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.


Smashing Paradigms – from Patron to Patreon

Latest in the 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 “we’ve always done it this way”



Last week’s Smashing Paradigms column was titled: “your Comfort Zone is no longer safe..wait, what?“. In it I wrote:

“What if, however, taking the comfortable option of a regular job is riskier than starting your own business? What if comfortable is no longer safe….”

I then quoted Seth Godin:

Be an Artist, and Make Art!

“It’s simple. There’s still a safety zone, but it’s not in a place that feels comfortable to you.
The new safety zone is the place where art and innovation and destruction and rebirth happen.”

“Oscar Wilde wrote that art is “new, complex, and vital.” Art isn’t something that’s made by artists. Artists are people who make art. Art is not a gene or a specific talent. Art is an attitude, culturally driven and available to anyone who chooses to adopt it. Art isn’t something sold in a gallery or performed on a stage. Art is the unique work of a human being, work that touches another.”

Seizing new ground, making connections between people or ideas, working without a map. These are works of art, and if you do them, you are an artist, regardless of whether you wear a smock, use a computer, or work with others all day long.”

Now, what happens, you may ask, if nobody recognises the commercial value of your Art? How do you eat as an artist working without a map?

What if an idea from the Renaissance could be reworked for our crowdfunding times to fill that gap innovatively? Well, it has happened.  (more…)

Ikigai, Presence.. Bucket Lists

Today the word “Bucket list” comes to me, through a recent experience best told by a video.

Before you watch the 21-second long video clip, please let me set the scene.

I’ll tell that story, then reflect a little on bucket lists, presence and Ikigai a little (as recurring themes around leadership on this site.).

I’m a big movie fan (hence “Movies with Meaning” posts every Wednesday on this site, and one of my favourite movies is “2001 – A Space Odyssey”

That movie was released in 1968, and for the 50th anniversary, in the amazing Royal Festival Hall, it was accompanied live by the Philharmonia orchestra and voices.

Somehow I managed to get two tickets that were front and centre in the auditorium.

I invited a friend who loved the soundtrack, particularly the score. It turned out she had never watched the movie, and her review afterwards was “Epic”. She also sneaked shooting a short video of the opening of the movie, of the orchestra playing the stunning short piece that is Strauss’ “Thus Spake Zarathustra”.

Turn it on, turn it up loud, feel the #goosebumps!

A number of years ago, the term “Bucket List” was popularised, including by a movie of that name.  Basically, it is about having a whole bunch of experiences before you die.

To me, in the moment of being in that experience of the movie, orchestra, choir, concert hall etc., I felt for a moment that I could die then and be happy.

Was it a bucket list moment though? I thought about it, then realised that I hadn’t thought of the event that way, even though it was truly a once in a lifetime memory.

Instead, I reflected on what it means to focus on “what I want to do before I die”, as, worthy though that may be, it can have the effect of taking us away from experiencing what is happening in the present moment.

At that movie screening, I was totally present, my senses absolutely stimulated, a huge smile from ear to ear and goosebumps from head to foot.

When we are present to the moment, there can be magic in unexpected places.

I’ve written often about Ikigai, one definition of which is knowing your reason for being.

is it too zen to consider “being present is reason enough for being” as my own Ikigai? I am sensing that this is a distillation that gets close to mine.

I truly love being present to moments and being present to and for others. It is also in being truly and deeply present that the magic happens, where we see things for as they are.

Take that into business and leadership, when we step out of the busy-ness of our work lives and focus on being truly present, it is amazing how often magic happens. We see the wood for the trees, we see and support our team through them simply being seen through our presence and listening.

Be Present, find your own Ikigai. Choose those over a Bucket List, and you won’t feel the need to think of a bucket list of things you’ll do in the future before you die. Believe me, your present will be more than enough.

Movies with Meaning – Different Perspectives

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

As a trained and practiced coach, in my work as a sounding board to leaders, I am always deeply listening. In this, I seek to understand the perspective of the individual or group I am listening to. Sometimes my role is then to give my perspective as an impartial and outside observer, sometimes to help them see the source for the perspective they have themselves (which they may or may not be conscious of!).

There is real power in deep listening. As Stephen Covey advises, “listen with the intent to undestand, not to reply”.

Numerous movies have utilised the idea of different perspectives to dramatic effect in telling stories. As a practice for yourself in taking time to see things through the eyes of others, perhaps watch one or more of these three movies.


Writing I Love – Eclectic Lines

Having and stimulating your Growth mindset is key for leaders, and so investing time to read widely as well as deeply is one way to give focus to this.  With that in mind, each Tuesday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 


This quote from Murakami speaks to these weekly posts, and today, inspired by a Tweet from Matt Haig a few weeks ago, simply sharing a number of opening lines of books, closing lines of movies, quotes, sayings, song lyrics.

Am also musing on classicism and romanticism and where I sit on that spectrum. From the lines below, one can see that I am certainly somewhat of a romantic, yet I can also be highly practical and rational. All things in balance!

Innovation is as simple as “doing things differently and doing different things”, so I’d love it if one or two of these inspire you to google the author, the line, pick up a book, watch a movie, listen to a song.

