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.




When you change the way you see things….


“When you change the way you see things….the things you see change”

~Dr Wayne Dyer

Each week I typically have at least ten 1:1 meetings, some with clients, some with mentees, some with new people, some with longtime friends, colleagues, past clients.

This past week, one recurring theme was “flipping paradigms”.

I talk about “smashing paradigms” regularly here on this site, with examples where often things are radically different.

Sometimes, though, all it takes to support someone with a shift is to “flip”, to look at things from a different, or even opposite angle.

Read on for an example, and also for a couple of fun “flips” related to the phrase from Dr Wayne Dyer. (more…)

Innovation – doing things differently and doing different things

“Innovation is simply doing things differently and doing different things”

~ {yours truly}

I distilled my thoughts on innovation to this definition many years ago.

It came to me in the picturesque Scottish village of Tobermory one late summer evening when daylight lasts beyond 10pm. it was around 8pm, tourists were walking around looking in shop windows, yet all the shops were closed.

They’d fallen prey to the most dangerous words in business: “we’ve always done it this way”, where always in that country is generally to open around 9am and close by 5pm. Imagine that in a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern country. No ? Of course not, they stay open when there are customers, and in the summer that means long into the night!

It was while walking around Tobermory it occurred to me that they could really benefit from some simple innovation. (more…)

We are the sum total of our experiences

we are the sum total of our experiences

Yesterday’s post talked about the power of belief, starting with self-belief.

A core to #OpenLeadership is, then, self-knowledge, and recent conversations remind me of this quote :

We are the sum total of our experiences. Those experiences – be they positive or negative – make us the person we are, at any given point in our lives. And, like a flowing river, those same experiences, and those yet to come, continue to influence and reshape the person we are, and the person we become. None of us are the same as we were yesterday, nor will be tomorrow.” 

Sometimes we look at past actions and events in our life and judge them, wish they didn’t happen, look at ourselves and wish we had acted differently. However, “we are the sum total of our experiences”, they make us who we are today, they create the colours of our lives. When we choose to ignore what they have taught us, how they have formed who we are, we lessen the richness and fullness of who we are and what we have to offer the world.

Another reminder from a conversation today, from one of my very favourite books :

“And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”
― Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

My spin on this is that when events and changes happen in our life, we have a part to play in this from conscious (and often unconscious) intention and direction we set for ourselves.

One more. Friends and regular readers know how much I love music. A number of years ago I came across a wonderful album called One Giant Leap, and my favourite track is called “My Culture” and features a wonderful opening of a Maori elder speaking, with these lines :

“I’m the sum total of my ancestors
I carry their DNA
We are the representatives of a long line of people
And we carry them around everywhere
This long line of people
That goes back to the beginning of time
And when we meet, they meet, other lines of people
And we say bring together the lines of me.”

Leadership Superpower – Belief

A while ago I wrote about one Leadership Superpower, Encouragement.

Today I focus on another, Belief, inspired by the brilliant Georgie Loxton (if you want to truly look at what wealth means at all levels for yourself, she is who I refer people to, always). Georgie suggested I look up “the sketch guy”, Carl Richards (his site here).

I love the way he captures ideas with simple sketches, and the first sketch that caught my attention was this:


Carl wrote a terrific piece on this here, a couple of snippets from it :

“On paper, your investments in stocks, real estate or even cash may look like your greatest assets. While all those things are superimportant, you have something else that’s even more valuable. It’s the investment called you…. Finding ways to increase your value while doing the things you love may be the most important thing you do….They all involve doing something new for you, but when you head down this path, you are probably going to run into this thing, this fear that you’re bumping up against the limits of your ability….It’s at the moment when you’re most vulnerable that all your doubts come crashing in around you. When I first heard that voice in my own head, I didn’t know what to make of it. The fear was paralyzing….I worried the world would say, “You’re a fraud.” ….During a session with a business coach, I shared my fear. I was shocked when she told me this thing had a name….The first step to dealing with this fear is knowing what to call it.”

As my friend and mentor Suki Smith says “awareness is the greatest agent for change”, so yes, the first step comes before knowing what to call it, and is simply to acknowledge the feeling is there.

After that, what is the next step ?

To begin, I give you a favourite sketch from my favourite business artist, Hugh McLeod.

market for something to believe in is infinite

We all feel imposter syndrome from time to time. Carl’s article has some wonderful stories, including a reference to what I believe is Seth Godin’s most powerful and personal work, “The Icarus Deception” (which I’ve also written about on this site).

