Tag: Wisdom

Be rid of Brilliant Jerks

rred hastings brilliant jerks

“Do not tolerate brilliant jerks. The cost to teamwork is too high.”
~ Reed Hastings, CEO, Netflix

The Netflix “Culture Deck”, updated in 2018 and hosted on their site prominently here , is full of gems of great clarity around the Netflix culture, including this one around “brilliant jerks”.  I do encourage all leaders to read this, as well as the original deck (you can find it here)

I’ve worked for many years around culture in business, with a primary and all too common gap being that culture is seen as “soft and fluffy”, whereas a values-based business, in fact, uses their culture as the toughest measure of all.

To use the Netflix culture quote above, again and again, I have had clients talk to me about a difficulty they are having with someone. They wring their hands as to whether or not to discipline or fire them.

Sometimes, no, often, the behaviour of the individual is way beyond unacceptable for the business culturally, but they are so valuable commercially that they “can’t” fire them.

In short, they are brilliant but they are jerks. What do to?

My simple advice to leaders? Let them know they cannot stay. (more…)

Leadership, Maria Callas, Meraki

maria callas

Meraki is the modern greek term that translates to:

“to do something with soul, creativity, or love;

when you leave a piece of yourself in the work.”

Maria Callas, also Greek, is my favourite opera singer of all time, and one would call her a Meraklis.

A Meraklis is someone who loves life, lives it to the hilt, does everything with zeal, someone who lives for the moment, the now. Every single thing they do, every day, is done with Meraki.

To what extent do you see this in yourself? Could you bring more of yourself to life in this way, or perhaps do you feel sometimes you do this too much?

You see, Maria Callas brought Merkai to her opera singing, and she also lived this in her absolute passion for the love of her life, Aristotle Onassis, the Greek shipping tycoon. When he abandoned her and married Jackie Kennedy, it is said that she never recovered, her singing career rapidly faded and she died suddenly and mysteriously at only 55 years of age. Of a broken heart, perhaps?

What then, can we learn from the concept of Meraki and the example of Maria Callas for ourselves and for leadership ? (more…)

Live in the now to provide for the future

“Live in the now to provide for the future”

Exquisite. I love distilled beauty in writing, and gosh how much I love anything that can relate to leadership and business. This hits the mark on all levels for me !

People are my library, and today I am most thankful for learning this from longtime friend and client, Morgan Da Costa, who coined this phrase.

#OpenLeadership is about many things, but in summary is about BEING a Leader, not DOING leadership.

The more the Leader knows themselves and can then bring presence to every moment, the more powerful the opportunity for them to support their team as a leader.

Now, Morgan leads a family business that he is leading through brave transformation. This has been going on for several years and much has been going on within the business, like a caterpillar in a chrysalis readying to fly. Now the business is flying and all new areas and opportunities to lead are happening as revenues accelerate.

It would be so easy for Morgan to jump from one thing to the next as such rapid growth occurs, yet he has coined this phrase to anchor him.

“Live in the now to provide for the future” (more…)

Lessons from the analogue world – Slow Down

Thames bw aug9

Taken after a photo shoot, looking over the Thames to Temple.

London is such a city of both tradition and permanence as well as dynamism and growth.

Yesterday I had a wonderful experience with a highly creative photographer, Simon Edwards, as we walked around London and the banks of the River Thames so he could photograph me for an update to my website.

We simply walked and talked in a leisurely way and every so often he’d stop and take a few shots, with me often continuing the conversation rather than stopping and posing.

Reflecting on that experience, I took lessons from the value of slowing right down. (more…)

Prepare, then throw away the script

Today a reflection of preparing in advance so that we can discard what we prepared.

I then share similar learnings from an interview with the director and writer of the latest Mission Impossible movie.

I love movies and recently watched this movie. It was terrific, and as the interviewer noted, somehow they have got better and better with the last three in the series. Why ? Part of the secret lies in that balance between planning and then discarding what was prepared.  (more…)

Ignore the noise of Metrics – tune in to what truly matters

Seth Godin writes daily and has over 1,000,000 followers on his email list.

I write daily and have around 1,000 email followers.


For many years a part of my work was engaged with digital marketing. So much of that was about building traffic to websites, spending money on promotion to draw people to your site then sell them something. Metrics were everything.

As I’ve gone past 300 daily posts and loving writing more and more, I muse on how I no longer care about metrics the way I used to, I have become clearer and clearer about what truly matters. As one of Peter Gabriel’s songs highlights for me, I’m clearer on clear on what is Signal over what is Noise.

I muse on metrics and meaning today after yesterday, in “The Power of Intention – “This is post 300””, writing about how that day marked post #300 of my posting daily on this site, and noted “Listen to your intention. Follow it without always having to know where it will lead. You will create serendipities. Amazing things can and will happen!” (more…)

Romantic and Beautiful Business

red heart romantic beautiful business

So, the last two articles I wrote here have mused on romance, idealism, romanticism and magical reality.

Leadership: Romance, Life in Full Colour and Magical Reality

Life in Full Colour – Cry, Heart, But Never Break

In (so far) nearly 300 daily articles on this site, I have covered a wide range, and beauty is a recurring theme, but what does beauty have to do with business ?

A few years ago I came across the writing of Tim Leberecht, who calls himself (and this is also the title of his book) “The Business Romantic”. We’ve not yet met, though I look forward to doing so as I know we will have much to share and perhaps synthesise together !

