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.


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…)

This might work – flying close to the sun

Five years ago, Seth Godin published the Icarus Deception, his most personal, and, I would argue, most impactful work.


Actually, he really published it over six months earlier, when he wrote a blog called “this might work” in which he launched a Kickstarter to crowdfund the publication. I was one of the many disciples who made it a massively successful Kickstarter and turned “might” into “did”. This did work.


How do we know what we know? Posing Puzzles

How do we know what we know? Posing Puzzles.

Triangulated me, courtesy of Polyshaper

A few weeks ago I wrote “How do we know what we know ?” and said I’d let this sit with me and marinate my thoughts a little around Epistemology , or “the study of the nature and scope of knowledge and justified belief”.


Movies with meaning 3

{a weekly series – welcome guest contributions such as “Movies with Meaning 2“, a guest contribution from a twitter conversation with my friend Jacob Aldridge. This week some other contributors from Twitter too. Do share your ideas and share on Twitter too}

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…

So, here we go for this week:

Interstellar (2014)

“about time and making the most of it” ~ anonymous

After Cooper wastes a few short hours on a watery planet with an immense gravitational field, the relativity of time means he has lost decades. He gets back to the spacecraft and feels the enormity of losing 23 years as he watches the messages from his family.

Make the most of our time. Never settle.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) :

 @MickPuck : “racism is s***e”

The movie of the book every child in Britain read at school in my era. Beautifully concise meaning in the movie from one of my musical heroes.

Horton Hears a Who (2008) :

@MarlaDukharan: “vested interests & deeply entrenched norms/ societal structures can only temporarily stall genuine progress. Small is still important!”

{Tom: “a person’s a person, no matter how small” Equality respects differences. }

Books I Love – Give and Take by Adam Grant

Adam Grant: Give and Take

Recently I wrote a post called “What do you do ?“, where I voiced some frustration at the emptiness of the energy behind the question people always ask in London when they meet someone for the first time.

Contemplating this, I realised that “what I do” is look for ways to help others. I have interesting conversations with interesting people, explore, flow, and always look to find some way to be of value to them, whether it is by co-creating with them, or perhaps by connecting or introducing them to an idea, person, concept, story or simply a book.

Sometimes after I explain this, people look, then ask again: “yes, but what do you DO?”, meaning what do I do to earn money in the world and how do you go about it.

That one I find more difficult. Yes, I work 1:1 with leaders as a sounding board, and currently I’m super excited to be launching a peer group to scale that further than the 1:1. However, where do those people come from? That is where people can get confused. You see, I simply go out in the world looking to help people and everything seem to work out from there.

This seems to intrigue people, so then I remembered the book “Give and Take” by Adam Grant and have been recommending it often!


Favourite quote – Our deepest fear

Fealess is having fear but jumping anyway

Yesterday I wrote about flipping procrastination and fear into growth.

This reminded me of probably my favourite quote of all time. Given how many quotes I love, the fact that this one stands above all others says a lot to and about me.

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. 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 as children do. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Your playing small does not serve the world…


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