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.

Enjoy…

Writing I Love – No Ordinary Moments

Gold coast pool

I took this photo a few days ago at the amazing aquatic centre in Gold Coast, Australia, as one of my sons competed at the Commonwealth Games. A 10,000 seat arena and an amazing lifetime experience for my son. Due to ticketing vagaries, I sat on my own in a “nosebleed” seat, quietly absorbing the atmosphere, including the moment when the Australian crowd sang their anthem in unison and from the first note as one of their swimmers was presented a gold medal. #goosebumps.

So, sometimes for my Tuesday “Writing I Love” posts I simply reflect on a line, and at that moment in time it was a phrase from my friend Morgan Da Costa ”

No Ordinary Moments

Now, recently I wrote “No such thing as an original idea” in which I reflected that, although I believe there is indeed no such thing as an original idea, “we are always listening, learning, developing new ideas to develop, extend, evolve ideas.”

With that in mind, several months ago I wrote one of my favourite posts on this site, “Life is Wild and Precious, Be Present“, in which I reference that phrase from Morgan, as well as the beautiful poem “The Summer Day”, which finishes with :

Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

I wrote that post around six months ago, reflecting in it: “what is it I plan to do with my one wild and precious life? I have no plan, yet I have an intention to hold every moment as Wild and Precious”.

Where am I six months later? A lot has evolved, yet one thing does remain constant, and that is a focus on being present, on recognising that there are “No Ordinary Moments”.

I’ve also written a lot around tags such as Presence, Ikigai, Open Leadership around themes in that prior blog, such as reducing busyness, being more present, tuning into our Ikigai, along with writing on presence from amazing humans such as Marina Abramovic, Scilla Elworthy, Gandhi, Mandela and more.

For today, then, let me simply focus on the power of “No Ordinary Moments”.

In our lives, in our businesses, in our leadership, let us always recognise that there are no ordinary moments, every moment we can choose to be present and to imbue with that presence to appreciate where we are.

With that, I give you this view taken around 6 am this morning as  I walked at random from my host’s home to listen to the bird song and feel and smell the air just after sunrise.

We then walked to a coffee spot and had the best coffee I think I’ve ever tasted.

First time I’ve seen my friend in at least five years and may be a while before we see each other again, so we are making the most of it.

There are no ordinary moments.

Brisbane sunrise

How is your heart ?

how is your heart

In English when we meet we ask “how are you ?”

As Omid Safi writes in “The Disease of Being Busy“* :

In many Muslim cultures, when you want to ask them how they’re doing, you ask: in Arabic, Kayf haal-ik? or, in Persian, Haal-e shomaa chetoreh? How is your haal?

What is this haal that you inquire about? It is the transient state of one’s heart. In reality, we ask, “How is your heart doing at this very moment, at this breath?” When I ask, “How are you?” that is really what I want to know.

In Leadership, there are few things more powerful than giving people your full attention and truly seeing them. It can be as simple and fleeting as giving a flight attendant eye contact as you say goodbye as you disembark, or addressing a barista by the name on their name tag as you thank them for your morning coffee.

As a coach, sounding board, facilitator, I believe in and practice “Deep Listening” truly being absolutely present at all levels for others.

I, therefore, adore this term “haal” and Omid’s expression of it as a greeting of real care.

Omid writes beautifully, and continues :

I am not asking how many items are on your to-do list, nor asking how many items are in your inbox. I want to know how your heart is doing, at this very moment. Tell me. Tell me your heart is joyous, tell me your heart is aching, tell me your heart is sad, tell me your heart craves human touch. Examine your own heart, explore your soul, and then tell me something about your heart and your soul.

Tell me you remember you are still a human being, not just a human doing. Tell me you’re more than just a machine, checking off items from your to-do list. Have that conversation, that glance, that touch. Be a healing conversation, one filled with grace and presence.

Put your hand on my arm, look me in the eye, and connect with me for one second. Tell me something about your heart, and awaken my heart. Help me remember that I too am a full and complete human being, a human being who also craves human touch.

Beautiful.

My own articles on this site on related themes are too numerous now to list here, but do a search on this page around themes such as “Being, not Doing”, “Stop the Busyness” “Being without agenda” and tags such as Silence, Ikigai, Presence.

