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.


What do you see ?

what do you see

So, what do you see?

A hat ? or something else?

This site is full of broad writings about leadership, and as part of that, we can look at various dimensions, which we can think of as sliders on a mixing desk.


In leading ourselves and our organisations, we always have to be conscious of those “sliders”.

In the case of the picture at the top, the slider is about how, in the words of the author of the book this comes from, “clear-sighted” we are.

Some other sliders to consider :

  • How visual is your learning style (or auditory or kinesthetic)
  • Do you have Thinking, Feeling or Knowing preference when it comes to how you process information?
  • How comfortable are you with risk? Are you a “keep my cash under the mattress” person focussed on ultimate safety, are you a “startup gold mine in a far-flung country” risk taker?
  • Are you focused on the short term or long term?
  • Do you make incremental or radical changes?
  • Are you a manager, a leader, a visionary?
  • Are you a wartime or peacetime consigliere? (A reference to The Godfather!)

Back to the picture…if you see a hat, this website may not be for you…though if you see a hat and feel you could see something else, stay with it and you may open yourself up to seeing something else.

Silence and Nyepi – Less is More

bali nyepi

Last Saturday, March 17th, was not only Saint Patrick’s Day, the annual global Irish paty day, but it was also Nyepi.

Nyepi is the Balinese “day of silence”, a sacred day of silence on Bali, for self-reflection, silence, meditation.

This year, as The Guardian reported, even the mobile internet providers were switched off for 24 hours, hence they humorously captioned the photo above “Pokemon No”.

Regular readers of this site will know that I regularly and repeatedly riff on themes around silence, with Nyepi being a new word to me to add to words like Ikigai, Innsaei, Yugen and more. If you wish to be reflective with me around such themes, simply use the search bar for words like these (and silence, presence), or choose related tags to see a list of posts.

Why do I keep coming back to it ? For a very simple reason. Finding silence is so, so powerful for us as humans, and where we lead others, ever more powerful. When we avoid the constant busy-ness, barrage of demands on our time, decisions to make, then we can make fewer decisions and prioritise effectively.

Less is more.

In researching Nyepi, it runs from 6am to 6am, for 24 hours. It also involves restrictions on activity across society to allow focus on self-reflection.

It very much reminds me of childhood holidays on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland. Over recent years and decades the sanctity of their strict Sunday “Sabbath” has been eroded, but in my childhood the only use of cars was to drive to church. No flights, ferries, no washing hung outside, no children playing outside (and certainly no energetic boys playing football loudly in the garden so the neighbours could hear.. oops, that was me and my brother once…apologies to my dear Grandmother!).

The more I see progress in our modern world, the more I look back to ancient wisdom, from the Balinese, to the Icelandic (Innsaei), to the Japanese (Ikigai), and to my own ancestors, the McLeods of Lewis.

Less is more.

Smashing Paradigms – When others Zig, you Zag

{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”



When Everyone Zigs You Zag Sticky Notes Saying Quote

In Positioning Strategy, 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.

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”…. (more…)

The top skill Google looks for in leaders? being a good coach

rework google

Google know data. Google know “big data”. They started “Project Oxygen” some years ago to study their own managers and people, and look at what they came up with. The top characteristics of their leaders, in order of priority, when it comes to being a great manager.

So, they showed this empirically over the last few years, but back well before Project Oxygen, Eric Schmidt said: “Everyone needs a coach.”… (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Say Anything

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

This week i wrote about transparency, candor, audacity and humility in “Radical Transparency – Humility balanced with Audacity“.

The world is full of people and “leaders” who bury their truth, who mislead, manipulate, hide, divert.  Is it any wonder that we see so much toxicity, now bursting forth in so many ways, with society fighting back with truth from #NeverAgain, #MeToo, #TimesUp and more.

Such leadership can be successful short term, but building something of lasting and sustainable value comes from deeper leadership, from a sense of purpose and also from being truthful, open and caring.

If you’d asked a stonemason in Durham in the year 1100 what he was working on, he would not have said he was cutting stones to build a wall, he would have said he was building a great cathedral to last a thousand years. Are you a cathedral builder ?

This week’s movie post, three movies on the power of honesty, truth, integrity, starting with my favourite modern movie romance, “Say Anything”


Writing I Love – The Little Prince

The Little Prince

This week a beautiful story, regarded as one of the best books of the 20th century.

I believe in experiencing an eclectically wide range of experiences and highly recommend this wondrous book.

It is also full of lessons for life, love and leadership. To pick just one quote :

“Make your life a dream, and a dream, a reality”

Dream big, Live big. We only have this one life.

Now, the author of this book, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, is legendary himself, an aviator with a fascinating life around the time of World War II. Worth researching.


Hacking Understanding Economics

how the economic macihine works

We all learn differently. One learning model is “VAK”, as we each have varying levels of focus on :

  • Visual – Seeing and Reading
  • Auditory – Listening and Speaking
  • Kinesthetic – Touching and Doing

Within this, we are seeing an increasing level of learning via video, online courses, and if anyone has children in their teens or below, many of them get their learning, news, entertainment from YouTube. Text books ? Hmm.