Enjoy this selection. (more…)

Open Leadership – Energy cannot be created or destroyed


The first law of thermodynamics stated in simple terms is that energy cannot be created or destroyed, only transformed.

As a leader, you may talk about your staff being “de-energised or de-motivated”, or alternatively you might say talk with your leadership team about energising your team.

Hmm. The thing is, as long as your people are fuelling themselves normally, getting rest and recovery time, looking after their bodies etc (a whole other conversation!), that law of physics indicates you may be best served to look at this differently.

Consider your people as balls of energy that get renewed daily. They can choose how much of that energy they expend, where they direct it. Furthermore, they can all choose to be aligned in where they spend it within the business, or they can ping around at random if not aligned.

You cannot then “energise your people”, by adding energy to them. However, you can inspire, engage, motivate, align them such that they focus the energy they have on the goals you create for them. (more…)

Emotional Equations – from an Engineer

Last week I was at the inspiring Entrepreneurial Scotland Summit at Gleneagles.

I love the idea of Emotional Equations (see the link to various posts featuring the concept here), as coined by Chip Conley in his book of the same name.

At the event, the speakers were all amazing and inspirational in different ways, and one of them was Mark Bamforth, an engineer turned entrepreneur.

The Emotional Equation he shared was all about what it takes to change.

Though he didn’t coin it as an Emotional Equation, is surely was. His story was all about the highs and lows energetically of his entrepreneurial journey. (more…)

Emotional Equations – invent your own!

In today’s post I’m riffing on Emotional Equations, please comment/message/tweet with your own additions and I’ll add them to the lexicon!

Also, what is your favourite one?

What is an Emotional Equation to begin with then?

On December 28th 2017 I started writing about Emotional Equations, writing about Chip Conley and how he coined the expression in his 2012 book.

As an aside, I am SO grateful his book inspired me right then, as it led to us meeting at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja a few months later !. In fact, in one session there we talked as a group about Emotional Equations and that is part of what inspired this riff today. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – your Comfort Zone is no longer safe..wait, what ?

Latest in the 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 “we’ve always done it this way”



Banks don’t like to take risks, so they lend money and make sure they have security and are first paid if something goes wrong, but they don’t make high returns on their loans

Entrepreneurs hold the equity in a business, so when it works they get the high returns, but if it doesn’t they are last in line to be paid.

So, Entrepreneurs first need to see an opening, a gap in the market, but they must also be risk takers, they must have a high tolerance for risk.


In fact, if your risk profile is less than 6 out of 10 on an online risk indicator I’ve had many people take, I advise them to NOT try being an entrepreneur. They are too risk-averse.

So far, so normal, yes? Nothing new here.

What if, however, taking the comfortable option of a regular job is riskier than starting your own business? What if comfortable is no longer safe… (more…)

Always be Batman


Sometimes I “face the blank page” as a writer, yet inspiration always comes and this site now has over 200 daily posts and I am only building more momentum.

I love this meme and was reminded of it recently when a huge guy (at least 350lbs and 6 feet tall) sat down next to me on an overnight flight from Dallas to London. He is an engineer and was on his way to Hungary to work on a project. Texas drawl, baseball cap.. and a Batman t-shirt.

Another internet meme (and no, Mark Twain did not coin it) is :

“The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”

Authenticity and integrity to create and build trust as a leader, and a key to that is self-knowledge and then a relentless and consistent focus on self-awareness and a continued journey to a deeper knowledge of self.

As Ed Percival always taught, his 50+ years of coaching he distilled down to :


That said, given the choice between being the highest and truest version of Tom and being Batman? Tough call.

Hmm.. and if not Batman? Lloyd Dobler? Hell yeah!


Movies with Meaning – John Cusack edition

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week we feature three movies with meaning, so send in a movie with a sentence or two on the core meaning you take from it and a clip from the movie that speaks to that meaning.

Some weeks my theme is deep and meaningful, this week simply to honour one of my favourite actors with three movies of his that I love.

Writing I Love – The Stolen Child

stolen child

Leaders are often encouraged to be selfless, to be servant leaders (and other such descriptors).

However, our egos are very stubborn. They resist the idea of being selfless, as that means dissolving the ego so as to be of greater service to others, to shift and transform from one state to another.

It is very hard to “think your away” from one state to another, to get “out of your head”. In order to do so, shift from thinking to feeling, create an experience for yourself that is out of your norm.

That can be a walk on the beach, meditation, exercise. It can also be listening to music, dancing, even whirling and spinning as dervishes do for just such a purpose.

I love music and poetry, and the combination for me can be powerful. An absolute gem is “The Stolen Child” by Yeats, put to music by The Waterboys, from the Fisherman’s Blues album recorded in Ireland, and featuring the incredible voice of Tomás Mac Eoin, a local singer of Sean-nós unaccompanied singing. (more…)

You can’t pour from an empty cup


A recurring theme for me is to encourage leaders to support themselves, to be aware of their energy and what they need to perform optimally.

As flight attendants announce on every flight: “In the event of a loss of cabin pressure… first put the oxygen mask on yourself, then help those around you”.

