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Meaning is the new Money

So says Daniel Pink in his book A Whole New Mind (yes, I know I’m behind, it’s not his most recent).

This resonates with me.  Are we substituting the belief that money will make us happy with the belief that meaning, and purpose and mission will do the same?

If you’re a career changer or dissatisfied with your life as it stands, a lot of coaches will take you through a process to ‘discover’ your passion (another of those proxies for purpose).  For some, this is a useful and valuable process.  For others, and I count myself among them, it can help to clarify values and what we don’t want.  Yet the mission part remains elusive.

It’s a very seductive idea but I prefer to let go of the search for the bigger purpose and to accept there may not be one.  I like the manageable, the concrete and the practical.  What’s my next action?  Am I moving in a direction that feels good? It keeps me more solidly grounded in the present.






At first I had trouble remembering what I was doing this time last year.  I had some technical help.  An idone this calendar and the past events section of my Meetup group.  Once I started writing it all down, more memories flowed.  It’s been a rich and full year.

There were some landmarks.  Walking St Cuthbert’s Way in October was one.  I loved it and plan to walk the Camino de Santiago, so taken was I with the simplicity of distance walking.  A dating disaster and some nice dates that went nowhere.  Friendships that blossomed.  New friendships.  Work.  Worrying less about work.  Nice lodgers.  A Buddhist retreat.  Workshops and events led by good people. Conversations over food. More time in nature.  Learning different ways to be in nature.  Getting excited by ideas.  Taking inspiration from many different places.  Feeling soppy with gratitude for the kindness I’ve been shown and recognising that I’m getting better at taking the offered hand.  Learning to say yes without knowing how.

It’s been a good process to reflect and really account for all that has happened this year.  The gifts, the learnings, the cock-ups and the achievements.

Happy Christmas & all best for 2014.






Hair and non attachment

No, it’s not a story about balding.  It’s a story about haircuts.  I have short hair and it needs cutting often.  When I was working full time I used to go to my favourite place and get it beautifully cut.  I have very straight, very fine hair and every cut shows.

When I moved to a different kind of life, all of my spend came under scrutiny.  Nice haircuts went into the not important category.  So I now get my hair cut at one of those sit in a queue, pay a tenner, get whoever is available places.  I’ve had some hatchet jobs, some brilliant cuts and met a huge variety of young hair dressers.

It’s kind of a game now.  It really doesn’t matter so much.


We are what we do

So how about looking at our habits and doing something about them?  Our next workshop is about acknowledging the habits that we have, deciding which ones are helpful for our wellbeing, and which ones are not.  And, of course, giving us some tools for weeding out the unhelpful habits and embedding the new ones.  Forgive the gardening analogy.

You can book your place and see all the details of the June 12th habits workshop here.

When you have nothing new to say, borrow and steal

And I’m going to borrow from the wonderful Daniel Pink and his recent summary of the 6 essential lessons of a satisfying, productive career per Johnny Bunko:

1. There is no plan.
Make decisions for fundamental, not instrumental, reasons.

2. Think strengths, not weaknesses.
What do you consistently do well? What gives you energy rather than drains it?

3. It’s not about you. 
The most successful people improve their own lives by improving others’ lives.

4. Persistence trumps talent.  
There are massive returns to doggedness.

5. Make excellent mistakes.
Commit errors from which the benefits of what you’ve learned exceed the costs of the screw-up.

6. Leave an imprint.  
Recognize that your life isn’t infinite and that you should use your limited time here to do something that matters. 

On apologies and forgiveness

When I was 11 I went to boarding school and in my first year there I bullied another girl.  I was caught and very publicly punished.  It’s an experience that has haunted me ever since.  I would forget about it for large chunks of time and then be on the tube and suddenly think, “What will I do if I bump into X?”.

Recently I connected with a school friend on Facebook.  She is someone I’d liked and got on with while at school.  Her parents invited me to their home at weekends and always made me feel very welcome.  This was bliss for someone whose parents lived thousands of miles away.

In that idle way you look at FB posts, I noticed one day a post by X on this friend’s page.  At least I thought it was X.  The surname was different but the face looked awfully familiar.  What to do?  I didn’t want to open old wounds.  I did want to apologise.  Was this for me or for her?  Was it a selfish act?  Was I unburdening my guilt or offering something useful?

