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.


Michael Jordan: I failed, that is why I succeed


I love this quote from Michael Jordan, as it speaks to “Deliberate Practice”, a topic I wrote about yesterday, focusing on golf and Ben Hogan, as well as looking to prompt readers to consider where they are deliberate in what they do, whether it be in their personal life or at work, in what they do personally or what they guide and lead their people to do.

So, to “MJ” or #23″. Oh, and I’ll come back to that quote at the end of this post to reflect on perhaps his greatest success. (more…)

Ben Hogan: Deliberate Practice

ben hogan five lessons.jpeg

The summer I was 15, the weather in the Scottish Borders was beautiful (so my memory tells me!). That year I got the “bug” to play golf. Junior membership was almost free and I rode my bike to the club with an old “half set” of clubs and spent all day there most of the summer. All that time I had with me a very old copy of this book by Ben Hogan, first published back in 1957.

Ben Hogan was one of the greatest golfers of all time and was known to practice more than any of his contemporary golfers. He is said to have “invented practice”. Hogan himself said, “You hear stories about me beating my brains out practising, but… I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply, it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Hogan believed anybody, through “deliberate practice”, could “break 80”, which in plain English means to become a good golfer. So what do we mean by deliberate practice(more…)

Wait overnight before replying

**first a note..historically I have posted “Writing I Love” posts on Tuesdays, and “Movies with Meaning” posts on Wednesdays. Effective this week, I’m iterating a change. My writing and movie posts will continue, simply on weekends, leaving Monday to Friday for evolving in my usual eclectic way my themes and posts around #OpenLeadership 

keep calm and just wait

What if you waited at least overnight to reply to all your emails and messages?

What Tom? Are you crazy?  I can’t do that!

Really? Yes… (more…)

This too shall pass


Yesterday I wrote: “Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No Go By Ye” around a theme of resilience and asking you what tools you have for this.

Another is “this too shall pass”, which I was reminded of today around the same recent personal setback that had me write yesterday’s post.

Today I share the fable behind the phrase, which has origins in Sufi and Hebrew folklore. It feels like deep wisdom to me, a word I oft define as “something concise that, once you hear it, you feel you have always known it”. I sense that this phrase, in different forms and languages, is as old as humanity.

I hope this story anchors it for you and you can carry this as a totem for times you need resilience.

“One day Solomon decided to humble Benaiah Ben Yehoyada, his most trusted minister. He said to him, “Benaiah, there is a certain ring that I want you to bring to me. I wish to wear it for Sukkot which gives you six months to find it.”

“If it exists anywhere on earth, your majesty,” replied Benaiah,

“I will find it and bring it to you, but what makes the ring so special?” “It has magic powers,” answered the king. “If a happy man looks at it, he becomes sad, and if a sad man looks at it, he becomes happy.” Solomon knew that no such ring existed in the world, but he wished to give his minister a little taste of humility.

Spring passed and then summer, and still Benaiah had no idea where he could find the ring. On the night before Sukkot, he decided to take a walk in one of the poorest quarters of Jerusalem. He passed by a merchant who had begun to set out the day’s wares on a shabby carpet. “Have you by any chance heard of a magic ring that makes the happy wearer forget his joy and the broken-hearted wearer forget his sorrows?” asked Benaiah.

He watched the grandfather take a plain gold ring from his carpet and engrave something on it. When Benaiah read the words on the ring, his face broke out in a wide smile. That night the entire city welcomed in the holiday of Sukkot with great festivity.

“Well, my friend,” said Solomon, “have you found what I sent you after?” All the ministers laughed and Solomon himself smiled. To everyone’s surprise, Benaiah held up a small gold ring and declared, “Here it is, your majesty!” As soon as Solomon read the inscription, the smile vanished from his face. The jeweller had written three Hebrew letters on the gold band: gimel, zayin, yud, which began the words “Gam zeh ya’avor” — “This too shall pass.”

At that moment Solomon realized that all his wisdom and fabulous wealth and tremendous power were but fleeting things, for one day he would be nothing but dust.”

