My Writing

My Writing

I get my best ideas from listening to people. Fortunately, that’s my job.

I like to say that people are my library, and my daily writing practice is a way to discover what’s in it: new ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little whimsy for good measure.  As your humble librarian I invite you to check out a new idea every day. No late fees ever.

Enjoy…

Perfection is the enemy of Progress

Perfection quote Confucius

This week I came across this line that stopped me in my tracks:

“The desire for theoretical purity strikes me as a critical failure of both mainstream and alternative economics”

Later that same day I met up with a start-up founder and we talked about uncertainty and opportunity. I shared the line:

“Perfection is the enemy of progress”

Confucious said:

“Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without”.

So what else made me think of these phrases today?

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Watch how radically taxes on the wealthy have fallen

FAIR is a core value for me. I also believe in Business as a force for good, hence the model I developed of the new triple bottom line, putting Purpose, People and Planet as the core drivers, whilst also focussing on making a Profit so as to Scale the Impact for all society, not only shareholders.

Last week David Leonhardt of the NY Times wrote an article simply called “The Rich Really Do Pay Lower Taxes Than You“, which had in it a truly powerful infographic that tells the story of how far away from FAIR capitalism has moved.

To me a key marker in time was when, at the start of the 1980s, Reagan and Thatcher slavishly followed Milton Friedman, who simplistically told us to focus on self-interest and enriching shareholders while ignoring social impact (see my post: “Purpose and the Corporation“).

Again, I do believe in business as a force for good, and at the same time if the moving infographic below doesn’t convince you that we need radical change to our existing systems, paradigms and beliefs, perhaps recognise that we will see more and more extreme and polarised politics as things become more and more unfair.

Marking an occasion

mary oliver quote Marking an occasion

Two years ago today I wrote: “Life is Wild and Precious, Be Present“, where I posed the question above, from the last couplet of “The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver. This was when (inspired by Seth Godin doing this for over two decades!) I committed to writing daily.

Today I feel to mark this as an occasion. When we choose to mark an occasion, we are honouring. We may be honouring many things, though often it comes down to the actions of an individual or group of individuals, taking time for them and us to reflect.

In that very first post, I wrote:

When people ask you how you are in a business context, have you ever replied: “busy”, to which they respond with pleased nods and “good”. Busyness has become something we all strive for, yet with this, we have so often lost our sense of presence.

So, for me, today I will take some time to mark this occasion, I’ll take time to be present on this occasion. On a personal level, I’ll go for a walk, stopping to take notes as my mind turns to certain experiences and thoughts, reflections on two years of writing.

For this post, I will first share a few thoughts that come to mind to mark the occasion.

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Edit, don’t Accumulate

Your life is your story. Write Well. Edit Often. Susan Stratham

The first half of your life is focused more on accumulating: success, responsibilities, family, friends, hobbies, identities. A mid-life crisis is often about feeling weighed-down by all of this. Focus on what’s most important in your life and start the process of editing that which doesn’t serve or nourish you.

~ Chip Conley

So much wisdom from Chip Conley (for a great and recent summary, see the podcast notes from his talk with Tim Ferris, also listen to that podcast). The quote above comes from a post Chip wrote: “The Advice I Wish I’d Been Given at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50” and was one of two pieces of advice to a 50-year-old.

So, inspired as I often am by Chip, some thoughts on Editing, Life and Leadership.

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Learn deeply then distil to simplicity

simplicity

This week I was complimented by a reader on sharing some incisive and concise ideas in my daily writing. That is wonderful to hear, as a) I can talk a lot when on a roll (!), and b) I love the Da Vinci adage of: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

The thing is, to get to simplicity in this age of soundbites and short attention spans takes commitment and focus to actually taking time to listen, read, learn from many sources. Only when one commits to deeply studying and learning can one reach what Oliver Wendell Holmes valued (blog post here):

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

An example around one of the most powerful philosophical maxims I have learned (and use in coaching).

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Could you balance Purpose and Profit as a CEO?

balance profit and purpose

A while ago I wrote: “Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..” to address a commonly held (and understandable!) view that companies are only lead and managed around driving profits, often by working their people hard with limited concern for People, Planet or even Purpose, or as I call that, the “new triple bottom line“.

