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.


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…)

A Trust Story – Netflix – Context, not Control

In 2009, Netflix published the now famous “Culture Deck”, 120 slides, a manifesto for the revolutionary culture created at Netflix.

Sheryl Sandberg famously referred to this deck as “the most important document ever to come out of the valley”.  It is still available to view and very much worth reading in full.

So. what is so special about the Netflix culture, and, now that this 2009 deck has been updated and abbreviated to 10 pages of prose, what can I synthesiste and distil for you in a post of no more than two pages of prose ?


Mystic realism – Shoshin and Business


Shoshin is a Zen Buddhist concept which broadly translates to having a “beginner’s mind”.

This week I was inspired by a conversation with Chip Conley and excited about the future of his initiative around Modern Elders, as also captured here.

In the second article, it quotes from a talk Chip gave:

“LEARNING NEVER ENDS Education is not filling a pail, it is stoking a fire. This is where he talked about being catalytically curious, and taking off the costume of being an expert to start with that beginner’s mind and ask a lot of “why” and “what if” questions”

Now combine that sense of Shoshin with what lies at the centre of Jack Frost (please watch the lovely clip in this post, I don’t want to spoil the “reveal” of what does lie at his centre !


Smashing Paradigms – Happy Business

{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”



Online retail is on the march, and any walk around a shopping mall in the USA, UK, Canada and other Western nations will show this in terms of closed stores, reduced footfall. The term “retail apocalypse” was common in 2017, as “bricks and mortar” retail continues to struggle.

Within the retail sector, the area that seems the most archaic and doomed to be engulfed by the march to online retail is absolutely “old school” department stores.

However in amongst all of this is one of the most beloved brands in their country of operation, with hugely loyal staff and customers, and this business continues to thrive.

Their secret ?


john lewis happiness


Movies with Meaning – Carpe Diem !

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…

Happy New Year to you.. and the first movie of this list is one of my all time favourites. I’ve already featured it in an earlier weekly Movies with Meaning post, but this time the focus is timely for the start of the year.  Carpe Diem !

Writing I love – Invictus

This week a poem rather than a book.

At times on my journey in this life I have not felt strong, certain, energetic and aligned. At time I have felt anxious, had bouts of depression, felt worthless. That makes me normal, that makes me human, that makes me alive.

This subject of wellness and mental health is still rarely talked about. I want to single out Matt Haig right now for this. A highly successful author in the UK, Matt is also a passionate advocate for mental health and anxiety in particular, particularly on Twitter, where he can be found here.

When I’ve had tough times, certain music, writing, movies have helped me. One poem that also works whether in a down or up state of mind for me is Invictus, by William Ernest Henley :


New Year – Your “Why” comes before setting goals

why rooted in purpose

Every year so many of us set New Year’s resolutions, a to do list of HOW we are going to do things differently. As we also know, the vast majority of such resolutions are not carried through. Hmm.

This year, consider reflecting first on WHY you want to make a change. If your WHY is powerful enough, it will carry you through the tough times that you will inevitably face if you seek change.

Let me carry that a little further. When is the last time you really took time at the start of the year to be clear on your “WHY“, what drives you as a human being. Not WHAT you want from life or HOW you intend to get there, but WHY that is important to you ?

I wrote on Christmas Day in “Father Christmas asks – What’s your Centre ?” about finding your centre, finding your WHY.

One other element to this is to look to understand the WHY of others, and to recognise that your sense of their WHY may not align with their own. To this I give you a parable : (more…)

The Hero’s Journey – be your own hero


In my last article, I wrote about “Emotional Equations – What Makes a Story ?” where someone from the movie industry created an equation that captures the essence of all stories.

This led my thinking to reflection on the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell. Campbell refers to this as the monomyth (a term from James Joyce), referencing that this single myth tells the story of thousand of heros and many of the movies you’ve watched.

Star Wars ? George Lucas was absolutely inspired by the hero’s journey…. (more…)

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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.