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.

Enjoy…

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”

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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.

(more…)

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…

hawking

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”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

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

Yūgen

yugen

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.

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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…..

crocuses

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 :

entrepreneur-definition

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.

(more…)

What does it mean to be a “Sage” ?

rumi

Rumi – timeless wisdom from many centuries ago

This year I am focussed on the term Modern Elder :

“A Modern Elder is someone who serves and learns, is mentor and intern, is student and sage, all at the same time” ~ Chip Conley 

This got me to thinking, what does it mean to be a sage ?

It is a word used frequently around all forms of ancient wisdom, though often considering (including by the Stoics) as unattainable.

Nonetheless, words like, wisdom, calm, patience, listening, tranquil come to mind to me.

This also reminds me of a model called “Seven Leadership Archetypes” taught to me by Ed Percival (that he himself learned form a mentor called Ray Bell).

I’ve since passed on this learning to many, and share it today.

It simply outlines different archetypes and links them to the energetic impact of that style, with the higher up the table, the more followers are energised, and the lower down, all those below the “status quo” level drain energy from followers.

Perhaps I agree with the Roman Stoics. As being a Sage is the top level, it is something to be sought, yet never truly attained.

SAGE Timeless, Universal Principles

VISIONARY Goes out to the Future, brings it Back

MAGICIAN Limited Resources to work with, “pulls Rabbits out of the Hat”

STEWARD Status Quo tending to Entropy :  
“a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder”

WARRIOR Battle, Fight, Soldiers, Survival – saving the kingdom from attack

POLITICIAN Save Face, Not looking for real change – internal focus

VICTIM It’s the fault of the outside the weather/economy/them

 

Smashing Paradigms – Trains without Timetables ?

{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”

Smasher_logo_cracked+black

(c) smasherofficial.com

Today I’ll talk about two paradigms to smash. One is the idea of abolition of railway timetables, the other that of revolutionising rail ticket pricing.

First, timetables. Trains run on time. Well, most of the time. The driving force behind this since the very early days of rail travel has been the railway timetable. All systems and processes centre around it.

In fact, in 1840 the Great Western Railway introduced the concept of “Railway time” in order to have uniform times at each station, all on “London time”, co-ordinate from the Royal Observatory at Greenwich, from where all time around the world is still set.

So, since 1840 trains have run based on consistent times and from railway timetables.

It was therefore hugely refreshing this week to hear Sir Peter Hendy, Chair of Network Rail, foreshadow the end of the railway timetable. No more railway timetables ? What does he mean ? “We’ve always done it this way” (paradigm alert !).

You see, before his role with Network Rail he headed up Transport for London, home of the “Tube”, the London Underground. As he noted in his speech for the George Bradshaw address (pdf here), the Victoria line on the Tube has 36 trains per hour at peak times. Anyone who rides the tube knows there are no timetables, nor would we want one. Instead, on each platform there is simply a display that indicates how many minutes until the next trains arrive.

(more…)

Wisdom from Warren Buffett

Recently I posted the latest in a series of articles referencing elite sports and leadership, featuring this quote from John Wooden :

“Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you made the effort to become the best of which you are capable.”

Success is peace of mind. Wisdom.

Now, one might counter that peace of mind is all well and good, but the most conventional measures of success for business leaders are about money.

In the short to medium term such monetary measures can be measured in revenue, profit and other related metrics, including market price (and don’t get me started on the intrinsic value, or absence thereof!) of the likes of Bitcoin, Uber and more!).

In the long run, though, I quote Benjamin Graham, author of “The Intelligent Investor”, still, many decades later, a bible for so many.

‘In the short run, the market is a voting machine but in the long run, it is a weighing machine.’

In other words, ignore stock market swings, in the end, the intrinsic underlying value of any business will be what counts. Concentrate on building value, in other words.

In that long run, the most successful investor in my lifetime also worked under Benjamin Graham at the start of his career. He has built a business based on that principle and it has rewarded shareholders most handsomely indeed for around 60 years now.

His name is Warren Buffett. He is 87 years old, and, as he says “I intend to retire five or ten years after I die”. A Modern Elder indeed !

I’ve closely followed Buffett for about twenty years myself, reading voraciously around his career, his business, and particularly all of his many annual letters to shareholders. You may find those at BerkshireHathaway.com and they are wonderful reading.

(Oh, do go to that site for a moment anyway. This business is value at around $500 billion and a website could be build for under $100 that looks slicker than they have. Substance, not form!)

So, back to Coach Wooden for a moment. Success is peace of mind. Now what about peae of mind and Warren Buffett ? In “Smashing Paradigms – Stop the “Busyness”” I wrote about how he is not “busy”. He prefers free time to read, think, rest. He always has. He doesn’t clear a barrage of emails, instead he reads about five hours per day.

Peace of mind for Buffett AND and a stratospheric company valuation. Perhaps we can learn from him ? Some quotes from the man himself, allied with thoughts from me  :

“Be fearful when other are greedy, and greedy when others are fearful”

Know the intrinsic value of investments you hold are those you are considering buying, then trust yourself.

“If you were the golf manager and you hired Palmer and Nicklaus, why would you waste your time telling them how to swing”

All the CEOs Buffett has run his many companies are people he likes and admires, who are deeply knowledgable about the businesses they run. He then trusts them.

As I would say, “coach, don’t play”. Empowered leadership works, so his numbers tell us !

“Lose money for the business and I will be understanding. Lose reputation and I will be ruthless”

To Buffett, culture is EVERYTHING. I’ve read many books about Buffett. The one that gave me the biggest light bulb moment was this one. For all the numbers that Buffett and his people crunch on intrinsic value of investee businesses, the secret sauce of his business is Culture.

BRK beyond buffett

In addition to the annual letters and Cunningham’s book, the one biography that rings the most true (and is a terrific read) is this one, as Alice Schroeder had a long standing relationship with Buffett as a journalist he trusted and respected, so she has full access and also wrote from a space of deep knowledge :

snowball buffett

 

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