vulnerable - a picture of a boy in the rain

‘Vulnerability is our most accurate measurement of Courage’ – Brene’ Brown



It’s been awhile since I last wrote, and the topic of the time was courage.  Over the weekend I watched an incredible Ted Talk from Brene Brown.  She explores the characteristics of shame and vulnerability (from one of her previous talks).  I have been on a journey recently that has helped me to be vulnerable and discover the time to let go.

In the wake of the passing of my mother earlier this year I was most definitely out at sea.  The world didn’t make a lot of sense and while I felt cocooned with love and support from friends and family, I was very vulnerable.

My natural reaction as such times is to run away, to drop what’s in front of me and take a journey.  I did the same this time, but the journey was already planned – a trip to an entrepreneurial conference in Mexico.  I was excited to meet the many people I’d talked with during the past year, and yet I remember the day I left for the bus to the airport I felt a deep anxiety.  I still feel the moment I stepped out the door, as I turned looked back and forced myself to close the door.  My wife left by herself with the night’s darkness.  I felt alone in the world, and still I took those first steps.

I had been looking forward to this event for over a year and arrived with high expectations of a lot of fun and excitement, challenging situations and exponential learning.  Three quarters of the way through the event, an incredible anxiety came across me.  I didn’t feel as strongly connected as I thought I would, I was concerned people might judge me, and that I didn’t have a strong story like a lot of people.  I felt weary.  I felt like retiring to be away from the crowds.   It was overwhelming.  I kept my barriers up, the anxiety built, and quietly I couldn’t wait for the end.

Have you ever hugged a stranger?  Like in a situation where just somebody has been there at the right time.  In that moment we have to open up and let go and become vulnerable.  As social creatures we welcome connection, but in this complicated world we have been presented with storylines that enhance fear, uncertainty, lack of trust, caution and protection.  The social conditioning enforces that we are to keep up our guard, to hide behind a barrier and treat people as an enemy first – not to be trusted.

I’ve hugged a lot of strangers.  I enjoy it.  If there is something that will make me smile inside for the day, it will be that I gave and received (a hug).  Some people come forward with a willingness, others with trepidation.  While attending ‘The Foundation live event’ in Mexico, I must have hugged over 50 people.  That’s a good way to learn how to let go and to be vulnerable.  Some friends were kind enough to quietly listen to my sensitive story – I would be travelling with that story during my entire journey.

The time I spent travelling post the event allowed me to breathe and take stock.  Something was holding me back, yet I couldn’t be sure because emotion and negative mindset had infused so deeply that I couldn’t experience it.  Fortunately I’d come across a transformative event to be held around the same time in the USA.

Years ago I swore I would never travel through Los Angeles Airport again.  The last journey was simply humiliating and there are enough good airlines, that I could in all earnest just avoid the experience.  Here I was on a Delta flight headed from Mexico to San Francisco and you guessed it, I had to go via bloody LAX again.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I was vulnerable.  I gave up my fingerprints (I thought that was reserved for criminals), my mugshot, answered 50 million stupid questions and legged it to the connecting flight.  My journey was to Santa Cruz on a different mission – to discover more about my background and personality at the Enneagram workshop.  I’d been convinced that Ben Saltzman’s event would be life changing (and challenging).

The next day I was faced with a direct assault.   Not from the LAX customs guys, but from a group of strangers.  I felt an incredible tenseness, like being on the edge of a cliff without anything to hold on to for support.  Here I was letting out some personal secrets to strangers, internal challenges and closely kept thoughts.  A storyline began to emerge.

Months earlier my Mum passed away.  It wasn’t a sudden thing and it was expected sometime soon – I just didn’t think it would have been this year.  I made a connection with my grief, my deep emotions, my raw self and with support of these strangers learned to start the process of letting go.  I could recognise in an instant how my holding the grief back was affecting every decision I made.

It was the reason I felt disconnected in a crowd of people, why I felt the need to take a journey to Central and North America, the reason why I felt a strong need for support and why my voice had gone quiet.  I simply couldn’t think clearly.  I had become anxious, alone, and disconnected (in my head), even though many good people were around me.

In that moment of letting go the tears came.  I managed to get my story out; the feelings flowed, the story was told, the support came.  Many people with generous spirit connected and offered kind words.  This is for me and this is for them, for all of the people who remembered my Mum.

Bye Mum.

photo credit: Tjook on flickr


If there are flaws they are in ourselves, and our task therefore must be one not of redesign but of renewal and reaffirmation, especially of the standards in which all of us believe.

