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.


Belief – The greatest gift you can give someone


As a father of three wonderful boys, I absolutely echo these words from the late, great Coach Jimmy V. He took his NC State Wolfpack team to a remarkable NCAA title in 1983 and his players would have walked through fire for him.

He believed in them, they believed in him. An amazing leader.


Stoicism – The Tao of Bobby Orr

Recently I’ve been focussed on Stoicism, from reading Seneca through the pdfs published by Tim Ferris (link here), to writing twice daily in my Daily Stoic journal, the creation of Ryan Holiday.

I wrote about this in “Writing I love – The Roman Stoics“, where I captured this description of the essence of Stoicism by Ryan Holiday :

“ the very root of the thinking, there is a very simple, though not easy, way of living. Take obstacles in your life and turn them into your advantage, control what you can and accept what you can’t.”

I then found a wonderful article by Boyd Falconer called “THE STOIC TAO OF ORR“, which delves deep into what made Bobby Orr such an amazing leader in sports.


I do encourage reading of the Stoics, the 2000 year old wisdom is so relevant today in our age of disruption, and where institutional trust is collapsing. We need leaders now as much as at any time in history.

A few snippets from Boyd’s article, please consider them in the realm in which you are a leader, whether in business, with family, friends, community.

“There are many famous images in the history of sports photography…Included in that distinguished collection must certainly be the iconic photo of Boston Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr suspended midair, celebrating scoring the winning goal in the 1970 Stanley Cup finals over the St. Louis Blues. Orr was the greatest player of his time but possibly more importantly he was most stoic leader the world of sports has ever seen.”

“Orr didn’t need to yell and scream or berate his teammates. He quietly led by example and his fellow players never ever wanted to let him down. Orr commanded respect in the most stoic way possible – he led by example. His quiet confidence and his humility was the hub in the middle of the Bruins logo that the rest of the team revolved around. He was their sun.”

“How would one explain the leadership skills that Orr displayed? The great Montreal Canadiens goaltender Ken Dryden summed it up best when he said, “He brought others with him; he wanted them involved. That’s what made him so different: It felt like a five-player stampede moving toward you – and at his pace.” Orr’s aura extended to Boston sports fans who still genuflect and make the sign of the cross when his name is mentioned. The few times he attends Bruins games these days there is a palpable murmur in the stands. “Bobby is here tonight”, they say. No one needs to ask, “Bobby who?”


A leader is someone other choose to follow. Could stoicism be a valuable tool for you to create followers for your leadership ?

Smashing Paradigms – Legacy Careers

{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”



Last week I wrote “Smashing Paradigms – Why Retire” referencing the work of Chip Conley around changing demographics and the world of work.

Since that post I have been introduced to the work of Lisa Taylor and Challenge Factory of Canada.


Wonderful graphic and wonderful visual demonstration of the changing world of work, from a two phase career to a three stage career.

  • Foundation Career
  • Mid-Career
  • Legacy Career

I particularly love the idea of a “transition with purpose”, indicating a conscious period of reflection, investment and preparation for what is to come next.

This involves smashing several paradigms, and a key one in there for me is shifting beliefs of both employers and employees in businesses such that the “legacy career” phase has both of them wanting to remain “at work” in a way that is purposeful and of value to all.

I look forward to immersing myself further in this space and would love your thoughts, plus any further introductions.


Movies with Meaning – Grit

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


Recently I wrote about the concept of Grit (from the book by Angela Duckworth) and converted it into an Emotional Equation of :

Grit = Passion x Perseverance

This week, then, three movies about Grit.


Writing I love – Alan Watts and the meaning of life

Alan Watts was a philosopher who synthesised ancient Eatern wisdom into meaning relevant for living in modern Western society.

He died at the age of 58 in 1973, yet now he is more relevant than ever.  As Erik Davis said, his “writings and recorded talks still shimmer with a profound and galvanizing lucidity.”

We live in a modern age of ever more intense work and less and less play, where business leaders feel they have to process more and more information and make more and more decisions.

Management is about DOING, but Leadership is about BEING, so Alan Watts is wonderful reading. (more…)

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 ?






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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.