To create something of value to the world, then, it is key that we believe in ourselves.

A massive support in this is to know that others we respect actually believe in us. The market for something to believe in is infinite indeed, and so is the value we gain from  someone who believes in us.

We all have something unique and powerful in us. I am reminded of Heather Wilde, who is the “Unicorn Whisperer” (yes, unicorns are real.. and hey, the national animal of my home country of Scotland!), and Nilofer Merchant, who teaches us the power of “Onlyness”.

So, what can we do to support others around Belief ?

In my post on Encouragement noted above, I finished it with:

“One key caveat. Encouragement and appreciation must be praise based on true ability and achievements, given sincerely and with recognition of the true value of what is being praised. Go out there and praise someone today!

My work with leaders, individuals and teams, is centred around bringing forward Insights and then having authentic and powerful belief in them so they can bravely step forward and believe in themselves. I’ve seen time and time again, over and over again, the power of authentic belief in others.

Insights, Encouragement, Acknowledgement, Belief, Bravery… I find these to be superpowers indeed in our impact and value in the world

Go out there and tell someone you believe in them today !

Oh, and believing in others is a virtuous circle. Belive in others and you will believe in yourself, and as Genesis said “Its the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight”.

For a tangent, I leave you with that song, a favourite of mine, and as I listen to it, memory flies back to October 2007 in Chicago, many thanks to my dear friend Steve for insisting he and I go for that as a birthday experience for me… this live version from that same world tour.


Yes. You. Can.


Language is so powerful. It builds and reinforces beliefs in ourselves and others.

Whether leading yourself or others, as a friend, parent, employer, business owner, politician, writer, leader of a movement, there is incredible and simple power in offering another person your belief, to tell them “Yes, you can.”

Let me build on this with a few examples towards a pinnacle of inspiration I witnessed first-hand last weekend. Please follow me with this, the example at the end moved me greatly and I believe it will for you. (more…)

Do you have the hunger?

are you hungry

I’ve spent decades as an entrepreneur and working with and supporting entrepreneurs.

For those who have started and who run their own business, I ask them to tell their story about why they started their business.

The answer can almost always be distilled down to…. (more…)

Your time is limited…wait no more

Our time on this earth is limited. Live it to the full, every day, even when that means you feel down, shattered, floored.

Life is a rich tapestry of experiences. Live it. Wait no more!

your time ls limited

(video of the speech by Steve Jobs at the bottom of this post)

Today I give you the completion of a stream of consciousness I wrote on Friday, three days ago, when I got the news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide, which I already wrote about briefly two days ago. (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Considering Cultures

This week a note. I like to choose to have only enough Structure to allow #Flow, and it feels to me that having set themes for my posts on Fridays (Smashing Paradigms), Saturdays (Writing I love) and Sundays (Movies with Meaning) is now too structured, so after this week I’m dropping that structure and such posts will be more sporadic and come as things #Flow !

Weekly series. Do please send suggestions via email, twitter etc. You can send a theme and/or specific movies. Each week’s post features 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….

Last week my weekly “Movies with Meanings” post talked about Culture in business. This week I’m musing on Culture from different countries and other “tribes”.

We are all humans, it is our infinite variety that makes us special. No one person is any better than another, no country, no religion, no orientation, ethnicity.

As Jamaicans would say, “out of many, one people”. One Love!

So, as a Scot living in London, a short (1″) video published this week gave me such goosebumps, such pride to be associated with that wonderful, rich country, as the video stood out as vividly different from the “us vs them” tone of the UK Government, the “hostile environment” they’ve created for anybody who isn’t “like us”.

“Scotland’s not for standing still, it’s for standing up. Standing up for those who’d call this land their home. Standing up for those we’re proud to call our own.”

For more on building Scotland’s fair and inclusive society, visit

So, the video and my reaction to it also got me to thinking about what Scots are known for. Perhaps something for another blog, but I’d say, having worked in so many countries around the world and discussed this, that Scots are known for such timeless values as honesty, integrity and, as the video so clearly shows, fairness.

You can trust a Scot.

In our disrupted and disturbed world, trust is a rare gift to earn and possess.

Anyway, to a few favourite movies reflecting different cultures in different ways.