– Elliot Richardson


There are times in life when it’s time to search for a change.  Taking steps towards renewal helps us dust off the cob-webs, reflect on where we are and make adjustments to become more aligned with the path we would like to travel.

Over the past year or so I have been through over half a dozen adjustments like this.  I was searching for alignment, but last week discovered I was looking in the wrong place.  When people refer to alignment they sometimes mean finding your place in life where you feel most satisfied.  Even better, perform with less resistance and deliver great value to the world.  To find such a place can take many phases of renewal.

My literal interpretation of alignment was quite rigid.  Simply find something you like doing, try it out and measure that it has some type of alignment.  Understanding points like I’m working in flow, feeling like jumping out of bed each morning to get going, being excited, business is going well, and being full of beans (energy).

But when I tried, I didn’t get these types of feelings.  I was driven for a short while and when a shadow appeared, doubt would fall into place and I became uncertain about my alignment.  I would go off and search elsewhere and try again.  The same cycle has been going for over one year.

In June I travelled to Cancun to a gathering of around 300 brilliant entrepreneurial minds.  You might think that these places would be ripe for business type chatter, swapping of business cards and patting one another on the back.  Well they go a bit deeper than that.  They are brilliant places for renewal, a throng of ideas, shared experience, emotional adjustment, stretching boundaries, challenging inner limits and making good friends.  I’m expecting that being in a place like this will bring massive renewal, inspiration and enhance my alignment.

And of renewal, that point I discovered.  After reading some of Ben Saltzman’s work on Enneagram’s and personality types, I found out I was searching in the wrong place for alignment.  First I needed to be aligned with myself.  I’m going to do some inner work before looking for alignment somewhere else.  For the next three months this is going to be a major part of my renewal.

Have a look at Ben’s work.  You can get his free book here.  I’m curious to know – what things do you do for renewal?  Leave a comment below and let me know what works for you.

Photo Credit: Sharon’s Photostream on Flickr


It takes courage to change the world

‘He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.’

– Muhammad Ali


Just yesterday I spent time advising a young entrepreneur on the actions he might take for a position he was pitching for in a new Asia based start up.  He was uncertain about the uncertainty, was working for free and really didn’t know if this was the thing for him.  Well he thought is was (maybe).

There are times where we all need feedback from people who carry more experience than ourselves.  This helps us see what we can’t see of our inner self and to (sometimes) receive some down right open and direct honest truth.

Sometimes that can hurt.

Other times is can be a pleasant surprise.

When we go hunting for recognition our open thought might be ‘well I did a great job on that and I hope they recognise the effort I put in – all those  free extra hours’.  Unfortunately if you are hunting for recognition it is likely you’ll end up on the emotionally hurt side of the fence.

It takes courage to step up and ask direct questions from the leaders who are directing our work pathway. It also takes courage to dig in and work hard and learn masses along the way.  Growth comes through learning and experience and failure, it takes courage to pit yourself against the arduous journey that presents.

So, my friend the entrepreneur got his butt kicked.  He asked for feedback and the truth came flying back at him with a direct directness that although subtle said

You’re dreaming mate, go away and learn some more.  Go and get the right experience

So this is where the young guy stepped up with courage.  He took away the feedback, dissected it, reflected on the reality, agreed with 90% of it and then publicly share his 10 moments of truth where he overestimated his own abilities.

‘I have no regrets. Without this journey I would still overestimate myself. And I got one of the most accurate and valuable feedbacks in my life.

I actually feel relieved. I take a break from “hustling” and prepare myself better, financially, skillingly (is that even a word?) and emotionally.’

That takes courage.  This guy has learned masses in a short time about himself.  He has already stepped forward to take on his next personal growth challenge.  What new step did you take today?

Photo Credit: Tony Fischer on Flickr

Image of an Attention Chameleon

‘You can become blind by seeing each day as a similar one. Each day is a different one, each day brings a miracle of its own. It’s just a matter of paying attention to this miracle.’

– Paulo Coelho


What do you see in front of you?  Do you really see what is there?  Are you present and paying focused attention to it?

Maybe you have three things you must get done today.  Each of them jumbles your head and competes for attention, and you allow it.  You’re good at multi-tasking (you think) and are oblivious to the noise going on around you.  You probably missed the opportunity to get your work done more efficiently.  Maybe you could have got some assistance from that person walking by.

The fact is that multitasking provides less efficiency.  You are better off working out your primary task, forgetting the others and getting down to effectively tackling the work in front of you.  Sometimes I find it hard to settle so I go straight to my music.  At times I’ll use an app called focusatwill.  It uses music to boost concentration and even better it’s based on scientific research.

