Soul Millionaire

The Thinking Bench

Do They Rave About Your Show?

Our legs took on a life of their own.
So, we rose to our feet.
Me whistling. Both of us taking turns at roaring.
And our aching hands clapping as hard and as furiously as our arms would allow.

The rest of the audience rose with us.
One here, another there.
Then the whole of the shouting, whooping Palladium audience.

From the first notes of the opening overture…
Heads had bobbed, feet had tapped, silently (and not so silently) we had mouthed the words that had captivated us since childhood.

For three hours we were not in possession of our souls.
We were held bound… transported… by this ridiculous, glorious story and spectacle.

The King and I.

How could they do this?
How could Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein lift us out of our ordinary world…
Long after they had left this earth?

How could they take a spoilt brat of an all-powerful, polygamous king and make us love his arrogant childishness anyway?
How could they weave themes of slavery, the belittling of women, the death of loved ones, the innocence of children, and wonderful, wonderful love…
And make us laugh, cry and sigh in unison?

As we took the train home from Victoria, exhausted and happy, three themes were already forming in my addled mind.

Firstly, The King – with his delusions and his fragile grasp on what-he-thinks-he-absolutely-knows – is not unlike us… entrepreneurs who start, or lead, our business.
On the one hand, what we think we know is based on assumptions, half-truths and stories we weave in our heads.
On the other, the world looks to us to do things that are so ludicrously not-doable…
If we thought too hard about them, we wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

Secondly, we often allow ourselves to be slaves.
Habits that are no longer helpful.
Fears that paralyse us and hold us to comfortable routines, which we know will at least make money;
but are seldom the best we’re capable of.

Thirdly, we are creative beings.
Our minds and hearts are capable of soaring.
If we exercised the courage, our childhood games prove that we can create The Extraordinary.
We can do more than fill our bellies, clothe our backs, collect our stuff and protect ourselves.

If we would care just a little more…
We can lead a business that will bless the lives of others.
And that very act will live on, somewhere, somehow, in someone’s life.

Long after the show is over.


The Wonder of Time Travel

I knew I was gawking.

I knew my mouth was wide open, as I stared at the doors.
That pair of great, weather-beaten oaken doors at the front of this magnificent place.
This place of memories.
This place.

My cousin and I looked at each other. Our mouths unable to form the words finding their way across our faces.
Countless decades on, we remembered everything, as if it were yesterday morning.

This was last Saturday morning.
He had flown from Canada, to travel back in time whilst we both had the chance.

The first time I had stood here and stared, I was barely 7 years old.
I hadn’t been prepared for these doors to open, and a black-and-white apparition to glide out.

I had never seen a nun before.
Apparently, they had to catch me as my legs gave way.

This was The Convent.
London Colney, Hertfordshire.
And here I would spend the next 7 years of my childhood.

Here, my cousin, my sister and I would join the rat-pack of children whose parents couldn’t  care for them.

Here we would learn to climb holly and oak trees, collect world-beating conkers, build crystal radio sets, ride “look-no-hands!” on bikes too big for us.

Here hide-and-seek, amongst corridors, cloisters, trap doors and hidden attics, could last a whole day.

Here we would roam meadows full of flowers and fields full of cow-pats, and islands and moats and spinneys and glades and streams.
In a 70 acre playground where every day was an adventure. And every apple, gooseberry and greengage was there for the ‘scrumping’.

Here we would make our own toffee, churn our own butter, milk our own cows; catch our fish and kiss our convent girls.

Here we would cry for our parents.

But here we were loved and taught by amazing nuns who created a world of consistency for our confusion, caring for our chaos.

We were The Convent Kids.

At noon, we started to head back down the long, straight, tree-lined driveway; grudgingly heading home to West Sussex.

As we turned to gaze back one last time, I asked my cousin: “If you could go back in time… what would you tell that little boy?”
And we discussed the wonders, astonishments, tears and laughter, loves and losses, heartaches and triumphs of our life.

