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.


Life is about the people you meet

Life and the People You Meet

A personal blog today and also one where I wish to share from what I took from a day of shock news.

I write this shortly after receiving the unexpected news that someone very close to me had passed away.

I got the news at 9am as I was about to start a day of five meetings in person and on video around the world.

I was initially frozen and in shock. I then burst into tears as I stepped onto a commuter train. A moment later I remembered a lyric from a song that goes: “life carries on in the people you meet” and I decided to carry on with my day. The dear person who had just died was all about living life in each moment, so to honour them I chose to do the same. (more…)

Why (and how) capitalism needs to be reformed

why capitalism needs to be reformed

Ray Dalio of Bridgewater Capital has a personal net worth reported to be over $18bn, sourced from his hugely lucrative hedge fund business.

When he wrote a 7,500-word opinion piece this month called “Why (and how) capitalism needs to be reformed”, this created a stir for sure. I don’t agree with all of his points, but I find it powerful that someone who has made billions from capitalism will now speak so clearly about how the entire system needs reform.

With approaching 600 daily articles on this site, themes keep repeating, plus there is always an element of curation of ideas, sometimes simply sharing something I’ve read from others with minimal added opinions of my own.

Two points only from me today before sharing Ray Dalio’s article:

  1. Inequality and the need to reform capitalism are repeated themes for me on this site. Curating some of my own articles on this, start with “Purpose, People, Planet. The new triple bottom line.“, “Income inequality – history is a teacher“, “CEO Pay and Ugly Leadership“, “Beautiful Leadership – Purpose and the Corporation“.
  2. Narrative is key to making your point. As I was taught long ago: “never make a point without telling a story”. Ray Dalio makes his key points in the first four paragraphs of his article, as not everyone will read 7,500 words. He also begins right away with a story. For more, read “There I stood on the burning deck“.

Oh, and Ray Dalio also created the wonderful “How the Economic Machine works”. If you’d like to get a distilled understanding of Economics, watch this 31 minute video. (more…)

Innovating with Vitality for Preventative Healthcare

bma preventative

Apologies for being political for a moment, but amidst the constant focus in the UK on Brexit, the country (along with most developed countries) is doing far too little to address one of the greatest social and economic crises of our times, that of preventable illness and disease.

Today I want to illustrate this, but then, rather than talk about what the public sector can or should do, focus on what one private sector business has done to truly innovate in order to create societal behaviour change.

Crisis ? Yes, this crisis!

This from the BMA (British Medical Association) on 28 March 2019:

Prioritising prevention for population health

“..despite rhetoric, public health funding has been repeatedly cut in recent years as the BMA has consistently highlighted...This short-term approach is having long-term consequences on the sustainability of the health service...Preventable ill-health accounts for an estimated:

  • 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of outpatient appointments and 70% of all inpatient bed days
  • 40% of the uptake of health services may be preventable through action on smoking, drinking alcohol, physical inactivity and poor diet

The case for investing in and prioritising prevention is clearly compelling.”

By any measure, this is a crisis of massive proportions and I applaud the BMA report.

I do also note, though, that three of the four elements in the image above focus on “what can the government do” and none direct address the private sector.

I am a believer in business as a force for good, hence the “new triple bottom line” concept I developed of late.

Today’s article then is about how one business, Vitality Insurance, has hugely innovated by investing proactively to shift customer behaviours towards prevention rather than cure (they are in the medical insurance business) as well as to extend life spans (they re in the life insurance business too).


Don’t tell and yell. Ask

alex ferguson yelling

Sir Alex Ferguson in customary pose, yelling at his players

Sir Alex Ferguson, one of the greatest football coaches, was famous for “giving his players the hairdryer treatment”, ie yelling at them.

Today a repost of a wonderful interview this week by Kieran Shannon of the Irish Examiner of Wayne Goldsmith.

I have been focussed for many years on the overlaps between coaching sports and coaching individuals and business. I am privileged to count as a dear friend one of the swimming worlds all-time great coaches, Ian Armiger (who shared this article me too).

I’ve learned as much or more from top sports coaches about human behaviour as any business or leadership thinker, speaker, consultant or coach.

So many nuggets in this powerful article, but one that  truly stands out from me and is so, so relevant to all forms of coaching, mentoring, management, leadership:

“As a coach, start connecting with the players, even if they’re as young as six. Don’t tell and yell — ask.” ~ Wayne Goldsmith

He then goes on to explain that most coaches spend 70% of their time commentating and otherwise being unconstructive, only 30% being of true value. Oh, and that a calm coach is far more valuable than one who yells.

As for Sir Alex Ferguson, as I wrote about in: “Ferguson and Cantona – Vulnerability and Strength“, there was much more to Sir Alex than the “hairdryer”.

Enjoy the article and I hope you take at least two or three things from it you can apply yourself in your life, work, family. If you are a sports coach, perhaps you too can learn specifics from Wayne Goldsmith too.

Oh, and as to family, the final part of the article talks about swim parents not allowing their children to take self-responsibility for what they need and need to do. How often do we do that as leaders and managers too? Allow your people, your kids, your community to step up rather than you jump in to fix things. You may be powerfully amazed at what happens.

