TVC081 Paddling With Knives

The Vitality Coach Podcast and TV Episode 81 Paddling With Knives TVC081 Paddling With Knives


Paddling With Knives. 

Why conviction is crucial for success, taking leaps of faith and how to create a culture where fear of failure does not exist.I took this to The Panel. A new set of episodes with friends of mine and thought leaders Stephen Scott Johnson (author of Emergent) and Mark Truelson (Mr Disruption). 

On this episode we talk about how to stop making lots of noise without actually doing anything and to be successful in business and in life you need to be able to lead from the front. 4 Steps to turn yourself around to take leaps of faith and lean in to the fear for greater rewards.


What does is mean to be paddling with knives, how can you stop the strive and start the thrive.

  1. Identifying those around you who make a lot of noise but don’t get a lot of things done
  2. Identifying your own road blocks and fear of failure

What to do when you feel like when people around you, or yourself are really, really busy, but nothing’s happening?

Paddling With Knives – Where’s that analogy from?

It’s actually a surf analogy. When you’re going into a massive, big wave, and, instead of doing big strokes, with nice, conscious effort, you’re paddling with your hands like knives,  sideways instead of pulling through the water. Which means creating a lot of fuss and not a lot of movement.

Usually, this is caused by a sense of fear, or a sense of needing to hold back. So how does that relate to every day life. When people create a lot of noise and activity but are not actually getting anywhere, being productive or delivering on what they promise.

What could be holding your team or you back? Lets start with a corporate environment.

More organisations than we realise are actually experiencing this inertia, and part of the deeper problem.

It’s like the iceberg, this is just the surface. That whole lack of momentum and a stickability is just because there’s a deeper incongruence of purpose between what lights up individuals and the strategic vision or direction of the organisation that they work in.

In my experience, the only way to help to get some kind of momentum, cohesion around a purpose. Stephen Johnson: 


Removing the Fear and Creating a Safe Space To Thrive

Create an environment where people can contribute together to actually design what that purpose looks like.

If you’re not sure, just ask.

“As a company, even though you’ve got ‘purpose’, you still have to have a way of checking that people aren’t pretending they’re all over it and getting things done.  Make it safe for people to say they are not sure what you want or how to deliver”

Ask those really tough questions:

  1. How do our various skills contribute to bringing that to life?
  2. Is there a complex problem that intersects with our business in society?
  3. Are we suffering from legacy systems and processes that are, as Simon Sinek would say, bad for business and bad for people. Is that going on?
  4. Nikki F.: Yeah, and that means people can hide in between the gaps then, right? And I think is a disruptive leadership thing as well, is that you’ve got to call people out when they’re making a fuss with no traction.

Having worked with corporates nearly all my life, I’m always fascinated that a lot of this comes to the environment, that we should provide for our employees, that it seems that we’re playing not to lose, rather than playing to win, and I think there’s a real fear that comes with this. Mark Truelson

Anything that comes with disruption, we’d rather not go about it, because we don’t want that pain associated with not being successful. Those who do it really well, provide that environment where we’re playing to win, and, if we lose along the way, that’s okay.


So what’s next when you or others are Paddling With Knives and not committing to the task or having the courage to try?

Step 1: Recognise your own behaviour

Recognise in yourself, are you turning up, or are you contributing? Are you showing up, or you adding value? We have to make sure that you take individual accountability first. So, if you’re a leader and you identify someone in your family, or your business who you think is just showing up, then make sure that you demonstrate what contribution looks like, and make sure you’re clear with people what commitment looks like.

Step 2: Ensure there is room to try and support for mistakes – learn and grow

One of the challenges is that business operations are, typically, quite hierarchical, and we’re seeing a very dynamic, more paradigm shift in the world towards cultures that are leaner, more connected, more agile in the way that they generate ideas in value, so we’re seeing less of the big design strategies, and more of the little sparks and ripples that actually.

  • Adopt the test, fail, learn and adapt approach to getting stuff done.

When you approach change, or innovation, or growth in that way, what happens is you end up with greater flexibility. David Kelley from IDEO talks about that, about that whole culture of failing faster and then learning from that. 

Step 3: Understand the mixed DNA in your teams and our day to day landscape:

There’s a younger, agile group that are coming through the workforce, but we’ve got more established leaders that just don’t have the tools to be that flexible  because they’ve been trained in a different landscape. So here’s some tips to find your blend:

  • Try Reverse mentoring. A leader of the business having the courage to seek out information from some of the young up and comers just to keep themselves sharp and have that bravery.
  • Encourage the element of failure, and that failure can work. As long as you’re putting yourself up to bat. Like they say with Babe Ruth, got the most home runs, but the most strike outs, and that’s something that should be rewarded as well.
  • Be able to contribute effectively and in a sustainable way, you need to know what lights you up.
  • Know how and what you bring, and what you have to offer your business is actually worthwhile.
  • Getting over the fear of rejection is a big part of that, so don’t be afraid to actually bring who you are to your workplace.

So, no more being invisible, actually contribute with passion and vitality. And the other thing would be to seek out like minded individuals. So, find other people. Leaders can come from anywhere in an organisation. The new leadership is about contribution and service that is aligned with a higher purpose, so find other people that actually give a sh&t and want to actually contribute to something bigger than the individual.

Show up and bring your A game. Bring your personality into the office and figure out what that is. And the second this is find leadership at all levels.

Step 4: Blend the risk with the reward – try to act with a level of courage but also conviction for what you are doing.

If you’re a founder or an entrepreneur, and you’re constantly having to create your vision, sometimes then it’s a lonely road, so don’t be afraid to look outside the box or around the corners.

We must be our personal brand, so you must be able to give it a go and do your research, get informed and ask for expert help.

On a closing note: don’t loose your ability to have a go, and with a sense of drive, and passion, and conviction, comes results, fun, vitality, and a youth in your thinking and delivering.

Collectively to encourage you to create a safe environment, whether it’s your kids, or your friends, to not challenge people when they come and say, “This is really difficult,” but say, “Tell me more about it,” and then we create an environment where people are going to disrupt, they’re going to step up, they’re going to bring their personality, and they’re going to contribute.

Remember it’s about evolution not resolutions.

Special Thanks to Stephen Scott Johnson and Mark Truelson for their time on the show.   This is constantly evolving and so is my show. So I always love thee feedback and the appreciation to commit to getting you content that creates a connection and conscious tips to take away and deploy immediately. As always your reviews and feedback  – plus topic Q’s are greatly appreciated. 

Yours in Vitality


PS Thanks for bearing with us on the sound on the podcast  for this episode – we hope you have enjoyed this edition and would love a review. CLICK the image for steps. 

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Nikki Fogden-Moore Clients Corporate and Speaking