Or, as the Roman Stoics might put it: “Memento Mori

Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No Go By Ye


If you play it safe in life, you can normally create a simple and comfortable life for yourself, achieving what you aim for, as long as you keep your aim relatively low.

If, however, you are someone brave enough to seek to achieve your absolute personal best and to make your own greatest possible “dent in the universe”, inevitably you will run into obstacles, challenges, disappointments.

This post is for those brave individuals who aim high, and also for those who lead others

What I am here to remind you is that you will hit hurdles, run into walls, fall down holes. Some will hurt, some will hurt a lot.

One morning I woke up to an email with some news that really hurt. The reality is it was really rough news, and it would have been all too easy to fall into a spiral of doubt, of “woulda, shoulda, coulda” self-flagellation.

This was a personal area of a deal falling through, but in business it could be a major deal going down, someone you thought was ideal for a hire turning down the job, receiving a resignation letter from a star team member where you had no idea they were unhappy (happened to me once in my career, it still smarts that I missed this!) etc.

I’m not saying that I was totally calm and zen-like in this recent case. I wasn’t. It was rough.

However, one resilience tool I had that was helpful was the simple phrase every Scottish mother and grandmother teaches their children, You see, the Scots are Stoics by nature too !

That phrase is the subject line of this email and the picture above, which readily translates to : “What’s for you will not go by you”

If you were expecting something to happen and it doesn’t, and if you did everything you could, honoured your values and ethics, it simply wasn’t meant to happen.

I realise in running a search on this site of the term “resilience”, counting this one, I have now written at least ten posts talking about this in different ways.

The higher you aim, the more likely that you will have some setbacks along the way. They can either defeat you, or you can learn from them and rise every higher. Part of being able to do the latter is to recognise you will have setbacks and to build practices, structures, support well before you need them.

Please do read some of the posts you will see from that link above, and take notes on what resilience tools you use. Please also share any with me by commeting on this post, by twitter, email, whatever medium you choose. I’ll absolutely review anything I receive and look to share with others in future posts.

Thank you, and remember, “Whit’s Fur Ye’ll No Go By Ye” !

What is your 80 days?

Mark B ES 2018

On April 26th, I was at Gleneagles for a truly inspirational and world-class day at the Entrepreneurial Scotland annual conference, themed “Global Mindset, Scottish Heart”.

The conference was opened by my friend, the truly inspirational Mark Beaumont, who just over a year ago utterly smashed the round the world cycling record, taking it down 40% to under the mythical “Around the World in 80 Days” level.

Mark taught us a two-part lesson.

Mark spoke of two individuals who have asked him for support in breaking another round the world record. He asked them both, separately, “how fast do you think you can do it ?”. They both answered, “well, the record is x days, I’ll beat that”. His response to each of them was simple.  “Then, you will fail”.

You see, they had ignored Mark’s first lesson.

That first lesson is to become really clear on who you are and how much you are capable of, to find your own personal best. He speaks from experience. He had stretched himself to the absolute limit in prior endurance adventures. I’d also add that it is a true privilege to have got to know Mark over a number of years. He is truly a massively self-aware and humble leader and an old soul. An old head on young shoulders would be another phrase. Inspirational!

Knowing who he is and what his ultimate capability was, Mark then set that 80 days target.

The second part of the lesson is then to design and build a plan and then execute it as if you truly are going to achieve your full potential, your own “80 days”. there will be times when you are at the limit, and you need to stop thinking and simply execute a well thought out plan that you know you can deliver on. To go on automatic pilot when needed.

A famous quote from Mike Tyson is “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face”. If I may extend that from what Mark taught us, “everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face. When you get punched in the face, you need a plan more than ever.”

So… what is your 80 days?

What is your personal best, your true and full potential?

If you know that, what then? What do you need to have in place in order to achieve that potential?

Smashing Paradigms – from Patron to Patreon

Latest in the 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 “we’ve always done it this way”



Last week’s Smashing Paradigms column was titled: “your Comfort Zone is no longer safe..wait, what?“. In it I wrote:

“What if, however, taking the comfortable option of a regular job is riskier than starting your own business? What if comfortable is no longer safe….”

