Monday, 26 November 2012

Back To Life

Blog, dear blog, it's been a while. The trouble with having grand designs but very little discipline is that the grand designs tend to gather dust rather easily. To put it another way, I haven't quite found or, in fact, made time for this blog. Hopefully I'll be able to turn that around in 2013.

But one thing that I have found enjoyable of late has been to look back at previous blog entries from a year or two ago. Ok, it's not Shakespeare and I can't imagine future generations poring over the nuances in the writings, but I'm kind of proud and sometimes inspired by the stuff I've written. That's all I ever really wanted in the first place anyway.

Friday, 12 October 2012


I failed an exam yesterday. I haven't got the results yet, mind you, but it's not one of those false modesty things. "Oh, I'm sure you'll do fine - you're quite bright." No, I pretty much failed.

But I'm actually quite fine with it. Very fine with it, in fact. Like every Tom, Dick and Harry I've had a penchant for wanting to run away from failure. Don't take risks - that way you can't fail. Don't commit - that way you can't fail. Don't follow a path - that way you can't fail. Well, this time I did risk, commit and follow a path - and I failed. And you know what? It feels fine.

We all know the platitudes about failure is an opportunity in disguise, how all the great inventors of our time had failures before that breakthrough success, if at first you don't succeed....etc. Well, in the real world it's not always that easy to accept so truism. We've fed our ego with some much garbage, it's no wonder we can't always accept when something doesn't work out.

But for the first time in a long time I'm comfortable with the idea of being willing to "make more mistakes". I know that it will toughen me up a bit and actually give me a bit more focus for next time. For once I'm able to leave the ego at the door and be honest with myself. Cool.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

Question: Mr Tyson, can you rank top 3 heavy weight boxer of all time please?

Answer: Ali is undisputed number 1 of all time.

Question: Who is number 2 and 3?

Answer: After number 1, rest just don't matter! 

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

We Are The Champions

Well, where shall I start?

It's been a summer of absolute triumph for my first love, sport. In fact, in this case I'm really talking about British sport. It's been amazing. The London Olympics and Paralympics were simply epic. Residing outside of the UK these days, I was  determined to be part of the story. So flew back for a week of the Olympics and couldn't help but be inspired by the occasion. Men and women, as ordinary as the rest of us, doing extraordinary things. Who knows what the legacy will be for future generations. For me, it's made a mark now.

I know that I won't ever compete at the highest level of sporting endeavour but the discipline, focus and passion that these great people showed was simply amazingly powerful and inspirational. I felt as proud as I've ever been to be born in this royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle. Team GB set a wonderful example. And Andy Murray's victory in the US Open was the icing on the cake for a Great British Summer.

I don't tend to talk about this kind of thing in what still is a warm and fuzzy-thinking kind of blog. But I realise now that a sense of belonging and this appreciation of effort and achievement, sporting in this case, are really part of what I connect with deep down. I don't need to over-analyse, over-think or over-engineer my world.  Sometimes it's the simple things in life that count.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


A long time ago and far, far away I wanted to be an athlete. An Olympic one at that. It was my first ambition in life. Was it ever likely? Well, at the age of 6 years old I most certainly thought it was. Back then you could dream big because you were allowed to and, more importantly, you allowed yourself to. All things were possible. Unfortunately, circumstances and life in general made sure it was never a realistic proposition. I guess I was never going to be fast enough, able to go high enough, or be strong enough - that's how I figured it as the years wore on. But such piddling details have never detracted from my eternal love of the greatest show on earth, the Olympic Games. And this time around it’s only right for me to return to London, the town of my birth, to celebrate its moment in the sun. So I’m jumping on a plane this week to soak up the atmosphere. I can’t wait.

Keeping with the Olympics vibe, my friends at Inner Space released a charming 'Thought of The Day' the other day:
Life is a sport. Are you a spectator, a coach or a player?

The spectator sits outside the game, airs opinions and cheers the game with enthusiasm and passion. The coach is also outside the game, but has a significant role in empowering and supporting the player. The player is in the game, focused on the now, focused on the results and on improving their game.

