Tag: Wisdom

Kilkenomics: Knowledge Speaks, Wisdom Listens

“Models are useful hypotheses guiding rough maps of the terrain”

Paul Krugman

Paul Krugman won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2008 for models and thinking on a particular field. He has also had a unique platform for an Economics professor in writing a twice-weekly column for the NY Times for twenty years.

This weekend I was privileged to listen to Paul Krugman, Dan Ariely and Yanis Varoufakis, moderated by David McWilliams, muse on “The Life and Death of Economics” at Kilkenomics. As David said in introducing his guests, if he had started with a blank page and though who might he like to have discuss the future of Economics, he could not have picked a better group. In short, these three individuals are absolute rock stars in the field.

Now, if we think about our image of rockstars, we might have expected them to be egocentric, pronouncing with great certainty that their models are the answer, perhaps interrupting the others and arguing and even dismissing their thinking.

And yet, these luminaries were humble, respectful, warm, open, enthusiastic, and certainly enjoying themselves.


Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

One of the things that I admire the most about the inspiring Chip Conley is his ability to distil what he learns down to elegant simplicity. One such phrase is “Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens”.

Recently Chip has started daily mini-blogging on what he calls “Wisdom Well”. Follow the link to subscribe and enjoy this short blog-let.

Knowledge Speaks. Wisdom Listens.

Why is the owl perceived as the wisest animal in the kingdom?

It’s not its laser-sharp night vision or the fact that it can do the Linda Blair 360-degree swivel of its head, or even that it cocks its noggin in a curious and wise fashion.

The owl’s real differentiator is its ears—call him the best listener in the forest, especially at high frequencies. Since owls have no sense of smell, their world is all about listening.

Follow their example today. Instead of proclaiming your knowledge, ask a few catalytic questions instead.

When could you be better served by listening rather than talking?

No one ever made a decision based on a number

decision based on a number

An unexpected “bucket list” moment

Last week I was sat in the centre of the front row at the Royal Festival Hall as Hannah Gadsby came back on after her incredible show Douglas to receive the acclamation of an adoring crowd. It had been one of the best shows I’d ever seen in my life, the crow was making so much noise and there was so much applause.

One thing was missing, I realised. A feeling rose in me, articulated in my mind as: “This woman deserves a standing ovation”. I looked from side to side and realised that nobody was standing. In a fraction of second, I realised I had to stand. From my place at the front of the theatre, I did just that, then I didn’t look around, I could simply hear and feel the crowd of 2700 all stand as one and the volume increase still further.

Hannah briefly made eye contact as if to say “thank you”, then, no more than a few seconds later, she left the stage. If I’d had “start a standing ovation at the Royal Festival Hall” on my bucket list, then “tick”.

Now a question. After reading that, do I have your attention, and are you at least a little interested in seeing Hannah Gadsby’s show “Douglas”?

Always, always start any talk, any presentation, any pitch with a story.

What kind of story? Why a story?


Curating 13 learnings from 13 years of Brainpickings

Brainpickings from Maria Popova

At certain stages of life, many of us focus more on Editing rather than Accumulating. For me, part of that is to cut back on the newsletters and news outlets I read and pay for.

One that will always stay in my core list is Brainpickings from Maria Popova, a weekly newsletter of exquisitely curated thoughts from artists and writers, each with many links to dive deep into the depths of art and literature. They come out each Sunday and I can often get lost for hours. Oh, and if you enjoy Brainpickings, do support Maria’s art by setting up a monthly contribution.

Now, as I am now well over 750 daily posts on this site, sometimes I write “long read” posts, developing thoughts and ideas. Other times my blogging has evolved to curate posts from others.

Today, I am curating the curator, as Maria recently posted a special Brainpickings. Please note that I have edited down this long post to simply the summary learnings. For the full depth and also her favourite Brainpickings posts of all time, follow the link to the original article.

Maria is a great gift and curator. It is a true gift and wonderful wisdom to read and look to apply these 13 learnings.

Each of these is wonderful, each we can look to apply more in our self-leadership. We must constantly invest in leading ourselves before we can truly lead others.


