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…

Is it time for you to “GSD”?

A good friend of mine has spent their life making sure they had everything in their head all the time at any time. As you can imagine, their recent discovery of a personal productivity tool that works for them has been transformational. The tool they use is very popular and been around for two decades or so, called “GTD” or “Getting Things Done“.

In short, rather than filling one’s brain with “to do” lists and more, find a way to get that out of your head to leave space for creativity and productive thought. For me, I use Evernote for that as well as mindset management so my mind is (generally!) clear for my best work and thinking.

Now, another friend (and also a client with a wide and varied number of business areas to consider) has been spending time with me aligning on their focus going into 2020. Part of this at this particular phase for the business is to move from thinking and talking to plans, action, accountability.

They already are highly productive, so this is far less about written plans and productivity methods, but time to enter into not the GTD mode, but the GSD mode, elevating to the GSD mindset that is so appropriate for them at this time.

What is GSD? Global Somali Diaspora ? Global Schools of Design? Gibraltar Social Democrats? Nope, simply:

Get S**t Done

You haven’t watched The Princess Bride? Inconceivable!

Today a light-hearted post spurred by an otherwise highly rounded individual who, it turns out, has never watched The Princess Bride. Inconceivable! When you have some time to relax over the coming holiday season, please do yourself an immense favour and watch it.

Oh, and the all-time most searched and viewed post on this site is: “Inigo Montoya – Masterclass on introducing yourself“, featuring particularly famous lines from the movie. Meeting someone this week, we shared our mutual dislike of “networking events”. Next time that I go to one I shall introduce myself as “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” and see if this elicits a reply of the next two lines of his introduction. If they don’t, I shall politely bid them adieu. After all, I love movies, my tribe are those who also do.

Holstee: Life is short. Live your dream, and wear your passion.

Ten years ago, in their first step as a company, Holstee’s founders, Dave, Mike and Fabian, sat together on the steps of Union Square in New York to write down how they define success. The goal was to create something they could reflect back on if they ever felt stuck or found themselves living according to someone else’s definition of happiness. The result was the Holstee manifesto, which went super-viral.

I love the idea of defining what success is at the very beginning of a company. Steve Jobs said that Apple was here to “put a dent in the universe” in the garage with Steve Wozniak, ie at the very beginning.

I also love supporting leaders and their organisations connect to their Purpose and what it means for everyone in and connected to them and how it can drive success far more effortlessly as it also creates powerful alignment and clarity across the business.

What’s your manifesto, your definition of success?

I leave you with the Holstee manifesto lifestyle video and wording.

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Slow down. Happiness is trying to catch you.

Yesterday I woke in the Cayman Islands on a beautiful “Christmas Breeze” morning. However, instead of being truly relaxed, I thought about writing the post for this following day and felt the struggle of coming up with something for that day. Reminds me that the word “essay” is derived from the French “essai”, which can translate to a “trial”, and I couldn’t get focussed on writing this “mini-essay”!

I’m here in Cayman for a week for a visit full of business catch-ups and client work, yet on my first day here I was struggling, trying, to slow down and relax. As I watched my recently retired host slowly and methodically put up his Christmas decorations on the balcony, once again it struck me how difficult it is for us sometimes to slow down, to “let happiness catch us”

Still, by the end of the day, I was sitting with my three sons at Sunset House enjoying the “banter” and a meal on the waterfront. I had slowed down to let happiness catch me, and very few things in this world make me as happy as simply sitting with my boys listening to their chatter, being fully present to that.

Right, writing this on Monday morning Cayman time and now off to this full and active week, and yes, I will still remember to slow down. I leave you with this from Sunday morning.

Always ask “what”, not “any”

Yesterday I wrote: “Flux and intense curiosity“, linking to an annual post from Tom Whitwell of Flux called “52 things I learned in 2019”. The 52nd and last thing he had learned was:

Asking ‘What questions to do you have for me?’ can be dramatically more effective than ‘Any questions?’ at the end of a talk. (Many more good tips in this thread. [Jacqueline Antonovich]

Yes! Yes! Thrice yes!

Let me share why such a “Yes!” and give some further tips

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Flux and intense curiosity

I am certain that intense curiosity is an essential attribute for #OpenLeadership.

Recently I was pointed towards an amazing annual post by my eclectically brilliant friend Steve Moore. As he put it: “Read Tom’s annual post. You will learn more in the ten minutes it takes than you have all year long. You will learn more in the ten minutes it takes than you have all year long”.

