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 – 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!”. (more…)

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.


Writing I Love – Enjoy the Present

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 Saturday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 


“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

On this site you will find page after page of posts with the tag “Presence“.

Why? Because being Present is vital for leadership and also something we can find eludes us at times. For myself, the moments where I am absolutely at one, fully present, are powerful, though often presence at that high level is elusive. (more…)

Smashing Paradigms – Take Endings Seriously

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”


“The game had ended. The applause had died down, and people had gone home. His work was done, now he could rest. So he took off his cleats and he sat down. Someone took a picture, and it went viral. Andrés Iniesta, one of the most gifted and successful soccer players of his generation, barefoot, alone, on the pitch of Camp Nou, the stadium of FC Barcelona — Barca, as the fans call it — after he had played his last game for the club.”

“Iniesta’s still portrait captured… the moment in which all that remains when the work, the game, and the show are over is a person in an empty space. A space in which the past is history and the future is yet to begin. It is a space we all visit, more or less willingly, ever more often as working lives get longer and careers more fragmented. It is common for people to change jobs over a dozen times in their lives.”

“It was the rarest and most meaningful of endings, different from the rushed and placeless ones that mark, or fail to mark, many career transitions. That is why the image captured people’s imagination, perhaps: It portrayed him still, alive, in the space between two lives.”

This is why we cannot be fully human in organizations that have few rituals and little space for stillness, silence, sadness.

Scholars have a name for that space. They call it liminality, from the Latin limen, or threshold. It is a state of mind and a social space in which we are betwixt and between. Regardless of your line of work, it is easy in such moments of suspended animation to feel lost or stuck. But when we have rituals to guide us, and spaces to hold us, suspended animation turns into animated suspension” (more…)

Do you have a Growth Mindset?

growth vs fixed mindset

Regular readers know that each Saturday I write a “Writing I Love” article, and last week I wrote about Mindset by Carol Dweck.

I’d also reference the language and ask you to take a look at it and consider in the context of yesterday’s post: “Language shapes the way you think

I follow a number of thought leaders by their regular emails and twitter feeds, and one of them is Whitney Johnson. Have followed Whitney for years and love her growth mindset, exemplified by her book “Disrupt Yourself”. Visit her site to learn more.

So, recently her regular email was titled “Do you have an open mind?” and in there was a link to a mindset quiz.

Hmm.. before sharing that quiz, am thinking for a moment. Whitney does two things with her audience I don’t do.

One is that she only sends out her thoughts to people who subscribe to her emails, whereas I publish them online and then email to those who prefer emails. That one feels to me like a conscious choice on how I wish to engage.

The second, however, is that she interviews people for podcasts. I realised that podcasting has recently exploded among those I respect, admire, follow (from Adam Grant (who also, cough, posts transcripts for “them thar readers!” like me on his LI feed!) to Tim Ferris to Rosie von Lila to Cayman’s own Taylor Burrowes and many more). However, I realise that I repeat to people “I don’t like listening to podcasts” and similar limiting language. Hmm.. perhaps I could a) start listening to podcasts, then b) perhaps launch my own?

So, to Whitney’s thoughts from her email last week, then the mindset quiz:

“If you’re like me, I suspect that you think close-mindedness is a problem other people have; you, on the other hand, have an open door policy for new ideas.

And you, like me, probably do have an open door—when we like an idea or find it congruent with how we already view and operate in the world, we embrace it enthusiastically.

So this last weekend I took an interesting quiz—you can take it too, here —

Among other things, this quiz is designed to measure whether we have a growth or fixed mindset, and also an open or closed mindset. I fully expected my results to report that I have an open mind but then I scored in the bottom 25%. Yikes! Why would this be?

I think it’s because I figure out how I think things should be, and then want to proceed. Full steam ahead. We think a closed mindset implies bad intent; that isn’t necessarily the case.

You might want to take the quiz too—my whole family did, to fascinating result. Then decide on an action item…the next time someone makes a suggestion or you start to dish up advice, stop and take time to consider the possibilities. No matter how positive your intent is, or whether you like the person offering their idea, how could you be more open-minded as you listen to this person? Imagine the potential advantages—at work, home, or in any endeavour.”

The quiz is here. Enjoy!

Language shapes the way you think

Have a safe flight

I missed you!

Why not?

Don’t do that!

Have a safe flight!

(and thanks to a dear friend and colleague for reminding me of this road sign in Cayman!)

Four very commonly used phrases that you often use unconsciously.

Four phrases that, variously, implant negatives when you say them

Do you see yourself as a negative person? No? Well, you are when you use such language. Language shapes the way you think, as well as those you use it towards.

Now, let’s pause. What do you notice you are thinking or feeling right now about what I’ve written? About me perhaps?

My guess is that you may feel a little defensive, a little negative.

What if I’d replace each “you”, “yourself” with the less direct “we”, “ourselves”? Could that have made you feel subtly different?


What would it take for you to be rich?

Recently Dom Monkhouse shared an article on the “FIRE” movement on LinkedIn, commenting:

“I suppose this a different version of the “f**k them fund”. I always had three months wages saved up so that if at any point I got to a point where I wanted to leave a company I could.

I do see the value in taking that a step further and saving for early retirement, but perhaps this takes it too far. I’m not sure I’d enjoy years of sleeping on a camp bed or eating beans and toast every night to save the cash!”

The article is about the FIRE movement, which stands for “Financial Independence, Retire Early”. Case studies include people who retire as early as 30, through intense frugality allied with downshifting their lifestyle expectations.

I then posted a comment, a stream of consciousness riff on this, which I share below, unfiltered. (more…)

Will you always do what is true to you?