Take part in the game and know when to be a spectator,
a coach or a player.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ride On Time

Riding a bike. At 79. For some odd reason that was one of the first things that jumped out at me when I read about the recent passing of Steven Covey, inspirational speaker/self-help guru/motivational leader. Engaged in life until the end, unfortunately, Covey never recovered from a cycling accident he'd had just a few months ago. I guess you could say he went with all guns blazing. His "Seven Habits of Highly People" is a landmark book I've mentioned before in this blog and something I sometimes turn to for inspiration. I highly recommend it.

By a twist a fate, another notable 79-year old passed away on the same day - Barton Biggs, one of the leading investment gurus of our time. He was best know for accurately predicting the economic rise of China and the bursting of the dot-com bubble in the late 1990s. 

Covey and Biggs, in my view, were two men of brilliant minds, leaving legacies and many followers across the world. But on a personal level, they kind of reflect two parts of me - one's world was more closely connected to what I do; one’s world was more closely connected to what I am. As a day job, I work in finance - not in the rarefied world of high investment finance like Biggs, but still broadly in that space. It's what I do and it pays the bills. Covey's world, however, touches on many areas of my existence. I've been into personal development, life coaching et al for many years, and I continually look to apply new principles that I've learned. Yes, Covey's work did bridge more business-related areas such as management principles, but ultimately for me he was about helping you find direction in life and making sure you did something with it.

It may be too simplified but, personally, Biggs' world represents making a living, Covey's represents making a life. Riding a bike. At 79. Says it all really. Either way, their deaths have helped re-focus my own thoughts on what is important to me. A fond farewell to both of you.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Hit Me With Your Best Shot

It's that time of year again. Wimbledon. Two weeks of the finest tennis you'll see anywhere on the planet, at the mercy of the Great British summer and overpriced strawberries and cream. 

I would never say that I was a officiando of the sport, but having grown up not a million miles away from the tournament I've always got wrapped up in the whole fortnight.

It was never hard to be inspired by some of the many greats that walked the hallowed turf on Centre Court: Becker, Williams, McEnroe, Navratilova, Sampras, Graf, Agassi, Evert, Borg and on and on we go. 

So it's no surprise that Britain's obsession with finding its next Wimbledon singles winner, akin to the second coming of a messiah, is about to go into overdrive. Andy Murray, the dour-faced but steely-determined world number 4, is pitted in the men's final against one of the greatest players that has ever walked this earth, Roger Federer

Of course, this is flag-waving tabloid heaven. St George against the Dragon (albeit Murray is Scottish and not English), immovable object against irresistible force, the Dunkirk spirit of backs against the wall stuff. And all in what's been packaged as a glorious year for the UK - the Queen's Diamond Jubilee (Britain's last singles winner, Virginia Wade, was in the Silver Jubilee year); the London Olympics; and the opening of the Shard, the tallest skyscraper in Western Europe and a symbol of renewed national belief.

I may be a bit of a" lapsed Brit" these days, insofar as I haven't lived there for much of the last decade, but none of the symbolism escapes me. But turning to Murray the man, I found it really interesting reading a piece he wrote prior to his semi final. He said how he likes to chat with other athletes, especially individual athletes, because the mindset is similar to that of tennis players. 

Boxing was a particular area of interest, as they are so strong mentally, work extremely hard and ultimately put themselves in danger if they're not focused. But they are also like the rest of us, albeit able to switch it on when it counts. Mike Tyson, for example, has said he has "often walked to the ring petrified he might lose, but as soon as he stepped in there he thought nobody could beat him, he felt invincible."

I guess the reason this has resonated with me is because we forget sometimes how very human great sportsmen and sportswomen are. They can be determined, they can be focused, they can be nervous, they can be angry, they can lose the plot. They can be like you or I. 

There is nothing wrong as such with the "yes, we can" type platitudes but for me realising that people that we put on a pedestal are, deep down, no different to the rest of us is a very big thing for me. Get the mindset, the focus and application right, and you too can go places.

And on Sunday, may the best man called Murray win...