*Many thanks to Christine Sperber of the Modern Elder Academy for sharing this article. More on “MEA” to come on this site, as I am excited to be part of the “Beta”. For now, to find more about Modern Elder, search articles on this site for “Chip Conley”

On being without agenda

where the magic happens

Recently I was introduced to someone through business and we had a call to talk about potential synergies and collaboration. We then met up a few weeks later in person to go for a walk and talk about collaboration, but somehow never seemed to get around to anything too specific. A few weeks after that, a similar meet up to walk and talk, and again only loosely moved towards collaboration.

There is definitely a theme thereof “feels like we might find something to collaborate on”, yet beyond that when we have met there has been no agenda other than to walk, talk and see what emerges from the conversation.

One thing we did ponder from these walks, though, was the value of being without agenda, simply seeing what emerges from being completely unplanned. Put another way, having zero “planned utility”.

You see, my new friend is highly qualified in numerous fields including psychology, and I’ve got a fascination with economics and leadership, so we both find common interests in human behaviour. We, therefore, talked about being “utilitarian” and the value of being the opposite, of taking time, energy and focus to simply #flow.

In business and in leadership, we all spend SO much of our time planned out, outcome-oriented, structured, with little time to see what flows.

A while ago I wrote “Stop the Busy-ness” and noticed how some leaders use a “five-hour rule”, reserving five hours each week for unplanned time.

I certainly found real value in creating unplanned time with a new friend to walk and talk with no “planned utility”.

As I write this, I am contemplating what to do today. The planner in me is saying “organised everything hour by hour”, but I might just leave space to see what emerges. Am I always comfortable being unplanned and unstructured? No. Is it always the right thing to do? No. Sometimes we must be planned, structured, have an agenda. Sometimes though, as the drawing above notes, we can get out of our comfort zone, be without agenda. After all, that’s where the magic can happen.

No such thing as an original idea

Original-Ideas

Today I recognised that yesterday’s post was, to use a musician’s analogy, a riff on a recurring theme, in this case, “less is more”.

A favourite phrase of mine is “there is no such thing as an original idea”.

I believe, though, that we are always listening, learning, developing new ideas to develop, extend, evolve ideas.

One such idea for me is that of “Less is More”, and in keeping with that theme, I’ll simply link to some prior posts riffing on the theme of less is more :

I’ll stop here. Less is more.

Smashing Paradigms – Less is More

{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”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

Our modern world is overwhelmed with data. We have unfathomable amounts of data, which we must parse for information. We have so much data, yet so little knowledge. Where we do find knowledge of value, we seek and crave for that even rarer of things, that of wisdom.

I define wisdom as being something concise that, “as soon as you hear it, you feel like you always knew it”.

To this, I say to you, less is more.

Less-is-more

In being with another person, speak less, listen more. In playing music, the virtuoso plays less, expresses more.

Yesterday, in “Listening, your Superpower”, I wrote :

As we practice listening, we can go deeper and deeper in listening and learn more, be of service more. The French composer Debussy said: “La musique, c’est ce qu’il y a entre les notes”.  The poetically translated English version is “Music is the space between the notes”. The French more literally translates to “Music, it is what is between the notes

Ask any music fan for their list of all-time guitar greats, and Stevie Ray Vaughn will be on there. Spend time listening to him and he can play staggeringly fast and complex guitar solos… and yet.. sometimes less is more.

Also on the list of the greatest composer and producers of pop songs ever is Nile Rodgers, who produced one of the greatest pop albums of all time, “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie. Stevie Ray Vaughn is no longer with us, but Nile is still touring and grooving. Nile recently tweeted :

A moment that will stay with me forever is sitting outside Murrayfield Stadium with friends in mid-summer 1983 (aged 17, no less!) waiting excitedly for a few hours before the David Bowie “Serious Moonlight” Tour concert that evening.

The band came on for their soundcheck and the amazing arrangements Nile Rodgers had written came out. The bass line of Cat People, the rhythm guitar throughout, and the lead guitar part in Let’s Dance. Gives me #goosebumps to this day.

I give you the rehearsal tape of Let’s Dance featuring “the sparsest most brilliant few notes ever”. Nile Rodgers on rhythm, SRV on lead.

Less is more.

