happen, it's gonna happen. And it means, people around me know, 'cause they've been trained. If I say this is what's gonna happen, they kind of all line up for that because that's how people relate to me. Is that I tell the truth and when I say this is gonna happen, it's gonna happen.

Peter Cook:        And when I declare a project, when I say this is what we're gonna do, then I relate to that like that's the truth. There's some strength to my promise and to my word.

Zoë Routh:         What I've noticed since we've had that conversation, because I really processed that deeply, and took that principle to my engagements and what you think is hard is actually, it makes life easier if you commit to speak the truth-

Peter Cook:        Yeah.

Zoë Routh:         Because you don't have these tentacles of crap hanging of you. You know, where you like fudge things around the edge and there's little residual of guilt and being worried if you're gonna be found out or whatever. It's like all that stuff goes.

Peter Cook:        Yeah, and you don't have to remember who I told what to or did ... Yeah.

Zoë Routh:         Well, I don't tell, I don't think I've told lies like that. Maybe I have. Wait a minute. I probably have if I'm speaking the truth. In any case, committing to not doing that and to actually being honest and above, just makes things so much cleaner. You know? There's no repercussive things. You just show up as authentically as you can, making the decision that you believe is right, with the best of what you know at the time.

Zoë Routh:         Does that make productivity better? Yeah. But I think more importantly, it makes you and your life better.

Peter Cook:        Yeah. One of the nice things that my teacher said about this too, is he said always tell the truth. But he said you can always tell a kind truth.

Zoë Routh:         Yeah.

Peter Cook:        We were at this example, when I was at the meditation retreat and I was having a great time. I thought I would really miss home but I'm actually just enjoying being here. He said, yeah, the kind truth is if Trish says, "Do you miss me? You don't have to say no, I'm having a good ... The kind truth is to say I love you, Babe. I'm really looking forward to seeing you again."

Zoë Routh:         That's called deflection. He calls it a kind truth. There you go. That's a political sidestep. Yeah.

Peter Cook:        Yes.

Zoë Routh:         I call them poo bombs. You can speak the truth and you can do it like you just dump something on the table and it splatters everywhere or you can be kind in the delivery. And that takes presence, that takes the ability to be centered to be able to do that. Hence, meditation, key.

Zoë Routh:         Pete, we're gonna have to wrap it up. That was delightful. Thank you so much for carving out space in your calendar to be here with me to share your wisdom.

Peter Cook:        My absolute pleasure. I'm honoured to be your 68th podcast. Always a pleasure to talk to you.

Zoë Routh:         I think you might be episode 69. So, you might even get the magic number 69. I'll check on that for you.

Peter Cook:        That would be a double winner.

Zoë Routh:         Thanks, Pete.

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