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.


What are you reading?

Inigo Montoya What are you reading?

On this site, I mean 😉

I’m doing the holiday season differently, taking a few days overseas on a break from today.

I also just wrote a LONG read newsletter to go into the #OpenLeadership archive after it goes out on Monday, January 6th. If you’d like to receive then, go to the Writing page and ensure you are subscribed to both the (twice-weekly) Digest that keeps you up to date with these daily posts, as well as the Newsletter, for the periodic lengthier posts.

So, today as I head off on a short break, simply reflecting on another full year of writing and linking to the top five most-read posts of 2019. This is what you all have read the most.

  1. Inigo Montoya – Masterclass on introducing yourself
  2. We are the sum total of our experiences
  3. Cogito Ergo Sum, or Sentio Ergo Sum?
  4. When people show you who they are, believe them
  5. Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards

As a bonus, my favourite post of all time and one that is a personal reflection: Quiet Leadership – Night Swimming

I hope some of you enjoy catching up on some of 2019’s post highlights.

Oh, and as I’m not a fan of networking events (oddly, I’m quite shy), I love to stir things up. If you meet me at one, I often introduce myself with: “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” inn honour of that most read post. You know the two lines to respond with so I know you are in my tribe, don’t you? 🙂

Purpose-Led – from 13 people to 6 million

In 2020 I will be writing regular posts featuring businesses that are truly Purpose-led and are highly and sustainably successful.

This is all part of a mission to build bridges to CEOs, and specifically to address the doubters that believe that Purpose as the core driver for Leadership is only “window dressing”. Whilst I agree that there is more and more “Purpose-Washing” that goes on from cynical CEOs, Boards, Shareholders, by writing about the success stories I hope to open eyes and hearts and reduce some of that cynicism.

Going from 13 people to 6 million

Today I want to talk about a business that launched with only 13 customers in 2004 and now has over 6 million and passionate staff in the hundreds of thousands.

I started my New Year’s Day yesterday by attending one of their events, at which an event attendance record was absolutely shattered.

What is this business worth? Is it a “unicorn” tech company valued in the billions? Why haven’t you heard of it? Ah, now this is a story for sure!


Everything’s gonna be alright

Answers in Music from Bob Marley
Bob Marley, live at the Lyceum 1975

For New Year’s Day this year, I’ll be up quite early and volunteering at a ParkRun. At other time’s of the day, I’ll do what I typically do on the first day of the year, which is to take it quietly and, with that, listen to music.

Today’s post then is simply sharing a few tracks of beautiful music that I come back to again and again and that I discovered along life’s journey.

The post title comes from the line that struck me most from “No Woman, No Cry” as an uncertain teenager in the late 70s looking for answers in music.

I could pick so many tracks, but today choosing only five and in chronological order of when I discovered them. These are all from my early teens to my early twenties, so from the late ’70s to late ’80s. Perhaps a later post may bring forth some newer influences. The stories and track links are below, the listing:

  • Bob Marley and the Wailers – No Woman, No Cry
  • Oscar Peterson – Bye Bye Blues – live at Montreux 1977
  • The Specials – A Message To You, Rudy
  • John Martyn – May You Never
  • The Whole of the Moon – The Waterboys

Seeking to be “in Flow” rather than to attain

Michael Jordan and Flow

In this last week of the year, I have been writing some simple daily musings on themes such as slowing down (here and here) and being patient (here and here). Today, inspired (as I often am) by the thoughts of my friend Chip Conley, I reflect on what happens when we choose to be patient, to allow our thoughts and actions to slow down.

When we stop pushing to attain, to drive, to push towards goals and attaining achievements, we can attune, “tune in” more. We can be “in Flow”.

Read on for more on “Flow”, what slowing down and patience can bring to this, then for Chip’s post that inspired me.


