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.


Always fire A**holes

no asshole rule

Last week on Twitter in a discussion around leadership someone mentioned the “no a**hole rule”. Hadn’t specifically heard of it, but will now add this book by Robert Sutton to my reading list.

As someone who lead businesses for years and, over the last decade, coached, mentored and advised others, one of the most frequent questions brought to me runs along the lines of:

“we have this person working for us that is really important to our business, so I can’t afford to fire them, but they are an a**hole, so what should I do?”

Here is the distilled wisdom of decades of experience with such situations.

Always fire A**holes

Fire them, and do it right away.

The long term cost of keeping a toxic individual will always, always outweigh the short term cost of whatever it is you will lose by not having them on the team.

As Netflix put it in their original culture deck from 2009 (a fantastic read, see here): “On a dream team, there are no “brilliant jerks.” The cost to teamwork is just too high

Again and again, I’ve seen this, both the costs that happen when a leader does not act, as well as the long term benefits of acting quickly and decisively.

Oh, and if you are a leader with an a**hole in your business, a brilliant jerk, you are possibly reading this and now justifying why you are keeping them.

If you are clear that they are not someone who used to be great and simply having a rough time and acting oddly, but instead they are, yup, an a**hole, do it. Fire them.

Final thought. If you have this type of person on your team, or perhaps a pattern of them over time, perhaps it is time to challenge yourself and the culture of your business as to how they are attracted, hired, retained. Just a thought.

Toilets and out of date thinking


The photo above is of the beautiful concourse at Kings Cross Railway Station, opened in 2012 as an exquisite redevelopment and enhancement of a railway station originally opened in 1851. I visit this station relatively frequently to both journey to Scotland and to meet those coming to London to visit.

Now, despite the stunning and functional modernity of the building, up until this week it still showed a shining (probably not the right word!) example of six of the most dangerous words in business:

“we’ve always done it this way”

We are all sometimes guilty of this kind of thinking, but if we don’t challenge our assumptions, procedures, methods, decisions (and allow others to challenge us too!), we very much run the risk of our thinking become out of date.

In the case of Network Rail, operators of Kings Cross station, I’d say the example I am about to share was not just a little out of date, but even last century would have been out of date. (more…)

When a blacklist is, unfortunately, just that

Screenshot 2019-04-02 at 11.53.11

In a post last year: “Diversity of Thought – how much is too much?” I remarked upon a panellist at an event choosing to be present, to listen, then to respond calmly. Within that post I wrote:

“..brings to mind to me a quote from 1770 from the Irish statesman and philosopher Edmund Burke:

“When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

A powerful phrase that has been adjusted and repeated for many years as :

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

So, today I share with you a recent article from a dear friend of mine, the brilliant, passionate and purpose-driven economist, Marla Dukaharan.

In this, Marla calmly and clearly calls out empirically obvious racist and white supremacist actions against offshore (defining that as “not large countries” though the majority are islands distant to the major economic powers) jurisdictions. For this, I applaud her for taking a stand, for saying something. (more…)

Economics is for everyone


I’m not an Economist…but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.

Ok, so that one may be lost on many readers, but see the brilliant ad video further down and you may laugh at me, as well as other Economists and other experts!

Meanwhile, today a simple thought:

Economics is for everyone

Let me add to that:

  • Being able to use a spreadsheet – is for everyone
  • Financial literacy for your personal finances –  is for everyone.
  • Being able to read Financial Statements – is for everyone (or at least every leader)

I could go on with many more “is for everyone”, but today let me share from someone far more expert than me on the topic of why this is so, as well as two thoughts of my own around the topic. (more…)

Always be learning and growing

gaping void reality dream

Last week Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void published this image with a blog that simply said:

When looking for a career, consider this: What is going to make you happy long-term isn’t the salary, isn’t the perks, isn’t the social status. What is going to make you happy is the ability to be constantly learning something.

Arts, sciences, commerce, public service, it doesn’t matter- the more you’re learning, the more interesting your career becomes, end of story.

So when entering a profession, it behooves you to ask, is this something I can continually learn from, forever?

Today a few thoughts on learning, growth and what drives us as well as those we may lead. (more…)

It’s not what you look at that matters

what do you see first

What do you see first in the picture above?

In looking at it, did you notice yourself slowing down and focussing closely on the image?

In my most recent three daily posts, I have focussed on a theme of reducing and simplifying.

When we do this, we are able to bring more focus to what we are observing, the person we are listening to.