I give you this link to the annual post by Tom Whitwell of Flux, redolent of his own intense curiosity: 52 things I learned in 2019

Oh, and I got to #26 on this curated list, I got a little excited. I’m an investor in this company!:

Gravitricity is a Scottish startup planning to store energy by lifting huge weights up a disused mine shaft when electricity is cheap, dropping them down to generate power when it is expensive. Using a 12,000 tonne weight (roughly the weight of the Eiffel tower), it should be half as expensive as equivalent lithium ion battery. [Jillian Ambrose]

The emergence of the purpose-driven consultant

The new triple bottom line,
see the #OpenLeadership article “Leading from Purpose

..The growing demand for a fairer, more caring form of capitalism has also given rise to a related phenomenon: the emergence of the purpose-driven consultant.

Over recent years, a cottage industry of advisory firms has sprung up, all promising to help companies on this “journey” (a favourite phrase) towards a more purposeful, less profit-centric model of business.

In the spirit of business-as-unusual, their approach is refreshingly unorthodox. “Bold”, “heartfelt” and “emotionally involved” are among the defining characteristics..

Oliver Balch, “Good company: the capitalists putting purpose ahead of profit
The Guardian, 24 November 2019

Count me in as one of those “purpose-driven consultants” supporting brave leaders on that transformative journey to putting purpose ahead of profit.

The opening paragraph of my home page reads (note bold type at the end):

Command-and-control leadership is losing its grip. A new way is emerging: #OpenLeadership, embracing change as constant, encouraging individual thought, relying on intuition more than data, fluidity more than hierarchy, trust more than fear, and putting the common good ahead of profit.

Oh, and as I constantly say, by putting Purpose+People+Planet first, so many businesses show again and again that this leads to Profit, but as an outcome, not as the primary focus.

So, glad to see this movement building momentum, with this latest article in The Guardian (see link by the quote from Oliver’s article) a recent example reporting on this.

One caveat. Beware of what I have termed “Purpose-washing”, there is much “box-ticking” going on, as there is with ESG/CSR/SDG focus already.

Taking the Business Roundtable statement quoted in the article, I’m skeptical about their motives, boxes feel like they are being ticked right now.

So, if you are truly drawn towards a new way of leading, let’s talk. I’ll listen, then I’ll call it as I see it. If you are truly up for this, I’ll be with you every step. If you are not, I’ll tell you that is what I see. Perhaps call it a “Purpose Check”.

Let’s talk

My clients say I “see what others don’t see”. Experience for yourself, book your 30-minute call now.

Live in the present before making plans for the future

“..making plans for the future is of use only to people who are capable of living completely in the present.”

Alan Watts

My life is structured in what is often a seamless blend, so when someone asks me “what do you do?” and they are really asking “what is your job”, whatever answer I give tends to bemuse them. You see, I’m not playing the game of work, life IS the work, to me it is all in flow. Work, life, business, personal. It is all interwoven.

As an example, yesterday I had a sparkling conversation with Steve Chapman, partially captured in “The Power of Not Knowing“, then a meeting around a group I am a volunteer member of representing the Cayman Islands in London. I then went back to my home office for a video call to a client in California, a call that truly crackled and sparkled with energy and through which I wove some thoughts and ideas from meetings earlier that day and also in recent days. In other words, it all flows. As Alan Watts would say, it is all play.

Today, then, I’ll share a talk from the late Alan Watts, who Steve reminded me of when we chatted. Whenever I wish to look to understand what life is all about, Alan Watts is a frequent reference.

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The power of not knowing

The power of not knowing

One of my favourite places in London is Hungerford Bridge, the footbridge I regularly take over the Thames from Waterloo and the South Bank.

This summer, the “Hungerford Bridge Gallery of Outsider Art” suddenly appeared one day. No explanation, no website, simply art that was suddenly there for the 10,000 or more pedestrians, both tourists and Londoners, who walked past it each day.

Then, all of a sudden, in late September and after 91 days (so I learned later), it was gone. I had wondered what it was all about but was more than content to enjoy it, to not know and to appreciate the playfulness.

Now, I say often that I don’t believe in luck but I do believe in serendipity (see “Creating Serendipity“), so today’s post is late as I went up to town to meet someone I’d met only in October, the unique gift that is Steve Chapman.

As it turns out, amongst our amazing meandering conversation through meaning, humanity, social constructs, middlescence and more, I learned he was the creator and curator of that gallery, which amassed more than one million visitors (ok, passers-by) in 91 days.

Another topic we talked about was the power of having clarity of one’s purpose, why we are here.

For Steve, it is to be “playful with not knowing”.

For me, it is “Making Potential Possible”.

My musing today is the power of purpose. Our conversation today was deeply satisfying for me, and yes, I am playful with not knowing where it will lead to next, and at the same time clear that there is potential to be made possible.