So, here’s the question:
“If you could come back in 5 year’s time.
If you could walk and talk with the person you are in business today…
What would you say?

  • What hope would you be able to provide?
  • What perspective and insights would you give?
  • What would you say about the fears sitting in your breast right now?
  • What would you say about the decisions you’re about to make today?”

Some may see this as a futile exercise in imagining what can never be.
I disagree!

All of us have experienced moments when our inklings, our intuition, our heart…
knows things that our mind – and our wavering courage – is not ready to accept.
We instinctively see what we will have to face up to a year from now.

If we would listen more to these promptings, I believe we would find more joy.
I believe we would save ourselves many wasted months and years.
In business.
In life.


There’s A Hole In My Bucket

I can’t help it.
I laugh until I cry. Every time.

I’m watching The Bucket List.

Car mechanic Carter Chambers (Morgan Freeman) is dying from cancer.
Billionaire Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson) is in remission.

Mere weeks before, fate had landed these two strangers in the same hospital room.
Both discovered that they wanted to complete a list of things to see and do…before they died.

So, together, they set off on the adventure of a lifetime.

Now Edward is standing by Carter’s hospital bed, desperate to see his dearest friend survive this next operation.

In this poignant moment, Carter gives an article to Edward, explaining the source of his friend’s pretentious, rare, hugely-expensive coffee – Kopi Luwak.
The article explains that Kopi Luwak is made from the excreta of the cat-like palm civet, after they’ve eaten coffee berries.

Edward has spent years strutting his delight in sipping cat’s poo!

In that hilarious scene, Carter reaches over and crosses off another item on his Bucket List…
“Laugh Until You Cry”.

Many will see the point of this film as the excitement, anticipation and fulfilment of our Bucket Lists:
Things we’d dreamt of, things we’d promised ourselves.
But never got around to doing… sometimes until it feels woefully too late.

But I see something quite different here.

After they’ve fulfilled the initial excitement of a few of their adventures…
Both men are faced with two questions:

  1. What kind of man have I become?
  2. What has happened to my relationships with the people most dear to me?

And both men find themselves painfully, heart-achingly lacking.

It’s easy to be enticed and consumed with achievement, accomplishment and making our mark in the world.
Meanwhile, relationships always hold the biggest emotional risk – as well as the greatest capacity for deep happiness.

In my ministry and my coaching, I’ve witnessed enough pain to last two lifetimes, when a person finally faces up to how misplaced their priorities have been.
Constantly rationalising their unbridled pursuit of success.

I’ve also observed and experienced unspeakable joy when we invest our finest energies in the nurturing of relationships and the building of other’s lives – at home and at work.

“Have I Brought Joy To Others?”

Surely, for those of us fortunate enough to have experienced decades of adult life…
This is the essential Bucket List Question.


Business Feels So Much Better This Way

Our family still recalls the joy we felt in the Summer of 2012.
The Summer of the London Olympics.

My wife could barely walk 20 steps without stopping for breath.
Because this was before her heart operation. (Today, she comfortably swims 20 lengths.)
So we pushed her around the Olympic Stadium, and allowed 30 minutes to climb the steps to our seats.

But the scenes we witnessed still bring smiles to our faces and wonder to our hearts.

Yes, we rejoiced in seeing the might of athletes like Ennis and Farah, Hoy, Trott and Wiggins, Ainslei and DuJardin,  Rutherford and Stanning.
But the Paralympic Athletes – the Superhumans – made us gasp in genuine awe.

Beefy, grizzly men either side of us bawled like babies at the sight of the David Weirs and the Hannah Cockcrofts with jet propelled wheelchairs.

Our spirits were lifted, not just by their vanquishing their competitors and claiming Gold.
But also by their overcoming “Am I Less Than?” to become “Greater Than We Thought Possible!”.

Competition demands the best of us.
But I wonder – when this spills over into our working life – whether we know when to stop competing, vanquishing, dominating.

