Spring, Daffodils, and Digging Deep

Spring, Daffodils, and Digging Deep

It’s early spring and my garden is overflowing with daffodils. I love this time of year, when the weather is getting warmer and there’s the promise of sunshine, renewal and growth.

That sea of yellow and gold reminded me of a time, a couple of years ago, when we cut down a dead tree from the garden and I wanted to fill the space with some bulbs. Easy enough in theory, and, the next year, the daffodils came through with lots of greenery, but not a single flower.

I was stumped, so I asked my garden-savvy friends who told me that I hadn’t planted them deep enough.

Daffodils have to be a certain depth in the soil, they said, or the bulbs stay small, produce foliage, but no blooms.


So, I dug deeper, I replanted and, sure enough, the next year we had the gorgeous flowers we wanted, covering the corner where the tree had been.

The metaphor here is obvious, I think.


You Have to Dig Deeper


Whatever we do, if we stay at a superficial level, if we don’t probe more deeply, perhaps challenge, ask some difficult questions, or reach for that extra 10% effort, we may fail to create the right conditions for growth. We can grow, but only so far, and we may never blossom into our true potential.

Is there somewhere you’re holding back? Somewhere that going deeper could bring a different level of reward? Leaves are all very well, but it’s usually the flowers we appreciate the most.

With love,


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The Bruce Springsteen Approach to Success

The Bruce Springsteen Approach to Success

I was updating my website this week and I added this quote from Bruce Springsteen to one of the pages. You might, or might not, know that I’m a big fan, and these words sum up why I think Bruce’s approach to success (and life!) is spot on.

“I feel like to do my job right, when I walk out onstage I’ve got to feel like it’s the most important thing in the world. I’ve also got to feel like, well, it’s only rock and roll. Somehow I’ve got to believe both of those things.”


The Most Important Thing in the World


When we do anything, whether it’s playing with our children, spending time with our partner, or working on important, world-changing activities, we want to give it everything we have. In that moment, it’s the most important thing in the world.


Only Rock ‘n’ Roll


And yet… many of those who are at the pinnacle of their success have a lightness about their way of being, a humility, a lack of ego about their work and their performance.

The “it’s only rock and roll” approach.

Being able to hold both of these approaches at the same time — living the duality — is the place where ultimate high performance comes from.

It’s the place where resilience, flow, creativity, the ability to solve complex problems with a clear mind, the capacity to create and maintain strong relationships, leadership, and all those qualities we admire and seek come from.

That magical place where we can be serious about the important things in life, but where we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

You can run a country; hold the life of another person in your hands as a doctor or a surgeon; be an educator for an enquiring young mind; a parent to another human being.

I don’t say this theoretically. It’s been my experience when I’ve been negotiating billions of pounds of international development funding, it’s been my experience in working with, and influencing, politicians to make better policy decisions, it was my experience being present in South Africa for those first post-apartheid elections, and it’s my experience as a parent.

You can do all of those with absolute seriousness, and yet you can bring grace and joy to your life and work at the same time — and doing so can create a positive spiral of even greater impact.


This One Word Makes It All Possible


It’s possible to live life so that both of these ways of being can be present at the same time. And that relies on us having perspective on what we do.

The perspective that our child IS the most important person in the world, And the perspective that life is precious and life is short.

The perspective that means we dedicate ourselves to our work with one hundred percent commitment, because it’s important. And the perspective that, no matter what we do, we can’t see around the corner and, ultimately, we have no idea how things will turn out.

Bruce gets this; he embodies it on stage — the depth of his commitment to his craft is undeniable. And yet, when he goes home, he’s just a regular parent and partner, like any of us.


Can you apply this?


Let me ask then, can you see areas in your life where you’re already applying this approach?

And maybe there are some areas where things look more serious? Where it looks like life and death, not rock and roll?

What about other people? Look around at the top performers you know and watch out for whether they have a ‘Bruce’ approach to what they do.

And does this make you want to change anything in your life? Is there a place where ‘being more Bruce’ could enhance your results or your impact? If anything strikes you, let me know <3

With love,


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Focus On the Person, Not the Label

Focus On the Person, Not the Label

This week I seem to be confronted with evidence of how often we put people into boxes. In business, we talk about niching; in politics, we make assumptions about a person based on their affiliation to a party or candidate; in my Facebook feed, people were dissecting the world according to personality type — from where I sat, it looked a distinction between humans and lesser humans!

We all do it to some extent. When we walk into a room, we peel ourselves away from, or towards, people based on an identity we imagine we have — as a newcomer, and old-timer, a parent, as two women alone in a room of men; or maybe we choose to divide over our sports team; where we live, or even the model or make of our car.

While it can be helpful to find connection with those with whom we feel a shared language or shared values, there’s also a danger that the labels we use divide us more than they unite us.