When we give ourselves space to do that, as one of my favourite philosophers said:

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

~ Henry David Thoreau


Simplicity and Complexity

simplicity poetry complexity

Image by Imaginary Foundation, thanks to Jason Silva for sharing.

This week I met with a client who has a role that sometimes feels overwhelming to them in term of scope, complexity and more.

We spoke of the Da Vinci phrase I have written of, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“.

I also recall from this drawing above a post inspired by another drawing, called “Simplicity on the other side of complexity“.

Finally, I also love elegant writing, and sometimes the shorter, the better. I also love the adage, “never make a point without telling a story”. So, this week I was also supporting one of my sons in reviewing his Masters’ dissertation. He is quite close to the minimum number of words allowed and asked if I felt this was acceptable, to which I said: “as long as you express yourself clearly, the shorter the better”.

That same son features in this post, that includes some of my favourite single lines, called “the longest writing. can be one line“. That post included this line that ends the poem I used for the very first daily post on this site:

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

~ Mary Oliver, The Summer Day

Poetry can indeed, and most beautifully, move us from Complexity to Simplicity.


Give no advice


Yesterday’s post was called “Give less advice“. My friend Bruce Peters read it, then emailed me:

“Have you considered “no advice” Or advice is prohibited approach?
Wisdom Circles in the Quaker tradition set an example, perhaps?”

Sage man, that Bruce.

If, as I often say, “less is more”, then let us consider the next step to “give less advice”. being the power of “give no advice”. (more…)

Give less advice


Coach Gregg Popovich running a timeout for the San Antonio Spurs

Imagine that coach watching the game. Naturally, he can see many things he could advise individuals and the group to do, to change, to stop doing.

However, the best coaches do one thing consistently in such situations, they:

give less advice

To illustrate this, a lesson learned from my own experience as a basketball coach running time outs. (more…)

It just works…better


Steve Jobs famously used the phrase “it just works” all the time (see this video montage).

Over ten years ago I was converted from “PC” to “Mac” after my “power user” Compaq laptops kept wearing out. The same dealer in Cayman sold both Compaq and Apple and recommended a MacBook Pro. He said: “it just works”. He was right, and I’ve been an Apple user ever since.

Now, I could write today about how I feel Apple has lost this focus on their products since Steve Jobs passed, but today I am going to focus on the power of the phrase:

It just works…better


You waste years by not being able to waste hours

michael lewis undoing project

The secret to doing good research is always to be a little underemployed. You waste years by not being able to waste hours. 

~ Amos Tversky

Michael Lewis, author of such books as Moneyball, Liar’s Poker, The Big Short and more, wrote “The Undoing Project” about the friendship of Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahnemann, two academics of massive influence to the field of Behavioural Economics.

In his book David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell talked of the Tversky Intelligence Test, a joke among academics about the intelligence of Tversky. The test?: “The faster you realized Tversky was smarter than you, the smarter you were”.

So, with all of that intelligence, I love this quote, one of a series of thoughts noted by Michael Lewis in his book that Tversky kept to hand as reminders to himself.

As I wrote yesterday referencing Warren Buffett, “Busy is the new stupid“.

As I often advise clients who are CEOs, Business Owners etc: “the less you do, the more valuable you are to your business”.

Do Less. Create Space. Pause. All themes I’ve written about here in past posts.

Don’t take my word for it that this is of value to leaders, listen to Amos Tversky and Warren Buffett.

Busy is the new stupid

reflective thinking

As the image above notes,

“Reflective thinking turns experience into insight”

As a Sounding Board to Leaders, what I do for clients isn’t rocket science.

I take time with people.

I listen.

After listening, I reflect back to them what I heard them say, sometimes with my own insights from my own relatable experiences and knowledge.

Then? I listen some more, and so on.

Basically, time with me helps my clients turn their own experience into insights.

In the last week or two, I’ve spent time with clients on calls and in-person meetings where they have all been so busy that the time they spent with me is really the only time they take in their diary to reflect.

The only time they take to reflect is the (typically) few hours a month they spend with me on various calls and meetings.

This all reminds me of learnings from one of the greatest investors of all time and the phrase “busy is the new stupid”. (more…)

Thank you for visiting my website

People are my library, my daily writing a way to discover what’s in it: ideas, inspiration, wisdom, and a little fun. As your humble librarian, I invite you to subscribe to check out a digest of daily emails emailed twice each week. No late fees, ever.