I see messages that encourage us to be powerful, fierce, self-glorifying.
We continue to separate, divide, go our own way. Become Them and Us.

I watched a video this morning which reminded me that what I really need – in my personal and business life – is to grow more kind. To be more loving. To be more generous.

I thought back to the two people – a Financial Planner and a Compliance Manager – each of whom I coached, Pro Bono, for an hour this week.
Their gratitude was effusive.
I felt like laughing with the enjoyment of it all.

It’s likely they will never become clients.
But surely I can afford one hour to help someone who feels lost, confused?

When I behave like that, it washes back and flows over me.
I feel more at peace.
I feel more whole.

To find opportunities to be more generous, sensitive, collaborative; less desperate for our share, or our need to be right.
To be one.

Doesn’t this make of our world a more delightful, more peaceful place?


Whatever Happened to Alfie?

He was different somehow. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why.

I knew him as a humble Senior Administrator in a financial planning support team.
Alfie, the cheeky, chirpy, Saturday-Night-Alright chappie; living for the weekend.

But this time, as I slid into his nippy black BMW, I looked and saw somebody different.
Calmer. a strong assurance behind that smile.

I must have stared too hard.
Because soon he was telling me the story.

He and two buddies had ‘done’ America: 28 States in just 12 weeks.

But it was South America that stuck in his memory… searing his mind, and piercing his heart.
It was that gold and silver mine in Bolivia.

It took a mere £3 sterling to persuade a shift supervisor to let them join the men down in the mine.
Just a couple of hours, you understand.
Yet another American adventure.

What he wasn’t prepared for was what they faced in the deep, black belly of the earth.

Here, in this dark hellhole, men were smiling and greeting them warmly.
The smiles made possible by chewing coca to stave off hunger, thirst, pain and fatigue for a few precious hours.

Here father and son hacked out survival, choking on the hot, gaseous air.

Here Health and Safety meant poor health, and precious little safety.

Here, existence beyond the age of 45 was a cause for celebration.

The joking between the buddies stopped.
They were able to tolerate just 3 hours, crawling on their hands and knees. Shivering and soaked.

They had to get out. They had to get out. They had to get out!

At the surface, they violently sucked in clean air once more.
They didn’t immediately say much to each other. They didn’t need to.

Alfie aged a full decade in those 3 hours.

Back home, Alfie would never again look at his life of privilege, opportunity and luxury in the same way.

Work became more than a ticket to fill himself – with whatever – in the weekend.

The week became an opportunity to fulfil and serve: to do something with meaning, purpose and contribution.

He became an inspiration and role model to the team.
He progressed quickly to Paraplanner, Senior Paraplanner, Junior Adviser.
And then Chartered Financial Planner.

He has even helped launch a  new Financial Planning brand.

This is the second time in just a few weeks that I’ve shared a “Wake Up” story.

I do it because well-rewarded routine can be such a smothering thing.

I believe many of us are called to do a Greater Work than we’re currently attempting.
The challenge (I’ve found in my life) is that Greater Work comes with a need for us to change.

There are times when I’ve stumbled over a Great Possibility.
But I’ve picked myself up, and hurried off as if nothing had happened.

Other times – like this year – I’ve dived into the uncertainty.
And felt my whole being charged with new life and capability.

I wonder what Greater Work is calling you?
And are you listening?


The Wisdom of Pa Bear

His laughter is infectious.

Once he starts, I follow. For the sheer joy of it.
And Wendy, listening in, can’t help herself either.

This happens every Sunday evening.
I call him at 5:00 pm our time: 12:00 pm in East Florida.
And we laugh and cry together.

He’s my Dad. My Papa.
We call him, affectionately, Our Pa Bear.

Yes, he’s slowing down in his reactions.
So would you, aged 94.

But here’s what’s fascinating…

He hasn’t lost his quick Jamaican humour. His native wit.
Our children adore him for that.
Just as they love the sound of his patois.
And he’s smarter than the average bear, that’s for sure.