In writing those two posts above this past week, I remembered coming across Tim so started to research his more recent work and came across a TED Talk which I will focus on here. (more…)

Leadership: Romance, Life in Full Colour and Magical Reality

Today I’ll muse on life, art and how what I have learned links to leadership in business.

Romantic Idealism. First, I’ll look being a romantic and idealism in leadership.

Next, I’ll explore what I mean by “Life in Full Colour” and then taking risks in leadership.

Magical Reality. Finally, I’ll look at what I meant when I recently coined for myself this term, then what that means for leadership and not settling for less than your ideals


Modern Elder Academy – apply now !


Today, a rare “shameless plug”. As I’ve written about on numerous occasions, the amazing Chip Conley’s Modern Elder Academy is now “open for business”!

The first two week long residential immersive workshop experiences are November 4-11 and November 11-18 in Baja, Mexico. Applications are now being accepted and will sell out fast! At US$5,000 (scholarships available, see the site), this is a stunningly powerful investment in yourself and your future life and work.

Trust me… I was part of the beta programme, my week there was truly transcendent!

You can tell by all the exclamation point that I am excited about this, huh?

So, visit Modern Elder Academy and learn more for yourself.

Onlyness and Chip Conley

Nilofer Onlyness

In the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to several thought leaders, speakers, writers who I have very much admired and respected for many years.

Two of those people are Nilofer Merchant and Chip Conley.

Nilofer I just talked to for the first time recently, Chip I first connected with via my writing on this site late last year, then I followed the energy and spent time with him and an amazing cohort of Modern Elders in Baja, Mexico this past April.

Now, from talking to Nilofer, today I simply will connect her concept of Onlyness to what I see that means for Chip Conley.

In her book, she writes about this word she came up with:

“You’re standing in a spot in the world that only you stand in, a function of your history and experiences, visions, and hopes. From this spot where only you stand, you offer a distinct point of view, novel insights, and even groundbreaking ideas. Now that you can grow and realize those ideas through the power of networks, you have a new lever to move the world.”

“Through the power of onlyness, an individual conceives an idea born of his narrative, nurtures it with the help of a community that embraces it, and, through shared action, makes the idea powerful enough to dent the world.”

Nilofer and I recently had a wonderful “virtual walk and talk” call (after all, she did a wonderful TED talk on walking meetings!). On that call, among other things, she helped me see my own “Onlyness”, for which I am deeply grateful, and as the call progressed I also witnessed and had insights around hers.

This call then saw me muse back to spending time with Chip a few months ago. (more…)

Create Serendipity

Are you or your business lucky ? do you benefit or suffer from coincidences?

I don’t believe in luck, I believe in serendipity. Serendipity is not luck, it is not coincidence.

Serendipity is something you can choose to create for yourself and in the way you lead and structure your organisation.

You see, I hold true to the concept of “I create the whole of my reality”, and at one level, this links to Serendipity.

So, what is Serendipity ?  (more…)

Levels of Leadership – Idioms

dilbert cliched idioms

Today a Leadership lesson at two levels around the use of Idioms.

Level One: Leaders, avoid USING clichéd idioms.

Cliché : 

“a phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.”


“a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words”

“a form of expression natural to a language, person, or group of people.”

Level Two: Leaders, avoid BEING clichéd and losing your “idios”.

Level one feels easy, yes?  Level two though? What is Tom talking about? (more…)

Storytelling as Aural History

stories are light

In the early 1990s, we saw the beginnings of the widely available internet. Dial up only, super slow, very expensive.

At one point I read an article in, I recall, Time Magazine, about the explosion of use of the internet by people, often older generations, seeking to research their genealogy using the new resources available.

In the article, I read that Scotland was one of the world leaders in making such registers of births, marriages and deaths open to the public via the internet.

The General Registry of Scotland had partnered with a business called Scotland Online, and they’d even already set up online payments along with this public / private joint partnership. World leading indeed!

My family is largely from Scotland, so my natural curiousity had me, sitting in the Cayman Islands, go online and pay and search records and research my father’s side of the family (reasonably easy, as our surname is not that common), and within literally minutes I could track this back to the 1700s!

I then went online to some bulletin boards (some may remember those!) and found a member of the family from the tree about three generations ago. They had also been researching my great-grandfather and had a fascinating story to tell around his funeral.

Now, my grandfather was still alive at this time, so I planned a trip to visit him a few months later in the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. I’d never asked him about the family, but this time we sat down several times and he told me tales from his childhood.

He then died shortly afterwards, quite suddenly.

What if I’d not asked him?

What information may not have been passed down to the next generation?


Leadership Lessons from Pushing Cars

mg midget

When I was a young Chartered Accountancy student I had an old MG Midget just like this one. A tiny little car (and yes, somehow I fit in it!), it had a faulty starter motor, so I became very familiar with push starting it. As a relatively big and strong guy with a small car, I could do this myself and often had to!

One thing I remember most was that it took a LOT of effort to get the car moving from a standing start, but once it was rolling it was easy to keep going and even to push faster. (more…)

Brevity is the soul of wit

Yesterday’s post, “Beauty in Brevity” mused eclectically on the power of art and prose to communicate to us powerfully and rapidly through being concise.

Today, I turn that focus to messaging in business and leadership.

In many situations, the shorter and simpler the message, the more powerful it is. (more…)