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.


To achieve, be ready to fail


This week I’ve been home in Cayman. Seeing my boys, clients, friends. There are so many wonderful elements of living on that small island of only around 60,000 people, and at the same time, there is an element of “big fish, small pond” mindset, particularly when it comes to sports. Big fish in a small pond. Top in Cayman is often too low a bar to achieve much beyond that, and can, in fact, act as a limiter. It can mean failure on the big stage internationally.

I can understand that happening, but what I do struggle with is people who don’t try. They aren’t ready to fail in order to succeed, so they don’t truly try. That way they have a built-in reason for their being defeated.

Let’s explore that further and look at why that happens and what can be done if one wishes to truly achieve their personal best. (more…)

Watch your language!


When I was a teenager, occasionally at school someone (yes, sometimes that someone was me!) would let slip a swear word in class. The teacher would typically say something like “watch your language!”. Interesting turn of phrase, now I think about it!

Language is really powerful, and awareness around and choice of language can and does make an enormous impact on our communication.

Today a few quick thoughts and ideas. (more…)

Gratitude + Presence


This week I am back in Cayman, with a full week of client meetings, a client workshop, meetings with friends, contacts, and, most of all, my boys.

What occurs to me at this moment is the powerful combination of :

Gratitude + Presence (more…)

What moves you? Writing, sound, pictures?

swimmer headphones

At the Rio 2016 Olympics, swimmers were given free sets of “Beats” headphones. Brilliant product placement, as it had been realised that almost all swimmers like to close themselves off from the world before their race and do so in a cocoon of sound.

Recently I arranged for my two older sons, both veterans of swimming at the Commonwealth Games, to meet the teenage daughter of a friend, a young swimmer who is now very fast for her age nationally. They had a great chat, with one of the biggest sparks of connection coming when they discussed what songs they put on their playlists to listen to before races!

It got me to thinking about how we learn, and also what moves us, speaks to us, inspires us.

All too often we rely too much on only one tool to connect to others, being the written word. This is a hugely deep topic, so today simply a few connected riffs that I hope get you cogitating! (more…)

Writing I Love – Robert Frost

robert frost woods

Today two simple shares from some writing I love, from the poet Robert Frost.

I’ve written many posts here on this site around “Writing I Love”.  Why do I do that on a site about #OpenLeadership.

Simple. Leadership starts with “Self-Leadership”.

Beauty, whether in nature, poetry, art, movies, special moments of connection. All moments of beauty have the opportunity to connect us more deeply to who we are, and to bring awareness to that is to create ever greater opportunity to lead ourselves and so to lead others, from our children and other family members on up to whoever we lead in our work.

So, I’ll share my own thoughts from two pieces by Robert Frost today.

What writing moves you?  (more…)

Forget the “Golden Rule”, adopt the “Platinum Rule”


The Golden Rule states: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

The Platinum Rule: “Treat others the way they want to be treated.”

The Golden Rule is cited so often it seems like a wonderful and positive aspiration.

However, the first time someone tells you about the Platinum Rule and suggest you “upgrade” your standards to Platinum, typically you’ll have a thought that often happens when you hear a piece of true wisdom and that is: “that seems so obvious”.

So now you’ve heard it, let’s talk a bit about it so you can look to where you might apply it, as well as where you may already have done so, or perhaps where you might see a real change if you use it in your next interaction with that person. (more…)

What I’ve learned from a year of writing daily posts


My first daily post on this site was one year ago, October 15th, 2017, with the post

Life is Wild and Precious, Be Present

One year later, this first daily post remains a favourite for me, as does the wonderful poem by Mary Oliver. Today, though, the whole post has special meaning for me on this anniversary of writing.

What particular resonance does it have for me on this day? What else can I reflect on today that I have learned from a year of writing daily posts?

Oh, and it never felt like I had to bleed à la Hemingway!


It’s OK to not be OK

10 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health

Last week, October 11th, was World Mental Health Day.

On September 16th, one of the most highly respected political leaders in the UK, Ruth Davidson, gave a comprehensive and highly open interview with the Sunday Times. The header of the interview reads:

“Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservatives, on depression, her self‑harm scars and why she’ll never be PM”

Today let me reflect on a tweet Ruth posted on World Mental Health Day, and on where vulnerability is, in fact, a powerful strength for leaders and for all of us as humans. (more…)

Quiet Leadership – Night Swimming

Ian nightswimming

“Nightswimming deserves a quiet night” ~ REM

Leadership takes many forms, yet common to any style is the adage that “it is about what you do, not what you say”. For those who model quiet leadership, it is absolutely in what they do, not what they say.

This photo from five years ago evokes a personal story that speaks to the power of quiet leadership. (more…)

Slow down to speed up later

Cambridgeshire Oct10

Soon I will be travelling for ten days to Cayman and the USA, blending seeing clients, family, friends.

Whilst most of my active clients are on retainers, over the years I’ve built deep relationships with a number of clients who call me in periodically to support them as needed.

One such client overseas has asked me to spend a day with their team on this trip. When I asked them what they would like me to support them with, the client principal, with lots of experience of the work, sent a list of three specific tools and frameworks they’d like me to cover with the team.

Simple enough, at one level, but today let me use this example, as well as a story around the photo above, to explain what I mean by:

Slow down to speed up later


Slow down – what do you see?

Monday 1st October. It is 7:35am. I got out of bed at 5:30am in Edinburgh, then got a bus and then the train through to Glasgow. It is almost freezing, I am kicking myself for not bringing my winter coat. Even though it is early, people are walking at high speed through the cold early morning, most with heads down, many looking at their phones.

I was, however, in good time for a breakfast meeting, so what did I see when I slowed down a little? (more…)

None of us is bulletproof – advice for founders


I had lunch recently with an investor who expressed frustration about founders of startups and scale-ups.

They are not a fund partner, nor VC or from the Private Equity world. No, they actually built a business of value and lived it for the whole journey through to an ultimate sale and cash out for a significant sum, thus giving them space and funds to invest in other businesses. Cards on the table, I prefer such investors as they’ve been through it personally, rolled the sleeves up. Experience brings empathy at a level that is irreplaceable. This gives them a powerful edge in mentoring founders, who often are sorely lacking sounding boards on the roller coaster ride.

So, why was this investor so frustrated when I met them? Could it have been that they wanted to vent along the lines of my own common frustration with founders focussed on raising round after round of funding without actually building a business that generates revenues? Not that day, though certainly something I may write about another time!

No, they were frustrated with founders pretending they are bulletproof. (more…)

Recapturing the power of intuition


“Our world seems like a heap of fragments and it is hard to see how they cohere. Wisdom has been replaced by knowledge and knowledge has been replaced by information. Pieces of data. Chunks of data.”

Iain McGilchrist, author of “The Divided Mind”,

speaking in the documentary”Innssaei – The Power of Intuition”

In our modern world, we have largely forgotten the power of intuition.

On this site, I often muse on ideas and themes that may appear tangential at best to the theme of leadership. However, the term I use here is #OpenLeadership, and that is about being open in many ways. including to listening to “the sea within”, as the tagline to the documentary Innsaei puts it.

Let me talk to you today, then, about the power of intuition, and also a few thoughts on how to recapture it for yourself. (more…)

Setting your personal context


Today let me put it to you that, in many years and thousands upon thousands of hours as a coach, the single most powerful tool for coaching is Context.

Today I’ll talk specifically about the power for an individual of setting a personal context and three focal areas for action aligned to that context.

To get there, as the diagram indicates, one needs to ask oneself different questions to arrive at what both drives and supports you to move forward from the present.


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