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.


Answer questions – by imagining the situation in reverse

Reverse Thinking

A large number of questions might be illuminated — if not answered —by imagining the situation in reverse.

If Britain had no nuclear deterrent, would there be much clamour to obtain one? If Scots were independent already, what sort of union would they seek? Which eurozone countries would now be eager to join had they stayed outside the bloc?

The problem with many decisions is that while the costs of change are often immediate, salient and quantifiable, the gains are yet to be experienced.

Following on from yesterday’s article: “You cannot eliminate your biases“, these quotes are from a wonderful thought experiment posted by Rory Sutherland in The Spectator recently.


You cannot eliminate your biases

Biases Word Cloud

You might say: “I’m not biased”. Don’t believe me? Try answering these three questions, known as the Cognitive Reflection Test.

(1) A bat and a ball cost $1.10 in total. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? _ cents

(2) If it takes 5 machines 5 minutes to make 5 widgets, how long would it take 100 machines to make 100 widgets? _ minutes

(3) In a lake, there is a patch of lily pads. Every day, the patch doubles in size. If it takes 48 days for the patch to cover the entire lake, how long would it take for the patch to cover half of the lake? _ days

Give it a try before reading the answers (at the bottom of the article).

Sorry, you simply can’t eliminate your biases, but you can become more aware of them and so, from that awareness, look to reduce them in your decision making.

Today we will look at increasing our awareness


Why you need fewer people referring you clients

Trust and referring clients

We all know the best way to build a client base is with referrals from people who already know you, right?

Sure, so logically to be introduced to new clients, we need to talk to everyone we know and ask them to refer us?

No, definitely no.

Let me tell you why you need fewer people referring you clients.


Is it inconceivable that Brexit will end?

Inconceivable Brexit


As I write this, yet another episode in the Brexit drama has just taken place. It seems it will never end, with it being the only item in the news and often on the minds of the populace. The U.K. has an unwritten constitution that has, in general, served well for hundreds of years, but since the Brexit referendum in 2016 it has been tested more and more and over and over and many feel it has repeatedly been found wanting.

In fact, the word inconceivable comes to mind, as so many feel that not even the most far fetched screenwriter could make up what is happening.

Across in the USA, their President is operating in an even more inconceivable manner, making statements at increasingly inconceivable levels on an almost daily basis.

And yet, this too shall pass.


Believe the evidence of your eyes and ears

orwell on evidence

“The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.”

~ George Orwell, 1984

“If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family Anatidae on our hands.”

~ Douglas Adams, Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.

We live in an age where increasingly autocratic populist leaders are increasingly telling us to forget the evidence of our own eyes and ears and believe what they tell us.

The words of Orwell from the dystopian nightmare of 1984 are increasingly, and chilling so, becoming the truth of the world we live in.

And yet, we always have a choice. We can always remember that if it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, swims like a duck, then it is probably a duck!

Now, if you are leading a business, who is there to challenge you to know you are looking at the truth and so speaking the truth? It sounds obvious, but in a fast-moving and complex world, perhaps not so simple to find someone to speak truth to power to you

My offer to you as a business leader is to have a call and experience having a Sounding Board for yourself.

Let’s talk

My clients say I “see what others don’t see”. Experience for yourself, book your 30-minute call now.

The more you care for your people, the better your business will perform

Henry James Care Quote three things in human life are important the first is to be kind the second is to be kind and the third is to be kind

“…the more we care for our colleagues, the better the Timpson key-cutting and shoe-repair business seems to perform. Over the past five years, we have opened 1,000 new shops, sales and profits have doubled”

James Timpson of Timpson, in the Sunday Times August 25, 2019

Just a few days ago, I wrote in: “Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..” that there is a gap between those who put the new triple bottom line first and a belief they may have that ““Yes, being all about Purpose, People and Planet is all very well, but CEOs only care about profits!”. My response is to address that gap by: “showing real living examples of companies and other organisations (including charities and governments) that have chosen to put Purpose, People, Planet first and paramount AND have made Profits.”

Purpose+People+Planet= Profit

(and Profit for Scaling your Impact, not solely enriching Shareholders)

As James notes, by putting their people first Timpson is one such company that makes more profit, and I love the way James Timpson has just put numbers to it in his piece in the Sunday Times. Let’s look at his example and learn more from him


Be an editor

dundee banner editor

Chip Conley, in his focus upon Modern Elder, talks about how in the first half of our lives we focus on accumulating, but in the second half, we can turn our focus to editing.

From a place of awareness, we can choose to “edit” our lives. Stop trying to acquire more “stuff”, more assets, more wealth, more, more, more.

Instead, we can look to edit. Give stuff away, use only what we need.


Being vulnerable is more than saying you are

better man vulnerable

Saying you are vulnerable is not the same as being vulnerable.

The four core qualities of #OpenLeadership are:

  • Be Hungry
  • Be Humble
  • Be Brave
  • Be Open

Linked to that is Chip Conley’s idea of being a “vulnerable visionary” a leader who expresses vulnerability allied with confidence, eg: “I have no idea how we will get there, but I know we will do it together.”

However, all too often, in expressing vulnerability, leaders seem to do so behind a superhero “mask” of invulnerability, so even when they express that they don’t know the answers, they are so hidden by their mask that they won’t and so don’t show what it feels like, as a human, to be in that place.

