Tag Archives: Gold Medal

Wonderful Jordan

Driving through Wadi Rum

Driving through Wadi Rum

Last week we took a short trip to Jordan, especially inspired to visit Petra, one of the Seven New Wonders of the World.

We wanted to see as much of the  as possible during the week, so we hired a car on arrival at the Amman Airport. First we drove north to Jerash, then south via the Dead Sea and King’s Highway to Aqaba at the Red Sea. Then back to Amman via the desert at Wadi Rum and the ancient city of Petra. Three legs of our journey were quite spectacular and I would like to share them with you.

1. Petra

The Nabateans settled here as traders around the 6thC BC and used their wealth to build Petra during the next 500 years, housing some 30,000 people during its heyday under King Aretas IV (8 BC – AD 40). Later, trade routes had shifted and the Romans took control of the Nabatean Empire. Earthquakes in AD 363 and 551 were ruinous and Petra became a ‘lost city’ until her ‘re-discovery’ in 1812.

Siq at Petra. You emerge from this cleft at the Treasury

Siq at Petra. You emerge from this cleft at the Treasury

We entered via the Siq to the Treasury and then took the Outer Siq to Wadi Musi where we could see amongst others the Street of Facades, Theatre and Tomb.


Treasury by Day at Petra

Imagine what life might have looked like here! And think about the skills and dedication of the people required to build such a place!

But this was just the beginning. We climbed the ‘stairway’ and hiked along the top with spectacular and clear views over the site. Magnificent!

Wadi Musa from the climb. Check out the Street of Facades on the left and Theatre at the end

Wadi Musa from the climb. Check out the Street of Facades on the left and Theatre at the end

We then ascended further to the most impressive place of all: the Monastery. It was a steep and exhausting trek in the sweltering midday sun, but absolutely worth the effort. It was so beautiful and tranquil there at the top of the World.

The Monastery

The Monastery

All-in-all it was about 22 km and 6 hours of hiking and climbing. A great day program!

2. Wadi Rum

Wadi Rum is a stunning desert area about an hour from both Aqaba and Petra. It’s been inhabited since pre-historic times and is home to the Bedouin today.

Our adventure began on a camel to Lawrence’s Spring where we were joined by our guide in his 4WD vehicle. He drove us through the wilderness and guided is to key sites during the course of the next six hours. Truly amazing views of the area!

It was interesting to hear about the life of our guide. We trusted him to take us to great places and to care for our safety.

Sunset at the Camp

Sunset at the Camp

We stayed overnight at a camp in the desert. You might be surprised to know that it feels quite cold in the desert during the daytime, due to the wind. At night it gets close to freezing. I slept in my clothes under a blanket It was a good and deep sleep. I woke only once during the night, around 3.00, when I heard a wolf wailing (well, maybe it was a dog, but I have a vivid imagination).

3. Jerash

Jerash was settled as a town during the reign of Alexander the Great in 333 BC. It has rich soils that have brought it agricultural prosperity for centuries. And it has one of the best-preserved Roman sites anywhere.

The site encompasses all of the classic Roman structures such as a forum, temples, amphitheatre, hippodrome and so on. It’s in remarkably good condition and it’s a miracle the site has survived earthquakes and pillaging through the ages.

Perfect Forum at Jerash

Perfect Forum at Jerash

South Theatre at Jerash

South Theatre at Jerash

Temple of Artemis

Temple of Artemis

It’s thrilling to visit Jerash and you can let your imagination run wild, envisioning how life would have been at the site when it was active. I loved it there!

A Wonderful Country

What an amazing week! Thank you to the kind and friendly people we met and who helped us on our journey. It’s a wonderful country to visit and I can warmly recommend it.


Going for Gold

Inspiring Spires


Radcliffe Camera at Oxford University

Last week our Leadership Team at Sanoma Learning visited Oxford. We’re working together on how we will lead the transformation of learning for the next generation. It was inspiring to be in this environment of educational excellence and the sessions on Educational Neuroscience and the Purpose of the Team were especially good.


Team GB winning Olympic Gold in Beijing

Most inspiring of all was the session with Double Olympic Gold Medal Winner, Steve Williams at the Leander Club (he won rowing Gold in the coxless four in both Athens and Beijing). The Leander Club was founded in 1818 (15 years earlier than the oldest established part of Sanoma Learning – Van In) and is arguably the World’s most successful rowing club. Steve talked us through his journey to becoming an Olympic Champion and then took us out onto the water to row together.