I remember questioning some decisions he was making, five years ago.
I discussed this with his beloved friends and neighbours, Mary and Marvin.

Marvin commented:
“Dave. When it comes to money, your Mum and Dad have been around the block a few more times than we have.
You might just want to give them the benefit of the doubt.”

Hmmm.

I reminds me of that verse I relearned in my 40’s:

“When I was 5 years old, I thought my Daddy knew everything.
By the time I was 15 , I had discovered my Dad was an idiot.
But when I reached 25 years, I was amazed at how smart my Dad was becoming.
Now I’m 45, I realise that my Dad knows everything!”

I never stop learning from him. Particularly in the last few years.
I hope that process never stops whilst he’s still here.

Life Long Learning.
It’s one of the genuine Elixirs of Youth.

The day we think we know it all – in business or life – is the day that our lives start diminishing.
We get smaller.

There are times in my coaching when I leave a conversation thinking: “Wow! I was almost as good as my two coaches (Don and Jane)!”

During those times I feel as if I had used the finest of scalpels, in the gentlest, deftest of ways, to help my client lift the problem clean out of their life.

But…
There are times when I return to my desk, and I swear I see my former french teacher’s red scribble on my Post-It note:
“Could Do Better.”

I had behaved more like a surgeon wearing gardening gloves and galoshes.
So, out comes the notes from my coaching courses.
It’s time to relearn.

Now, the temptation might be to learn more… so that we can strut more, impress more, or earn more.
Plenty of people do that.

I’ve come to appreciate that the greatest delight comes in learning… so that we can better serve.

And then a strange thing happens:
When we genuinely serve, rather than try to impress, coerce or persuade…
Our love grows for the people that we serve.

If we’re lucky, we share with them things that make a difference to the Joy in their lives.
Things that matter.

There you have it:

To Learn.
To Love.
To Matter.

Pa Bear would approve.


Beware The Ascot Head-Butt

It’s a favourite of mine: scrambled eggs and smoked salmon (on brown toast).
In some parts of the world it’s called Eggs Ascot.

I walked into the Moran Hotel, looking for my host.
She wasn’t difficult to spot. One of the most memorable smiles on the Financial Services circuit.

We settled down, with eggs on order.

“Well, you called the meeting.” she started. “What’s on your mind?”

My cue.
I waxed lyrical about the possibilities and opportunities of working more closely together.

I stopped for breath as my Eggs Ascot arrived.

She smiled at me. That smile. And responded…

“Dave, that all sounds great. Really it does.”

I held my breath. I could distinctly hear a “But…”

I was right.
“But… I don’t think I want to work any closer with you.”

“What!” I blurted out.
“Then what on earth am I doing up here in Chiswick at this ridiculous hour?!”

“It’s a good question.” she calmly continued.
“So, let me explain why I’m saying what I’m saying.”

With a mouthful of toast and smoked salmon, what else could I do but listen?

“The problem with you, Mr Scarlett, is that you’ve lost track of who you are.
You’ve become really boring, just like the rest of the consultants dropping into this market.”

And then the neat head-butt followed.

“You’ve gone all Marketing-Schmarketing in the last few years.
And you sound no different to anyone else.
I’ll say it again: Reeeaaally boring.”

With a delicate coup de grace to follow…

“Whatever happened to The Soul Millionaire, eh?
You know. The spiritual, quirky, interesting guy that people were talking about.”

Finally, the ultimatum.

“When I see you going back to being that guy… THEN I’ll be happy to talk to you.

In the meantime, I need to get to another meeting quickly. 
So, I’ll just sip this coffee, pay the bill, and leave you to finish your scrambled eggs.”

And she was gone.

There are so many voices.
They flood us with their information,
They smother us with their opinion.

On top of which every Best Practice Meeting tells us This is how you do it. Just copy me.”

We think that by copying their Best Practices, we’ll become successful and happier too.

