What’s Beyond Identity (Shattering the ‘Millennials’ Myth)

What’s Beyond Identity (Shattering the ‘Millennials’ Myth)

A couple of months ago I went to see Simon Sinek speak.

“Everyone always asks me the millennials question,” he said, “so let me start there.”

I was slightly puzzled because I thought he was the ‘start with why’ guy, but I sat back and listened; maybe I’m just behind the times?

He went on to give us a detailed description of the characteristics of the ‘millennial’ generation, what a tough life they lead, and what a ‘bad thing’ it is for the workplace.

[A millennial, in case you’re wondering (I was), is someone born around 1984, give or take a few years. By my calculation that’s people aged 33, +/- 5 years.]


The Thesis, Simply Put, Is:


Millennials are basically lazy, good-for-nothings with an attitude of entitlement, are unable to form deep and lasting relationships, and expect everything delivered on a plate. Yesterday.

Simon Sinek’s reasoning went like this:

1. Parents are primarily to blame for treating their kids as special.

[Phew, I escape the blame there then because my oldest child is (only) 22.]

2. Technology is to blame because their dopamine is being triggered every time they go on Facebook (it’s that ‘instant reward’ thesis that leads to social media — and other — addictions). Oh yes, technology’s also to blame for bypassing IRL (that’s in real life for us oldies) connections. Meaning that millennials are incapable of forming deep and meaningful relationships with other people.

[Oh-oh — this one could put me firmly in the danger zone! What about my friends? And goodness knows what untold damage I’m doing to my kids!]

3. Amazon (other instant delivery services are available) is to blame for a ‘no waiting’ culture. ‘Stuff’ is too accessible, and therefore these pesky millennials have no staying power; they aren’t capable of climbing mountains, they want a helicopter to get to the top and they want it now now now.

[Phew, that’s a relief then, all the more room for me on the mountain, whether it’s a literal mountain on a walking holiday, or a metaphorical one in my professional work.]

4. Big business is to blame because profit is prioritised over people. Oh, and 1980s business writers are also to blame because their theories of wringing every last drop of sweat out of people until they fall down exhausted doesn’t seem to be working. (Wow, who knew!?)

[Phew, good job I never bought into that philosophy then!]

Sinek went on to say that the first three of these have created a generation with low self-esteem, unrealistic expectations and the lack of a coping mechanism. Combine this with an unfavourable corporate culture and we have a problem. A big problem.




At one level we can look at the thesis, nod our heads sagely, and say, “yes, this looks like a problem. Hmm, maybe we need to ‘do’ something.”

At another, I want to shout, “Seriously??!!”

Who hasn’t ever been distracted on social media or become irrationally irritated because the internet momentarily lost connection?

We live in the world we live in, and our behaviours respond to our expectations of whatever’s familiar to us. That doesn’t mean we’re bad people.


My Reality


Sure, some people exhibit some of this behaviour some of the time. And, sure, the explanations put forward to ‘explain’ that behaviour can sound reasonable at face value.

I get a dopamine hit, I go in search of another one…

…until I realise I’ve got something more important to do.

I still manage to get work done, to cook and care for my family. My children still manage to do their school work without me resorting to draconian no-technology rules (although sometimes I’m very tempted by that one!)

And the bright, young(-ish) ‘Millennials’ I meet still manage to impress me with their spirit, motivation and commitment to making the world a better place.

Hmm, my reality looks very different to Simon’s.


I Generalise, and Yet…


Now, I accept that I’m generalising and describing something that looks true to me, so let’s have a look at what’s behind that rather than debate at the level of our separate realities.

Here it is:

What’s true for all of us is that we are human, and humans all work the same way. If something looks real to us, then we will react to it.

But this is only part of the story; an incomplete whole.


The Missing Piece


The point that’s being missed, and missed big time, is that behaving in a certain way in certain situations does not define us. It does not define me, my family members, my colleagues, clients, nor anyone I come into contact with.

We all have a deeper potential, and we all have the ability to rise above our day-to-day experience and get a perspective on what’s important and what isn’t.

This is as true for any of those maligned Millennials, as it is for you and me.

Without a problem, there’s nothing to solve

If we see a problem, we rush to find a solution.

If we don’t see a problem, then there is nothing to do.

When we create an identity for someone, as we’re doing with this ‘Millennials’ debate, we run the risk of creating behaviour, or absolving behaviour that doesn’t serve someone.