Monday, 25 June 2012

Safe From Harm

Last week I met up with my financial advisor for a periodic review of my portfolio. There were times in the past that booking a meeting with the guy felt akin to a visit to the dentist. There are some things in life you just prefer to put off as long as you can. Call it denial. Call it the ego of not wanting to hear the advice of someone with a far better insight than yourself. Admittedly, an earlier advisor I had proved to be way too  'sales pitch' and too little 'advice' that was relevant for me. But my current one seems to be happy to discuss, listen to my thoughts and give his input in return.

So when he started talking about life insurance and critical health cover I was slightly put out at first. I don't have any dependants, I've a bit of money saved, and my gym and kung fu memberships get a good workout. I'm okay, was my angle. But before I dismissed it all out of hand, I paused. I paused because I had a realisation. As much as we all like to think we're indestructible, we all have a 'best before' date. The occasional ache or pain that I've picked up in the gym, or simply from getting out of bed, tends to last a bit longer than they did a decade or two ago. I also didn't order the grey hair and receding hairline. The weight doesn't disappear as easily as it used to either. 

In a weird way, this isn't about whether or not I take out the insurance (and I'm still debating the pros and cons). It's more a realisation that time waits for no man. Sometimes you've just got to adapt with the times. I'm not the kid any more that my head tries to convince me I should be. I need to live with this and adjust as necessary. Equally, I may not be that youthful, energetic, bright-eyed innocent any longer, but the essence of that being must not be ignored even if the shell around it is showing a bit of wear and tear.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012


I had a bit of a revelation a few weeks ago. Many years ago I absolutely loved psychoanalysing myself. Well, maybe "loved" isn't quite the word. Rather, I just couldn't stop doing it. "Why am I this...Why do I do that"-kind of nonsense. Some of it was revelationary, some of it was just plain bad. Bad, bad, bad. None of it was really about the finer points in my personality. No, this period of self abuse, for want of a better phrase, was all about why I had messed up and why I would continue messing up.

I'm guessing this went on for years, going by some old diary entries I've tracked down. I can't remember when I stopped. But one day, I just did. Or rather, I no longer drifted to the darkest depths of my self criticism, but instead skated on the surface.

Anyway, my recent revelation was all about how my analysis of the self differs between then and now. Back then it was so very much coming from a space of doubt, of blame, of dislike. And while I do have those moments of "woe is me" I'm most definitely coming more from a position of acceptance and love. I know I mess up - but now I more often than not throw in "but don't we all". And I'm glad I do.

Monday, 28 May 2012

(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction

I've been so busy being busy that it's been a while since I've played with my blog. Looking for inspiration after some time away, I thought I'd fall back on today's daily email inspiration sent to me by my old friends at Inner Space:

“I need... more of... a new... How much time, energy and money are you spending trying to satisfy the "need"?

Do you need everything you think you really "need"? If the need isn't adding to your purpose in life, put it on hold.

Be satisfied with what you have and accept that you have enough!”

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Somebody's Watching Me

I was minding my own business on the bus on the way into work one morning when I noticed a guy walking up the street. He was somewhere in his mid- to late-forties, decked in a sharp suit, shiny shoes and briefcase to match. He was sauntering along, clearly in a world of his own. What really grabbed my attention was something I don't think I've seen in a very, very long time. He was casually picking his nose and, in blunt terms, was sticking his findings right into his mouth. Three or four times. Maybe he didn't have time for toast. Who knows. Either way, he seemed oblivious of his surroundings and forgot that such behaviour wasn't part of the normal construct of lawyer or accountant types.

I couldn't help but stare at him because it just didn't seem to fit - his age, his perceived social standing, his environment, the time of day. None of it. My guess is he would probably be horrified at the thought of doing such a thing, never mind being caught doing it. But we all have certain habits that we'd rather never saw the light of day. Maybe not so incongruent but they're still there. Some things are just long time learned. 

Silly perhaps, but seeing this man in action made me feel ever so slightly more connected. For all my securities, faults and just plain weird moments, so too does the next man, CEO or politician. It reminded me that we are all made of the same stuff. So stop putting people on pedestals. And always remember to wash your hands.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

The Time of Your Life

So I'm just over a week into my twice-yearly detox - no meat, alcohol, dairy, sugar, caffeine and the like, plus a good dose of cardio. It tends to go on for anywhere between 10 days to 3 weeks, depending on my mood (though is likely to be closer to the latter this time around). Even though it can get a tad frustrating at times, I've done it so many times now, and my diet has ultimately moved on such a long way from my chocolate-bar-for-dessert lifestyle, that it's less of a challenge nowadays.