Writing I Love – Anthony Bourdain

This week a note. I like to choose to have only enough Structure to allow #Flow, and it feels to me that having set themes for my posts on Fridays (Smashing Paradigms), Saturdays (Writing I love) and Sundays (Movies with Meaning) is now too structured, so after this week I’m dropping that structure and such posts will be more sporadic and come as things #Flow !

Last Saturday’s “Writing I Love” post was called “Enjoy the Present” and began with:

“True happiness is to enjoy the present, without anxious dependence upon the future, not to amuse ourselves with either hopes or fears but to rest satisfied with what we have, which is sufficient, for he that is so wants nothing. The greatest blessings of mankind are within us and within our reach. A wise man is content with his lot, whatever it may be, without wishing for what he has not.”  ~ Seneca

As I write this on Friday evening, today around midday UK time I learned of the suicide of Anthony Bourdain. I met him once, I had been regaled by tales of the man by a mutual friend he and I had in common, and I loved his work. Somehow, inexplicably I was shaken, badly. I was floored, flattened. I felt so much, tears came to my eyes.

As I write this, I remain shaken.  So, for this week’s post, a few words accompanied by two pictures to tell a thousand words. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – Why Be Humble?

This week a note. I like to choose to have only enough Structure to allow #Flow, and it feels to me that having set themes for my posts on Fridays (Smashing Paradigms), Saturdays (Writing I love) and Sundays (Movies with Meaning) is now too structured, so after this week I’m dropping that structure and such posts will be more sporadic and come as things #Flow !

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”


Recently I was talking with an author and thought leader I admire and had exchanged some thoughts with online before we decided to have a “real life” conversation (rumour has it they are coming back into vogue!). As we talked, they noted that of late they have found a theme around leaders saying to them: “my people just don’t get it, what am I doing wrong ?”.

As she listened to this, again and again, she recognised: “they don’t have a communication problem, they have an arrogance problem”.

When she has candidly told them this, sometimes they responded to her “how do I be humble?”.

She asked me my advice, based on my experience with leaders, on what to say in response to such a question.

My answer?   (more…)

Diversity of Thought – Challenge Yourself!


A great quote to begin with !

I am passionate about Diversity of Thought, I am super curious and love to learn from many different quarters and channels (hence my article yesterday: “Synthesising ideas – who inspires you?“, listing some writers who inspire me, a group I’d say are quite eclectic a mix!

Oh, and around that quote and eclectic writers, do you know who Tim Berners-Lee is without searching the internet? 😜


Today my thoughts go to a moment last month at a mentoring lunch with one of my inspirational mentees, an inspiring woman who lives and breathes championing diversity. Our mentoring relationship began by accident when we had a first connection lunch where she addressed bluntly that she’d put off meeting me for a while as her gut instinct was that I seemed stereotypically someone she wouldn’t want to connect with.

However, something made her decide to meet up anyway and see what emerged. We had a great conversation and when I asked her what I could do to help here, she asked me to mentor her.

It has been and continues to be an honour and a privilege and I am constantly inspired by her.

{btw, if you are considering being a mentor, my tip is to get a sense if both people will be energised and inspired by the mentoring relationship, that is what driver and sustains such relationships !}


So, fast forward a few months to a regular mentoring lunch. At one point she stopped eating, sat in deep reflection, then spoke. She had realised: “I need to spend more time with people I disagree with”, as she’d realised that her work and life tended to be spent around people she agreed with and she avoided those she didn’t agree with.

When even such a champion of diversity keeps challenging her in ways that bring even further diversity to her own thoughts, that is deeply inspiring!

If we don’t challenge ourselves, our preconceptions, there is no growth, and there is arrogance in assuming we know the answers, that there is no value in the opinions of others (even if we strongly disagree with them!).

This drawing from Seth Godin in his book “The Icarus Deception”, as I wrote about in: “Smashing Paradigms – your Comfort Zone is no longer safe..wait, what ?




Synthesising ideas – who inspires you?

synthesising ideas

One definition of Synthesising is:

“combining different aspects of your ideas and research and the ideas of others in order to produce new ideas”

Many synthesised ideas are captured in my writing on this site, which is driven by a purpose best stated as :

“Our highest purpose is to share knowledge.”

from the Luc Besson movie “Lucy”

Inspired by “genius extractor” and fellow #ModernElder alumnus, Matt Clark, below is a list of writers who inspire me to synthesise ideas.

