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Fuck the 5 Year Plan

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Fuck the 5 year plan
A lot of people have big plans. Maybe you’re one of them.

Carefully constructed with strategies, tactics, vision boards, mission statements and publicly declared goals for accountability, people put a lot of time and effort into long term plans.

You might think that I’d be right behind this kind of focus, and that I be grabbing my trumpet to fanfare all of this goal-setting and planning. I should be congratulating these people for their mature and responsible approach and for having a firm hand on their rudder.

But five year plans, are, I think, dumb. Here’s why.

Plans replace meaning

Details consume you, and planning often falls into the trap of being a replacement for meaningful action. Making a plan is a marvellous strategy for procrastination.

Life doesn’t go to plan

Life isn’t orderly. It’s more drunken dock-worker than pious nun, and it’s ready to tip the table and start a fight at the drop of a tidal fluctuation. People go insane trying to control the detail of life, and a plan is often a means to feel in control.

You grow by letting things go

Hearing what’s next in your life can be impossible when all you can hear is the rattle and hum from the plans you’ve made. It’s easy to miss an intriguing, hidden path when your eyes won’t move from the map you drew before you left home.

Hey, if you’re a believer in plan-making, then go for it. Do what works for you. Just don’t come to believe that if you don’t have a plan you’re doing something wrong.

Writer Joseph Campbell said, “You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you”. So the most essential ingredient to any great plan is to have it be flexible enough to throw away if you need to.

You don’t need to a plan to explore.
You don’t need a plan to be joyful.
You don’t need a plan be yourself.
You don’t need a plan to belong.
You don’t need a plan to feel good enough.

Have a direction of travel. Know your values. Understand what you’re like at your best. Prioritise nourishment. These are some of the things you can add to your life to move it forwards. Other times it’s what you remove that allows your life to take shape.

Often, it’s by letting go that you get the best shot at the life you really want.

Which takes real, balls to the wall confidence.

To live without a hard and fast plan, to fly by the seat of your pants, to lean into uncertainty and trust yourself—isn’t that what this is all about?

You Can Never Disappoint Me

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You Can Never Disappoint Me
Fuck up and I won’t think less of you.

It doesn’t matter if you find out you’ve been wrong or that you’ve missed something important.

I know you’re good enough, no matter what.

Being scared isn’t who you are. Screwing up isn’t what you do. Feeling stuck isn’t what you’re fated to.

I know you at your best and at your worst, and you’re greater than the sum of those parts.

You can’t disappoint me, because I see you.

And I wonder.

What would it be like if you had enough blind faith, that you could never disappoint yourself?

The Fool-Proof Guide to Building Totally Flawed Opinions

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The Fool-Proof Guide to Building Totally Flawed Opinions
Everyone has an opinion these days.

He’s either a dick or exactly what we need. It’s either made up bullshit or what people need to hear. It’s either the best thing you’ll ever see or the biggest pile of horseshit ever. I’m either right, or I’m as wrong as nipple-tassles on a nun.

Forming an opinion often happens without you even knowing. A bit like growing a skin-tag or developing a love of Korean food.

If you want to guarantee that any opinion you form is a flawed as a Vegas hotel, here are some tips.

Only take input from your filter bubble

When you need to decide where you stand on a particular issue, the best thing to do is to check out Facebook. Sure enough, you’ll most likely see a whole bunch of people and opinions that support your hunch. Keep reading what you’ve already read and keep watching the news channels you’ve always watched—those guys know their stuff.

Your filter bubble surrounds you with people just like you; powered by algorithms smart enough to show you everything you already agree with.

Why go anywhere else?

Forget all about your values

Flawed opinions are best formed when there’s nothing to pin them to; nothing to anchor them. Hearsay, wishy-washy opinion pieces and the mood you wake up in are guaranteed to help you form opinions with spines made from damp-socks.

Figuring out what matters most to you (in yourself, in others and out there in the world) is hard. Nowhere in the rules does it say that your opinions need to be based on any kind of personal bedrock. In a world where opinions are cheap, why bother investing anything of yourself in yours?

Listen to whoever’s loudest

Whoever shouts the loudest probably has the most belief in what they’re saying, so it’s those guys you need to listen to more than anyone else.

Think about it. Why else would they be spouting forth so vociferously if they didn’t have a huge belief in what they were saying. Their volume signals their passion, so trust that they’ve done their homework and get in line.