I then quoted Seth Godin:

Be an Artist, and Make Art!

“It’s simple. There’s still a safety zone, but it’s not in a place that feels comfortable to you.
The new safety zone is the place where art and innovation and destruction and rebirth happen.”

“Oscar Wilde wrote that art is “new, complex, and vital.” Art isn’t something that’s made by artists. Artists are people who make art. Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.”

Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map. These are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock, use a computer, or work with others all day long.”

Now, what happens, you may ask, if nobody recognises the commercial value of your Art? How do you eat as an artist working without a map?

What if an idea from the Renaissance could be reworked for our crowdfunding times to fill that gap innovatively? Well, it has happened.  (more…)

Ikigai, Presence.. Bucket Lists

Today the word “Bucket list” comes to me, through a recent experience best told by a video.

Before you watch the 21-second long video clip, please let me set the scene.

I’ll tell that story, then reflect a little on bucket lists, presence and Ikigai a little (as recurring themes around leadership on this site.).

I’m a big movie fan (hence “Movies with Meaning” posts every Wednesday on this site, and one of my favourite movies is “2001 – A Space Odyssey”

That movie was released in 1968, and for the 50th anniversary, in the amazing Royal Festival Hall, it was accompanied live by the Philharmonia orchestra and voices.

Somehow I managed to get two tickets that were front and centre in the auditorium.

I invited a friend who loved the soundtrack, particularly the score. It turned out she had never watched the movie, and her review afterwards was “Epic”. She also sneaked shooting a short video of the opening of the movie, of the orchestra playing the stunning short piece that is Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra”.

Turn it on, turn it up loud, feel the #goosebumps!

A number of years ago, the term “Bucket List” was popularised, including by a movie of that name.  Basically, it is about having a whole bunch of experiences before you die.

To me, in the moment of being in that experience of the movie, orchestra, choir, concert hall etc., I felt for a moment that I could die then and be happy.

Was it a bucket list moment though? I thought about it, then realised that I hadn’t thought of the event that way, even though it was truly a once in a lifetime memory.

Instead, I reflected on what it means to focus on “what I want to do before I die”, as, worthy though that may be, it can have the effect of taking us away from experiencing what is happening in the present moment.

At that movie screening, I was totally present, my senses absolutely stimulated, a huge smile from ear to ear and goosebumps from head to foot.

When we are present to the moment, there can be magic in unexpected places.

I’ve written often about Ikigai, one definition of which is knowing your reason for being.

is it too zen to consider “being present is reason enough for being” as my own Ikigai? I am sensing that this is a distillation that gets close to mine.

I truly love being present to moments and being present to and for others. It is also in being truly and deeply present that the magic happens, where we see things for as they are.

Take that into business and leadership, when we step out of the busy-ness of our work lives and focus on being truly present, it is amazing how often magic happens. We see the wood for the trees, we see and support our team through them simply being seen through our presence and listening.

Be Present, find your own Ikigai. Choose those over a Bucket List, and you won’t feel the need to think of a bucket list of things you’ll do in the future before you die. Believe me, your present will be more than enough.

Movies with Meaning – Different Perspectives

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

As a trained and practiced coach, in my work as a sounding board to leaders, I am always deeply listening. In this, I seek to understand the perspective of the individual or group I am listening to. Sometimes my role is then to give my perspective as an impartial and outside observer, sometimes to help them see the source for the perspective they have themselves (which they may or may not be conscious of!).

There is real power in deep listening. As Stephen Covey advises, “listen with the intent to undestand, not to reply”.

Numerous movies have utilised the idea of different perspectives to dramatic effect in telling stories. As a practice for yourself in taking time to see things through the eyes of others, perhaps watch one or more of these three movies.


Writing I Love – Eclectic Lines

Having and stimulating your Growth mindset is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this.  With that in mind, each Tuesday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 


This quote from Murakami speaks to these weekly posts, and today, inspired by a Tweet from Matt Haig a few weeks ago, simply sharing a number of opening lines of books, closing lines of movies, quotes, sayings, song lyrics.