First to anchor this beyond yourself, if you lead a business, organisation, movement, know that I see you. Know I see that sometimes you doubt yourself, you don’t fully act, say, do what is your absolute truth. I know that. I do it too, we are all human.

What are your “SLB”s, your self-limiting beliefs?

Two of the most common themes are  :

“I’ll be judged” / “I’ll be laughed at”

“I could lose my job” / “I need the money”

So many more, but today I’ll focus on these two broad themes around money and taking risks with your reputation.

Imagine if you no longer worried about money or reputation, what would you, could you, will you do differently? Some of it is in your head, some of it you can do something about.

A story now that vividly illustrates what is possible. (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Hidden Gems

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.

Often my weekly movies posts are around a specific theme on leadership.

This week? Simply some hidden gems and, with each one, an off-centre lens you could view them through.


Writing I Love – Mindset by Carol Dweck

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 Saturday I post “Writing I Love”. Sometimes a business book, sometimes a leadership quote, often something more esoteric, such as a poem, novel, song lyric. 

The opening of these weekly “Writing I love” posts reference references a key book for leaders, yet I have not specifically featured it yet in these weekly columns.


Now, I did write  “Smashing Paradigms – Growth Mindset and Pole Vaulting” a few months back and that also links to an RSA Animate video about Growth Mindset, so I do encourage you to read that post and watch the video.

My writing here is all around #OpenLeadership, and key attributes of leaders for the world we live in now and the world to come include self-knowledge, humility, collaboration, vulnerability.

Other words that come to mind include curiosity, “beginner’s mind”, passion, open-ness.

The key to Dr. Dweck’s work is for us to understand that in some areas of our thinking all of us have a “fixed mindset”, whereas in others we have a “growth mindset”.

Yes, some of us tend to have more of a growth mindset than others, and at the same time awareness of the power of adopting ever more of a growth mindset is open to all of us at any time of our lives.

Enough from me here, read the book if you are curious 🙂

Smashing Paradigms – Love of Liminality

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”



At the start of  December 2017 I wrote “Loss of Control and Growth“, reflecting on the power of getting “comfortable being uncomfortable” and riffing on various examples from different fields.


Read the Wikipedia definition of the word Liminality below, one that, with our conventional thinking, the paradigm we sit in, we would all tend to want to move through and out of as soon as humanly possible.

What if, however, we learned to Love being Liminal and to have the patience to “sit with” that stage of our lives?  To me that can bring huge value !

Liminality (from the Latin word līmen, meaning “a threshold”) is the quality of ambiguity or disorientation that occurs in the middle stage of rites when participants no longer hold their pre-ritual status but have not yet begun the transition to the status they will hold when the rite is complete.

During a rite’s liminal stage, participants “stand at the threshold” between their previous way of structuring their identity, time, or community, and a new way, which the rite establishes.

Disorientation, ambiguity, with no set identity, outside time or the community you are comfortable with. Feels unsettled and unsettling, yes ? Want to stay there long ? Perhaps not.

For an alternative outlook, let’s start with one of the greatest listeners I have ever met is Nick Isbister. As you would expect, I recommend to all successful people to invest in a coach, and Nick is a great one to consider for a fit for your own needs.

I met Nick as a liminal stage for myself, and he shared this with me around the word “Liminality”, a quote from  anthropologist Victor Turner :

Liminality can perhaps be described as a fructile chaos. A fertile nothingness, a storehouse of possibilities, not by any means a random assemblage but a striving after new forms and structure, a gestation process, a fetation of modes appropriate to anticipating post-liminal existence”

~ Victor Turner – Are There Universals of Performance?

What rich language Turner uses ! Fetation.. from the formation of a fetus.. Fructile… in state to bear fruit.

This language is positive and anticipatory, and I love it !

So, should we smash the paradigms and get comfortable with being liminal, it can have huge benefits for us as humans at all changes in life stages.

If you are a parent of a university student and they want to take a year or two to wander before settling into a career the way you did, perhaps consider, as Tolkien put it, “not all those who wander are lost” and that this time will serve them wonderfully in their life to come.

If you are approaching or in “mid-life”, my first recommendation is to follow Chip Conley, a leader I would follow anywhere and who is leading thought and action on the concept of the Modern Elder. A key focus for those investing in themselves at this stage is to embrace their own liminality.

Now, to conclude, let me take this out into a broader sense from the individual to organisations at a stage of liminal change, or stretch further to society, nations, global shifts.

Back to the next paragraphs of the Wikipedia definition of liminality first :

“Usage of the term has broadened to describe political and cultural change as well as rites. During liminal periods of all kinds, social hierarchies may be reversed or temporarily dissolved, continuity of tradition may become uncertain, and future outcomes once taken for granted may be thrown into doubt. The dissolution of order during liminality creates a fluid, malleable situation that enables new institutions and customs to become established.”

Read that carefully and then consider where our world is now, with leaders taking us down a dark and fearful path such as Trump, May, Orban, Erdogan, Le Pen, Duterte and, it seems, so many more.

The world is in a liminal change. Instinctively we want to exit from this as soon as possible, yet perhaps we need to sit with it (at a macro level) longer and be ready for the fetation, the fructile chaos, to allow the world and society to gestate before emerging into a truly transformed post-liminal state.

Earlier this week I wrote: “How do you build a movement? Patiently“. For lasting and truly transformative change to occur, whether for an individual, a business, a government, a society, this takes time and patience.

Let us allow ourselves to “get comfortable being uncomfortable”, then transform that to a positive, to “love being liminal” !