Form an opinion based on your worst qualities

It’s a scary world out there. The war in Syria. The rise of ISIS. The widening wealth gap. The refugee crisis. No job security. Wall Street greed. Homegrown terrorism.

More than ever before, you need to protect yourself and fear for what’s coming. So as we try to scrape through this in one piece, any opinion you can form that’s based on fear and greed (or similar base qualities) is going to serve you best.

Don’t trouble yourself with facts

Facts are great. What’s even better, are points of view that hang out in the edgy suburb of Fact-town. They’re the uber-cool, sexy classmate to the bookish, still-a-virgin nerd that all facts are.

We’re all sick and tired of so-called “experts” spouting facts and statistics. What’s way more compelling is a strong point of view that you can really get behind.

In a world that’s vomiting alt-facts like a fat man with norovirus, who needs to back up an opinion with a dull fact when you can back it up with a compelling alt-fact instead?

You can do that stuff, or…

Do any or all of those things. Go right ahead.

Doing so may well turn you into a bigoted, hypocritical fucktrumpet, but don’t let me stop you. After all, this whole article is just my opinion, so go ahead and make up your own mind.

You’re entitled to form an opinion however you want. Just don’t expect anyone to have confidence in an opinion that has no foundation. Is an opinion that’s based on meaning and fact worth more than one that’s based on vapour and hearsay?

Yes, it most definitely fucking is.

Opinions are only cheap if there’s no meaningful investment in them, and there are far too many of those kicking around.

Opinions can be beautiful and powerful, but only if you build them out of things that have beauty and power. Things like honesty and value. Things like compassion and integrity. Things like love and curiosity.

We have a duty to form opinions that are fact-based and value-lead, and this, it seems, is one of our greatest challenges. To move from fear and greed fuelled opinions that keep us stuck and stumbling, towards opinions that elevate what it is to be human.

What part do you think you can play in that challenge?

Get A Kick Up The Ass This Weekend

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Bucketlist Bootcamp
Sometimes, you need a kick up the ass to get you going.

And with 2017 stretching out ahead of you, it’s natural to want to get moving on something meaningful.

So this weekend (January 21st and 22nd), join me and others at the first ever Bucket List Bootcamp.

There’s going to be a huge amount of insight reaching and action taking, all guided by a darn decent band of speakers that I’m thrilled to be among.

I’m leading a session called “Practical Confidence for a Great Life“. During it, I’ll give you two key pieces of my confidence coaching method—the only two exercises that I insist everyone I work with completes. They’re that fundamental to real, natural confidence, and you can use them over and over again to respond to fear with the confidence you already have.

Get your tickets to the Bucket List Bootcamp right here. Tickets are going for $25, but that link is only for readers of confidence.coach and gives you a special 70% discount.

Join me, the other speakers, and participants from around the world, and let’s start something sweet and beautiful. Last call for tickets here – http://www.passionblueprint.com/bucketlistbootcamp?confidencecoach.

10 Top Tips for a Sweet and Beautiful Life

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10 Top Tips for a Sweet and Beautiful Life
A sweet and beautiful life is not to be sniffed at or dismissed as some arbitrary, fluffy bullshit.

Just think of the opposite kind of life – bitter and ugly.

Yeah, me neither.

Here then, are 10 top tips to live a sweet and beautiful life.

Try compassion. It might just change your mind on things.

Make meaningful friends. And through your behaviour, let them know that they’re meaningful.

Give. Not because it makes you feel good or righteous, but because it’s how you get to express gratitude for what matters to you.

Become imperfect. You’re riddled with imperfection and there’s nothing you can do about it. So just embrace it already.

Do things that matter. Because if you’re not showing up like that in your life, just how are you spending your time?

Tell better stories. Because those old stories that make you feel not good enough aren’t good enough for you.

Dig under hate. Because hate sits on top of pain, and pain is an important vehicle for growth.

Dont sweat the practical stuff. There’s always a solve for the practical stuff in life (I’m a great believer in creating a third option), no matter how shitty or complex.

Create. You and the world become richer through the act of creating something of value.

Integrate. Because it’s by integrating your experience, rather than separating or compartmentalising, that you get to be whole.

Short and to the point, I hope.

Because I don’t want to keep you from getting involved in your own life.

Just holler if I can help.

I’m always around.