This ‘identity’ does not define us; it’s simply a way of being that we’re playing with in the moment, possibly it goes as far as being a preferred, or an habitual behaviour, but it’s something that we can leave behind in an instant.

Because it’s not who we are.


We Have Unlimited Potential


I saw this very clearly with my youngest son who faced a health challenge last year. Something changed in his reality and, therefore, he started to behave differently.

He had deep and meaningful conversations with his friends (so much for lack of coping mechanisms and shallow relationships), he was patient about the many weeks’ wait for results and the years we have to wait for anything definitive (so much for instant gratification), he doesn’t ‘blame’ anyone or anything for what happened (and yes, I admit, I do sometimes treat my children as if they are special).

And, although this isn’t a business environment, we had to navigate the large, frequently unwieldy bureaucracy of the National Health Service. And, you know what, there are talented, loving and caring people behind the face of every institution.

We’re all human, which means we’re all having a human experience, and yet, we can all touch something greater than ourselves in any moment.

Maybe, just maybe, if we looked at the world through that lens, the world might look a little different to us?

With love,


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Dementia: Talking About Our Experience

Dementia: Talking About Our Experience

Dementia: Still a Taboo?


In a departure from the regular work-focused content, this conversation takes us into the domain of caring for elderly relatives, especially those with dementia or limiting mental health conditions. Listen in below as I talk to my colleague Tony Arribas who is the main carer for his mum, and also volunteers in support of other carers…

I chose this topic because I see Tony’s posts on Facebook and it looks to me as if he’s having a very different experience caring for his mum than many of my friends and connections.

Now, I know Facebook can distort reality (!) but, nevertheless, Tony has a different perspective than many people and therefore his caring responsibilities seem to come with more joy and levity than one might expect — and society would have us believe.

I was very curious about this, so I asked Tony if he’d talk with me about what’s going on for him, and what he thinks is going on for his mum, as far as he can tell.


The Magic is in the Meaning


You’ll hear us talking about how we all have our ups and downs, but we don’t need to put meaning on them, and therefore we don’t need to respond from a place that could lead us to a downward spiral.

As Tony says in the call, there isn’t anything he can do on the outside that’s going to make him feel better (or worse). Our experience is an inside job and therefore we feel better or worse depending on how fast the thought we’re experiencing flows through us. We’re never a victim of our circumstances; no matter how much it can look that way at the time.

I know this can be a counter-intuitive concept until we remember the times when we’ve seen it for ourselves. We’re not trying to convince you of something you don’t yet see, we simply want to raise a question and perhaps encourage you to be open to a new perspective.

Enjoy the interview!




Do You Resonate?


Have you had an experience where you’ve noticed your mood passes and you’re back to a more even state of mind? What if this was ‘normal’ and there was no need to ‘do’ anything? And, if you’re seeing your elderly relatives in deteriorating mental health, what if that was true for them too?

None of us wants a loved one to suffer, and so the better we understand where our (and their) experience is coming from, the more deeply we can connect, love and care for those people close to us. Which leads us to a more beautiful experience of the time we still have to spend with them.

With love,


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‘Success’ Doesn’t Look Like This

‘Success’ Doesn’t Look Like This

After a talk I gave last week, one of the participants came up to me – Adam, a few years out of university, on the leadership track in a large public sector organisation.

“Cathy,” he said, “I’m really interested in what you said about success. It sounds totally different to what I’ve been told by other people. Can we talk about it?”


‘Traditional’ Success


Adam had already been through quite a bit of traditional leadership training, and he had the expectation that he needed to know exactly where he was going. That he should have his destination firmly in his sights, never wavering from it. That he should be stepping boldly and consistently to the place in the future that his colleagues and mentors were defining as ‘success’.

I’d introduced an alternative perspective, and he was curious.


The Alternative Timeline


“What if there is no timeline?” I’d asked. “What if we don’t know, and have no control over what’s ahead of us? Would we act differently? Would we put our focus elsewhere? Choose other actions? Make different decisions?”

I’d talked to the room about how I could make up, as I stood with them that day, that I’d still be doing the same work in a year’s time. That I’d have clients, I’d be teaching seminars, perhaps I’d create more online training. That life would look like a version of what I was doing today. I could even create plans and strategies, make up targets and start to monitor results.