A core part of me living that purpose of #MakingPotentialPossible is to support individuals, businesses and organisations become clear both on what their purpose is and then how they will live that in their life and their work. Arriving at that clarity does indeed require being comfortable not knowing, with an exploration of who we are and what we feel when we are aligned. Again, this is very similar for an individual or an organisation.

If you see the power in not knowing and would like to learn more, I’d love to talk to you.

Let’s talk

My clients say I “see what others don’t see”. Experience for yourself, book your 30-minute call now.

Mentoring Stones

Mentoring Stones, Rock Balancing
Rock balancing, February 2019, Baja

Earlier this year I had the amazing experience of rock balancing in Baja at the Modern Elder Academy.

My experience, was, odd as it may sound, the rocks taught me something, the value of having ever deeper Presence.

Chip Conley puts it beautifully in his recent blog:

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Funerals and Wabi-Sabi

Funerals and Wabi-Sabi

Today I am travelling to the funeral of a family friend and musing on the Japanese concept of Wabi-Sabi. Difficult to translate, but one element, around the Sabi part, is acceptance of the cycle of life and death.

Around the idea of the beauty of imperfections, I think of another Japanese concept, of Kintsukuroi (or Kintsugi), of repairing broken pottery using gold.

Finally, I think of a friend who has made massive shifts and transformations in their life, with one seminal moment on that journey being around five years ago when they stood on a stage to give a talk, forgot their lines, then said, on mic and repeatedly (and very calmly), “I embrace my imperfections”. As the Italian saying goes, “la vita e bella”. Life is beautiful.

Oh, and as this is a blog on #OpenLeadership, for all those who lead others and are reading this, know that embracing your own imperfections as well as the impermanence of everything in life and business, these are key to leading into the emergent future, which is at the hear of #OpenLeadership.

A Nyepi day

Nyepi Day of Silence
My view this Sunday morning

Nyepi is the Balinese “day of silence”, a sacred day of silence on Bali, for self-reflection, silence, meditation.

From post in March 2018: Silence and Nyepi – Less is More

This weekend I took a very quiet 24 hours from the middle of the day Saturday to Sunday, heading to the country to stay with friends.

This daily post is therefore posted not at 8am, but later on Sunday. Felt wonderful to be offline. Refreshed and recharged.

The Lumineers – Transferring Enthusiasm

The Lumineers - Transferring Enthusiasm
The Lumineers – O2 Arena, Nov 27, 2019

On Wednesday, November 27th, I wrote a “long read” called “Transferring Enthusiasm“, the essence of which is that when you have a live audience, to focus not on sharing data, information or knowledge, but simply to transfer your enthusiasm for what you are sharing with your audience.

That same evening, I joined around 20,000 others to watch The Lumineers live in concert. I had recently been introduced to their music by a good friend who is a fan. I arrived that night liking their music and somewhat excited about the concert, but mostly looking forward to sharing an evening with a friend.

I left transformed. Liking had turned to love for their music, but more than that I loved their live performance. They truly transferred their enthusiasm to me, so watch out if you see me soon, I’ll be evangelising for The Lumineers!

So, as a leader, how can you transfer your enthusiasm to others to it propagates and spreads?

I leave you with a video clip of the end of their final number, “Stubborn Love”, the refrain now stuck in my head, an “earworm”. Stubborn my love now will be for The Lumineers!

Now is the time for business to embrace Purpose

Capitalism and Purpose
From the back cover of the Kilkenomics brochure, November 2019

Small may be beautiful in ethical terms, but it’s not ideal for effecting large-scale change. If endemic poverty is ever to be reversed or global heating resolved, then big business also needs to embrace this more inclusive approach to business.

“Good company: the capitalists putting purpose ahead of profit”
Oliver Balch, The Guardian
Published Nov 24, 2019

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come.”

~ Victor Hugo

I’ve focussed for years on the idea that by putting Purpose, People and Planet ahead of Profit, businesses will “Do well by doing good”. They must always continue to focus on making a Profit in order to Scale their impact, but Profit will be the outcome of this focus, no longer the driver of business.

More and more we are seeing articles like this recent one in the Guardian, as well as the FT leading on this, as shown in how they highlighted this in their sponsorship of the amazing annual Kilkenomics festival.

Today I will unapologetically repeat myself around this topic, as it is not only time business to embrace purpose, but it is now becoming a “hot topic” and I now feel like I’m talking about a mainstream idea, no longer an outlier. So, let’s review.

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What is your definition of wisdom?

Knowledge speaks, wisdom listens. Jimi Hendrix

My “long read” for you yesterday was on: “Transferring Enthusiasm“, inspired by insight from a long conversation with a wise friend. Another wise friend is Chip Conley, author of “Wisdom and Work” and, like my friend who inspired yesterday’s post, is both wise and also deeply curious about wisdom in many forms.

So, what is your own definition? Let’s explore together.

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