Beware of simple ideas

simple ideas

Regular readers will know I love to distil to simplicity, with ideas such as Ockham’s Razor, the Da Vinci quote “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication“, as well as the idea that “if I’d had more time I would have written something shorter“.

What I don’t tend to write about, though, is that before seeking to distil (including distilling to these relatively short daily blog posts), I often read and research in-depth to understand the background (and I’ve just linked to five earliest posts as background).

As an example, yes I posted strong opinions quite a while ago about the lack of viability of the WeWork model, but prior to doing so, I read everything I could find about their numbers and business model. Mind you, as soon as I read about “community adjusted EBITDA” my bullshit detector went into overdrive!

Today, then, I’m curating a terrific post from Tim Harford of “Undercover Economist” fame. In this, he warns of the danger of simple ideas. In a UK context, I very much agree with his assessment of Labour party ideas and even policies around such things as nationalisation, shares in companies to the public etc. Depending on your politics, the ideas may well be both simple and really positive. However, read into the detail (and yes, I have done), their policies stack up about as poorly as WeWork’s initial IPO valuation.

So, for more on the idea of being wary of simple ideas, over to Tim Harford.


Flip your thinking – how long will you live?

Flip your thinking script

Today sharing a story I first heard from Chip Conley sitting on the terrace at the Modern Elder Academy in Baja, days after meeting his amazing Dad.

How long will you live? What type of life will you live? Society has deeply embedded structures and beliefs in so many areas, age is one of them.

Read this piece by Chip both with a view to age and ageing, and also to ask yourself: “where else might I flip my thinking?”


Take the time to write less

write less is more

On average my daily posts take under five minutes to read, yet an average of over an hour to write.

I’ve taken as long as three days at an offsite with a client leadership team to land on a strategy that is simply one word.

When I work on Business Strategy Coaching with a client (see here) we can have meetings and calls over weeks and months simply to hone down their message and story to the absolute essentials so they have maximum impact in the short time they may have to present it to decision-makers.

“Je n’ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n’ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte.”

~ Blaise Pascal

Literally translates to: “I made this one longer only because I have not had the leisure to make it shorter.”

from an earlier post:”If I’d had more time….

What would be possible for you if you took the time to go deeply enough into learning and research on a topic that you could then write less about it?

Don’t get better, be braver

be braver

The limits of technique

It’s possible that you no longer need to get better at your craft. That your craft is just fine.

It’s possible that you need to be braver instead.

Seth’s Blog, Oct 21 2019

Seth Godin’s habit of daily writing (for over 20 years now!) inspired me to start doing the same a little over two years ago. I hadn’t written regularly, perhaps subconsciously in part as I wanted to become a better writer first.

I love to work with leaders who are Hungry, Humble, Brave and Open. Yes, we all need to learn our craft before putting ourselves out there, but when the moment comes that the feeling of needing to lead change for ourselves and others is so strong we know we just need to be braver and get out there and do it, then bravery is what we need.

Own that Bravery, that Hunger. Ally that to being Open to learning and the ideas of others and Humble to know you will never have all the answers.

Focus on those four characteristics of #OpenLeadership and go make your dent in the universe a crater!

To see ourselves as others see us

Robert Burns, To see ourselves as others see us

O wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as ithers see us!
It wad frae mony a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion

Translation from Scots:

Oh, would some Power give us the gift
To see ourselves as others see us!
It would from many a blunder free us,
And foolish notion

From “To a Louse” by Robert Burns

A simple thought for a Sunday morning.

I’ve often mused on the thought that “we cannot see the goldfish bowl we are swimming in”, and how we can all benefit from an outside perspective.

My own focus professionally is around being that Sounding Board for leaders, yet of course, I cannot see myself as others see me, so I also am always connected to people I can trust to tell me, unvarnished, how I appear from their perspective.

We can never truly see ourselves as others see us, so let us have the humility to be open to both ask and to be told what they see.