It seldom works that way.

The passion and innovation flows when I decide:

  1. Who I really am;
  2. Who I want to become;
  3. and Why I believe I’m here.

When I uncover the answers to those three questions…
Then commit to doing something about them…

It is then that I can create s business which is uniquely meaningful, even life-changing.


The Truth About ‘Despicable Me’

Wendy loves the film ‘Despicable Me’.

Me?
I try hard not to enjoy it; pretending I don’t see the layers of messages carefully threaded throughout.
As with other Pixar films, most of those messages are, of course, designed for us adults.

But, every now and again, I find myself standing in the middle of our lounge “Just passing through”
…and realise I’ve been standing there for 10 minutes, smiling at the screen.

However, it wasn’t until last year, as I started writing my current book, that I realised why I find the messages in this particular film so very funny.

The truth is, ‘Despicable Me’ is the perfect depiction of many small businesses.

– There’s the Genius with the craziest, scariest of ideas;
– What’s craziest is that the Genius has the capacity to achieve those ‘crazy, scary’ (wouldn’t the world would be a much duller place without them?);
– All they need is a team of helpers – Little Minions – to carry out their ‘crazy, scary’;
– That is, they recruit people – very bright people – who become ‘functions’ in the fulfilment of their brilliant ideas;
– They certainly don’t want those Little Minions to become Great Minds or Decision Makers;
– For goodness sake! That’s the Genius’s role!

And that’s where the funny story stops being funny.

Because, Little Minions – even highly qualified and well paid – will give you their backs.
They’ll do a good job in the 40 hours they’re with you.

But they’ll never give you the passion of their hearts.
Nor the creative miracle of the best of their minds.

They’ll never create what is Truly Great – for you, your clients, or for anyone else.

So you – The Genius – your clients, and the world around you…
Well, they’re all smaller – emotionally and spiritually poorer – as a result.

If you’re going to recruit people…
If  you’re going to have (seemingly) little people in your life…
Recruit them with the intention to build and nurture them into people who are, ultimately, at least as amazing as you.

Everybody wins. Starting with you.
And your influence for good multiplies and magnifies. Even in the smallest of businesses.

Ask Felonious Gru, of ‘Despicable Me’ fame.
He finally got it.
He put the interests of the children first.

He’s never been happier.


He Swapped 27 Acres for This

I spotted him from a distance as I walked in the early morning, with my 94 year old Papa, around his quiet, beautiful Palm Bay (Florida) estate.

Big, barrel chested he was, with a shock of white hair… this man, being taken for a walk by his tiny, fluffy dog. They looked an incongruous pair as they approached us.

As usual, my Papa immediately launched into conversation, as if with an old friend.
And it was mere seconds before the grinning big-man-with-the-tiny-dog told us his recent story.

Turning around, he pointed.
“Yeah, that’s ma liddle biddy house now. And aaa’m loving it!”

He was from the Mississippi coast. (Sorry, I just can’t replicate the accent. So let me stop trying.)
“Twenty seven acre garden. with seven cars parked in the drive of my beeeootiful big house.
Man, I upped and sold the lot in less than a week.”

Of course we were intrigued. So we asked him ‘the obvious’.

“Well now. My ex-wife and daughter live right here. And, see, I still love them both like crazy.
So, when this little biddy home  came up for sale, right across the road from them… And here I am!”

(My home could probably fit in his garage. Well, not quite. But you know what I mean.)

I was still intrigued. So I asked another.

“Happy? I should say so!
Don’t think I’ve ever been happier in my life.
We all take turns to cook for each other. We go out and stroll around some lovely places. The river and the sea.

All those things I had… They weren’t worth missing out on this.”

And he smiled; a little tearful.

Twenty seven acres and seven cars obviously seemed like a lot of fun at one time.
But ultimately, he wasn’t prepared to swap a deep, underlying sense of joy for the momentary pleasure and strutting pride of More and More.

And so, I believe, it is in business.