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

This came up in conversation with someone again this week, and it has me thinking that perhaps when I write or talk about this I focus too much on the Purpose, People and Planet side of the above model, not enough on the Profit that sits on the other side and is so necessary to spin the “righteous flywheel” and so allow social and societal impact to be scaled.

I did spend the first two decades of my career very much focussed on growth, profits, shareholder return etc, gradually integrating more and more concern and focus on People and Planet and then recognising that they go together in balance. So, a learning from that recent conversation is to be more balanced in how I talk about leaders can integrate this all together, achieving Profit while staying true to Purpose that serves People and Planet.

So, almost with perfect timing, the FT released a terrific scenario game this week!

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What do you see? What do you not see?

perspective what do you see

How many pillars are there? The answer is seven.

Or, how many women can you see?

Most see pillars, only some immediately see beyond to the women.

This has me thinking about seeing what others don’t see.

This week I was at an event in London with a focus on both speakers and audience having a global perspective in their business, their careers, their outlook. These events are normally larger, but this time there was a smaller group, so more interactive.

What stood out for me most was that each person in the room had a different perspective, they could see what others could not see, based on their very varied types and levels of experience.

For me, as I listened to one speaker talk about how their business has rapidly developed in a burgeoning sector, they were focussed on the operational shifts and improvements they have made through new AI technologies and many other process and structural improvements.

I, however, got excited as I saw something else.

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What can past predictions teach us?

predictions of the future

Six months ago I wrote: “WeWork and remembering lessons of the past“, in which I both predicted the crashing downfall of WeWork, as well as musing on past lessons from market booms and busts, dating back to own my experience observing the investing mania around the ’99 tech bubble. I got both of those right, but that is not the lesson I’m musing on today.

This week I found an archive with some monthly columns I wrote for the Cayman Journal around a decade ago, with the column title “Reinvent or Die”. One, in particular, strikes me today, called “How happy is Cayman?”, which I’ll reprint in full below, as it is striking to me how little has been learned by Cayman and those driving business and society in the intervening decade. Lessons for many, perhaps.

My thoughts for today are, though, less about accuracy or otherwise of predictions, but actually about recording and sharing our thoughts (whether by publishing articles or posts or simply keeping a journal), as in looking back at them there is much that can be learned both personally and in general about the journey we are on.

Oh, and also of being unafraid of our predictions, sometimes we are right, sometimes, wrong, but when we have something to say and to share that we feel strongly about, let us do so. Do not hide or otherwise dim your light.

Now, this bring to mind something to share. In business and investment, an all-time favourite is the annual letters Warren Buffett has written to Berkshire Hathaway shareholders since 1965. These are folksy, pithy, eminently readable and full of gems, predictions, opinions and more from one of the greatest investors the world has ever known. I devour each annual letter and have done every year for over twenty years. Oh, and he has got it right a lot, but also got it wrong.

Now to re-reading my more than nine-year-old article on Cayman, where several things strike me.

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Turn it up, turn it up, little bit higher

Van Morrison

In 1978 a nondescript looking young man from Northern Ireland stepped on stage at the farewell concert of a group simply called, “The Band”. When he opened his mouth to sing, he created an incredible moment in time.

He created something out of this world. How? He simply chose to “go for it!”, to sing from heart and soul, from the tips of his toes to the top of his head, giving everything, leaving nothing undone, nothing unsung.

Listening to this again this week, it gives a powerful lesson. Anytime you doubt yourself, you are thinking of holding back, as an inspiration to #BeMoreYou, find your inner Van Morrison.

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Saunter, don’t hike

John Muir Saunter, don't hike
John Muir

I love hiking. I love walking for the purpose of exercise, of a heart rate over 100bpm for hours on end, of the feeling of walking fast and strongly for exercise.

I also love to walk for a different reason, to walk to allow the process of walking to clear my mind, to solve a problem (see Solvitur Ambulando and here), to slow down (see here), to be creative (see here), to stretch time (see here).

