Archives for the ‘Courage’ Category

Uke the World

The Lost and Foundlings

“Without music, life would be a mistake” – Nietzsche

When I was little, I was taken to Yamaha piano classes every Saturday. I remember sitting between two mini world talents as I banged at the keys, vaguely wondering how the other children managed to translate those tadpole scribbles into beautiful tunes.

Then one auspicious day, my mum asked, “Would you like to stop going to piano classes?” To which I replied, “Yes!” And that was one of my earliest memories of the sweet taste of liberation. And many other things besides.

The conclusion from this experience was stored in perpetuity in my brain’s computer. Because my computer was efficient, it readily replayed its recorded message at every opportunity: “I am not musically talented. I will never play a musical instrument. I cannot sing…”

… Until the day came when I became a parent and learned that, as a parent,”You can only give what you have”. Suddenly, from across the misty distance of time and space, I heard the familiar sound of banging keys and I was paralysed with fear. Of not being good enough. And this time, my child’s fate is at stake.

Then somewhere from deep within me, amidst my chilling and profound sense of loss, a gentle and defiant voice spoke up. “Wouldn’t it be nice to make my own music? To sing and play with all my heart?”

Without knowing how or when that wish would come true, the most important thing had happened, a pre-requisite for all wishes before they can come true: my heart had made a wish.

Within days, my friend Vira offered me the gift of music in the form of the ukulele so that I could share music with my little girl. And what better way to celebrate life than by sharing the gift of song?

Play for Your Life

I hope you’ll be able to join our uke jam keynote (our uke troupe’s called The Lost and Foundlings) at BCS SPA on Tuesday, 28 June where we’ll be supported by The Fleas who’ll bring along ukuleles so you, too, can have a go. No previous experience required, just the willingness to play!

And if you already play an instrument, do bring it to the conference with you that day because uke jams sound even better with all sorts of different instruments!

And if you’ve always had a longing to learn to play the uke and you fancy buying one to bring along, then a decent starter uke costs around £20-£30 (we recommend Kala or Mahalo available from Amazon and good music shops). Let the music play!

The Sound of Silence

True Courage Great and Small
Silence is always accompanied by Reason.

For some, Silence is a solitary figure who has found inner peace.

For others, Silence is the one in charge when we find ourselves stuck. So stuck, in fact, that we become blocked and can’t figure a way out. So stuck that we can’t hear the alarm bells ringing that demand we take action to save our very existence.

And if we do nothing for long enough, Silence settles into our lives permanently.

And if we’re not careful, Silence drains all the colour and life from our existence. All because we’re too stuck to take the tiniest baby step forward to unstick ourselves.

While I applaud Quiet, the one who thinks before they act, the one who reflects before they react, we must do something about this kind of Silence.

One of the most effective and playful ways I’ve managed to sweep away the cobwebs is to make a din. To create the loudest possible noise, and even music, so that our bodies, hearts and minds become free to perform and sing again.

As Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “Without music, life would a mistake.”

How will you play to break the Silence?

Lead for Greatness

Grow Leaders

Everyone a Leader

I have a dream. I dream of my two year old little girl all grown up, doing what she loves and loving what she does. She tells me how much fun she’s having at work. And that she’s great friends with the people there. And of how what she does makes the world a better place.

When I explain how far mankind’s relationship with work has come in the past twenty years alone, she laughs. She shakes her head at ideas such as “putting people first”, “Intent-Based Leadership“, “self-actualisation” and “collaboration”.

She tells me, “It all sounds like common sense, Mama. Why would people want to live and work any other way?”

I reply, “Because all too often, common sense isn’t common practice, Darling. And even though some ideas sound simple, they’re not easy to implement.”

She asks me to tell her the Ship story, of how long ago I made a wish to learn how to lead. And how one day, I met a former U.S Navy submarine captain who gave his power away to turn his ship around, taking his crew and boat from poor performance to greatness.  And of the leadership course that transformed the way I live and lead.

My grownup little girl turns to me and says with a bold and brave smile, “I intend to… make the most of my life because anything less would be a waste of the gift you have given me.”

And with that, we hug and I look forward to a brand new adventure of making more dreams come true.

Sincere Seekers in Search of True Love


Years ago, I made a wish. A wish that one day, I’d be brave enough and mad enough to take part in the movement that is taking the world by storm, or should I say love? I’m, of course, referring to the Free Hugs Campaign started by one man in an attempt to reconnect with humanity.

I first came across “free hugging” during a visit to Helsinki back in December 2008. It was a bitterly cold winter, the kind that made you worry about losing a toe or two if you spent too long stomping the white pavement on your own.