Staying behind that “mask” means a huge lost opportunity to truly connect.


A coaching tool from the 13th century

ockham society coaching tool from the 13th century

“All things being equal, the simplest solution tends to be the best one”

I’ve been coaching for many years and am often asked to share tools I use as a coach to support clients cut to the chase and so gain clarity and focus.

One of my favourite coaching tools dates back to the 13th century yet feels incredibly applicable to the world we live in today.


Simplicity is harder work than complexity

elegant simplicity


Yesterday I had the privilege of watching an audience with the author Matt Haig at the Edinburgh Book Festival. His writing style is often simple and concise. When asked about this, he noted that many years ago he used to revel in complexity and even exhibited arrogance and snobbery around those who wrote simply. These days though, this quote I found from him illustrates his approach on what he strives for in his writing:

“Simplicity is harder work than complexity”


As I wrote in an earlier post: Less is More.

Now, the second half of that Matt Haig quote is:

“That’s why editors exist”

Either find someone to help you edit, or be your own editor.


If you have a message for your audience, distil to simplicity.

In “Simplicity on the other side of complexity“, I was inspired by a tweet from @nayyirahwaheed

“the longest writing. can be one line.”

In that post, I wrote about how leaders can get their message down to one word, their strategic plan down to one page with only one context and three themes.


I’d love to be your editor, book your diagnostic call on my site and let’s find simplicity in half an hour.

Finding a moment of Zen

zen artwork stag deer

This picture is of “Monarch of the Glen”, by Landseer. I wondered what it is that makes a picture of a deer so powerful and famous, until, that is, I saw the picture hanging at the National Gallery of Scotland. I was transfixed, rooted to the spot.

In our busy lives, we all sometimes need to find a “moment of zen”.

So, yesterday, I had such an indelible moment, with a majestic stag, so sharing with you all today.


Do all CEOs “only care about profit”? No..

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

“Yes, being all about Purpose, People and Planet is all very well, but CEOs only care about profits!”

When talking to people about the new triple bottom line and putting Purpose, People and Planet first, over and over I hear this type of response.

I mostly hear it from people who are passionate about one or more of encouraging business leaders to shift focus from Profit to Purpose, People, Planet.

The problem with those conversations tends to be (as I have heard regularly) that they explain why CEOs should focus on Purpose, People, Planet rather than Profit.

This sets up a conversation where one focus is in opposition to the other, so the two parties are not having the same conversation at all.

There is a gap.

Now, how to close that gap?


Is the tide turning on the purpose of the corporation?

Purpose, People, Planet - Profit for Impact Triple Bottom Line

In January this year, I wrote a series of articles around rethinking the purpose of the corporation, then moved towards rethinking the “triple bottom line” (that dates from 1994) to the “new triple bottom line”, expressed graphically above. The article that captures that and links to my earlier posts is:

Purpose, People, Planet. The new triple bottom line.

This month, August 2019, the Business Roundtable of CEOs of some of the largest corporations in the USA, published a one-page statement called: “Statement on the Purpose of a Corporation“.

This appears to mark a major shift in thinking, does it indicate that the tide might be turning?


Brad Pitt gives a masterclass in Being and Presence.

Brad Pitt Presence Being Leonardo DiCaprio

I recently watched Once Upon a Time in Hollywood by Tarantino and agree with Tom Shone of the Sunday Times that Brad Pitt was the heart of this movie and that he did it so simply and subtly.

“Once Brad Pitt stopped “acting”, he became a great movie star…{years ago} Pitt learnt..not to act but to be… {so that, in this movie}… Pitt just lets the role, and the audience, come to him”

In an earlier post on this site: “Doing from Being“, I wrote:

What if.. we focussed on our “Being” and then choosing to “Do” what is fully aligned with who we are, so “Doing from Being”? 

In his book Walden, Henry Thoreau had many great quotes, such as: 

“All men want, not something to do with, but something to do, or rather something to be.”

Leonardo di Caprio was great (as always) in the Tarantino movie, but he was doing acting. Brad Pitt, on the other hand, was simply being an actor, so clearly allowing himself to be truly present in each moment as he did so. The results are extraordinary.

Now, if we can add presence to being in our lives, our work, our leadership, we have the opportunity to be of even greater impact for others as we focus on these anchors.

Yes, many posts on this site are about business, leadership, tools, ideas into action etc. However, I will always repeatedly come back to our self-awareness, our being, our ability to be present, as these are, as Brad Pitt has come to recognise as he matured in life and as an actor, foundational to our work, our lives, our impact.

I leave you with this, by the British philosopher Alan Watts:

“The future is a concept — it doesn’t exist. There is no such thing as tomorrow. There never will be because time is always now. That’s one of the things we discover when we stop talking to ourselves and stop thinking. We find there is only present, only an eternal now.”

Be Present and simply Be.

Have a great Monday morning and a great week!

Book a diagnostic meeting

Subscribe for Inspiration, Ideas, Tools

I offer you two newsletters seeking to offer inspiration to action, ideas and tools for leaders.

Open Leadership – Digest
Big Game Advisors – Ideas into Action