Clearly walking is a repeated theme for me on this site! It is a miraculous thing and now that I live in a country with mild weather, I walk a lot, typically well over thirty miles a week.

Today I write about the power of sauntering as opposed to hiking.

Sauntering? What is that really?

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In a transition? Energy lagging? Play a different game.

Play a different game during transition.

In my mid-20s I was on a steep learning curve as a competitive squash player in Cayman. I was at the club every evening after work and, in addition to coaching and formal training sessions and matches, I’d play anyone who wanted a game.

One day I was asked to play a match with someone quite a long way below my current standard. I’d played them a few times before and somehow that day found myself less than energised to play them again. I saw my coach was at the club, so spoke to them just before the match. Their advice to me when I told them I wasn’t energised to play?

“Play a different game”

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#BeMoreYou – Elevate

Elevate Quote

“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”

David Whyte

On occasion, I choose to muse here a little with my daily posts.

Today I was captivated by this quote from the poet and philosopher David Whyte, from a Brainpickings post from the wonderful Maria Popova.

An anchor for me in life right now is something a dear friend said to me: “the people in your life should elevate you”.

Do your life and the people in it elevate you, bring you ever more alive, see you #BeMoreYou?

Face The Dragons

Thanks to my friend and past client David Kirkaldy of Massive Group in Cayman. I wrote this post nearly a decade ago and was reminded of the idea of “Go where there be Dragons” by a tweet this week from Carl Richards.

Though my old blogs from that time got taken down before I remembered to archive the articles (lost!), this one post was saved by David reposting it in 2012, so I’ll curate it for posterity on this site today.

First, Carl’s tweet thread read:

Doing YOUR thing can be scary.

Because there is almost never a template to follow.

YOUR thing is unique. It’s new and novel. Instead of pitching it as “like X but for Y” you find yourself saying “there’s nothing like it!”

As soon as you do that, as soon as you tap into something that I uniquely yours…you start dancing with dragons. It’s awesome! And scary. People look at you a bit confused because they have no frame of reference for what your doing.

And of course one hint that your doing your thing is the reality that it might not work! But of course the dragons are calling to you…so even though it’s scary, even though it might not work…YOU MUST DO IT ANYWAY!

Enjoy the post.. and Go where there be Dragons! Oh, and at the very end, I believe it was the first time I used the line “Command and Control is dead”, which you may be familiar with as it is prominent on my home page! Oh, and I quoted Chip Conley, who I then met in person in April 2018, introduced through writing on this daily blog. I don’t believe in coincidence, I believe in creating serendipities! At this moment am feeling a lot of that!

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Numbers Matter, but So Do Emotions

I seem to have a theme of late flowing through writing and in the people I’ve been meeting. That theme is ENERGY and is showing up in different ways, as evinced in the blogs of the last week.

Nearly two years ago I wrote a short post called: “Cogito Ergo Sum, or Sentio Ergo Sum?“, or I think therefore I am, or I feel therefore I am? It was a short post in terms of words, but also included three video clips that communicate so much through feelings rather than words. It is also a post I have referenced to people many times since, as I truly believe that we can all benefit hugely from deeper understanding of feelings and energy and how they impact our decision making at least as much as rational thought.

Now, one of the meetings in the last week around ENERGY was a first video call with Carl Richards, otherwise known as the Sketch Guy from the NY times and famous for his drawings, typically circling around how we behave around investments and money.

To say we hit it off amazingly is an understatement. We are already talking about collaborations and I was so excited to learn that Carl is moving to London soon, as well as the title of the new book he is writing. More on both later, I am sure!

For now, curating a core article from Carl, enjoy!

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Procrastinating…again

Procrastinating, Bike Ride, Video Game

Today I rode my bike. So what?

Well, I hadn’t done it in over two weeks. Yup, I’m a sounding board and coach, often my clients ask me to hold them accountable, yet I hadn’t got my procrastinating self on my bike for over two weeks.

I realise that procrastinating is a theme that recurs on this blog (hmm), so today some recycled thoughts and some fresh ones that may help you with your own procrastination.

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