Listening, your Superpower

gaping void listening superpower

To begin, it always makes me smile that when I seek a phrase to google search for an image for a post, so often I find that Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void has drawn one, and today as I searched on the words Listening, Superpower, here we are again. Thank you once again for your visual expression of themes, Hugh.

You see, listening IS a Superpower, though it is empowering to recognise that we don’t have to be born on the planet Krypton, be bitten by a radioactive spider etc.

We all have this superpower within us!

Recently, encouraged and challenged by others to do so, I’ve been ruminating (and putting some of it on the page) about what I do, what I offer, what I bring to people in my work with them.

In “Letting the light shine in for others” I talked about this and noted: “Providing outside perspective in a supportive and deep listening way is what I do for others”.

Today let me focus on listening and share some of what I have learned about this superpower, but to begin I will share and reflect on thoughts from Simon Kuper, a writer for the FT.

(more…)

Movies with Meaning – Determination and Belief

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.

This week three movies about real people achieving through determination and belief, both belief in self and also the power of being believed in (more…)

Writing I Love – “Life is too short not to do something that matters”

life is too short not to do something that matters

In this particular post series, sometimes the writing I love is a poem, sometimes a business book, sometimes something on personal development, sometimes a favourite novel.

Today it is simply these words, represented graphically in the art of Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void. As I write this, just the other day a Gaping Void daily email featured this classic, along with these words from Hugh :

“What matters” is a strictly personal decision. Only you know. But, as we grow older, it becomes apparent that choices matter and not spending your time in a way that moves you forward, that reveals your aspirational self, is a disservice to you. We all need to own our personal journey.

Even if really, there is no “Ending”. There’s just more negotiation with the infinite. As you grow, your definition of success grows. Like Sisyphus pushing the rock up the hill, only more edifying and if you’re lucky, fun.

Nobody questions that life is too short to do something that matters. The question is, why aren’t more people actually living it.

Seeing this drawing really gave me such goosebumps, as I remembered the magical time of conceiving of and seeing come to full fruition the Leadership Growth Programme (LGP) run through Shirlaws Cayman first in 2013 and then 2014.

At the end of the LGP each participant was given a special acetate block with the “Life is too short not to do something that matters image printed on it.

On several occasions since I have been in the office of an LGP alumnus and seen their block prominently placed to remind them to do something that matters.

(more…)

Power of Acknowledgement

Maeve

The other day I received this gorgeous gift by special delivery.

I was so moved by it, a hugely thoughtful surprise gift, a brooch I can wear on my lapel, a surprise gift made for me by my friend and mentee Maeve Gillies.

Maeve is the creative genius behind Maevona.com, and as you can see from this photo, she wears her brand around her neck.

maeve

Maeve was recently talking to me about the power of being mentored by me, and this led me to post: “Letting the light shine in for others“.

At that time, though, I had no idea that, after I’d complimented her a while ago on her gorgeous Maevona logo necklace, she had arranged for one to be made for me with my logo.

This wonderful and highly thoughtful gift as a thank you for my mentoring really moved me so much, it was so thoughtful.

It also got me to thinking about the power of acknowledgement. (more…)

Playing the unexpected chess move

GT financial-health-of-the-higher-education-sector-2013-1-638

(image credit : Grant Thornton}

Recently, in “When others Zig, you Zag“, I wrote :

“you can either choose to go with the market or go against the market. If you choose the latter, when others “zig”, you “zag”. The degree to which you choose to “zag” though, is very important. You can go slightly away from what everyone else is doing, or you can go radically away.”

On 29th March, Grant Thornton, the fifth largest accountancy firm in the UK, chose to “zag” in a major way, announcing :

At Grant Thornton UK we do audit well and with scale. We are a market leader in public sector audit and one of the biggest auditors in AIM. We also work with a large number of FTSE 350 businesses on non-audit advisory work, so have credentials and experience working with large corporates across multiple sectors. Despite this, we only serve a small number of statutory audit clients in the FTSE 350 and it continues to be extremely difficult to penetrate this market in its current form.

As a result, we have taken the strategic decision to move away from tendering for statutory audit work in the FTSE 350, until we see a shift in the competitive landscape that would level the playing field for competing in this market.