Being patient is not about doing nothing

Patience: Being patient is not about doing nothing

Yesterday I mused about patience in “Being Patient can be a Practice“, musing that, at this quiet time between Christmas and New Year: “I find myself struggling today to “do nothing” and, on a broader sense, to “be patient” and allow time for things to emerge and evolve in a few different ways in my work and life.”

Today, noting that my theme over the last “holiday week” has been around slowing down and being patient, I want to shift and clarify something today.

Being patient is not about doing nothing.

To do nothing and expect what you wish for to magically appear, I don’t believe that works. Instead, focus on and work with focus and dedication on whatever, at source, needs to be focussed on in order to deliver the results you are seeking.

Patience, then, is about your attitude towards getting those results, both in timing and absolute outcome.

In our culture we celebrate winners, we celebrate heroes in life, business, sport and more. However, not everyone can be on the podium, the elite of the elite. Not everyone gets what they want.

However, if you do the source work and be patient about the outcomes, that combination, I have found, tends to deliver powerful results.

Do the work and be patient.

Right, back to the liminal days until the New Year starts back up. For more on that word liminality, another little blog for you.

Being Patient can be a Practice

Be Patient With Yourself

It is the Sunday morning between Christmas and New Year. For me consciously a super quiet couple of days planned this way.

As 2019 comes to a close I have much to be thankful for and much to look forward to in 2020, yet still, I find myself struggling today to “do nothing” and, on a broader sense, to “be patient” and allow time for things to emerge and evolve in a few different ways in my work and life.

This impatience in myself amuses me and I sit smiling at myself as I write.

A coaching adage is “you can only see in others what you see in yourself”. Patient, still and quiet as I can be as a coach to my clients, part of why I can understand them when they are impatient in different ways is that it is part of my own makeup to sometimes be impatient for action and for results from myself and from others.

I guess being patient is, therefore a practice. Let me go now and practice some more.

Slow down and look at the flowers…

Slow down and look at the flowers

…literally, slow down and look at the flowers.

Over the last few days I’ve been taking time to slow down, as with yesterday’s post” Slow it down“.

Last night I arrived back from Scotland to my apartment in London. It took me a while as I busied myself with “life admin” before I noticed how beautifully the flowers delivered one week previously had opened so magnificently. I stopped what I was doing and simply slowed down to look at the flowers.

I’m finding I really need to slow down as we come to the end of the year, how about you?

Right, I’m off out for a leisurely winter walk with friends now. Have a lovely day!

Slow it down

Slow it down in Edinburgh
Edinburgh, December 25th, 2019

For a few days, I am taking time to slow down. On the morning of Christmas Day, I walked to the top of a hill and looked over this view of Edinburgh, the city where I was born and lived a total of about 12 of my first 24 years of life. Though I have never lived here since it is my home town and the history of the city and my history within it felt strong on that morning.

As I stood and paused looking at this view, I was listening to a recording of a recent concert by The Lumineers that I was at. The song “Slow it Down” played as I gazed at this view.


Truly taking time with others

taking time with others in Edinburgh
Panorama of Edinburgh to the North, December 25th, 2019

In the English language, we have the phrase “spending time”, which infers that taking time is a “cost” that we “spend”. In business and leadership, I hear so often that people say they “can’t afford the time” for various things.

When we think of time as a scarce currency, as our language often seems to, it has implications for how we behave.

At this time of year all too often we feel we have to over-schedule ourselves with social events, as we only have so much time “off” before the work of the new year starts. What if, instead, we under-schedule ourselves, we truly take this time for ourselves also to take time to be with others?


The secret of happiness

On this Christmas Day and for a few days either side, I’m around family and we’ve all agreed to not buy gifts other than for some of the children and to keep things simple.

Sometimes simple is best, reminded of this from Socrates:

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less”

All the best to you and yours for a simple and relaxed season and break.

“I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them”

John Stuart Mill

Do Better

Racism Definition. Do Better.

Yes, I know it is Christmas Eve and this is a season for joy and merriment among friends and family.