It’s easy to find something in common with someone else — and yet we fail to see the biggest connection that we all share…

…that we’re all people; and we all have ‘stuff’ going on underneath the surface.


The greater — more important — connection that we share is that we’re all human, we all love, we all have feelings, and we all face insecurities.


Why not, this week, look at the person across from you with compassion. Rather than looking for what divides you, look for what connects you. And then, reach inside and share a little love with them. We all appreciate it.

With love,



P.S. I know this talk of ‘love’ this can be unfamiliar in business and professional environments, but connection is the heart of communication — if we can’t connect, we can’t understand, and we can’t be understood — which means we can’t create a shared experience at work, at home, or, indeed, anywhere in life.

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Your Emotions Are Information… But About What?

Your Emotions Are Information… But About What?

I was talking to a client last week who was feeling a lot of anxiety and stress around the notion of being successful. We both knew that it was nothing to do with her external circumstances. She told me she’d been round the block enough times to know that reaching a goal wasn’t going to make her feel better — she’d done the “I’ll be happy when…” about her weight, about money, about relationships, and she knew that there was no such thing as ‘when’.

It was the same with business. The reality was that her revenue tripled last year, and was on track to triple again in 2017. Yet she felt constantly anxious around money and success. What was going on?

In the course of the conversation, she remarked that she had read this phrase in a book the previous day,


Emotions Are Information


Even though she knew the feeling she was looking for wasn’t going to be found in the success she craved, she also, at some level, believed that the emotions she was experiencing were telling her something important. She just didn’t know what.

We explored this. It’s something I have a particular perspective on, and the way I see things can have remarkable results when my clients see it, too.

Some people believe their emotions are triggered by things that happen to them; but given that we can feel differently about the same experience on different occasions, or that different people can experience the same event in different ways, I don’t see how this can be true.

What my client saw (and I see, too) is that our emotions are created from the thoughts that flow through our head. As those thoughts change, so the feelings we experience change with them

We both also believed it to be true that what we think in any moment is pretty random — thoughts ‘happen to us’ was the way my client expressed it.

If we don’t have control over the thoughts we experience, we don’t have control over the emotions that accompany them. In any moment we can be struck by the humour in something, or we can experience a wave of sadness and nostalgia (seemingly) out of nowhere.

What then are those ‘randomly generated’ emotions telling us? Or, indeed, are they telling us anything at all?


Information About What?


That same day I had the conversation with my client, I read an article about the power of our brain to create a made-up reality. We confabulate — meaning we create explanations that have no basis in reality.

As humans, our brains are driven to want to explain things. But, we create those explanations from what we think we see, rather than what is actually true; thus manufacturing a causality that doesn’t exist.

The neuroscientists I was reading about demonstrated this with patients who had a severed connection between their left and right brain hemispheres. The patients were shown unrelated images through one eye at a time, and, then they were asked to pick related images from a selection in front of them.

Because of the severed brain, their two hands went to different images from the image cards in front of them. The respective cards picked out were connected with the image that each eye had been shown, but the two cards chosen had no relationship with each other.

When asked to explain why they had picked out these cards, the patients came up with a very plausible, but completely untrue, explanation. We, of course — and those smart scientists — knew what had really triggered the choices because we could see what the patients did not know they had seen.


Life Is an Incomplete Projection


What if life’s like that most, or even all, of the time? What if we walk around manufacturing explanations between events and experiences that aren’t connected, while we walk around blind to connections we can’t see?

Wouldn’t that mean that most of what we tell ourselves — most of what we think — comes from stories? It’s what happens, after all, when we justify an expensive purchase, or we link our partner’s bad mood to something we did or didn’t do. The reality is usually very different from the story we make up.

If we live in a self-generated reality, where what we think doesn’t come from the things we experience, but what we make up, why then, do we expend so much energy trying to make those stories mean something?


We Don’t Need to Believe Our Stories


Like all good fiction, the stories we tell ourselves come from our imagination. We could, I guess, make an argument that they’re based on some prior experience, or on a projected (i.e., imagined) future reality. Either way they’re still made-up — as in the neuroscience experiment.

The evidence is unwavering — our brains seek to explain things whether there is an explanation or not, ergo, the brain — and the thoughts that pass through it — are untrustworthy guardians of ‘the truth’.

For my client, the only thing her emotions were telling her was that she had an imagination; that she was human; and that her brain function was as normal as the next person’s.

Now, I don’t want to trivialise her experience. She really did feel anxious, and I can empathise because I have similar feelings from time to time: “Have I done a good job with a client, will my programme sell, will I be able to support my child through a tough year at school, what if X happens…?” and so on.

I know enough, however, about the human experience and how the mind works to know that these thoughts, and therefore the feelings they generate, have little or no connection to my reality. Which means I don’t need to waste time and energy paying attention to them.

