Who is Michael Nicholas?

Hi, I’m Michael, my career started as a chartered engineer in the military, where I was one of the first five officers on the ground in the First Gulf War, overseeing the operational deployment of communications ahead of the first Tornado deployments. Later, I gained an in-depth understanding of business in a variety of roles, including as a Director in the strategy consulting practice at Deloitte, and senior leadership experience in Nortel.

Today, I live my passion, helping people to live more fulfilling, successful, expansive and enjoyable lives.

Leaving Corporate Life Behind

It was a tough decision…

After almost 20 years’ business and leadership experience, I left my corporate career behind to start my own business in 2004. This has enabled me to put my deep knowledge and understanding of EI into action to help people to lead themselves and others more effectively, as well as to improve their decision making and general well-being.

Understanding and managing attention is now the single most important determinant of business success. Tom Davenport

Director, Accenture Institute of Strategic Change

Why should Tom Davenport have made a statement as strong as this about something as intangible as attention?

Paradoxically, as things speed up in this age of accelerations, the most important thing we need to do is to learn to slow down, to increase our self awareness, improve our performance, and make better decisions.

Slow Your Mind to Improve Your Performance

Before I share with you my own deep practice and understanding in this area, think of any master when they are “performing” their art: they are always extremely mindful. Picture the wine expert who is about to taste a wine. Don’t they always pause and focus deliberately on what they are about to do? They may well close their eyes, withdrawing from their other senses to cut out distractions, to allow as much brain capacity as possible to be devoted to noticing the taste. Visualise Jonny Wilkinson, the former English rugby union player who at one time held the record as the highest international points scorer, as he prepared to take a penalty kick, and you can see the same thing. Torvill and Dean when they were performing the Bolero in Sarajevo, or athletes practicing their well-rehearsed warm-up or routines are the same. They all display a huge focus on what they are doing right now. They all know, consciously or unconsciously, how to access the state of flow: the positive mood and present moment, relaxed, open awareness that enables us to be aware of distractions without being distracted by them. This state is synonymous with mindfulness, and it is built on the ability to pay attention with intention.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom. Viktor Frankl

Author of the classic book, "Man's Search for Meaning"

Through the mechanism of consciously focusing attention, we literally gain the ability to shift every aspect of our experience from the inside out. It enables us to change our perception of “reality,” because as the brain rewires we will move away from the reactive end of the reaction-response continuum, gradually experiencing the environment as less hostile and more friendly. This is essential for creativity and openness because there is no room for anything new when we are reactive.

In principle, this is not hard to achieve: we need to learn to slow down enough that we can engage ‘the thinker’, to deliberately introduce a pause between any external trigger and when we start to act to handle it. Breathing offers a remarkably powerful way, probably the simplest one I know, by which we can centre ourselves enough to do this. In fact, the benefit is more than just attention, as research is increasingly showing that the way we breathe—fast and shallow when stressed or slow and deep when relaxed—affects mood, stress levels and even the immune system.

Becoming Mindful

What breathing practice can do is to bring you more fully into the present moment, and it is a very simple way of approaching what is commonly these days being called mindfulness.

There are lots of definitions of mindfulness.

My perspective is that mindfulness is about being mentally calm, relaxed, open, accepting, fully present, and non-judgemental. It implies a level of awareness whereby attention can be focused in a very stable way, not easily getting pulled off by distractions. In this state, the intensity of automatic thinking is greatly diminished, and we can get much closer to experiencing the information from our senses in real time. This helps us to become much more flexible in the way we respond to the world, being less restricted by habits, expectations, assumptions or previous experiences. It gives us the ability to notice our experience, and thereby creates the possibility of making changes.

By practicing focusing attention with intention, the very act itself strengthens the part of the brain that enables that focus—setting up the ultimate virtuous cycle.

As such, the ability to pay attention is actually a skill, and once it is well-developed it is expressed as mindfulness. High performance requires that it is developed to a high level, the achievement of which is both underpinned by intentional attention and impossible without it.

This is why I believe, that the ability to improve our level of intentional attention is the ultimate skill. Like all skills, it requires practice, and in this case that practice is usually called meditation.

There is a genius in all of us. We were born with is and it is still available to us by reconnecting to the unimaginable potential of our unlimited minds. Michael Nicholas

– A core principle of my assumptions about people.

My scientific background and inquisitive nature has led me to studying active brain training through meditation, accessing parts of my brain associated with high levels of creativity and learning. Over 15 years of study and practice in this field positions me uniquely to develop and apply emotional intelligence learnings in the real world. My dedication and progress can be evidenced by:
Independent brain scans taken whilst meditating (as shown) indicating that my brain activation puts me in the top 0.5% of advance meditators.
The completion of nearly 100 days of silence on meditation retreats, much of it under the guidance of a Buddhist monk.
My regular meditation practice of between 1.5 and 2 hours per day, every day.
Extensively reading on the subject and extend my knowledge in areas relating to healthy living and well-being.
EEG of my brain achieved during a very short (4 min) meditation, showing activation of delta frequencies normally associated with states of complete unconsciousness.

In the 1940s, if you had told your friends that you planned to take some exercise, the likelihood is that they would have looked at you strangely. Today, practicing mindfulness through meditation often get the same reaction. However, I believe that is about to change rapidly as people become aware of what scientific study has already proven: meditation is as important to having a healthy mind as exercise is to maintaining a healthy body.

My clients benefit from my own deep learnings, gained from both extensive study and extended practice, which I apply to my coaching, workshop insights, public speaking and writing.

Published Author

Decision making used to be all about applying your experience…

But doing the same as you have always done (i.e. standing still in a dynamic world) is no longer an option. My most recent book, “The Little Black Book of Decision Making”, highlights, through rich insights and stories, the modern days skills you need in decision making (sprinkled with emotional intelligence, creativity and mindfulness). These capabilities must be programmed into the subconscious mind to become your new modus operandi, but how can this be achieved?

The book offers many powerful steps to achieve best practice in modern leadership. It was published by Capstone in July 2017, and received an nomination in the “Best Personal Development Author and Book of the Year” category at the 2018 Best You Awards (which recognise the most talented individuals and organisations shaping personal and professional development).

 

To download the Introduction and Chapter 1 (no email required):

The word ‘little’ in the title of this book is deceiving. The book is jam-packed with thoughts and insights that will transform your understanding of decision making, demonstrating that there is a lot more to it than: doing it on a whim, with gut instinct or as some kind of knee-jerk reaction, but that a purely rational approach won’t get you there either. Michael diligently covers the whole bandwidth – from learning from mistakes and breaking the rules, all the way to how mindfulness awareness can reshape decision making abilities. Kai Boschmann

Chief Marketing and Communication Officer, International SOS

My first contribution, “Being The Effective Leader”, was published by Life Success Publishing in 2008. It examines the inside out nature of leadership development and how influence can be increased.
A great book, and important book for it convincingly states the crucial fact that true leadership comes from inside ourselves, if we have the courage to look; not from business schools – or books, except this one. Sir John Whitmore

Author of Coaching for Performance

Emotional Intelligence and its application to leadership in all its guises—engagement, decision making, teamwork, vision, change, integrity, communications, resilience, etc.—is my passion, and I am dedicated to maintaining my expertise and thought leadership in the area. It’s a joy to share what I’ve learnt with others, helping them lead less stressful and more productive lives, at work and/or in play.

The genius is within you.

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