Our teams after the rowing session

Steve is not only an Olympic Champion but also a gifted storyteller. I will try to re-tell the core ingredients of what brought his team success, but nothing can beat the inspiration of hearing it in situ. He strongly credits many other people for the success, especially their coach, team members and everybody who supports the operation.


Steve explaining to us how they train

Overall, I believe the distinguishing factor behind their huge success has been their mindset: a culture of excellence where they truly live by their code. This has been nurtured and cultivated and almost certainly dominates the lives of the teams – you truly feel it everywhere at the Club. In my own words, I would summarise the essence of their approach as follows:

1. Set the highest expectations (goals)

Purpose: inspire a nation

Goal: win Olympic gold

Stopwatch: performance target (time)

They have set themselves a noble purpose with a clear and highly ambitious goal and they track progress consistently on the journey – not only to check and improve performance but also to affirm progress and success. The hunger for Gold in particular is deeply embedded in the culture and symbols of the Club. For example, the names on the Honours Board at the entrance to the Club for major international events such as the Olympics, are given in two colours only: Gold (winner) and Black. There is no doubt that this Club expects its members to win Gold. It triggered us to think how we can sharpen our purpose, goals and stopwatch at Sanoma Learning. What’s our ‘Gold medal’ – our impact on learning, our reach, our size?

2. Focus on moving the boat (strategy)

The Olympics are held every four years and a race lasts about six minutes. All of the focus on the journey there and during the race itself has to be on doing the things that move the boat. Make a plan to win, cut out the things that don’t make an impact and focus on moving the boat forward. The things that don’t move the boat forward basically hold it back. What lessons can we learn from this at Sanoma? What are the things we are doing that really move the boat forward? Is everything we are doing ‘moving the boat’?

3. Get the basics right (execution)

The team develops supreme physical fitness and technical competence that helps to bring them the bullet-proof confidence that underpins a winning mindset. Part of this derives from a gruelling training schedule of six hours per day, six or seven days per week. Good nutrition and rest are taken seriously and staying mentally strong is crucial. Essentially, the team is making the kilometers so that they are better prepared than anyone else on race day. The determination and pure discipline in delivering on the basics Steve showed were inspiring and possibly obsessive (no offence intended Steve). It makes me wonder: are we as fit in all places as we need to be to succeed in the future? How can I make myself fitter on the basics?

4. Learn fast (improve)

Part of any high-performance culture is to learn fast. I was especially interested in the ‘hot wash-ups’ they do immediately after each outing on the water. Very quickly, they huddle up and ask eachother a) what went well and b) what can we improve next time? Simple and effective. Part of their code is also that people speak out early and at the right time (before a decision) and that no problem lives longer than two hours. Feedback is so crucial to learning! We did a ‘hot wash-up’ and ‘feed forward’ with our team afterwards. We learned a lot and it was interesting and (sometimes) fun too! We have an open and trusting team so it was easy to do. Imagine how much further we could develop ourselves, our team, our people and our business if we would structurally build this into our culture. Let’s do it.

5. Celebrate success (enjoy!)

Members of the Leander Club want to be winners. And they want to feel like winners. Celebrating success feeds that mindset. Check out the Honours Board. See the photographs of winning teams hanging on the walls. Read the newspaper articles pinned on the wall, telling their stories of success. Listen to how they tell their story. Feel how Steve radiates pride at being part of the Leander Club. See how they measure progress and affirm their success. Who would not want to succeed in this environment? I am sure we could do a better job at celebrating our successes and those of our customers at Sanoma Learning.

Aim higher

I was inspired by Steve and his journey. Listening to him made me want to set (even) higher standards for myself, our team and for Sanoma Learning. We’ll be working this out with the team in the coming period.

Inspire a generation

Even more fundamentally: what about our schools? Imagine Steve Williams as Headmaster of a school. Think about the high aspirations, the culture of excellence and the dedication to purpose. The ‘fitness’ on so many dimensions. Imagine the positive impact such a leader would have on the next generation of children and teachers. What could be a better ‘Gold Medal’ than that?