Another friend whose daughter had been bullied at school advised me to go ahead.  And so I sent a message of apology.  I received one back that was wise, fair, considered and most amazing of all, offered forgiveness.

I’m grateful to social media for enabling this process.  Say what you like about Facebook, this electronic exchange brought closure to a wound that was 39 years old.





Am I just a cynic?

Well, yes.  But listen…

I’m freelancing at the moment so have removed myself from having to deal with buying into or challenging the values systems of organisations I work for.  To some degree I can choose who I work with and not being a employee gives me the autonomy and distance I like.

There’s a lot of talk in organisations about named core values and often another set of values which represent the underlying values and beliefs of, typically, those with power and those with less.  At one level the open discussion of values is healthy and useful.  At another it can feel like an intrusion into our personal lives.

I’m heartily sick of old style capitalism, interested in new models of working and am in the middle of reading Will McInnes’ Culture Shock.  Here’s a little section on Zappos.  Zappos sell shoes and are often held up as a model for the brave new way of working.  One of Zappos ten Family Core Values is ‘Create Fun and A Little Weirdness’.  McInnes goes on to say “What could be further from conventional brainwashing about how people should behave at work?  We don’t want you to be ‘professional’, we want you to be WEIRD”.  He presents this as a good thing.

I used to be in his camp.  I loved Daniel Pink’s Drive and was thrilled when companies I worked for started talking about values.  Now, I’m troubled by it.  I couldn’t work for Zappos.  You’re telling me if I’m not weird in that special Zappos way, I can’t work for you?  I think it’s telling that McInnes uses the word brainwashing.  Are we replacing the old version with a new shiny version of what amounts to the same thing?  Only smilier?

Obviously I don’t have the answer.  As it the way with cynics, I’m a romantic at heart and will keep looking.  And reading the rest of the book.  We live in interesting times.






Anicca, anicca

There’s nothing like a bit of perspective to restore sanity.  I’d got quite caught up in a mini drama of my own making.  Part of living an open hearted life means taking risks and going for what I want.  Of course, sometimes it doesn’t work out and when it’s to do with that tender spot in the heart it can be painful.  I allowed myself to get caught up in a cycle of hoping, wishing and projecting and it just wound me up and tired me out.  I didn’t handle it particularly well but nobody died and a good bawl and night’s sleep seems to have done the trick.  In the colder light of day I can see it was my attachment to the desired outcome that caused me the pain.  Letting go of that attachment and allowing whatever happens next to just happen as it will is the healthy way to go.  Everything passes.


Talking & Eating – March 14th at A Taste of Sahara

What could be better than breaking bread with strangers and talking?  Being curious and interested and seeing what third thing comes out of my views and your views.

Our next event is a conversation dinner where we’ll do just that.  Inspired by Theodore Zeldin’s ideas on conversation as a transforming practice and fun to boot.

There’s nothing to prepare.  Just turn up, order your food and settle in for an evening of conversation.  There will be a conversation menu to guide us and we’ll be switching conversation partners a couple of times during the evening.

If you’d like to join us, please do.  RSVP here (if you’re not a Meetup member, it’s easy and free to join). As an aside, Meetup was set up in the wake of 9/11 in New York to capture and continue the spirit of strangers banding together and connecting after that day.

Dan Pink

Dan Pink has a new book out (To Sell Is Human).  I like Dan Pink and started reading his ideas on motivation when I was unhappily striving in an insurance company.  I liked the ideas so much I sent the RSA Drive talk around the management team (to a resounding silence).  Things have moved on a bit since then and a better understanding of employee motivation and engagement is now more obvious, if not always acted upon.

Dan was on Radio 4 this week and had all of 3 minutes to talk to Evan Davies.  He’s good at the soundbite and talks fast.  This part made me laugh out loud. He was talking about how to succeed in an encounter, whether this was a business meeting or a date. I expect I’m misquoting slightly but here is the jist:

“Don’t bathe in a warm bath of positive affirmations.  Ask yourself ‘Can I do it?’. Answer that, then ask ‘How can I do it?’”.

I really like this.  It’s concrete, practical and ultimately more likely to get the result you want.  I may even buy the book.