However, this is also a time in the UK when, on a daily basis, we are seeing either first hand or right in front of us in the media, racism in all its ugliness. Sometimes it is overt, sometimes less obvious in the patronising way in which someone calls out racism and (always white) people criticise them and try to say how tolerant we are as a society. “Tolerant?”. The term itself is patronising.

So, Christmas is a time for goodwill to all men, and sometimes that means more than platitudes, to think and act with “goodwill to all men”, it means talking about subjects that are uncomfortable.

So, for those who choose to read on, my thoughts on what any one of us can do should we choose, how, whatever we are already doing, how we can do better.


How to do a reference check

Reference Check

“Awesome thread. Humility, Open-Ness and Confidence. A powerful combination in service of others.”

My thoughts when I retweeted a thread about receiving a reference check call. Nothing to add, other than to say this is how to do a reference check!

(note, embedding the thread below, but also cutting and pasting the text for those who aren’t on twitter)


When You’re Liminal and You Don’t Know It.

Wisdom Well Liminal

Chip Conley has inspired me for many years, but recently for the first time he has also been my editor, for yesterday’s guest post on the new “Wisdom Well” of daily writings from the Modern Elder Academy. Thanks, Chip, for editing me down to something succinct!

When You’re Liminal and You Don’t Know It.

Last week I met someone I hadn’t seen for over two and a half years and they asked me what I’d been up to.

I could have said so much.

In that time I got divorced, mothballed my business, moved from Cayman to London, then have met some really amazing people (including Chip) and got involved in some fantastic projects (including Modern Elder Academy), all while continuing my core work as a Sounding Board to leaders.

Phew, so much has happened.

Instead, what came out of my mouth was simply: “I’ve been on a quasi-sabbatical”


Wow, as the words came out, I suddenly realized that has been exactly what I’ve been doing.

Up until that moment I thought I’d done the liminal bit a long time ago around my work and career and was already well through that into my next phase. I certainly felt that way when I went to the Modern Elder Academy not once but twice.

So, it is with a wry smile that I’ve come to a sudden realization that I been at a new level of liminality all this time!

Perhaps liminality comes in waves. If so, I’m a happy surfer.

Be careful how you slow down

How to slow down

Have you, or anyone you know, ever “crashed” as you stop for the Christmas Holidays? Got sick as soon as you stopped work, then suffered through the start of the season?

Leaders are often “Type A”, working hard and (normally) loving it, “cranking out” long hours etc. To me, as long as they are loving it and find balance with life beyond work, all good!

However, often as soon as they “switch off” for a break, particularly around Christmas, they “hit the couch” and get sick with cold or other ailments, aches, pains. Not an ideal way to spend the holidays with family and friends, given that you may have neglected them for work and now you are not at your best to be present with and for them!

So, be careful of how you slow down.

If you completely “switch off”, your body may take that as a signal to “crash” and you may get sick. Instead, find other activities both mental and physical to keep yourself active as you “ease down” into the holiday break.

Ideas may include family rituals such as decorating the house and Christmas tree, it may be taking a walk or anything else that keeps your body active. Perhaps singing carols in a choir, playing board games with loved ones (or anything to keep your brain active at some level).

As a reminder of what can happen when we do crash, I share again a personal story of when I crashed at Christmas. It was bad, it was scary, I learned from it. My thoughts today are to bring you awareness so you can avoid something like: “The day I had a physical breakdown“.

Do you need to be challenged?

This week a very observant friend noted that I need to be challenged, so having people in my life who challenge me is good for me.

They noted that I have a big brain and know lots of stuff, so it is good for me to be challenged on my thoughts.

A great reminder to have people in your life who challenge you, to both test your ideas and opinions and to remind you (to remind ME) to always look to be humble.

I also love the quote above from the great Coach Wooden. If we are open to being challenged, then when real adversity comes, we can respond effectively.

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