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.


Who are the purpose-driven leaders ?

In my last post, I asked you to consider, from the inspiration of Dr King, what is your “I have a dream”.

In support of that thought process, today a few examples of purpose-driven leaders for you to consider.

I have in the past and could have written about world famous leaders like Dr King, Gandhi, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey, Sheryl Sandberg and many more.

Today, though, I choose to make this more personal, and, for you, perhaps more of a feeling of it being in reach.

My own purpose is simple, To Inspire, and as I seek to inspire, so I am inspired, in a virtuous circle. These three remarkable leaders have all deeply inspired me in my life. Each are purpose-driven leaders, and that powerful sense of purpose has, to quote Steve Jobs, made a dent in the universe !

One has sadly left us, the other two are just getting going and I am so excited to see what will come for the world from their leadership ! (more…)

A Purpose Story – “I have a dream”


“I have a dream”

Four simple words.

Not “I have a plan”, “I have a strategy”, “I have a goal”, or even “I have a vision”.


“I have a dream”

This week saw the annual celebration of  Martin Luther King Day.

Each year I watch his speech. Do watch the whole speech, though here I post the speech from the point where “I have dream” takes his oratorship to a crescendo.


What can leaders of today learn from Dr King ?

In my years working with leaders, I see the greatest leadership success (by any form of definition) coming from those leaders who have clarity of Purpose for themselves and for their organisations. Yes, we need a plan, we need a strategy, we need a commercial vision, but the brave leaders who focus clearly and with utmost importance on their PURPOSE are those who lead with the greatest success.

How clear are you on your Purpose ?

What is your “I have a dream” ?

In my next post I’ll share examples of purpose-driven leadership.




Memento Mori

memento mori

“Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.” ~ Steve Jobs, (2005)

“Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” ~ Seneca, (approximately 2000 years ago) (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – “Stupid Banking Rules”

{latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms}

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”




Today some data to illustrate the issues around UK retail banking customer service, a personal example of how they can be in the paradigm of “we’ve always done it this way”, then an example of how that paradigm can and has been smashed !

First, some data. In November 2017 I went to a presentation by Vernon Hill of MetroBank put on by the Academy for Chief Executives. One key slide which had me laugh and nearly jump out of my seat was on Net Promoter Score. To simplify “NPS“, the score comes from one core question :

“How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?”

To simplify, if there is an equal number of promoters and detractors in your client base, your score is 0. If it is negative, you have more promoters than detractors. A company with strong customer loyalty will have a score over 50, those around Zero, well, not good, not good at all !

When Vernon Hill put up the slide comparing the NPS scores for all the banks, the score for Metro Bank (more on them later!) was 78, excellent. THe highest score for any of the other full service retail banks was around 20, with one of them even having a negative score.

The phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” comes to mind !

So, now a story to illustrate the “old” way, then a little on how simple it has been to do it a “new” way.


A Trust Story : The Journey is the Destination

journey is the destination

A few days ago my son was visiting me in London and we took the River Bus to Greenwich and then the cable car across the Thames. This was hand written on a board as we walked in.

Particularly appropriate words given that I doubt anyone uses that cable car specifically to get to a destination (unique for “TFL” (Transport for London) stations), instead we are all there for the journey over the river Thames and the views. (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Power of an Idea

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

WARNING : Spoilers often included, so if you haven’t seen the movies…


This week three movies about the power of an idea.

“Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” ~ Victor Hugo

(Note : the original from Hugo is “on ne résiste pas à l’invasion des idées”, which directly translates to “one does not resist the invasion of ideas”, but `i like the way it has evolved into the English version in common usage!)


Take time for solitude

This morning I write this overlooking a beautiful and quiet garden on a winter’s day in the Scottish Highlands. I am visiting friends and they have gone out for a while and I sit here in solitude and stillness.

We have so much information in the world, so much for our brains to process, so many decisions to make on a daily basis. With technology we can also be more and more efficient and so cram more and more into our time.

I too find it so easy to be busy, to fill my time, yet there is real power in having the discipline to consciously make time for solitude.

Solitude is a state of mind, where one can be present to oneself, without distraction. Where we create such a space, we can turn off the “monkey mind” and then solutions to anything we seek will present themselves.

One need not take off hundreds of miles for this, sometimes it is sufficient to just turn off the electronic stimulation and pick up a book, or to listen to music with your eyes closed, or to leave everything behind (including that smartphone) and go for a walk in the park.

That said, I am inspired by this, a project based around one of the quietest places on earth, as featured in this NY Times article.

Leadership starts with leading self. Take a moment to consider where you find time for solitude, to switch off the monkey mind, turn off the chatter, create clarity, find silence.


Emotional Equations – Grit


Today a book recommendation and another Emotional Equation (see my first article on the idea of Emotional Equations, as coined by Chip Conley), “Grit” by Angela Duckworth.

My Emotional Equation derived from this is :

Grit = Passion x Perseverance

I also just watched the new Gary Oldman film about Winston Churchill, “Darkest Hour” and am reminded of the Churchill quote :

“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

In “Darkest Hour”, the movie focusses on the darkest hour for Great Britain when it really looked like they would succumb to the Nazi menace. At a pivotal moment, Churchill showed “Grit”.

The point in the book “Grit” is that it is vital to have passion, but without the ability to persevere, you don’t have Grit and will only succeed to a certain level.

One person focussed on in the book is the great Katie Ledecky.

I considered Katie Ledecky the “GOAT” (Greatest of all Time), and featured her in depth in this blog :

A quote from her coach featured in the book :

“Her strength is not in any physical attribute. It’s not even in any particular technique. It’s her overwhelming desire to do what she needs to do to get better.”