Towards the Sweet & Beautiful in 2017

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Towards the Sweet & Beautiful
In 2016, I…

  • Wrote 30 articles, down from 42 in 2015
  • Wrote 11 guest articles across Huffington Post, The Muse and Men’s Fitness
  • Coached nearly double the number of people in 2016 than I did in 2015
  • Spent 80% of the year as sick as a dog, thanks to my old friend M.E.
  • Finished the first end to end draft of my novel, The Kissing Stopped
  • Wrote the Hurt & Hopeful manifesto

It was a frustrating year due to ongoing illness, and I missed a lot of friend and family occasions. And I just had to pull out of a big party in London on December 30th because of yet more ill-health. I’ve been looking forward to that for 3 months.

It also felt very much like I lost some of my mojo when it comes to seeing good people and writing. Friends are somewhat scattered around the world, with many of my favourite people being in the USA, some 3000 miles away, or more. I need good people in my life, and I miss those connections.

Writing came in fits and starts, with brain fog getting in the way a whole lot. But when I look at the list above, and see what I did write, I wrote a lot. That feels pretty good. Perhaps I should give myself a break.

There were days were I could barely stand up or think straight, but every client I spoke with and every question I responded to by email gave me energy and a big dose of the warm-fuzzies. And some people were downright awesome enough to email me just to let me know that something I’d written, somewhere, had helped them.

So perhaps I shouldn’t be so judgmental about how much of the year I was sick for or how little I connected with people.

Point is, it’s the easiest thing in the world to be hard on yourself or beat yourself up for a lacklustre 2016.

Stop it.

You’re doing way better than you give yourself credit for.

Could you do better? Could you crank things up a level? Maybe. Probably.

But please don’t let that diminish your self-worth right now or what you managed to achieve last year. The fact that you’re here, looking forward, counts.

Ignore the people who are talking about making 2017 “epic”, or crushing it or rocking it or any other quarry-based verb. That’s unhelpful hyperbole, and speaks more about their inner narrative than yours. 2017 doesn’t have to be epic, or life-changing or epoch-shifting if those things don’t resonate with you.

Choosing to live an honest life where you can offer simple value to others, is not second-best.

Far from it.

A sweet and beautiful life should never be plan b.

And one things’s for sure. As you move into 2017, I want to help you more.

I want to do things and create things that help you live a sweet and beautiful life.

So, think a little about what that might look for you, Then, if you care to, answer this one question in whatever way feels right:

What is your biggest block to living a sweet and beautiful life?

Don’t hold back.

Life’s too short to not let the truth fly.

Gifts Aren’t Just for Christmas

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Gifts Aren't Just for Christmas

Santa’s on his way, and, if you’re on the Nice List, there’s something stuffed in his sack just for you.

It’s the time for gift-giving, of course. Things wrapped in bows that light up someone’s face when they rip off the wrapping paper. Things that deliver that beautiful moment of surprise and (hopefully) delight. And things that, if you’re honest, you can’t wait to open yourself.

But I got to thinking. Why imbue the giving of a gift with so much importance or gotta-be-right-ness, when every other day of the year you might not think about what you want to give at all.

You have things of texture and richness to give people every single day, but sometimes it’s the people closest to you who get the worst from you.

Enjoy the holidays. Have all the egg-nog you want. Just remember that you can directly impact, for the better, the experience of those around you.

Leave every room better than when you entered.

Hear someone.

Be generous with who you already are.

Don’t stop giving when December 26th comes around.

The Great Bubble Challenge

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Burst your bubble
Along with updates about Marvel superheroes, pictures of dinner and clips of anthropomorphized puppies, my Facebook and Twitter feeds are full of people who agree with me.

That feels pretty good, lemme tell you.

I can sit in my fantastic little bubble here, safe in the knowledge that all is good and that everyone thinks pretty much just like I do.

Wonderful. Or it would be wonderful, if it weren’t for a couple of notable exceptions. Some people have popped up jarringly post-Brexit and post-Trump, with views that I most certainly don’t share. Their posts catch my eye as I’m scrolling away, urging me to read deeper to see what opinion they’re peddling and how wrong they’ve got it.

There’s a certain self-satisfaction is seeing one of these posts and dismissing it as wrong or ignorant or ridiculous. And of course, the temptation to write a humdinger of a comment that will put them straight is delicious.

And then comes that terrible thought… “Do I unfriend…?”

The diminishing nature of truth

There are so many truths these days that nobody can agree on what’s true and what isn’t. People are calling this a post-fact world, with post-truth politics, where facts only need to be a point of view that’s bought into.