Whereas most people would see this as real and a good place to aim (or at least a reasonable place to expect to arrive), I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that my world could change in an instant.


Mum’s Crazy Ideas


I told Adam that I’d been in the car with my youngest son a couple of days previously, as my son had been musing about his university plans.

“Mum, I’m thinking of taking a year out before I go to university. What do you think?”

He then started to list the places he might go, what he might do, whom he might travel with.

As he talked, I found my mind wandering. ‘Wouldn’t it be great,’ I found myself thinking, ‘to go with him? To have some mum-and-son time, to spend a few weeks or even a few months in each of those places he’s listing?’

Now, if I voiced that idea I expect my son would have been horrified. Or maybe not? I didn’t tell him what I was thinking in that moment but I tell you because it illustrates that ideas come to us all the time — whether we go looking for them or not.


We Don’t Need to Act


I probably won’t go travelling with my son but, now that my imagination has started to see something that feels like a good idea, who knows where it will go. Maybe I will do something with that year. Maybe I’ll travel, maybe we’ll move house, who knows. I can play with the ideas as they arrive; I can choose which ones to let go immediately and which ones to try on to see whether I like the fit.

While this may look like ‘daydreaming’ to you, thinking up mad ideas I’ll never act on, I know that this is actually how life works.


Perpetual Motion


Everything comes from (seemingly) nowhere. Whether it’s the unexpected job offer, the unwelcome redundancy or the random new idea, our circumstances are in perpetual motion.

We can choose to plan for a future that doesn’t exist, but planning doesn’t make that future real.

This was the conversation I had with Adam.


What’s in Your Future?


I’ll ask you what I asked him…

How do you know what ideas you’ll have in the next weeks, months or years? How do you know what opportunities will pass in front of you, and which of those you’ll feel inspired to take?

It seems to me there’s a lot of fun to be had in imagining a future, but there’s very little point acting as if it were a final destination because life has a way of moving us the way it wants, not the way we want.

In the words of John Lennon,

“Life is what happens to you while you are busy making other plans.”

Sometimes I think of this like being on a river. We can choose to set our own direction and to battle against the current. Or, we can take advantage of the flow, we can take the forks and backwaters of ideas and opportunities that are put in front of us. We can see life as a game, as something that happens to us, where we are part of a larger whole.


The More I Look at Life This Way,
the Easier It Gets


The more I look to success as being about how I live now, rather than something to aim for, the more I seem to achieve.

The future is always uncertain; the best we can do is to respond in the moment. Perhaps we’ll like the destination, perhaps we won’t, but we can be certain it’s the one that was intended for us, even if it wasn’t the one we aimed for.

With love,



P.S. I’m curious how you see success? Are you aiming for something in the future? Does it feel as if you’ll ever get there? Can you imagine a different definition of success based on the conversation I’ve talked about here? I’d love you to let me know.

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Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

Bulletproof Coffee and the Misunderstanding of ‘Resilience’

I’m recently back from LA, the home of bulletproof coffee and the location of the first bulletproof coffee shop (Santa Monica in case you were wondering!).

If you don’t know the bulletproof coffee concept, then it’s the brainchild of Dave Asprey and basically it’s great quality coffee blended with butter and an extract of the medium chain fats found in coconut oil. This high-fat drink helps your body release energy slowly and keeps you going until lunchtime.

OK, less about the coffee and more about the concept of ‘bulletproof’…


Are You ‘Bulletproof’?


The word bulletproof reminded me about resilience; not so much the way I define and experience it, but the way that some people think of it — that idea that you have to let all the bad stuff bounce off you. Like wearing the emotional equivalent of a bulletproof vest.

That’s so crazy. How is it possible not to be affected by things that happen to us? In fact, there’s research that suppressing our emotions is harmful to our physical health.

What resilience, true resilience, looks like to me, is the ability to experience deeply whatever is happening to us, and, at the same time, to know that our experience is transient.


Where Does Our Experience Come From?


Something I work with my clients on is an understanding of where their experience is coming from and therefore an understanding of what’s real and what isn’t.

We all live in a thought-created reality, which means that none of us experiences exactly the same thing, nor do we see the world in the same way.

You’ll know this to be true if your partner or a work colleague has a serious reaction to something that, to you, looks unimportant. Or you see some people having a serious overreaction to traffic while others see it as an opportunity to sit back and enjoy a podcast or two. Same circumstances, different experience.