Scaling up… growing… competing… dominating a market…
These are all excellent, exciting, driving aspirations, and create much innovation, satisfaction and fulfilment.

Yet for everything we choose there’s a trade-off.
If I choose to invest my time, mind and heart in one thing…
Then I choose not to invest it somewhere else.

It’s a universal mathematical certainty.
No human being can ‘Have It All’.
At least, not all at the same time.
No matter how much we pretend that we can.
There really is a time and season for all things under Heaven.

So – taking into account my one precious life – I just need to make sure that I invest each day in what, ultimately, Matters Most.
Then – whatever frustrations life and business throw at me – I’ll look back, and know that those days were truly, gloriously worth the living.

And I’ll smile.


Let’s Re-Examine The Value of Goals

When you’re so young, five weeks can seem a very, very long time indeed.

Briony had seen an electronic typewriter in the shop.
Her yearning eyes let us know that this was what she wanted.
(Of course, this was long before she’d ever seen a child with a mobile phone or X-Box!)

So, day after day she did jobs with Mummy around the home, to earn some extra pocket money after school.
And press-ganged Daddy on Saturday, to help her with yukky tasks like cleaning out the rabbit hutch.

Gradually her ‘pennies’ began to fill the bottom of her big glass jar.
And for every penny, she’d watch us drop in two.

Determined day followed determined day.

Until the moment when she was standing in that shop again.
Then – with help – she lifted the big glass jar, heavy with coins, to show the lady at the counter.

Except now there were tears in her eyes.

She looked at the beautiful box, with the picture of that brightly coloured typewriter.
Then she looked more earnestly at the big glass jar with her many, many, hard-earned pennies.
And she clung tightly to it.

“Briony. You need to give the lady the jar with your money. Then she can give you your new typewriter.”
Gently, she shook her head.

Eventually, she was persuaded to part with her many, many pennies in her big glass jar.
And the lady at the counter handed Mummy the beautiful box.

When they got home, Briony helped to open the beautiful box.
She looked at the brightly coloured typewriter.

She put it on the floor.

And she never touched it again.

On that day, Briony learned a painful lesson, which not even our most eloquent explanation could have taught her.
(I’m not sure whose heart was more broken: ours or hers.)

She learned how easy it is to be tempted by the Bright Shiny Thing that we so badly desire.
And then how hard it is to toil away the precious days, weeks and months of our life, to possess it.

Only to find that the pleasure of possession or achievement can be fleeting. Even empty.

When my wealthy, semi-retired mentor, Andrew, first read this story… he emptied his wardrobe of his very expensive Armani suits and other impressive labels.
Then took them straight down to the charity shop.

He later chuckled at what he had lost, merely in order to impress others.
He saw that not all goals, or achievements, are equal in fulfilment.

So, here’s the question:
What seemingly-essential goal are you about to barter your precious, wildly fragile and gloriously possible days for?

And, when you finally get there… are you satisfied that  the pleasure of possession or achievement will ever match the yearning of anticipation?


Your Capacity To Change This World

Chris glanced at me briefly. And smiled.

Then he started to pour the teas and coffees.

Those who were new to the quarterly meeting of UK Adviser Team Leaders were confused.

What was the Managing Director doing, serving each of us our tea or coffee?!
Shouldn’t he be starting the meeting, and asking us to quickly get our own drinks?

As we sat down, he looked at me; more carefully this time.
And smiled again.

He knew what I believed and valued.
And he’d studied enough to remember that this was the lesson in Leadership that Jesus of Nazareth taught his closest followers.

After washing their feet – filthy with grime and sewage from the streets – Jesus had looked at them, and said: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.”

Servant Leadership is as demanding as it is  powerful.

  • It requires equal measures of Courage and Humility;
  • It stops us using employees and clients as functions in satisfying our personal agenda;
  • It combines selflessness with rigorous business discipline… a Heart of Gold with a Mind of Steel
  • It enables us to leave a legacy… beyond a book of clients and a wodge of recurrent revenue.