I try to add something new each time I do it - one detox I went to a Buddhist meditation session, another occasion I tried out colonic irrigation - simply to make it feel less like more of the same. This time around I've taken on a more holistic approach, trying to spring clean a number of areas of my life and get a bit more focus. I've detoxed the use Facebook, for example - the home of many a wasted hour. I've set myself the task to be in contact with at least two people I haven't been in touch with for over 6 months - one down, at least one to go so far. I've challenged myself to get my financial house in order by reviewing and redefining my financial plan. I've targeted finding something in my life to declutter and something to 'add value' every few days. I've challenged myself to choose a charity and decide on how to contribute. More daily meditation, implement time management areas, reconnect with family members, review my life areas, and so on it goes. Oh, and one aim was to write at least three blog pieces over three weeks - so two down one to go...

I may well have overstretched myself in terms of the list but that was part of the idea - to have some worthwhile areas to shoot for, to show some discipline and integrity and to make sure I'm on a path to address them. It's about looking at and focusing on what's important in life. The application isn't perfect but the intent is there. Time, like food, can be full of junk if you don't take a little bit of care.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Father Figure

I'm not one to get emotional at weddings. Sometimes I think I'm just not wired that way. Maybe the fact that I've been to quite a few ceremonies or receptions (32 at the last count), I've allowed myself to get a bit detached from the underlying emotions of the occasions. But saying all that, I've just returned from a wonderful bash held on the outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia, which touched me more than most occasions.

The location helped - the backdrop to the outdoor setting was a huge McClaren Vale vineyard. The skyline was clear for as far as the eye could see and the sheer peaceful serenity of where we were was a little overwhelming for the polluted, sky-scraping city dweller within me. It also helped, I guess, that a lot of people came away with a few extra air miles by attending the event. The bride was originally from those parts, though no longer lives in Australia, while the groom's family are all based in Northern Ireland. There was plenty of travelling by a large slice of us, and the bride and groom were clearly touched by this. But what really made the event very special for me was the fact that the bride's father has been seriously ill for some time and wasn't sure whether he would be around to see the special day. That day, he arrived just ahead of the bride. A nephew pushed him and his wheelchair onto the field and up the aisle to a huge round of applause from the other guests. He stopped about five metres away from where the groom stood waiting for his wife-to-be. 

Moments later the wedding march kicked in and the bride was walking down the aisle towards the groom.  But she wasn't going to do the whole journey solo. As she approached her father, she stopped. With the aid of nearby relatives, he struggled to his feet and slowly and gradually walked his daughter down those final five meters of the aisle. The walk may have been briefer than normal but this was a lifetime in the making - it felt like in those few steps he managed to fulfil a dream he'd had since the first day he held his baby daughter. 

It's way up there in terms of the most powerful gestures I've seen at a wedding and, needless to say, it was an emotional moment for everyone there to witness it. It's one wedding memory that will stick in my mind more than many from the other 31.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

How Will I Know?

One great thing about being human is that we're all in this together. I use the word "great" when it's actually more to do with  realising that for all our individual insecurities, worries, negative self-talk and self consciousness, it's healthy to know that everyone else out there has issues, problems and so on. We're all connected like that.

Whether it's asking the big questions in life or what I'm having for dinner, for some reason I've been forgetting this basic fact that is part of the human condition. Call it ego or lack of awareness but in recent weeks I've somehow chosen to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders, often in relation to some really mundane issues - how to budget, how to focus more on retirement, the right kind of business enterprise for me etc. It's as if I've forgotten how to trust myself, my instincts, the universe. Today, though, I took a day off, found a bit of perspective and remembered the art of chilling. Sometimes you've just got to realise that not all the answers will be on a plate for you but to believe that, like everyone else out there, growing is what being human is about and we've all got what it takes to keep learning. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Daydream Believer

First Whitney, now Davy. Today I heard about the passing of Davy Jones, lead singer of the Monkees. Many a drunken student disco was sprinkled with a dash of 'Daydream Believer'. It was the anthem for the incoherent and uncoordinated. You could sway and scream to it and it was socially very acceptable. Everyone knew all the words without actually knowing the words. But for me the song has such a beautiful sentiment. Daydream Believer. We all need a bit of that kind of hope. 

