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.


A Trust Story – Pindrop

“We want you to trust us, so it makes sense that we choose to trust you”

Let me tell you a story around this phrase that I heard the other day.

Over the last year I had the feeling that my hearing in one ear was not great, so last month I took the plunge, googled, then found a hearing specialist in London.

That specialist was Pindrop Hearing. (more…)

Are you Magnificent, or Quietly Fabulous ?

Quietly fabulous

So today one of the dearest (and magnificent!) people in the world to me sent me this picture, knowing I am struggling a little with a winter cold. A humorous reference to remind me that some days it is ok to slow down and practice self-care.

It got me thinking about how we show up, how we see ourselves, how others see us.

Another recent experience was meeting with someone I know well who was intrigued by my lack of proactive presence around a group and initiative. Their initial sense had been that this meant that I had negative energy and opinion around what was happening.

The key here is that rather than sit with such a judgment, they chose to make the time and effort to connect and then meet up to listen to my thoughts. It turns out they are also an absolute devotee of Stephen Covey, and his “fifth habit” speaks to :

“Listen with the intent to understand, not to reply”

We all greatly valued being listened to, and the person doing the listening heard that my approach to the situation at hand was simply to be neutral towards it (for various reasons they also understood), and that I was not negative in any way.

It was also important for them to understand my reasons for not being my normal self (let’s call it “magnificent”) and dialling that back to “quietly fabulous”.

Further, they also gained clarity in another way. The reason they had initially felt potential negativity was that their prior experience of me was of someone highly proactive in supporting others and initiatives, hence to see me not being that way felt different.

Of course (they also noted), there were others involved who were equally neutral as I at this time who they had not sensed were being negative. Why so? Simply because relative to their normal behaviour, being neutral (as opposed to highly proactive and supportive) is their norm, so as long as keep showing up neutral, there is nothing different.

So, from all of this, it reinforced to me that we may not see others the way they see themselves, so where there is a disconnect from what we expect, there is always value in talking to that person and listening with the intent to understand their perspective.

If they are being quietly fabulous rather than magnificent, look to listen to them to understand why and what is happening for them.

People love to be listened to. I know I do.

Smashing Paradigms – Mark Beaumont

{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”



“On 18 September 2017, Mark Beaumont arrived in Paris having completed a circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle in 78 days 14 hours, and 40 minutes. This beat his previous unsupported attempt by 115 days and beat the previous world record by 44 days and 10 hours.”

“The Guinness World Record (GWR) for the fastest circumnavigation of the globe by bicycle is awarded for completing a continuous journey around the globe by bicycle and other means, consisting of a minimum 29,000 km in total distance cycled.”


Take that in for a moment. Now imagine doing this. 18000 miles. 78 days. 240 miles a day. 4 hours of sleep a day for 78 days. Unthinkable? Paradigms Smashed !? I’d say so! To break the existing record by over a third, by 44 days….one could even say “Unbelievable”? (more…)

Humble Leadership and the Chaos of Creating

Recently I wrote about the power of humility in leadership, how the role of a leader is to be “Keeper of the Vision” then simply create a space for those in the business to pose puzzles and ask questions, then to solve the puzzles and answer the questions.

In that article I noted Satya Nadella of Microsoft saying

“Make it Happen, You have full permission”

So, when I talk about these and other ideas in #OpenLeadership as being the leadership we need for today, one could imagine that I am saying they are new concepts.

Absolutely not, simply that such thinking is not currently mainstream.


Movies with Meaning – with a difference

This week a “Movies with Meaning” weekly post with a difference. As I sat down to write the weekly post, a friend sent me the Tim Minchin commencement speech below with the words: “Passing this on to be a “Teacher”.

This week, then, I feel inspired to pass on three graduation / commencement speeches. I’ve watched each of them multiple times and so sharing them for others.

(Side note. In America, they call it a commencement speech, looking forward to a graduands future, whereas in the UK they call it a graduation speech, which therefore is celebrating their past achievements up to that point. Different language, different emphasis.)

Anyway, I’ll stick to the movies with meaning format below, simply that this week there are three commencement speeches.


Books I Love – The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho

the alchemist

The Alchemist (2006)

Of all the books I recommend to others, top of the list are Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, which I wrote about here in the Unthinkable series I wrote on Linked In), and next on the list is The Alchemist.

I tend to pick up this book at least once a year and read it again, and every time I read it I find new learnings and meaning.

“when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Yes, this sounds like an inspirational quote theme, and perhaps so, yet within the context of Coelho’s poetic writing, this and many other thoughts create much meaning for the reader.

The plot ? Almost irrelevant.

Trust me, pick up this short novel and dive in. Everyone takes multiple meanings and lessons from it.