AND — and this is the important point — I don’t act from those feelings. They are as unreal as a puff of smoke and they can (and will) disappear in an instant.


Here’s Why This Is Good News!


“What is real then?” you may be asking. “If I can’t believe my emotions, how do I know what action to take?”

Our best actions come from choices we make when we are clear-headed. If my client’s bank balance had been declining, and if this was a problem for her lifestyle (not a given, by the way), she could have chosen to do something about it — whatever that might look like.

But, since her emotions didn’t reflect her reality, she didn’t need to do anything at all — and here’s the good news part — she could continue to do the work that inspired her, that made a real difference to the people she was interacting with, and that were contributing to a better world. No need to distract herself fighting imaginary fires!


When You Look at It That Way…


As soon as we can see that our emotions are not giving us any information other than we are human, we will find our experience changes. What feel in any moment — good or bad — becomes less important. And, if we don’t pander to our emotions, they naturally fade into the background.

That’s true for every single one of us. We feel what we feel deeply, but we don’t need to try to control those feelings, or the thoughts that create them. There is no need to meditate or do breathing exercises or mindfulness. Our thoughts pass of their own accord; and they pass more quickly– and this is our secret weapon — the less attention we pay to them.




This idea, that our thoughts don’t mean what we think they mean, might be a new idea for you — as it was for my client that day — and I’d love to invite you to experiment with it. Maybe you could try on the notion that the feelings you experience are not a valid indicator of reality. The only thing that is true about them — and the information they are giving you — is that you are having a perfectly natural human experience.

If you’re willing to experiment, then go and enjoy your human experience this week, whatever it feels like!

With love,


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It’s OK If You Don’t Know All the Details

It’s OK If You Don’t Know All the Details

I was at a pitch event for social entrepreneurs earlier this week, and I connected with someone whose project really resonated with me.

We had an email exchange the next day and it raised something that is oh-so-common in many people who want to create change in the world…


The Fear That We Have to “Know It All” Before We Can Start


My lovely new connection said it this way as we got deeper into conversation and I asked about her project:

“I had an immediate fear / resistance point that ‘details are still emerging’, but I know that not exploring them will only keep them hidden!”


Details Are Still Emerging…


The way it usually works is this:

We have an idea and we want to share our enthusiasm. We want to tell our partner, friend, post on Facebook…. but we can’t quite get it out, or the words we can find don’t do justice to the quality of the idea.

Or maybe someone asks, “What are you up to these days?” and you stumble over describing it; you kinda know, but your answer falls flat.

And that ‘not knowing’ can make some of us feel uncomfortable, which then creates an expectation that we have to do something — get to work on the project so that those details become clearer.

We want to think it into existence.

Another friend described it like this: “I need to work with someone to get my ideas out of my head — I’m going to hire someone to write a business plan for me!”

Getting the idea out of her head, though, wasn’t the problem.

The problem was that her idea wasn’t yet fully formed; she didn’t know what she wanted the business to be, and hiring someone to “put it into a plan” would only create more stress through the pressure to respond to the inevitable demands that person would make on her.

Her idea needed time to mature while it was still inside her head.

Yes, of course, there are things we can do to explore in the direction of what we want; things we can do that will spark concrete ideas and add more flesh to the bones of what we are creating.

None of those activities involves  thinking it into existence.


It’s Ok Not to Know


The one thing I DO know about the creative process is that starting to feel some judgment about how poor we are at describing our ideas is not the way to help them flourish.

We’re well-trained (especially in the West) to believe that clarity is a good thing, and that we need to take massive action to get there.

Well, I disagree.

Ideas gestate in their own time, and the only thing you’re going to get from all that thinking is yet more frustration.


Your Manager May Not Understand This


And yes, I know that this is all very well when we are in control of our ideas, when we work for ourselves or lead a team.

I do understand that it doesn’t feel so comfortable when you have to report to someone else. A manager or an investor.

They want results now.

Heck, you probably want results now, which is why you’re putting all that pressure on yourself!


It Isn’t All or Nothing Though


When you’re trying to bring a new idea to life, bear in mind that it is never all or nothing — you will always know something about your idea.

There is always something to describe, even if the larger part is still fuzzy.

Just start there.

Say what you know out loud and don’t criticise yourself for not knowing the pieces you don’t know. The idea will come to light in its own time, like a seed that germinates after many weeks or months in the soil.

If you trust the creative process, that is.

And, sometimes, it takes a skillful coach to work with you to help you see what is already there, and how you can move into action with what you have.

With love,



P.S. All of my clients are people who started out not knowing what shape their idea was going to take. That didn’t stop them, and it didn’t stress them either. Well, it didn’t stress them after we had a conversation! If you have an idea, no matter how fuzzy around the edges, and you know you want to bring it into the world, I’d love to hear more about it — please connect and tell me more.

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