So, I consider this site, where daily I both muse on and share what i have learned around leadership principles and tools. My posts have pictures, videos, links to other sites, but perhaps I could also look to video myself rather than write ?

I’ll consider that (!), but for today let me share some remarkable videos around how the Economy works by two amazingly smart people who abundantly share their knowledge, and also then highlight three more brilliant people who share and explain how the economy works crisply and clearly. (more…)

Radical Transparency – Humility balanced with Audacity

“Audacity gets you to shoot for big goals and humility gives you the open-mindedness to take in the best thinking available to you to get you to those goals.” ~ Ray Dalio

Chip Conley, using his concept of Emotional Equations, might say :

Radical Transparency = Audacity * Humility

I frame the equation that way as for the “value” of a Radical Transparency “score”, to me, would be powered partly by being audaciously, radically transparent, but the real power comes with humility, by removing ego from the equation. (more…)

Look up at the stars, and be curious…


On March 14th, Stephen Hawking died.

This wonderful quote reminds us to look up at the stars and to be curious.

He also encourages us to “make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exists”. Indeed, it would seem that this was what drove Hawking to stay with us as long as he did, despite facing such amazing physical adversity.

However, sometimes I wonder if we seek to find answers too much and sometime lose touch with our ability to be present to the moments ?

I write on this site about leadership, and so much of that is about being truly present.

I often tell people that I no longer believe in coincidence, I believe in flow.

So, let me pull all of this together. On March 14th I found myself invited to a special dinner at the Tower of London, which finished with experiencing the “ceremony of the keys”, which has taken place every night, without fail, since 1280AD.

It was a beautiful late winter evening, crisp air and not too cold.

Before the ceremony I had been talking to another guest, who, like me, had a lot of history in the tourism industry. This particular evening was about heritage and we both revelled in the moment, soaking it all up.

As the evening then finished, we were both heading in the same direction to a tube station, and I mentioned that on that morning I had seen a photo on social media taken at a tube station with a quote from Stephen Hawking, who had died that morning. We both noted how wonderful it is that tube staff are trusted and empowered to express themselves this way, and I noted that I’d written about this recently (see : “A Trust Story : The Journey is the Destination“).

A few minutes later, we waked into the Tower Hill tube station, and what did we see before us ? The sign that the picture above had been taken of.

#Flow, not coincidence.

Oh, and 14th March is not only “Pi Day” (3.14), but also Einstein’s Birthday.

Be curious.. AND take time to look up at the stars, be present, take joy in the moments and in being in #Flow.







Smashing Paradigms – Surround yourself with people smarter than you are

{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”



Today I come back to what it takes to be a leader, about #OpenLeadership, and about challenging paradigms that have leader believe they need to have all the answers, to be omniscient, all powerful in order to lead. Smash that out of sight, please !

So, the other day I wrote a post about “Yūgen”, and started it by acknowledging the friend who had shared this remarkable word with me, and by noting :

“I believe in surrounding myself with people smarter than me, with different interests, but who are equally passionate about learning and sharing.

This also got me to reflecting on the fact that I have often encouraged leaders to “surround yourself with people smarter than you are”.

In “Forget knowledge, simply lead“, I wrote :

#OpenLeadership means leaders have only to do two things well :

  1. Be the Keeper of the Vision
  2. Create and, with the utmost care and strength, maintain an environment, a container, in which people collaborate, create and, with a fully flowing network effect, both ask and answer all the questions the organisation needs answered, all of which used to sit with the CEO.

In other words, you don’t need the answers, you only need to know people who do.

One last piece on this, from Napoleon Hill, decades before his time on self-development and self-knowledge. This from “Think and Grow Rich”, on Henry Ford, who was being questioned in a legal deposition :

“in reply to a particularly offensive question, he leaned over, pointed his finger at the lawyer who had asked the question, and said, “If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

There certainly was good logic to that reply. That answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the courtroom realized it was the answer, not of an ignorant man, but of a man of EDUCATION. Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action. Through the assistance of his “Master Mind” group, Henry Ford had at his command all the specialized knowledge he needed to enable him to become one of the wealthiest men in America. It was not essential that he have this knowledge in his own mind. “

So, thank you to my friend for spurring this thinking in me. Also a reminder of my passion for the power of peer groups, which all started when I read Napoleon Hill, who innovated peer groups through the “Master Mind” concept back in the 1930s.

If you are interested in joining a peer group, I chair one myself that meets in the City of London (more information at my “Working with Me” page on this site. I would also be happy to talk to you, wherever you are, to support you in choosing your own “Master Mind” group.

napoleon hill mastermind



Thanks to my dear friend Carrie Bedingfield for sharing this “word of the day” with me recently. I believe in surrounding myself with people smarter than me, with different interests, but who are equally passionate about learning and sharing. Carrie is all of these things and I am grateful for her!