I hope my list gives you some inspiration and also has you consider who inspires you to synthesise ideas?


Some writers who inspire me:

Viktor Frankl
WB Yeats
Antoine de Saint Exupery
Steve Jobs
Winston Churchill
Don Miguel Ruiz
Paolo Coelho
Mary Oliver
Nilofer Merchant
Adam Grant
Rachel Botsman
Chip Conley
Peter Frankopan
Stephen Covey
Ray Dallio
Michael Neill
Seth Godin

Transparency versus Trust?


So much is said in the media in recent years about how transparency is key to trust. We pressure businesses, institutions, even countries to be transparent so that we can trust them. Really?

This year I was at a talk by Rachel Botsman, author of “Who can you Trust ?”, where she very effectively questioned this conventional wisdom, by asking us to consider a thought experiment, as follows:

“You are married, your spouse has been away on a business trip for an extended period. When they walk into your house, do you immediately ask them to unlock their phone, then investigate every message, email, facebook post they have made or received since you last saw them?”

I’ve run this thought experiment several times since. The answer is always “no, of course, I wouldn’t”, then when I ask “why is that?”, the automatic answer is always “because I trust them!”.

If that is the case in personal relationships, then why do we consider transparency a universal “good”?

Let us extrapolate that idea of checking the phone to business and governance.

Do shareholders in a business insist on going into that business and checking the work of any or all staff at a detailed level? Of course not, it would be incredibly inefficient to do so.

What do they do instead? They appoint qualified and experienced managers, they implement systems, processes and controls.

As a Caymanian, I am considering why there is such a drive from the UK Government to insist, in the name of transparency, on open registers of all owners of companies.

The Cayman Islands Government already has qualified and experienced managers, systems, processes and controls that are efficient and effective ways to ensure criminal and other ownership issues are open to the authorities of other nations.

Why insist on such a level of inefficient transparency then?

Could the answer be simple, that the UK doesn’t truly trust the Cayman Islands? Despite the diplomatic talk from the UK of the importance of the relationship between the two countries, it is a universal truth that trust is at the heart of all relationships. Does the insistence they are making on transparency indicate that the trust between the countries is damaged?

Naturally, that particular conversation may be nuanced, but it does make me wonder.

Transparency? Trust ?

When you are insisting on transparency, ask yourself honestly, is it something I truly need, or is it (to some level at least) driven by a lack of trust?

Trust Trumps Ratings, Every Time

Peter Drucker famously said : “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, though I prefer the way Nilofer Merchant put it in this HBR article a few years ago:

“Culture Trumps Strategy, Every Time”

A core element of Culture is Trust, how we behave around each other, how far we will go for each other, yet in our increasingly online world we seem to spend more and more time sacrificing building real relationships and instead focussing on shallow ratings, so sacrificing trust for ratings.

I’ve just watched an episode of the Netflix series Black Mirror, called Nosedive (and thanks to Glen Trenouth for the recommendation). Released in October 2016, this episode talks about a world only a little exaggerated from our own where we constantly rate all interactions with each other, almost always with 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟, as if every interaction is a) meaningful, and b) warrants a maximum five stars.

In this futuristic (hmm ?) episode, access to everything, every service, job, airline ticket etc is based on your rating out of 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟. (more…)

Movies with Meaning – “Brilliant Jerks” and Integrity

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.

A consciously created Culture in any business, organisation, team is vital to success. I’d go further and say that such a “soft skill” measure is, in fact, the area where Leaders must be hardest and toughest to be absolutely sure it is adhered to.

I love the Netflix “Culture Deck”, and today reference this section :

“On a dream team, there are no “brilliant jerks.” The cost to teamwork is just too high. Our view is that brilliant people are also capable of decent human interactions, and we insist upon that.”

So often over the years, I have seen businesses tolerate “brilliant jerks”. Perhaps they have technical skills that are deemed difficult to replace. Perhaps they are “top performers” in terms of revenue generated. So many justifications, but if you take only one piece of advice from me based upon all my experience it is this. Get rid of the brilliant jerks. Do it now. The long-term cost to you, your team, your business is far higher than the short-term pain and cost of making that hard choice right away.

Refusing to tolerate “brilliant jerks” is a matter of integrity. My simple definition of a leader is “a leader is someone others choose to follow”. A leader must be of the highest integrity for me to follow them. Each of these movies talks about such integrity.