I was wandering around the city after a jam-packed day of Agile training and who did I find beaming with warm smiles and arms wide open towards me but two young women at the train station?

Incredibly, these two young women were offering free hugs. To anyone and everyone.

A Wish Come True

After 6 long years, this random wish of mine finally came true. On Sunday, 18 January 2015, to my great fear and delight, I was offered the chance to give free hugs to the people frequenting Pimlico (home of Tate Britain) on a chilly winter afternoon.

And in spite of of the butterflies in my tummy screaming “No!!! Don’t do it!!!”, I knew my time had come. To connect with the rest of humanity like I’ve never dared to but have always longed to do.

Together with a bunch of well-wishing strangers in search of inner peace, I stomped the pavement and offered free hugs to anyone and everyone.

Between us, we hugged over 80 people in under an hour and didn’t get arrested.

For me, the most remarkable takeaway from that experience is that I learned more about what it means to be human in those 60 minutes than I have in my lifetime so far.

I learned that strangers can be kind and generous. That most of us want nothing more than to connect with one another. That we’re all in search of true love and when we find it, what better way to celebrate it than with a hug?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Edge of Tomorrow Today

Love Your Life

Tom Cruise has been a continuous source of inspiration in my personal Agile journey in so many ways.

In Jerry Maguire, he emphasised the importance of “Show me the money!”, a quote I use whenever I talk about prioritisation by business value.

Then there are the diverse and dangerous missions he gets assigned to, to which he always responds with a purposeful smile and a gleam in his eye.

And now his latest film has proved to be the ultimate inspiration to people like us, agents of change for greater good.

The parallels between the hero’s conundrum in Edge of Tomorrow (aka Live Die Repeat) bears more than a canny resemblance to what many of us experience at work. Day after day after day. It’s no wonder then things eventually get us down.

That’s when I remember what Peter Drucker says, grand daddy of organisational culture. “Organisations form and deform people,” he said.

It seemed like such a bleak observation when I first heard it all those years ago, that I found myself boldly reply, “It takes two to tango. People allow themselves to be formed and deformed.”

I know that according to systems thinking a bad system beats good people every time, but what if those good people worked together to improve the system? To change the game for a better tomorrow?

I know how hard things can be when everything seems intent on catching you out or making you stumble.

In my experience, the trick is to keep playing when the going gets tough and make friends. Because you never know when you’ll need them. And a lifelong journey of change is best enjoyed in good company and laughter.

What if each of us could “re-set” and change the future by learning from each moment that passes?

Live. Love. Repeat.

Time Out for Adults

Light of Mind

The State of Play

Every so often, people come to me for advice. “How are you?” I ask. “Life is good. Lots going on. Plenty to do,” says my friend. Then just before her voice trails off, “Perhaps too much.”

In our frantic world of go-getting and Blackberry prayers at the dinner table, there can be little time to catch our breath, let alone think. And think clearly.

The Value of an Empty Mind

The most effective thing I’ve learned to do is to take time out. That’s easier said than done, of course. The trick is to first recognise when your head is full. Then you look out for the next moment when you find yourself sitting still in a quiet spot. You then seize the moment and empty your mind.

Staring out the window is a great way to decompress quickly. Notice all the minutiae your eyes usually gloss over, like that robin staring straight back at you through the window. Or pay special attention to the sounds around you. If you listen carefully, you may even hear Nature’s symphony of spring.

“How long do I need to sit for?” you ask. “I’ve got stuff to be getting on with.”

Mindful Thinking

Taking a moment to pause for breath helps empty my mind. I know I’ve paused for long enough when the curtains of the empty stage that is my mind begins to twitch and fresh ideas skip in, gently reminding me of why I rush around so much. Of how I’d like to live my life.

Time out isn’t just something that can help our children pause for thought. When we’re able to take ourselves to the time out place as adults is when we’re able to become whole again.

Good Deeds Indeed

Be Good

Be Good

Growing up, all the adults around me used to say, “Be good.” And when I asked why, some simply replied, “Because it’s important” with no further explanation.

Then one day, one of the more knowing adults, a teacher, told me how if I did good deeds, good things would happen to me.

So one Saturday, when I was 12 years old, I decided to test my teacher’s assertion. Not so much to see if she was telling the truth (since many of the same adults also told me lies), but rather that my heart told me I was onto something important.

In Search of Good

The experiment went as follows. I decided to “be good” for the entire day and keep a tally of my good deeds.

On my way to the library, I met an old lady waiting to cross the road. With naive enthusiasm, I grabbed her frail arm and said, “I’ll help you cross the road.”

Afterwards, as I beamed with pride at my obvious first good deed of the day, I noticed a bewildered look on the old lady’s face. “What’s the matter?” I asked, “Can I help?” To which she replied, “I didn’t want to cross the road. Now I need help to get back to the other side.”