As the young auditor who shared this with me noted: “in the accounting sector game of chess, GT just moved to checkmate”. Or, as he might have said… Boom! (more…)

Letting the light shine in for others

your playing small does not serve the world

…..There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine….And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”

~Marianne Williamson (post and full quote here)

Recently a friend and client challenged me to  :

begin a post series about YOU Letting the Light Shine in for others. No apologies. Find the light and pass it on.

They went on :

I see you as the beachcomber, cherishing the unusual discovery – ‘interesting people’, future leaders, individuals of potential cultural significance… I want to read more about how you do this…and what will it become???!!!

Phew.. amazing to receive such affirmation and acknowledgement, and also challenging.

Why challenging ? Ironically, while my passion and purpose is to support others to shine, to be unapologetic about their own unique genius and express it boldly and loudly to the world, somehow I cringe about doing this myself.

Still, I remind myself that my absolute favourite quote is from Marianne Williamson, and as I look at the excerpt above, I know writing about what I bring, what I do, how I do it,  is in service of others, so I take a deep breath and write. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – You can’t read the label

{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”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

Gaping Void can't read the label

In last week’s “Smashing Paradigms” piece, “When others Zig, you Zag“, I wrote :

“If, as a leader, you sense that going “radical” is the right path, I strongly encourage you to bring in some outside perspective to challenge your thinking, as the reality is that we typically can’t “think outside the box” when we are in the box already, as it were !

When we are “in the box”, we can’t see outside it, so we will unconsciously limit our thinking.

Recently I was at an event where two businesses were merging and integrating. A repeated phrase used was that they would “raise the bar”. When it was my turn to share my thoughts, I simply said “there is no bar”

Am not sure anybody understood, but I was referencing what I wrote about in “Smashing Paradigms – Growth Mindset and Pole Vaulting“, in that “The unconscious belief carried by the group was that there is a bar, a limit to what can be achieved.”

There is no bar.”

Or, as Hugh McLeod of Gaping Void succinctly puts it in this pithy artwork, “you can’t read the label of the jar you’re in!”

Find someone from outside the jar to help you see new choices.

As a tag line I just heard says “great minds think alike, great leaders seeks different perspectives”.

Trains and Radical Innovation

radical train

Recently I wrote: “Smashing Paradigms – Trains without Timetables ?” , in which I wrote about a speech by Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, that subtly foreshadowed the need for revolutionary rather than evolutionary change in UK railways with the line:

“The ticketing system should be led by passenger behaviour, not act as a constraint to it.”

I then wrote in that article about my own experience around revenue and yield management in both airlines and hotels, having worked and lived through the 1990s and 2000s where there was such radical innovation in both spaces. I was fortunate enough to be at the forefront and work for and with leaders in their fields and sectors.

I finished the article with the thought :

“Sir Peter can act on the idea of timetables to some degree by systems change at Network Rail. It will be interesting to see if (another radical idea!) market forces come into play with ticket sales across the network and perhaps some new player will come in and implement AI for yield management ?”

The other day, then, I read an article n March 24th, in The Times titled “Budget trains to get rail network flying“, which starts with: “A wave of Ryanair-style train operators is planned for British railways. Reforms may lead to more franchises on key intercity routes, driving down fares and increasing the number of seats”.

So, it seems that, even in our archaic UK train system, there is potential for radical change driven by customer behaviour. In Economics terms, led by demand rather than supply.

I’d really love to be part of that change, being part of fostering, stimulating, designing radically new systems to serve the people of the UK through a revolution in train service. Perhaps it may happen, who knows?

In the meantime, I love that I love what I do and do what I love, which is looking for interesting and inspiring ideas for radical, brave and transformative change that is in service of others, then supporting that change to happen.

As you can see from the “My Story” page on this site, My “Why” is To Inspire.

I hope that this and other articles on this site may inspire you to see things differently and step into your own opportunities to conceive and create transformative change!

Movies with Meaning – Integrity

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

Two weeks ago i wrote about transparency, candor, audacity and humility in “Radical Transparency – Humility balanced with Audacity“.

last week I wrote about honesty, truth, integrity, starting with my favourite modern movie romance, “Say Anything

This week three movies that speak to integrity.

No descriptions, no plot spoilers, simply three movies I love to watch, and each features a strong focus on integrity.

(more…)

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