Another way of putting this is “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. Please have the awareness of how full your cup is, and as I advised in a recent post, “drink before you are thirsty“, don’t let that cup get empty.

The three line job description I use for leaders is :

  • Set and hold the Context
  • Manage the Energy
  • Coach, Don’t Play

That “Manage the Energy” role is about what you as a leader bring to your team in aligning them, energising them activating them, motivating them and more.

However, in order to “Manage the Energy”, you must first ensure you drink before you are thirsty, that you manage your own energy and put on that oxygen mask for yourself.

This week I have been at the amazing Modern Elder Academy in Baja Mexico. The visionary leader of this is Chip Conley, who is an amazing leader. I’ve been around so many over the years, all I would say is that I would follow this man anywhere. If he said jump, I’d only ask him to tell me how high to jump!

Still, one thing Chip owned this week is how tired he is from running about two months in a row of workshops at a place which is also his home, whereas one group leaves each Sunday morning, another one arrives that afternoon. Chip has been masterful at managing his own energy, and at the same time… wow.. back to back to back to back. This is a beta test of the Modern Elder Academy, and one learning is that when it goes live, for all the team managing and leading it, they will run a programme which allows the team to manage their energy, to fill their cup. That way they can keep filling up their cup so as to be at their absolute best always for those they choose to lead, to serve.

Drink before you are thirsty, as you can’t pour from an empty cup.

In closing, I also want to express my deep appreciation for Chip, Jeff, Christine, Carla, Tony, Saul and all the team at Modern Elder Academy. I leapt at the opportunity to come to Baja, my cup is absolutely overflowing. Deepest thanks.

Less is more – leave space

space between the notes

Seth Godin recently wrote :

“Since the dawn of the industrial age, tighter has been the goal. A tighter system, with less slack. Tighter connection with customers.

The thing is, tighter is fine when you’re trimming a sail or optimizing a production system.

But many things in our lives need to be looser. More room for innovation. More slack for peace of mind. More spaces for surprise.”

This week I have had an extraordinary experience as part of the beta test of the Modern Elder Academy in Baja. The concept and philosophy are powerful and of huge value to the world. The curriculum is excellent and the facilitators amazing.

What makes it most extraordinary though is the environment, and that includes leaving space. As I wrote in “Listening, your Superpower” :

The French composer Debussy said: “La musique, c’est ce qu’il y a entre les notes”. The poetically translated English version is “Music is the space between the notes”. The French more literally translates to “Music, it is what is between the notes”

In that post, I share my knowledge on what makes for great listening, and the greatest part is to listen to the “space between the notes”.

At the Modern Elder Academy, the magic is in the space between the notes.

A few past participants, so used to their busy task and goal oriented lives, have begged for more content, more teaching, more notes, more things “to do” both at the Academy and when they get back.

To me, I’d encourage the reverse. Be ever more in nature, create experiences to embed learnings through feelings, or “Sentio ergo sum“.

In all of our lives, let us have the intentionality, commitment, discipline to leave space.

Meditation is the absence of absence

I’m writing this from Baja at the Modern Elder Academy, a one week intensive programme led masterfully by Chip Conley and Jeff Hamaoui.

Reflecting on the power of building close trust and collaboration in a group and what emerges from that.

In a session yesterday, Chip riffed on the power of presence, and that in our uber-connected world  we often have our faces in our phones and that is absence.

One of the parts of the week long gift of this immersion is daily morning meditation. Chip then referenced this by noting that Meditation helps us not be absent.

It hit me :

Meditation is the absence of absence.

I then shared that with one of our compadres, Jeanne, who said “hey, a koan”, which google tells me is :

“a paradoxical anecdote or riddle, used in Zen Buddhism to demonstrate the inadequacy of logical reasoning and to provoke enlightenment.”

The more we think, the less we know.

The more we are in our head, the less we use our heart to find wisdom

Feeling a sense of being enlightened I can take back into the world in my leadership,



Smashing Paradigms – Drink before you are thirsty

Latest in the 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 “we’ve always done it this way”



This week I am feeling more privileged than ever as I am in Baja as a participant at the beta of the Modern Elder Academy.

Chip Conley is beginning a movement to change the way we look at ageing and the value our “Modern Elders” do, can and so will have for humanity at all ages and stages.

Inspired by the environment (see yesterday’s post on “Change your environment, change your outcomes”) today I give you my riff on and exercise on “five things you, as a Modern Elder, would like to share with Millennials that they could do that would make a big difference for their future lives”.

I thought particularly here of of young adults in their early 20s and the paradigms of our society. Get an education, choose a profession, choose an industry, narrow things down, get on the career track.

Consider that societal guidance, and also please consider my advice from my own experience. It is heartfelt. I title my guidance :

Drink before you are thirsty


In cycling in hot climates, cyclists all carry water bottles, but it takes experience to learn to drink before you are thirsty. You can carry on riding at high speed and high effort and be dehydrated and so lose performance long before your body tells your brain you are thirsty.

So, don’t wait until you recognise you need to do these five things, do them now, or at least soon, Trust me, you’ll benefit immensely.


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