Seeing gaps and learning from others

This was me posting en route back from Paris to London with my boys. (please forgive the autocorrect typo of lived to loved!)

Boston to New York is 215 miles city centre to city centre. It takes 3hr 46min by train for an average speed of 57mph

LA to San Francisco is 382 miles. There are no regular trains.

Edinburgh to London is 403 miles. It takes 4hr 17min by train for an average speed of 94mph.

Paris to London is 291 miles. It takes 2 hrs 25 minutes by train for an average speed of 120mph.


I can imagine tourists from California to Paris on the Eurostar wondering why there are no trains between the two major cities in their state.

This post is not focussed on answering that question, it simply shows the difference between some of the major countries in the world on a matter as seemingly basic as transportation between major cities.

No, the title of the post is seeing gaps and learning from others.

Let’s start with others.

You can’t read the label of the jar you’re in

As I wrote in “You can’t read the label” : “..we typically can’t “think outside the box” when we are in the box already, as it were! When we are “in the box”, we can’t see outside it, so we will unconsciously limit our thinking.” “Or, as Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void succinctly puts it in this pithy artwork, “you can’t read the label of the jar you’re in!”


So, if we accept that we can’t see the label of the jar we’re in, this is a key awareness step to then learning from others.

In the USA, state and federal governments have barely invested in rail infrastructure for many decades. California considers itself to be a highly “Green” state, yet LA is the ultimate “city of cars” in the USA, and massive environmental savings could be had by infrastructure investments in inter-city trains.

Oh, and that train from Edinburgh to London taking 4hr 17min city centre to city centre at an average speed of 94mph ? The journey time on that train has not changed in at least 37 years, when I was a boarding school student going back and forward from school near London back to Scotland. This does not need a futuristic hyperloop, inter-city travel at predictable average speeds in excess of 100mph on trains is old technology now.

So, the source issue for all of us in why we don’t learn from others (such as Americans learning from the French, German, British, Japanese (and more) rail industries) is not rationale, it is behavioural.

We don’t see the jar we’re in, the paradigm we are contained by.

Oh, and we also too often live by the words “we’ve always done it this way”, we often have a fixed mindset rather than a growth mindset.

We don’t consciously look for gaps, look for ways to learn from others.

What would I suggest then?

Move your “NO” to “Hell Yeah!”

Well, there are many elements here, but for today I’ll simply focus on learning from others.

To work that “muscle”, take a look at the jar you are in from the inside, and one tip I learned from Chip Conley. Each year, choose to learn a brand new skill (last year he chose to learn to surf, for example). Make that area of learning outside your current range, your current comfort zone.

To finish, then, I’ll leave you with something I wrote about in “Move your “NO” to “HELL YEAH!”” a little over two months ago. Oh, and I am off to Greece in less than a month to start writing my first book !

“In recent times I have observed myself showing resistance to certain ideas, saying “NO” to things. To move from a “NO” to a “YES” can take time, energy, breaking of inertia.

So, I decided that where I see myself repeatedly showing resistance to an idea, and where my inner wisdom tells me I really want to, need to do it, I’ll do things differently to break the inertia.

I choose to move from “NO” to “HELL YEAH!”

What does that look like? ….

..Using writing as an example, for years people have told me to write a book, and I kept resisting, saying I prefer to write short pieces. Uh-huh, resistance again! So, in a few months, I have rented a house on a Greek island for two weeks specifically for a creative retreat. I’ll invite two or three other people looking to similarly focus on their creative work, and we will spend our days in a wonderful environment creating something we will commit to “ship” at the end of the two weeks.

What will that look like for me? By then I will have over 300 articles on this site, so that may look like an ebook collated and curated around a theme. Am also considering developing my #OpenLeadership model further (it has been ageing nicely since I came up with it a year or so ago, like new whisky in barrels it sits with me daily as I write on this site. I may also design a new workshop format around one or more of the concepts I have shared here (Seven Leadership Archetypes is a front-runner!).

As you can see, I feel ripe with possibility and opportunity now, and it came from committing to write daily. Again as Jennifer Egan said:

“You can only write regularly if you’re willing to write badly… Accept bad writing as a way of priming the pump, a warm-up exercise that allows you to write well.”

What is your “NO” you can move to a “HELL YEAH!”?

What can you commit to doing to move yourself there? Write daily? Podcast? Perhaps it is to run a 5k, where “a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step”. Whatever it is, start today and keep going, “write” regularly, be willing to write badly, and remember that we are what we repeatedly do.

Go forth and write badly 🙂”



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