Edit, don’t Accumulate

Your life is your story. Write Well. Edit Often. Susan Stratham

The first half of your life is focused more on accumulating: success, responsibilities, family, friends, hobbies, identities. A mid-life crisis is often about feeling weighed-down by all of this. Focus on what’s most important in your life and start the process of editing that which doesn’t serve or nourish you.

~ Chip Conley

So much wisdom from Chip Conley (for a great and recent summary, see the podcast notes from his talk with Tim Ferris, also listen to that podcast). The quote above comes from a post Chip wrote: “The Advice I Wish I’d Been Given at 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50” and was one of two pieces of advice to a 50-year-old.

So, inspired as I often am by Chip, some thoughts on Editing, Life and Leadership.


Learn deeply then distil to simplicity


This week I was complimented by a reader on sharing some incisive and concise ideas in my daily writing. That is wonderful to hear, as a) I can talk a lot when on a roll (!), and b) I love the Da Vinci adage of: “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication”.

The thing is, to get to simplicity in this age of soundbites and short attention spans takes commitment and focus to actually taking time to listen, read, learn from many sources. Only when one commits to deeply studying and learning can one reach what Oliver Wendell Holmes valued (blog post here):

“I would not give a fig for the simplicity on this side of complexity, but I would give my life for the simplicity on the other side of complexity.”

An example around one of the most powerful philosophical maxims I have learned (and use in coaching).


What do you see? What do you not see?

perspective what do you see

How many pillars are there? The answer is seven.

Or, how many women can you see?

Most see pillars, only some immediately see beyond to the women.

This has me thinking about seeing what others don’t see.

This week I was at an event in London with a focus on both speakers and audience having a global perspective in their business, their careers, their outlook. These events are normally larger, but this time there was a smaller group, so more interactive.

What stood out for me most was that each person in the room had a different perspective, they could see what others could not see, based on their very varied types and levels of experience.

For me, as I listened to one speaker talk about how their business has rapidly developed in a burgeoning sector, they were focussed on the operational shifts and improvements they have made through new AI technologies and many other process and structural improvements.

I, however, got excited as I saw something else.


Saunter, don’t hike

John Muir Saunter, don't hike
John Muir

I love hiking. I love walking for the purpose of exercise, of a heart rate over 100bpm for hours on end, of the feeling of walking fast and strongly for exercise.

I also love to walk for a different reason, to walk to allow the process of walking to clear my mind, to solve a problem (see Solvitur Ambulando and here), to slow down (see here), to be creative (see here), to stretch time (see here).

Clearly walking is a repeated theme for me on this site! It is a miraculous thing and now that I live in a country with mild weather, I walk a lot, typically well over thirty miles a week.

Today I write about the power of sauntering as opposed to hiking.

Sauntering? What is that really?


Ed Percival and his Cayman legacy

Ed Percival
The late, great Ed Percival

This week in Cayman I find myself musing on Perspectives, on Legacy, on Context, all as I am here with my own Context this week of CONNECTION. After two meetings early in the week with a current client and a past client, I find myself thinking of the legacy of the great Ed Percival on Cayman and how he shifted Perspective and Context for a significant number of Cayman’s leaders.


What I learned from a master practitioner

Yoda master Feldenkrais practitioner
Yoda, a quintessential Master

Over a year ago I injured my Achilles badly. No specific event, I simply was walking a lot that summer and it became injured and wouldn’t heal.

Months later, frustrated and limping around London, a friend referred me to a practitioner of Feldenkrais, “an educational method focusing on learning and movement“. He made a powerful referral by firmly telling me to go to the practitioner and that if I did not find it way beyond expectations, he would pay for the session for me.

Armed with that recommendation, I went to my first session ten months ago and was blown away! I have then gone periodically since then at a frequency recommended by the practitioner.

Last week was my sixth session in these ten months and they have been absolutely transformational in ways far beyond healing my acute injury.

Today, I will share my learning from my most recent session in the context of what it means to be supported by a practitioner at this level of mastery.


Book a diagnostic meeting

Subscribe for Inspiration, Ideas, Tools

I offer you two newsletters seeking to offer inspiration to action, ideas and tools for leaders.

Open Leadership – Digest
Big Game Advisors – Ideas into Action