It’s Never Black and White

It’s Never Black and White

In 1999, I took part in a cycling trip across Cuba. 26 year old me was 100% certain of himself – convinced he knew everything, and that anyone who saw things differently simply needed to be ‘educated’ with the ‘facts’ [as I saw them], and that if those ‘facts’ didn’t change your mind, then you must be an idiot. [Yeah – 26 year old me was a dick.] Anyway – on the bike tour, about 50 strangers met at Heathrow Airport and set off. On our first night in Havana, we were all sat together, laughing and joking, excited about our upcoming adventure. I mentioned to the lady next to […]

Reaction v Response

Reaction v Response

After surviving Nazi concentration camps, Viktor Frankl famously talked about the gap between stimulus and response. What he called “the last of the human freedoms” is our ability to choose our response to any given situation. I recently came across a variation of this idea in an interview with Harvard professor Sheila Heen, an expert on communication and negotiation. She spoke about how the key to managing difficult conversations is understanding that our reaction to what is being said does not necessarily have to dictate our response. When someone criticises us, or accuses us in some way, our first reaction is very often to defend ourselves – to point out […]

Confident Uncertainty

Confident Uncertainty

There is a difference between confidence and certainty. Certainty is when we have 100% confidence – we are utterly convinced that we are right. We’ve done all the research, and all our information is completely correct and undeniable … this 100% confidence shuts down conversation. Certainty closes doors – it stops people disagreeing with you. And it closes you to other – possibly better – options. Confidence is important, otherwise we can just end up procrastinating … but if we want the people around us to be at their best, then we have to give them space to voice their opinions. We all have to be open to the possibility […]

Attention and Optimism

Attention and Optimism

With the growing awareness of the risks around the internet and how much of our attention it is taking, It’s understandable that this is accompanied with deep levels of scepticism and pessimism from many quarters. Data breaches, deep fakes, device addiction and social media abuse are just some of the things that people are rightly worried about. I’m one of the few people I know who is optimistic about how things are progressing. Don’t get me wrong – there are massive problems to be solved, and the fallout will be something our society will be dealing with for years to come. But I also believe there are good reasons to […]

ZigZags and Zebras

ZigZags and Zebras

It’s fair to say that I am addicted to podcasts, and one of my favourites is ZigZag. In the words of host Manoush Zomorodi, it’s about “the changing culture of business and work” – but I’d say there’s a bit more to it than that. There is a business thread that runs through the episodes, but the themes they talk about have much wider applications. Really, it’s a podcast that asks questions about the impact we have on the world. One of my favourite recent episodes was called “An Alternative to Silicon Valley’s ‘Unicorn’ Bullsh*t”. A ‘Unicorn’ is what all investors are looking for – the company – the Facebook, […]

Think Big … Act Small

Think Big … Act Small

I seem to have been getting the same message from a few different places this week! I’ve been reading ‘The One Thing’, a practical book about getting things done by focusing on one single task at a time. In order to work out which task we should be doing, authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan suggest that we need to start by thinking big – good advice that you will hear in virtually every goal setting book and blog post out there. What I like about their approach is how they go on to argue that we then need to start working on the smallest possible task that will move […]

Integrity Is A Verb

Integrity Is A Verb

“Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is looking.” CS Lewis This quote is one of my favourites, and one that I thought I was trying to live by. However, I’ve been reading the excellent ‘Legacy’ this week, which is a book about what we can all learn from the New Zealand All Blacks. It’s a really good read, with plenty of practical advice, and an inspiring section about what integrity means to the All Blacks. Looking again at the CS Lewis quote, I’d never really paid much attention to the third word before. The ‘doing’ part of the equation. I’d been thinking of integrity as connected […]

Bold Humility

Bold Humility

“Humility is the most over-rated of human emotions.” So says Harvey Mackay in his book, “Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”. When I read that, I was horrified. Most people that I admire have a degree of humility about them – along with integrity, it’s one of the things that I think are fundamental to living a good life. Cultural historian Warren Susman talks about the difference between a Culture of Personality and a Culture of Character. A person who is personality-based focuses on what other people think of them, whereas someone motivated by the character ethic is more driven by their internal morals and values. Mackay calling […]

4-minute miles and 2-hour marathons

4-minute miles and 2-hour marathons

Last weekend in Berlin, Eliud Kipchoge set a new world record for the marathon of 2:01:39. He averaged 4:38 per mile, and took an astonishing 78 seconds off the previous record. Kipchoge has trained for years in order to set that world record. For decades he has monitored his diet and sleeping habits, has run hundreds of miles a week and spent countless hours in the gym, all to get his body into the best condition possible. Without that physical preparation, he couldn’t run the way he does. But there’s another side to the story. Back in 1954, Roger Bannister broke the four-minute mile barrier. Before Bannister’s run, most people […]

Letting Go v Holding On

Letting Go v Holding On

I have been interested in Chinese martial arts for as long as I can remember – and whether I was watching the ‘Kung Fu’ TV series, or Bruce Lee in ‘Enter the Dragon’, it was always the philosophy that caught my attention more than the physical side. I’ve been re-reading “The Shaolin Grandmaster’s Text”, and there’s an interesting point in there about how if you ever find yourself in a confrontation, in their view this is regarded as a ‘failure’. The idea is that you should be able to anticipate potential issues, and deal with them long before they become problems. One of the ways to do this is to […]