Humble Leadership and Trust


This week I met with a top executive coach who, in an earlier phase of life, was a famous sporting leader. In that phase of life, one example of their leadership created a famous day that will live on for many years. That moment was created by an example of leadership in the sporting arena that was silent, resolute, calm and quietly strong.

When I asked them last week about core attributes of successful leaders, their first word was “humility“.

As you can see, I am not disclosing the individual or their example of sporting leadership. After all, they are humble!

So, let’s look at humility in leadership and then how that links in to trust.


What makes Scots different ?

Last week in Scotland I was involved with a panel discussion where some guidance was sought for what makes Scotland stand out on the world stage when it comes to business.  At that moment it came to me to state something that perhaps could have been obvious.

Scots are known the world over, and for centuries, for being of Integrity, having a high standard of Ethics, and, to summarise, being people you can TRUST.

Now, over the years I have supported clients around their brand, positioning, vision, purpose, values and more, Many times when they have stated such values, I have encouraged them to look less generically and more uniquely.

This time, however, in a world where so much is uncertain, change happens so fast, and where we have so much “fake news” and distrust of media and institutions, perhaps this “back to basics” approach is more than enough to help Scotland stand out in the crowd?

You can trust a Scot!

Now, where did that insight come to me from to say just that at that moment? How do I know what I know?


Smashing Paradigms – Growth Mindset and Pole Vaulting

{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”

pole vaulter

So, what do you see?

A perhaps apocryphal story has Sir Bill Gammell (leading Scots entrepreneur and international athlete) taking a group of Scottish businessmen on a trade mission to visit the Australian Institute for Sport, around which are many statues representing sports and athletes.

Bill asks the group what they see when they look at this particular statue (more…)

Movies with Meaning 4

{a weekly series – guest contributions welcome via email, twitter etc. Do share your ideas}

A reminder of our format  :

  • Three movies with meaning
  • One sentence on the core meaning you take from it
  • Send me a link to a YouTube clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning

WARNING: Many of these include spoilers, so if you haven’t seen the movies…

This week all three are from me, and each of them I could have taken multiple meanings from. These are the meanings from each of them that resonate for me right now.

Unbreakable (2000)

“What if Superman was here on earth and didn’t know he was Superman” ~Quentin Tarantino

To me, the lesson of this movie is that we all have power and abilities we don’t own, and some of this we consciously or evenly unconsciously disown. Personally, I love seeing untapped potential in others and supporting them to unleash it.

I won’t give a plot spoiler video, this is simply Tarantino, himself a master filmmaker, giving a short review of what he considers one of the masterpieces of our time. I agree, Quentin.

Dead Poet’s Society (1989)

“Believing in others is one of the most powerful gifts we can give” ~ umm.. “me”

In this scene, the power of the belief shown in the student has him believe in himself and unleash his “barbaric YAWP!” and more.

So many wonderful moments of leadership and humility and belief in this movie!

Groundhog Day (1993)

“The Universe will keep giving you the same lessons, over and over again, until you choose to learn from them” ~ Ed Percival

Wildly entertaining, Bill Murray at his best, and also a lesson in the power of abundance.

Books I Love – Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux

reinventing organisations

Reinventing Organisations (2014)

In leading businesses from the late 90s onwards, I used a number of those businesses across various sizes, industries, countries as “petrie dishes” to experiment with my growing sense of what authentic, purposeful and caring leadership could bring in service of all of our futures. I saw notable commercial success in “dollars and cents” as well as many life-changing moments small and large.

For many years, I’ve felt that the “command and control” way of leading, from hierarchies, the leader as an all-knowing expert was finished. Time for new paradigms of leadership and organisations. No more cultural disconnects of “do as I say, not as I do”, no more leading from fear and the stick, but instead from abundance.

Like many of my readers, I devour knowledge. I am insatiably curious and always looking to learn, explore, pose new puzzles, find answers. 

In early 2014, then, one book came out that had me say “THIS IS IT!“, and that book is Reinventing Organisations by Frederic Laloux. I truly believe this seminal book will be studied and used for decades to come in transforming the way we live, work and lead! (more…)

Leadership and Resilience

“If you want to be resilient, find the right amount of generosity and authenticity and grit.” 

This from Adam Grant, author of Give and Take and a featured Paradigm Smasher on this site, in a commencement speech he gave this year. When Adam gave this speech in May 2017, he and Sheryl Sandberg had just published Option B, a book centred around resilience. In Give and Take, he talks about how the most successful leaders are “Givers”, and at the same time they set boundaries, they find a balance.

It is key to recognise that, despite the typical desire of “Givers” to be loved, it is dangerous and ineffective if they (ok “we”, I hold a mirror up to myself on this one!) allow themselves to become a “doormat”, to focus too much on pleasing people by giving without consideration for self. Giving without limits can create burnout, or, to be clearer and more direct, mental distress and mental health trauma. (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.