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.


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…)

What’s your “AND”?

mj defensive player of the year

Michael Jordan being presented the 1988 NBA Defensive Player of the Year

A few days ago I wrote a piece called “Both, And“, focussing at that time on how we make choices. Today, though, am thinking of this from the angle of “what is your “and”?“.

What do I mean by that? Well, we all can recognise and be seen for a particular skill, ability, strength in our core area of focus, work etc. However, sometimes it is our “and” that really sets us apart, rather than the thing we are most recognised for,

Michael Jordan is widely thought to be the greatest basketball player of all time. When we think of him we think of one of the most dominant offensive players in basketball history.

Did you know, though, that he is one of only four players in history to have won both the MVP award and defensive player of the year award?

In short, Michael Jordan’s skills, passion and drive at the defensive end of the court was very much his “and”.

Let’s give some more examples to help you bring awareness to what is your own “and“. (more…)

Trust and being an ICAS CA

Bruce Cartwright

Bruce Cartwright, Chief Executive, ICAS

Last year I had the opportunity to meet and talk to Bruce Cartwright shortly after he took the reins as Chief Executive of ICAS.

This week, as I find myself writing about what it takes for successful Collaborative Leadership, the theme of Trust comes around again and again.

Also this week, Bruce and ICAS launched the ICAS agenda, with one of their three themes being Trust. (more…)

Golf Trips and Collaborative Leadership

Iceberg principle

Collaborative Leadership:

“the process of engaging collective intelligence to deliver results across organisational boundaries when ordinary mechanisms of control are absent”

Oxford Leadership – Collaborative Leadership White Paper, 2011

The other day a dear friend of mine, a top elite sports coach and voracious learner and networker around leadership and behaviour, sent me this white paper.

Within it are some powerful learnings for leading collaboratively, yet, as so often, I wonder why corporate leaders and their consultants need to speak in such overly complicated ways.

Today let me endeavour to use Oxford Leadership’s version of the iceberg principle (ie the image above, captured from their white paper), to make a few simple points for leaders to anchor upon if they choose to lead collaboratively. (more…)

Allow time before deciding


This week I met with a friend who is dealing with a tricky ethical issue around board governance. They appeared to be wrestling with what decision to make amidst a number of variables lending complexity to the decision.

I listened to them and it appeared clear that they had all the information at their disposal that they could get in order to make the decision, yet it still was difficult for them to decide.

My advice?

Allow some time before making a decision.

Also, I then suggested to them that they focus on other work, other decisions, that they:

Put it down and focus on something else

So, why did I give these two pieces of advice? (more…)

When to fight, when to accept?


I recently learned a powerful lesson from someone close to me who has a disease that they are choosing how to address.

They shared with me that they learned from their doctor that this was not something you “fight”, as to approach it from a “fight” mindset means that you are not giving your body permission and highest capability to heal. Instead, adopting a level of acceptance of “what is” can allow that healing to be strong, thus giving the highest chance for the body to be strong and so allow the medical team to take on the disease to the fullest extent.

Today some thoughts on when to fight and when to accept, whether when one has a disease, or in terms of learnings from martial arts, then around leading at times of crisis. (more…)

Both, And


Again and again, I work with leaders seeking to find the perfect way to address a challenge, take advantage of an opportunity.

All too often leaders feel they have to choose one solution and discard another, what I would call an “Either, Or” choice.

Now, more often than not, when I coach/advise/counsel people, the answer they eventually choose is more of a “Both, And” where they take the best from more than one potential solution to address what is typically a complex problem where no one solution is the right one.

At a philosophical level, I am also an advocate of “Both, And” as it is from a place of abundance and choice and such energy is where ideas, motivation and empowerment come from. “Either, Or” is more from a place of scarcity and control, hence tends not to energise or motivate.

So, consider for yourself next time you are looking to make a decision, can you approach it from a “Both, And” approach or are you locked into “Either, Or” mindset?