So, Yūgen.

Earlier this week I wrote about “Writing I Love – The Little Book of Ikigai” and noted there:

“The other day I found myself in the centre of a large park in London, sitting in a bench talking with someone. It was a truly transcendent moment, and in fact, we both remarked on the fact that we felt the time was “bent” in that space, it was moving more slowly. The children and dogs playing were also calm and relaxed, more so even than usual.”

This was written with a perspective of one of the author’s five pillars of Ikigai, “Releasing Yourself”.

Feels like if one word could capture the feeling at that moment, it would be Yūgen.

Movies with Meaning – Being Observant

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


This week, three movies musing on the power of being observant. Oh, and who is Marilyn vos Savant, author of this quote ? The person with the highest IQ ever recorded. Do you find it as interesting as I do how she separate knowledge and wisdom ?

observant vos savant

There is so much information in the world, less knowledge, and far less wisdom.

So, to our three movie choices this week.


Writing I Love – The Little Book of Ikigai

little book of ikigai

Last year I read this book by Ken Moji, and wrote about it in “Ikigai, Pleasure and Meaning“.

I ask you to start with that first blog, then come back to today’s. Oh, and if you simply search the term “Ikigai” in the search bar on this page you will see several articles, some of my favourites in there from my early days of writing on this site.

I’m coming back to this after several months as I find the concept of Ikigai coming up in conversation a lot, so today to recap the five pillars, as Ken Moji states them :

  1. Starting small
  2. Releasing yourself
  3. Harmony and sustainability
  4. The joy of little things
  5. Being in the here and now

In prior articles I wrote about the “joy of little things”, as well as quite a number about “being in the here and now” (or simply “Presence”), and also “Starting small”

Let me talk a little today about “releasing yourself”, which is very much related to “being in the here and now”.

When we are being in the here and now, we can start small, take joy in the small things, and then, ultimately, release ourselves from, as Moji, puts it, the burden of the self.

The other day I found myself in the centre of a large park in London, sitting on a bench talking with someone. It was a truly transcendent moment, and in fact we both remarked on the fact that we felt time was “bent” in that space, it was moving more slowly. The children and dogs playing were also calm and relaxed, more so even than usual.

Now, as we’d walked to that place, we’d been deeply appreciative of what Moji calls the “sensory pleasures”, of the blossom on the tree, of the crispness of the “end of winter” day, of the simple enjoyment of an engaged and lively conversation. Moji connects the “infinite universe of sensory pleasures” as deeply linked to “releasing yourself”.

How does this relate to the overarching theme of this site being Leadership, you may ask? Well, great leaders are calm, centred, present, and also very often “in Flow”. I am fascinated by the #Flow state, and encourage you to read my post on this: “Flow – Michael Jordan and Jason Silva“, which includes a link to the legendary TED talk on flow by Mikhail Csikszentmihalyi.

Find your Ikigai, find #Flow. Enjoy the moments, stop to observe the coming of spring, as I did a few days ago in Edinburgh…..


How do you know if you could be an Entrepreneur?

a real entrepreneur has no choice

A real entrepreneur has no choice.

That’s it.

So many people have talked to me over the years wondering whether or not they can / could / should / will make the leap to leaving their job to start their own business.

Being an entrepreneur and working with entrepreneurs, when I ask people why they started their business, the answer always contains something like :

“I couldn’t NOT do it”

A real entrepreneur has no choice.

Sure, entrepreneurs are often inspired by seeing a gap and taking that opening (which is also a rough translation of the french roots of the word). They often see a market gap where they can make money. Taking entrepreneurialism beyond ventures that are wholly or exclusively focussed on profit, one can see an opportunity to make an impact socially, politically and more.

Also entrepreneurs have a higher “risk profile”, a higher tolerance for risk than other people. As my inspiring friend Maeve Gillies told me “I have often said “Leap and the net will appear”, though the net doesn’t always look like a net”. Another way of putting that :


So, entrepreneurs see openings, they are comfortable with risk, but to know if you are entrepreneurial, go back to Gary Vaynerchuk’s quote at the top. What does your heart tell you ? What drives you ? Where do you have no choice, you simply HAVE to act !?

Lessons from understanding Amazon’s secrets

Thanks to a mentee for sharing with me this article recently from Stratechery, looking to analyse Amazon’s motivation for buying Whole Foods.

“it was only two years ago that Whole Foods founder and CEO John Mackey predicted that groceries would be Amazon’s Waterloo…Mackey….{now} has to call Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos…boss. Mackey’s misunderstanding….Amazon and Jeff Bezos have their sights set on being the most dominant company of all time. Start there, and this purchase makes all kinds of sense.”

The article proper then begins with this statement :

“If you don’t understand a company’s goals, how can you know what its strategies and tactics will be?

Simple and profound ! Understand their true goals, their vision, and you have their secrets.

Now let’s look at Amazon’s Why/What/How and then consider lessons for ourselves in leadership and business.


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