You don’t need to build a team of employees to practice these qualities.
You can lead wherever you walk and work.

Learning to become a Servant Leader is an inherent part of The Soul Millionaire Journey (just look at your MasterClass Workbooks).
And, in your lifetime, you could never learn all that you need to learn.

The records remark that Jesus  “Went about doing good.”
Healing, lifting, giving Hope and Vision, Strength and Life.

With no accumulation of property, possessions, wealth or position… He changed the world, heart by heart.

I believe – as a Servant Leader in your business – you can do the same.

As you enjoy this well-deserved Easter Weekend with your Loved Ones, I hope that you find reason to laugh and rejoice.

And I pray that you’ll ponder the possibility of your capacity to bless the world around you.


Is This The Unique Ingredient In Your Business?

Chesley Burnett ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III became a national hero, as a result of landing US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River, on 15th January 2009.

All 155 passengers survived.

With both engines suddenly disabled by a passing flock of geese, and no way to reach the nearest airport…
…logic dictated that it was impossible to land the Airbus safely… anywhere!

Yet Sully came under investigation for Pilot Error.
Why?
Because some computer simulations said that he should have tried for La Guardia airport.
He stood to lose his career, pension rights, reputation… everything.

Thankfully, the flight recording and the salvaged, shattered engines finally proved the simulations wrong.

In the film, “Sully”, one of those chairing the public hearing said something like this…

“I can say with absolute confidence that, after speaking with the rest of the flight crew,
with bird experts, aviation engineers; after running through every scenario, after interviewing each player…
there is still an ‘X’ in this result.

And it is you, Captain Sullenberger.

Remove you from the equation, and the maths just fails.”

When we study the factors that help any business to own a unique position in the hearts and minds of (potential) clients…
… there is always one factor which is far from logical.

That factor is YOU:

  • The unique journey that only you have travelled;
  • the person you’ve become, as a result of that journey;
  • The person you’re intentionally becoming.

We bring our humanity to our work, whether we believe it, recognise it or like it.

Who you are and what you’ve become – your story – is part of the uniqueness in your business.

Everybody has a story.

When I was about to publish mine, I was embarrassed.
I thought that it wasn’t worth reading about.

It now seems that I was the only person who thought that.

Let the world know about your story.

They might decide they like what they hear.


Is It Time To Wake Up?

Eldest Daughter, Lauren, had gained her degree. But wasn’t sure which direction she was pointing in Life.

Until she went to Africa.

Mum – trustee of a children’s charity – had organised another 10 day expedition.
And Lauren fancied another adventure: building school extensions, creating water towers, installing computers… and a safari to round off the trip.

Except she wasn’t ready for the children.

The children who constantly, constantly smiled… whilst dancing in a playground of questionable puddles.
The children who were excited that they would get more than one bowl of fou fou that day.
The children who sang to her. Haunting, harmonising songs.
The children who stroked her silky hair, and golden arms.
The children who laughed and screamed at her shimmying to the music.

Eventually, her heart broke.
And she disappeared for hours, to sit quietly. Staring.

Lauren woke up to the person she could become.

First, she completed a Masters degree.

Then, whilst her friends entered high-paying, glamorous-sounding careers in and around London…
Lauren chose to enter the charity sector.

Since then, she has travelled across the world… ultimately bringing hope, saving lives.

There are moments in our business lives when Destiny tries to get our attention.
sometimes it’s a constant tap on the shoulder.
Sometimes it’s a good thwack across the back of the head.

The message?
“Wake Up!”

– Perhaps it’s:
  “Wake Up! How do you need to change, to move your work from Good To Great!” 
– Or:
  “Wake Up! What do you already know, that you’re going to have to face up to in 12 months?”
– Or:
“Wake Up! It’s time to invest your heart in leading your team, rather than only playing Super-Adviser!”
– Or:
   “Wake Up to What’s Really Important in Your Life! And It Might Not Be Your Work!”