If we follow the same old routine each day the familiar becomes stale and things seem the same.  Well often they are but that doesn’t mean that you should pay them less attention.  Learn to see the things that you should appreciate.  Practice being more observant.  This is a worthwhile skill to build.  You can train your brain to focus and to pay more ‘on demand’ attention.

Take three days in a row.  Make a specific effort to spend a 30 minute period of your day being more observant, whether it be at lunch people watching, or on the way to work, or while out for a walk in the forest.

Comment below and let me know what you’ve noticed while paying attention to your day.

Photo Credit: John Goode

St Clair Beach - Dunedin

Tears are the silent language of grief.


Just two months ago my Mother passed away… strange because it feels like six months change has occurred in that short time.  I’ve changed.  I’ve also learned a lot about myself.

Have you ever had to organise a funeral?  This was my first, with my brother we discovered stories and talked to people, found time to reconnect and explored the raw edge of grief.  I felt pain, relief, deep sadness, fond memories and loss.  I also crawled out of my shell, and with help organised the best send off we could muster for our Mother.  It’s incredible what you can manage in a short time.

So, I stood there at the lecturn (there must be a better word for the thing you stand at to talk at a funeral), fought for composure and place my speech on the wooden platform.  I began with a story of a journey on a linerfrom New Zealand to South America, before I was born.

About to arrive in Punta Arenas in the Magellan Straits Mum reflects on seeing Albatross gracefully flying at sea and wonders at the experience, having only otherwise seen them at the end of the Otago Peninsula. She likes the – quote – glorious view of rollers smashing against the windows.  Now the liquid levels on the tables slant a bit, and crockery slides around without the spectacle.  So disappointing.’  

Standing there in front of those people she knew my lip wobbles, I stammer out a few more lines and the tears drip on my cheeks.  I’m a grown man standing there in front of a crowd of people, crying, releasing the grief and loss.  Saying goodbye.

Through the challenges of life that she face confronting bipolar disease she managed to bring up two kind-of-balanced boys who loved her dearly.  We still do.

I learned over those days, although having been away from home so long, that I have a strong and supportive family.  And that through the fog I can manage with a clarity of purpose to make it just right.

I’m sure, as she always liked, my Mother is walking the beach, somewhere.

Bye Mum, I love you.


Golden Beach Karpaz Peninsula

There is more to life than increasing its speed.

~Mohandas K. Gandhi


I just made the most of a long weekend.  Early morning on Friday, I took off to get away from the routine of home and find a great place to leave the week behind.  This journey was a little different though – normally I would take a little work with me, something to do in those spare moments after I’d had my first day to chill out.  I’d left it all behind, the phone, the laptop, the business magazine review and the newspaper.

Total log off.

The first few hours travelling gave time to let go of the daily churn of work thoughts, find an acceptable radio station and just listen and drive.

I arrived at destination relaxo.  Rudimentary beach huts, full scale beach, limited punters and only time to lay around, read, eat and relax.

I’ve been on these trips away many times before, but always looked for the next great thing to do and explore.  This time was set for the total opposite of lift-off.  My time for logging out.  So I slept.

I slept in my beach hut

I slept on the lounger,

I slept on the beach towel,

I slept in the chair,

I slept.

Wow was that good.  To take the real time out and just let go.  Leave the work to the workdays and power up in the sunshine.

Next time you head away try it out – log off, leave the tech at home and take time to relax.


Unconscious - lady with television for a head

“Until you make the unconscious conscious, it will direct your life and you will call it fate.”

– C. J. Jung

Unconscious – Characterized by lack of awareness or intention – British Dictionary

Every day it is worth changing one small thing to rewire your brain.  Some might argue that you should do the same thing, the same way every single day.  It might be walk to work the same way, drive the same motorway, go to the same coffee shop.  What would your day look like if you tried a small difference in your daily routine, something that would prevent you from being unconscious about what you were doing.

Many people walk through their lives unconsciously.  They allow themselves to become programmed to operate at the same frequency – up in the morning, off to work, drink coffee, come home from work, make some food (or buy a microwave version on the way home) and sit in front of the television.


The small variations in routine provide the variety that can spark some type of innovative insight.  They raise awareness and hence the level of consciousness.

  • Imagine if you could become an idea factory every day.
  • Imagine if you could feel more alive and purposeful each day.
  • Imagine if you could operate with less stress and more energy each day.

Try one small thing this evening.  Turn off the TV.  Sit there in front of it for 30 minutes.

Don’t just sit there though.

Make plans for a small change for your next day.