Am also musing on classicism and romanticism and where I sit on that spectrum. From the lines below, one can see that I am certainly somewhat of a romantic, yet I can also be highly practical and rational. All things in balance!

Innovation is as simple as “doing things differently and doing different things”, so I’d love it if one or two of these inspire you to google the author, the line, pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to a song.

Enjoy this selection. (more…)

Open Leadership – Energy cannot be created or destroyed


The first law of thermodynamics stated in simple terms is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.

As a leader, you may talk about your staff being “de-energised or de-motivated”, or alternatively you might say talk with your leadership team about energising your team.

Hmm. The thing is, as long as your people are fuelling themselves normally, getting rest and recovery time, looking after their bodies etc (a whole other conversation!), that law of physics indicates you may be best served to look at this differently.

Consider your people as balls of energy that get renewed daily. They can choose how much of that energy they expend, where they direct it. Furthermore, they can all choose to be aligned in where they spend it within the business, or they can ping around at random if not aligned.

You cannot then “energise your people”, by adding energy to them. However, you can inspire, engage, motivate, align them such that they focus the energy they have on the goals you create for them. (more…)

Emotional Equations – from an Engineer

Last week I was at the inspiring Entrepreneurial Scotland Summit at Gleneagles.

I love the idea of Emotional Equations (see the link to various posts featuring the concept here), as coined by Chip Conley in his book of the same name.

At the event, the speakers were all amazing and inspirational in different ways, and one of them was Mark Bamforth, an engineer turned entrepreneur.

The Emotional Equation he shared was all about what it takes to change.

Though he didn’t coin it as an Emotional Equation, is surely was. His story was all about the highs and lows energetically of his entrepreneurial journey. (more…)

Emotional Equations – invent your own!

In today’s post I’m riffing on Emotional Equations, please comment/message/tweet with your own additions and I’ll add them to the lexicon!

Also, what is your favourite one?

What is an Emotional Equation to begin with then?

On December 28th 2017 I started writing about Emotional Equations, writing about Chip Conley and how he coined the expression in his 2012 book.

As an aside, I am SO grateful his book inspired me right then, as it led to us meeting at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja a few months later !. In fact, in one session there we talked as a group about Emotional Equations and that is part of what inspired this riff today. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – your Comfort Zone is no longer safe..wait, what ?

Latest in the 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 “we’ve always done it this way”



Banks don’t like to take risks, so they lend money and make sure they have security and are first paid if something goes wrong, but they don’t make high returns on their loans

Entrepreneurs hold the equity in a business, so when it works they get the high returns, but if it doesn’t they are last in line to be paid.

So, Entrepreneurs first need to see an opening, a gap in the market, but they must also be risk takers, they must have a high tolerance for risk.


In fact, if your risk profile is less than 6 out of 10 on an online risk indicator I’ve had many people take, I advise them to NOT try being an entrepreneur. They are too risk-averse.

So far, so normal, yes? Nothing new here.

What if, however, taking the comfortable option of a regular job is riskier than starting your own business? What if comfortable is no longer safe… (more…)

Always be Batman


Sometimes I “face the blank page” as a writer, yet inspiration always comes and this site now has over 200 daily posts and I am only building more momentum.

I love this meme and was reminded of it recently when a huge guy (at least 350lbs and 6 feet tall) sat down next to me on an overnight flight from Dallas to London. He is an engineer and was on his way to Hungary to work on a project. Texas drawl, baseball cap.. and a Batman t-shirt.

Another internet meme (and no, Mark Twain did not coin it) is :

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Authenticity and integrity to create and build trust as a leader, and a key to that is self-knowledge and then a relentless and consistent focus on self-awareness and a continued journey to a deeper knowledge of self.

As Ed Percival always taught, his 50+ years of coaching he distilled down to :


That said, given the choice between being the highest and truest version of Tom and being Batman? Tough call.

Hmm.. and if not Batman? Lloyd Dobler? Hell yeah!


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