By the time I returned the old lady to the other side of the road, I’d learned an important lesson. A deed is only good if the recipient benefitted from my help, regardless of my best intentions.

Full of youthful gusto, I went about the rest of my day doing good deeds, starting with handing in a purse I found on my way to the shops to the nearest store to give the person who lost it the best chance of finding it again. This taught me my second lesson of the day. Good deeds are rarely done in isolation and I needed to trust others to do the right thing for my good deeds to work.

When eventually I got to the library, I was disappointed to find the last copy of the novel I wanted had just been taken out minutes before my arrival. “Never mind,” I told myself. “I’ll just have to wait a bit longer.” Then, as I was leaving the library, one of the librarians called me back to say that luckily, someone else had just returned a copy and would I like to borrow it?

Of course I did! I smiled to myself as I clutched my treasure of a book. Perhaps good deeds did happen to people who do good, I mused.

Be the Change You Want to See

By the end of the day, I was convinced. For each good thing I did that day, I was rewarded by something good happening to me. It didn’t matter how big or small my good deed was nor how big or small my reward was. The fact that the numbers tallied up was what made the difference to me.

I stopped keeping count after running the same experiment on several more occasions as it seemed simpler to do good whenever I could. It’s not always easy, but it makes sense to me.

It’s true what the adults say. What you focus on, you get more of. And what goes around comes around.

Zombie Test

Welcome to the City of London

The Inhumane Condition

The risk with working in London, or in any large cosmopolitan city in the 21st century for that matter, is that we sometimes lose touch with our own humanity.

The Stress Test

For instance, how was your journey from your home to your desk this morning? What do you remember of it? And what of the people you spent your 45-minute commute with?

For many people, it’s a case of tune-out-the-outside-world until you make it to your desk. Avoid eye contact and social interaction at all cost.

For some, this zombiefied way of living continues from waking until it’s time to go to bed. Again. And again. And again.

A Different World

Now imagine a world where we greet one another with a polite smile when we board a train. A world where we offer those more in need than ourselves a seat instead of shoving aside the young, the old and the needy before squeezing into a seat ourselves.

The cynics out there will complain that no such place can exist where mankind, womankind and childrenkind tread.

Live Dangerously

What if you could change the world one seat at a time by gifting it to those who truly need it? After all, it only takes one living person to awake a carriage full of zombies.

A Question of Why

When we’re sixty…

“When you get older, time speeds up,” an old lady once confided in me as I fed the ducks by the pond.

Not long after, an elderly gentleman with whom I shared a bench at the playground said, “When you’re my age, you’ll have less time to do the stuff you want to do.”

While this phenomenon of time speeding up with one’s age has yet to be scientifically proven, I don’t want to take any chances.

I’ve learned enough life lessons and made many more mistakes besides over the years to leave my life to chance alone.

When I was young, I’d happily bumble along life’s well-trodden path like Frodo before the ring.

Now that I’m older, I’ve distilled my beliefs into a list of 3 guiding principles and devise strategies guided by them.

1. Have fun
Life’s too short to be taken too seriously. Let your hair down. Dance like no one can see you. Sing like you’re in the shower. Play brings people together and enables us to do impossible things.

2. Dream, believe and achieve – together
This is really three principles rolled into one. I first came across it as the motto of one of my favourite local primary schools. It inspired me back then and inspires me still.

3. Do things with heart
See a world where there’s enough to go around. Give freely whenever I can. Operate by a gift economy instead of only trade. What’s more, give generously to those who share my values and principles to co-create a better world.

Why do you do what you do?

It’s Not You, It’s Me


Where’s the milk?

It’s a beautiful summer Sunday morning. You’re looking forward to breakfast. You open the fridge and discover there’s no milk. Your eyes continue to scan the other shelves in case it has been misplaced. Like the shelves before you, you mind goes blank with silent rage.

The Blame Game

Then all the clamourous voices in your head complain as reality sinks in.

“Who’s drunk all the milk without replacing it? How can this have happened? I was having a great day and now it’s spoilt for good… Who’s to blame?!?”

Perhaps you keep your cool better than I do. May be you even stay cool for longer. One thing’s for certain. Everyone’s got something that makes them tick and go “Boom!”

What’s the one thing that drives you mad about a certain someone? What if the only thing you could change is yourself in a Boom situation?

Missing Me

By going from Denial, Blame, Justification, Shame and Obligation, we can all eventually arrive at Responsibility where the Good Life happens.

How can you transform a situation by taking responsibility and applying The Responsibility Model before all hell breaks loose on account of a bit of missing milk?