Photo Credit : KatB Photography



“The backbone of surprise is fusing speed with secrecy.”

– Carl von Clausewitz


Surprise.  A sudden feeling of wonder and excitement comes over us.

Taken literally it should make time pause for a moment.  Highlight that we are exactly present to the moment.  It’s good to practice presence – to pay attention to exactly the time not in front of you, but right there, right then.  Surprise is the best example of knowing we are absolutely present.

The other day I was at the airport.  Again the same old routine, check in online and go to drop off the large bag I was taking on the journey.  Approached by one of the staff I was asked what was in my bag.  My first thought was it’s none of her business, but I responded.  Then came the surprise…

Back in the hey day of flying staff were polite to their customers, welcomed them on their journey and sought to make them feel relaxed and comfortable, after all flying can be stressful for some people.  The standard procedure had changed, this flight attendant was determined that the carry on bag I was travelling with should only contain a laptop.  Of course I’d packed a couple of books, my camera, shoved in a few other loose items, a bottle of water and my toothbrush.

Repacking time.  Stressful.  Unnecessary.  Shifting your weight for the sake of it.

There is nothing special about this surprise.  Just that as a business model it only works through forcing compliance.  These big businesses seem to forget that a happy customer, one that receives a good surprise might return one day and fly with them again.

Well this time the surprise is on them.  I’ll just be choosing to fly with a better airline next time.  One that takes the hassle out of the journey.



“I hate how many people think, “glass half-empty” when their glass is really four-fifths full. I’m grateful when I have one drop in the glass because I know exactly what to do with it.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk, co-founder and CEO of VaynerMedia.



If you find yourself out on the street, you can probably call yourself and Entrepreneur.  It’s a loose word derived from the French Entreprendre meaning simply to undertake (something I suppose).  Just someone who is doing stuff.  However we often associate Entrepreneur types with high risk and high reward, people like Branson, or Musk, or Trump, or Gates, or Jobs.

Look up to the lofty heights that these people operate in and you might feel a little overwhelmed.  You might find yourself daydreaming about purchasing your own island (like Branson), or making big changes in the world (like Gates).  One thing is clear, that the good types of Entrepreneur find a way to give back.  They use their wealth to drive change and make an impact in places where people don’t have many opportunities.

It’s fine to look up to the lofty heights and dream.  At least then you have a vision.  Remember though Rome wasn’t built in a day and so you might just have to wait a while till you get closer to joining the space race.

I prefer the quote by English footballer Brian Clough – ‘They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but I wasn’t on that particular job.’

I think he understood that maybe by breaking the rules and looking at things a different way.  Take that option and you can seek alternatives that result in making a big difference and right now.

Be the type of Entrepreneur that does make a massive impact.  Go on, make it quickly.




We will be more successful in all our endeavours if we can let go of the habit of running all the time, and take little pauses to relax and re-centre ourselves. And we’ll also have a lot more joy in living. 

– Thich Nhat Hanh

Everyone is chasing success.  I don’t know why.

Imagine the journey to become the best you can be.  To do so requires years and years of input, doing the same thing over and over (and over).  It’s fine to experiment and trial a few things but you will have to be super-focused on the minutiae and detail.  Some people spend over 40 years doing the same thing.  Same job, different day.  Yawn.

You can become the master at anything in just 10,000 hours.  That’s not 40 years.

How about working out the minimum possible effort you need to take to become fantastically brilliant at something.  Practice makes perfect, but as Tim Ferriss says…

‘By working only when you are most effective, life is both more productive and more enjoyable. It’s the perfect example of having your cake and eating it, too.’

Stop doing the busy work and the box-ticking stuff.  Ferriss also says…

‘Doing less meaningless work, so that you can focus on things of greater personal importance, is NOT laziness. This is hard for most people to accept, because our culture [American] tends to reward personal sacrifice instead of personal productivity.’

For years I chased the standard model and put in the pain, sweat and tears – the personal sacrifice to work for the big machine, a series of corporate high consultancies.  I did my more than my 10,000 hours and didn’t become the master.

So, I failed…

Well not quite.  I decided to escape the 40 years trot towards standard old retirement.  Golf on Thursday’s, bowls on Saturdays and playing bridge on Monday’s.

I escaped.  That’s success.

Now I can do what I choose.  I’m unchained, unencumbered by the 9 to 5 race.  For me though success comes when I have made the DEAL – to have put in place the constructs that lead to living a life of freedom.

To have freedom from doing the things that I just do not like doing.   And the freedom and courage to pursue my dreams without doing work for work’s sake.

When I’ve managed that I can say that I am successful.