As for Whitney Houston, what a singer and what wonderful memories I have from her songs. I think I must have learned all the words to all the songs on her first album. I was that entranced. And regardless of her well-documented troubles, if she is going to be remembered for anything, at least remember the sentiments of her biggest hit: I Will Always Love You,

Thank you Davy and Whitney. 

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Love Me Do

Yes, it's so overwhelmingly commercialized and syrupy and forced. Yes, people shouldn't need one special day in the year to tell their better half how much they care.

Yes, it gives restaurants a good excuse to unnecessarily ramp up their prices for what is often a no better, no worse 'special' meal.

But stripping away all of that, any occasion in our calendar that gets people to at least think and act a bit more positively towards another individual is a good thing.

Happy Belated Valentines Day.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Like A Prayer

At work the other morning I walked past a woman sitting at her desk with her eyes closed. I was a bit curious but just went on my way. A little later, I was doing another lap around the office on the way to the water cooler and there she was again, this time steely-eyed staring at her computer screen.

Curiosity got the better of me and I just had to ask about what I saw earlier. She had been praying. I guess I kind of assumed that might have been the case or possibly meditating. She didn't look like a sleeper to me, anyway. Still, it did get me thinking about stopping, focusing and aligning when the time is right for you - more than just at the beginning or end of the day. Yeah, I like the idea of taking time out on my terms.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Winner Takes It All

Djokovic. Nadal. Brilliant. Just watching the Australian Open Final got me wishing I'd paid a little more attention in my tennis lessons. Could I have been a contender? No, not a chance. There's no way in hell that my dainty sliced backhand would have got anywhere near the kind of standard these very special athletes have achieved.

Still, there are times I do wonder how good I could have got (or could still get) in certain endeavours - football, darts, tiddly winks and so on. World class? Probably not. But in a way it's probably not the point. It's about beating the competition - and, for me, that "competition" equates to an earlier version of myself. I'll never be the next Nadal or Djokovic but I can be the next version of me - better than last week's version.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Life is not a spectator sport. Fact. 

I started 2012 in a bit of a funk. A very good Christmas was followed by a great little warm winter break, only to be then followed by that unpleasant kicker of day one back at work. Unlike those that are all guns blazing with New Year's resolutions and targets for the year, I normally am a bit of a slow starter. Dark clouds and hibernation tend to be more my thing for early January. 

Today, however, I decided to take control. Yes, the year starts now. Over the years I've collected books, articles and insights from inspiring luminaries such as Steven Covey, Tony Robbins, Robert Kiyosaki, Jim Rohn, the Barefoot Doctor, Eckhart Tolle and so on. And I've attended so many different types of courses as well - a bit of personal development here, a little spirituality there. Full of goodness. I realised, though, that I've become a bit of a collector - a gatherer of great ideas and outlooks on life, but not actually using them in any coherent or disciplined fashion. Finding balance in the "mind, body, spirit" story is clearly an area of interest for me and I can certainly talk the talk. But I don't walk the walk enough. Yes, in fits and starts, and probably more than the average Joe, but still not enough for what I want to represent. It's great having the pull of awareness but I'll get more value, in my opinion, from the push of initiative. And for this to happen I've got to swallow a bit of manly pride and allow myself to make more mistakes and accept that I don't always have to be right. Scary.

So today I've been trawling through the books, the articles, the insights, noting down some of the key messages and "best bits". It was time to synthesize as it was all getting a bit cluttered. I'm looking for a mix-and-match masterplan that works for me - stuff that I can take into the real world, pushing me forward for this year and beyond rather than just residing in my head. We all go into this New Year's resolution gig with the best intentions. There's no one size fits all and there are no guarantees. We may well fail because of having fuzzy, too many or unrealistic goals, or simply poor planning. It happens. I've got to consider that. But if I do mess up, I don't want it to be because I didn't give it a darn good go. Watch this space.