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…

 

 

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. 

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“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”

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“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”

Those reflections come from an HBR article shared by the #ModernElder community from Tim Leberecht, titled “Andrés Iniesta’s Farewell, and How to Make Endings Count at Work“, beautifully musing on the retirement of one of the greats of world football last week.

Inspired by the #ModernElder movement and my recent time at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, last Friday’s weekly “Smashing Paradigms” post was “Smashing Paradigms – Love of Liminality“, in which I noted :

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

This week I am back in Cayman, one of my two countries (call me a “Tartan Turtle”, if you will, a Scot and a Caymanian). I had coffee with a colleague I worked with for a decade, starting back in 2002. We remembered moments, told stories, reflected on where we and other colleagues are now. However, I now reflect on how few “endings” were marked and remembered then or now.

That reflection comes from reading Tim Leberecht’s article. In work and in life, we have many endings, yet we have too few rituals to honour endings. When we do honour endings, we often find it easier to do so with bubbly and positive energy, finding it far less comfortable to honour endings with rituals around sadness, grief, loss.

On a personal and professional level, I am on my own Modern Elder journey (you can search this site for numerous references to this term and movement) and also, friends among you in this community know I’ve been in quite a “liminal” space myself personally and professionally.  I pause to contemplate the importance of honouring that liminality, both happy and sad, all is part of being in transition from one space to the next.

Somehow, being in Cayman, I think of funerals.

In Cayman, I have been to quite a number, including sudden departures of dear friends gone far too soon. People from throughout the community attend, whether or not they know the personal well. It is a mark of respect to them, to their family, to the whole community and culture. Once one arrives, the flow of the ritual is to first allow true sadness to be exposed and explored, including through use of open caskets that can bring out often screaming catharsis. However, the mastery of the ritual, particularly when lead by such loving masters as Pastor Randy von Kanel here in Cayman, is to shift from grief to celebration of life. To recognise a passage as something to be honoured in all ways, from deep sadness and loss to joy and happiness.

In the UK, however, I’ve found it somewhat jarring to find how different it is, perhaps from the culture of the British “stiff upper lip” of not showing emotion openly. Often there is a small service for a few people in a crematorium chapel for only thirty minutes mid-morning on a weekday, then tea and sandwiches and awkward small talk standing around in a hotel function room. I have always found something very much missing in such rituals and will always be grateful for the creation of a magical few hours for hundreds of people when the great Ed Pervical left us around three years ago, as captured later that same day by Roger Philby with this piece to mark the occasion: My Hero, Ed Percival – 3 Great Bits of Advice.

So, back to Andrés Iniesta, who joined Barcelona at aged 12, 22 years with the club, the most decorated and honoured player in Spanish history. Tim finishes the article :

“Barca’s motto, “més que un club” — “more than a club” — …transcends mere competition. ….Once the party was over, keeping the stadium open for Iniesta served no practical function. It made Barca no profits and won it no points. But it was in keeping with its ethos, its style. That night, the club lost one of its top players and won its fans an indelible memory: an image of raw humanity connecting them to their own. That is the power of organizations that take endings seriously.

Here is a short video of Iniesta alone in the middle of Camp Nou after midnight after his final game. {My son Alex taught me that one can choose in the setting on the Youtube video to auto-translate to English and close caption the commentary. I love learning from younger people, particularly my sons !}

As someone who spent most of his adult life in the Americas rather than Europe, I recognise the importance of different cultural icons, so I am also reminded of the film made as an ad on the retirement of “#2”, Derek Jeter, another “one club” player, this time playing baseball for the NY Yankees. His entire final season was one where he was honoured at every game (as was Iniesta), and this ad moves me so much every time I watch it. So many of those “tipping the hat” will only be truly recognised by those who spent their lives in the Americas, yet we can all recognise “Re2spect” when we see it.

I’m a Tartan Turtle, a mongrel, so let me mangle my metaphors even more as a cycling fan and simply reflect, remember and respect. Chapeau, Derek Jeter. Chapeau Andrés Iniesta. Chapeau Ed Percival.

Let us take endings seriously, and let us allow ourselves to feel everything about them, to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Every ending is also leaving space for new beginnings.

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?

(more…)

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.

(more…)

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.

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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”

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(c) smasherofficial.com

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.

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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” !

 

 

Leadership and Love

power of love jimi hendrix

Yesterday’s post was “Leadership starts with Authenticity“, inspired by an act of leadership after the Santa Fe school shooting.

Almost juxtaposed with that shooting on May 18th was the royal wedding the next day. It felt jarring to me, yet something came out of that royal wedding as a powerful reminder of how to lead, particularly in challenging times.

Love is a word very rarely talked about by leaders, and even more so business leaders.

I passionately disagree with this approach. Let us as leaders be brave enough to focus on love and live this through our leadership. (more…)

Leadership starts with Authenticity

We can all see through fakes pretty quickly.

If you are being a fake, you also can’t continue doing meaningful work for long if, at your core, you are compromising who you are.

If you want to be a leader, someone others choose to follow, start with being your authentic self.

On May 19th, yet another school shooting (I don’t really need to note that the country was the USA, do I ? ) happened at Santa Fe High School near Houston, Texas.

That same day, Art Acavedo, Chief of Police for Houston, the 5th largest in the USA, with over 5,000 officers, posted on his Facebook page. He was appointed to this role after years in other major cities where he had a major impact.

I leave you to assess the authenticity of this leader, police chief in a city and state where ownership of guns is almost a religion.

 

Art Acavedo

 

How do you build a movement? Patiently

A moment of humour to begin. I came up with the title of this post inspired by an old joke :

Q : How do hedgehogs make love ?

A : Very, very carefully

So, how do you build a movement for systemic change ? I believe that the answer remains, even in this fast changing world…..very, very patiently.

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This picture is of a Jaeger Le Coultre watch. This company has created over a thousand different calibres, or another type of “movement” for their watches over more than a century. Luxury timepieces like this will never go out of style as they represent patience and quality.

So, back to the subject. why do I believe transformational movements require great patience?

(more…)

Ikigai and Bacon Rolls

In the middle of October last year I went for my last bike ride of the season around Richmond Park and after that, I was inspired to write about Ikigai and Bacon rolls.

I’m going to simply repeat the core of that post below. Please scroll down and read that first, then come back to additional thoughts added today, as last weekend I went back for my first bacon roll there for seven months (I am a “fair weather” cyclist!).

So much has happened, so much changed in the last seven months, yet when I went back to Pen Ponds cafe, everything was the same as in my October post excerpted below.

In those seven months, I have continued my lifelong search for the best bacon roll in the world, so when I went to order one at Pen Ponds café, I noted to the cook that he still held the title of “best bacon roll ever” for me, as since being there last October I had not found a bacon roll better yet !

His eyes glinted, and he poured out a story that explained everything… (more…)

Movies with Meaning – Leading through doubt

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.

Sometimes as leaders we face tough decisions. Sometimes it may even be that all those around us try to convince us our chosen path is wrong and we need to change our mind.

When everyone around you not only sows seeds of doubt but actively tries to convince you to change your path, your decision, it takes a special kind of leadership to lead through the inevitable doubt that such a situation will implant in even the toughest leader.

Three movie dramatisations of three true stories, of three great leaders :

  • Winston Churchill
  • Steve Jobs
  • Nelson Mandela

(more…)

Writing I Love – If – Rudyard Kipling

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. 

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I love this poem, and the way it closes.. all about being present, and presence is a core practice and skill of #OpenLeadership

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!