I wonder.
Is there a “Wake Up!” message you might be ignoring today?


Exciting Business? Or Just Breathing In & Out?

As the final film credits rolled, Wendy and I could hardly speak.
We looked at each other, in tears, and knew we had witnessed an extraordinary story.

More than that, we realised just how glorious our so-called Perfectly Normal life is.

The film we’d watched, mouths agape, was Breathe.

Set in the early 1960’s, this is the story of the “handsome, brilliant, adventurous” Robin Cavendish.

Struck down by polio at the age of 28, and given just 3 months to live… Robin did more than merely survive.
With the support and energising love of his wife, Diana, he became a pioneering advocate for the disabled.

Travelling the world, they were fuelled by hope: the hope that their example would transform the lives of those in similar devastating situations.

What struck us about the film was the pivotal moment when Robin’s wish was no longer “Please…Let Me Die”
The moment when he finally catapulted from the depths of darkness… to become an inspiring magnet to those around him – incapacitated or not.

The question is: What changed him?

The answer? His recognition that his life was not about him, and how little he could do with his paralysed body.
His life was now about his vivacious, courageous Diana, who simply would not stop loving him.
And his newborn son, Jonathan.

He now had Purpose, other than himself and what he could get to make him happy.
That new Purpose saved his life… and would eventually give life and joy to thousands of others.

Someone once said to me, “The purpose of a business is to win and retain new clients, whilst making a profit.”

That’s like saying, “The purpose of my life is to breathe in and out!”
Agreed. Difficult to live without it. But a reason for being born? Really?

Research shows that businesses with a purpose other than to make money… rise to the top of their sector, and become outstanding brands.
and consequently make more money anyway.

So, what exactly is the purpose of your business?

Give your team something more powerful to come to work for than merely to do a good job.
Inspire them with a purpose greater than to fulfil someone’s exit strategy, or to help someone acquire more stuff.

I believe we have the capacity to do better than that .
I believe we must do better than that!

As Bob Marley sang… “Light Up The Darkness.”
And my experience shows that we can do that in this profession, using our business as the conduit for greater things.


More Thinking, Less Tasks, Better Business

By age four, our youngest daughter had discovered how to delay bedtime.
She would clamber on to Daddy’s back, and guide him around the garden… saying “Goodnight!” to flowers and trees.

One Summer’s evening she was very quiet.
I stood still, knowing that something wasn’t quite right.

“Daddy” she asked slowly, “Why is it Peace out here?”

What to say to such a question?

Silently calling for inspiration, I responded, “Well, Sweetheart… Because Trees Never Hurry.”

“Oh, OK Daddy.” she said brightly; perfectly satisfied.

And so was born a phrase which has become part of the fabric of our family’s story.

I regularly meet business leaders, who are overwhelmed with tasks and projects.
Or frustrated by unrealised aspirations.
So, I help them strip back all the rationalisations and excuses, to understand what’s driving them to do what they’re doing.

Usually, they’re running in the desperate belief that all of this will make them happier.

We finally reach the point where they face up to this Truth:
Much of the quality, fulfilment and happiness of our lives – inside and outside of business – depends on the quality of our thinking.

And so we integrate three principles into our work together:
1.   How to think and plan more effectively, in business (and in life);
2.   How to carve out more time and space for that inspired thinking;
3.   How to discern when Doing More is counter-productive.

Those who have acted on these three principles, invariably report that doing so has transformed both their business and their life.

Beside my screen, I have this notice which faces me each day:
“Looking back, in 5 years… Will this next task really have mattered?”

As I glance out of my garden office, most of those trees are still there.
They’ll probably still be there… long after I’ve sent my very last digital message.

And – thinking of trees generally – i imagine them looking down, and smiling wryly (and peacefully), as we go about cramming more and more into our businesses and our lives.

Or, instead, as we choose to live more thoughtfully, meaningfully and joyfully.