And, no matter how bad that experience, it’s all transient. It only looks as if it isn’t when we continue to focus on something from the past, or we continue to create a false picture about the future.

Even the deepest grief is transient. It returns to us from time to time and it can be supplanted by joy and laughter at other times.


So, Resilience…?


Understanding this is the essential nature of resilience. All our experiences pass, which means we all have a natural resilience.

I think of it like a PlayStation game (comes from living with teenage boys!); every game comes with a reset button. The boys play all out to win but, if they meet an opponent unexpectedly and lose the battle, they simply reset and start over.

It’s the same in life.

Our natural resilience is a reset button; it isn’t a layer of bulletproof emotional kevlar.


What Do You Think?


What’s your experience here? Have you tried to ‘tough it out’? Maybe tried to convince yourself that you need to ‘be strong’ when the going gets sticky?

How about you forget that approach and allow yourself to feel whatever emotions are coming up for you. Know that — no matter how bad — your experience at this moment is going to pass.

You have the exact same natural resilience as everyone around you because that’s how the system works.

You are resilient because you are human.

With love,



P.S. If you have questions or thoughts about this post or you’re curious about understanding your innate resilience, please message me – I’d be happy to help.

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My Korean Restaurant Dilemma and What It Has to Do with Problem Solving

My Korean Restaurant Dilemma and What It Has to Do with Problem Solving

I’ve been thinking about problem-solving recently and the tendency we have to look to the subject of what we want to resolve.

“I need a solution to this difficult client problem.”

“I need a new business idea.”

“I need to work on my presentation skills.”


Here’s the Pattern


We look at the thing we want to work on. It seems sensible to us to ‘think’ more about what’s wrong or how we could come up with a new perspective. We make lists; we prioritise ideas, we to try to figure it out.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that the more we focus on something, the harder it can be to get new ideas about the very thing we want to solve.

I know this can look like a paradox, but there’s a gulf of difference between coming up with a new way to tackle the thing you want to solve, and having a completely new idea.


Here’s What Happens


When we look at an existing problem, we are looking at the problem from only one perspective.

As Einstein says (or whoever said these words that have been credited to Einstein!),

“We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.”


The Korean Restaurant Problem


I was out with some family and friends recently. We’d gone to a Korean restaurant and one of my friends is a vegetarian. We asked for the best recommendation for my vegetarian friend and the waiter pointed to one of the choices and told us we could have that with or without meat. That was it, one choice. Take it or leave it.

Now we could have looked at other variations on the menu, perhaps asked for some new combination of appetisers or something from the menu.

That’s very different to starting over and asking my friend what she would like to eat if she could have the chef make her anything at all.


Problem-Solving Versus Innovation


Sometimes we need to resolve something quickly and we turn to what we already know. We reduce our options, we tweak and look more intently at the thing in front of us.

When we’re looking for innovation, however; a leap in performance or productivity, or the solution to a complex or challenging problem, this approach will only reduce the choices in front of us.

The truly new ideas, the things that give us exponential results or even eradicate a problem entirely come only from new thinking.

Those solutions can’t be ‘figured out’ because they come from somewhere beyond our conscious thought. They require space, they require emptiness, they require trust in the process of creativity.


The Idea-In-The-Shower Moment


We’ve all have it — those ideas that come in the shower, when we’re out for a run, while we’re doing the ironing… we know it works, but do we allow it to be our go-to process?

Many people I meet still believe they are in control of this process; that their conscious brain can somehow come up with a better idea than the unconscious, the world beyond what we know and see in the moment.

Ideas need space to gestate, they come from nothing, they come when we aren’t looking. Yet we fill our heads and our time with all the thinking we can possibly cram in about the ‘problems’ we are experiencing.

It’s only when we let go of this, when we value the space, when we actually create space and let go of attachment to the problem, when we allow ideas to flow again and again that we get something brand new.

Am I saying not to worry about things? Am I saying never to try to find solutions to problems? No, not at all. Sometimes there’s an easy fix to a simple problems and a little intellectual input is all we need.

But, when we get those thorny issues, the big challenges that, if resolved, could be game changers for our business, the wider world, or for us personally, then we need to adopt a different strategy.

We need to give over our intellect to the blank page, the space of new thinking. That’s when the wonderful shows up.

And it always does, my friend, because that’s how the idea creation process work. Don’t think you have to ‘do’ anything at all.

With love,


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