So, enjoy the article, the bold type parts are my contributions to highlight certain sections. I give you just one here:

“Creativity comes from difference. Being able to see different connections. Constantly rejecting what is and looking at what could be.”

I hope you find more for yourself too.


Innovation is simple, so why is it so hard?

innovation Quotes-on-Innovation_15

Love this quote from the author of one of my favourite books, “The Little Prince” (post about that book here).

Often when I work with leaders and their businesses and organisations, they seem to find innovation hard.

To me, innovation is simple, so why do we often find it hard to, as Saint-Exupery says, turns a pile of rocks into a cathedral?

Today I’ll give you three top thematic blockers to innovation for you to consider.

After you’ve read them, I invite you to ask yourself to what level do they exist in you and your organisation, then to consider what you can commit to in order to reduce their presence.


Using Time to create Space

space time

We live in a “go go go” world, where we set ourselves targets and feel we need to achieve them right away, asap, now, now, now!

Recently I was talking to a business leader who was feeling pressure to and felt they had no space. No space to think, to rest, to consider alternatives. They were simply in “go go go” world.

Recognising they needed to create space mentally and emotionally, we talked through some options, underpinning them with financial fundamentals of the business.

At the end of this, they said to me:

“you just used Time to create Space”

How did I do that for them?


Writing I Love – Love the questions themselves

rilke love the questions

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

A few days ago I wrote: “Sometimes the question is more important than the answer” with a take for business leaders and individuals on allowing time on the question rather than racing to make a decision or to make decision after decision in what may be the wrong direction.

I am often inspired by beauty, whether in nature, human behaviour, art, music. Often it is beautiful writing that inspires me, so today I share a quote around sitting with questions from Rilke, author of a favourite book that I highly recommend: “Letters to a Young Poet”.


Stop staring at mountains

stop staring at mountains

I saw this photo this week posted on Instagram by my friend Arno de Jong, the amazing founder and lead guide of AlpAdventures.

In August 2018 Arno arranged a private trip for me and my three boys to the French Alps, including hiking over multiple mountain passes, e-biking up and down mountains, white water rafting and more.

The name of his business includes the word adventure, defined in the Oxford English Dictionary as :

“An unusual and exciting or daring experience”

To that description, I’d add the word “challenging”. Arno will always take time to understand the needs and capabilities of his clients and always look to challenge you (well within safe limits, he is all about safety).

When you have an adventure that challenges you, it will, as he puts it, lead you to a better view. We certainly had an amazing adventure and it was all the better for the physical challenges we faced and surmounted.

A metaphor for us all, as individuals and in leading our businesses.

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get


“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get”

A favourite quote of mine from one of the world’s great investors, Warren Buffett, a wise elder who I’ve constantly learned from for well over two decades.

Today I’d like you to consider two things. One is the price you pay and the value you get as a customer. However, the second may take some deeper thought. What is the price you charge and the value you provide to your customers?

In the last few days I’ve had two experiences.

One was a poor experience with a car rental that has me thinking about my own choices as a customer around the price I pay and the value I get.

The other is that I’ve been contacted to support someone at a critical point in selling their business. When looking at what to charge them for that support, am reminded of a parable. (more…)

I’m sorry. What I did was wrong…


We’ve all experienced and given a “non-apology” apology.

You know what that feels like to hear and to give. Incomplete or worse. The least apologetic “non-apology” will both try to justify what was said or done with excuses, then say something like “I’m sorry if you were offended”.

No matter how triggered we are, there is never an excuse to say something in reaction to it that offends. It is rare for me to do so, but recently it happened. I said something in reaction to a statement that triggered me. The result of me reacting was that the target of my words was deeply hurt by what I said.

Suffice to say I felt terrible.

I didn’t apologise in the moment as things had become so heated. Instead, I came back the next day to give my apology, ensuring I gave a true apology and not a non-apology.

So, how can we give a true apology? (more…)

Sometimes the question is more important than the answer


The Pontiac Aztek. Still no idea what question this answers.

Have you ever faced a situation where you really don’t know what to do and this has you feel frustrated, or perhaps even overwhelmed, confused?

When that happens, do you feel the need to make a decision quickly, to know what to do, to then act quickly?

It seems to me that in our fast-paced world we are often pressured (and put pressure on ourselves) to think and to act fast.

However, in my experience, sometimes the question is more important than the answer. (more…)

Doing what is right – Pret


Ken Blanchard has a quote: “catch someone doing something right”.

I believe in business as a force for good, and in the righteous flywheel of purpose-lead businesses following the new triple bottom line and so creating profit for impact.

I’ve started writing posts about businesses I see “doing what is right”, most recently Timpson and Stantec.

Today I highlight Pret a Manger. Given the prevalence of their stores in London, I’ve been a frequent customer, yet I was not aware until recently of their focus on doing what is right.

Until, that is, I saw their focus on supporting homeless people.


Diversity + Collaboration = Innovation

Diversity Collaboration GV

Love this image from a recent post by Gaping Void.

Diversity of thought is a topic I am highly passionate about. One of my core values is “Fair” and the conscious and unconscious biases in our world, ranging from race to gender to sexual orientation to religion to nationality and beyond, are all constructs based simply on fear of “others”, of those who are “not like us”. (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.