It is fashionable to talk about having passion and purpose. Both are vital, and so is the willingness to persevere.

How much “Grit” do we each have ?






Storytelling – A Purpose Story

So, here we are. July 2023. A beautiful summer’s day.

I’m feeling both astonishingly calm and centred and at the same time energised and passionate.

You see, I’m about to give my first talk about my new book “Soul Leadership”, and at this moment I’m  about to be called out to stand, front and centre, on the famous “red dot” of the TED stage.

It has been an amazing few years, last few months, and even last few weeks.

Let me take you back to where it all began, in January 2018 in a gorgeous hotel in the Cotswolds in England, with cosy log fires warming us against the enveloping winter mist and fog.


Smashing Paradigms – Why Retire ?

{latest in a developing series on Smashing Paradigms}

For my story-telling explanation of the definition of a Paradigm, see “What is a Paradigm“. 

One way of defining a paradigm is “an unconsciously held belief that limits us from fresh thinking” or “we’ve always done it this way”




Readers in the USA might remember the ING commercial from around 2008 about knowing “Your number” for how much money you would need saved for retirement.


The paradigm around our lives that I grew up with in the UK (and that has barely shifted since) looks a little like :

  • Up to around age 21 – be a kid, then learn and prepare for a career
  • 21-65 -work, raise a family, and make sure you save enough money to retire
  • 65 to 71 (when I was born in 1965 in the UK).

So, back then “your number” would only have to be enough to last you six years, though of course chances are you’d also have health issues to deal with before you die, so make sure you have health insurance (well, at least in the UK they have the NHS!).

Now, things have changed radically with life expectancy, health, as well as technology.

Not just “can I afford to retire (umm, likely “no”), but change the frame.

Why retire at all ? (more…)

Emotional Equations – Hope

Hope is an incredibly powerful emotion. What if we could bring hope to a huge number of people with a simple idea from the entrepreneurial ecosystem ? From tiny seeds, mighy oak trees grow, or even flower grow through cracks in the pavement.


Recently I began writing about Emotional Equations, as coined by Chip Conley. I’ve since looked at a number of themes that can be put into equations and will write about them in upcoming posts.

For today, inspiration from Ben Brabyn, an inspiring thinker. Each time I meet with Ben synapses fire and ideas fly, and it was great to meet with him on the first working day of 2018 with additional inspiration from the amazing view and great coffee at Level 39 ! (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Education is Everything

Weekly series. Please send in your movies via email, twitter etc. Our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning (and movies you love and recommend!)
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

WARNING : Spoilers often included, so if you haven’t seen the movies…

Despite the usual opening preamble above, this week a different kind of Wednesday post for me, an impassioned stream of consciousness !

You see, it is 11pm and I just came out of the cinema from the new movie (Molly’s Game) by one of the all time masters of screenwriting, Aaron Sorkin.

I love movies, I love smart movies, I love movies that treat the audience as adults (to paraphrase my favourite movie critic, Mark Kermode). Christopher Nolan does that with plot, yet Aaron Sorkin does that with his pen and the power of words alone.

Aaron Sorkin tells stories, Aaron Sorkin makes literary, historical and philosophical references, heck, even references to roman and greek mythology. You know what, that’s more than ok, that is magnificent !

I love it, I get it. You see, I LOVE learning, always have. I’m absolutely curious, and the more I learn, the more I want to learn. I love being educated, I honour and respect education and educators. In the words of Aaron Sorkin :


Writing I love – Man’s Search for Meaning

mans search for meaning

Of all the books I read and recommend to others, top of the list is Man’s Search for Meaning. There is so much in this short volume to recommend, and at the core of it is Frankl’s philosophy that our core driver is to find meaning in life (which ties back to the Japanese concept of Ikigai, written about a number of times on my site, including here)

One of the core themes in the book is so relevant to leaders. I frame it as “are you “response-able””.

Frankl writes :

“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.” 


“The one thing you can’t take away from me is the way I choose to respond to what you do to me. The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” 

I’ve heard leaders argue that they are under stress, they have too much to do, that others don’t understand what it is like. The first half of Frankl’s book tells his story of surviving in a nazi concentration camp. He was able to respond.

On a perhaps more relatable level for us, yet still literally unbelievable for many, an astonishing ultra-endurance athlete called Mark Beaumont in September 2017 smashed the world record for cycling around the world, beating the mythical “Around the World in 80 days” by riding 18,049 miles in 78 days and 14 hours. Do your own calculations on this. Unthinkable indeed !

After completing the ride, Mark did a 35″ interview with Global Cycling Network and a lot of it was about the physical endurance needed for the ride. Amazing though those elements of the interview were, what really struck me was Mark’s mental approach.

Listen from 5:54 to 7:15 here , where he talks about : “once you are fully committed….your ability to complete is your ability to suffer…..”

Also from 14:13 to here, including “after you are two or three weeks in…the body has an amazing ability to adapt…if you’ve not broken down and had to stop after the first two or three weeks”. Yes, he is talking about ignoring injuries and the mental fortitude of getting through the first TWO OR THREE WEEKS with injuries etc. Unreal.

I’ve known Mark for some years and always been inspired by him. Inspirational level of self-knowledge gained through his global adventures. I can imagine Mark would only very rarely react, rather than be response-able, whatever comes his way.

How about you, looking honestly at self, are you able to respond or do you react ? If you have worked for or with a leader who tends to react, what is the impact on you and others ?

A Trust Story – Radical Candor


In my daily posts on this site, if you dip in and out you may not sense an overarching theme. However, should you choose to get in the habit of reading daily, I hope it will be clear to you that my theme and passion is leadeship, and more particularly what I call #OpenLeadership.

So, what is this diagram about ? Radical candor. (more…)