Truths gain buoyancy as more people consume and believe them, and we’ve seen how viciously divisive this open-market of truths is.

And when filter bubbles serve us the truths that we’ve already bought into, is it any wonder that people get upset when an opposing view cracks through?

Whether you’re a civil rights activist, a racist, a Christian, a lobbyist, pro-gun, pro-choice, climate change skeptic, educational reformer, lesbian, Muslim or anything else, isn’t it entirely serving division when each of our worlds are aligned to satisfy our own ego?

Filter bubbles make it easier to judge and hate than ever before. I’m wondering not only how well served we are by burgeoning bubbles of “truth”, but how well we can serve others when we live within those bubbles.

Confidence, not complacency

With both Brexit and Trump, I’ve been close to unfriending and unfollowing. I’ve seen posts that have stirred me and riled me. I’ve thought “What the fuck is wrong with you?” and my finger has hovered over that button.

We’re just one click away from cleansing our stream of anything we don’t like, agree with or get offended by.

But confidence within a bubble isn’t confidence at all. It’s blinkered complacency and complicit intolerance.

Confidence is the ability to trust your decisions from a place of wholeness—not from self-righteousness, piety or self-protection.

In what some are already calling the understatement of the century, there are some impossibly hard issues out there. But rather looking for my molly to be coddled or  taking offence, the confident approach is to explore them from a place of curiosity and respect.

We can’t afford to be complacent, not one of us, because that complacency doesn’t serve the things we value.

It undermines them.

Life outside the bubble…

It’s hard, awkward and uncomfortable, but the only choice worth a damn is to burst our bubbles.

It’s outside our bubbles that we stretch ourselves, and others. It’s there where we can ask questions and learn about how other people are trying their best too. And it’s there where we have to practice compassion, no matter what we’re faced with.

I have to be honest with you here. I’m figuring out what this might look like for me, and I’m far, far, far away from having any answers.

But I’m not about to unfriend or unfollow anyone—I’m going to listen more to the things I might prefer not to hear. I’m not going to react to the hate and judgment I see. I’m going to respond to the conditions in which hate and judgement flourish. And I’m not going to judge people from within the confines of my if-only-everyone-would-agree-with-me-bubble. I’m going to consistently entertain the possibility that I’m wrong.

So what I’m interested in, is your experience here.

How do you think you’re changed by filter bubbles?

The Innovation Illusion

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The Innovation Illusion

Companies today wear the term “innovative” like a badge of honour. From Silicon Valley to the Silicon roundabout, organisations ranging from banks to boutique hotels proclaim themselves to embrace innovation both inwardly and outwardly.

A worthy claim, after all, innovation is about the new and the different, and there’s gold in them there hills.

But when you go into some of these organisations and see how they go about “innovating”, they’re heavy with admin, loaded with meetings and rife with the drive towards certainty. Innovation is often just an illusion.

Admin gets slathered on top of existing processes to ripple data upwards and cover cracks in those processes, and people end up spending more time supporting process than the process supports them.

Meetings get slapped into diaries as a response to uncertainty or politics, sometimes pulling in more and more people and often leading to rework, repetition or restraint.

And the good and appropriate responsibility to look after the bottom line can become conflated with achieving certainty in outcomes. With a budget of x, project y must achieve profit z, and all efforts are put to ensuring that outcome. Trouble is, that drive towards certainty either sees people erring on the side of caution, or taking short-cuts that they believe will get them there quicker.

Innovation versus certainty

We humans have a hardwired urge to control our environment and be certain of our safety. It’s an M.O. that lays down the principles minimise danger and maximise reward as our prime directives, where danger is anything risky and reward is anything that ensures our safety.

That M.O. is the death of innovation, and not calling it out is where innovation becomes nothing more than a myth.

Have all the brainstorms, thought-showers, incubators or project dropzones you want. The elephant in the room will continue to stomp on ideas and innovation like a sweaty wrestler on a soufflé.

For real innovation, 3 things need to happen:

1. Speak expectations

The things you expect of yourself, the stuff you expect from other people, and (here’s where it gets really crazy) the things you think others expect of you all spiral around in your head and inform what you do and how you do it. I expect my day to go smoothly. I expect Larry to be a pain in the arse in that meeting. I expect my boss will want me to have an answer for this already.

Often conflicting, these expectations drive people to second-guess what they need to do (and how), and when that happens it’s normal to take the route that a. puts them in the best light, or b. pleases the most people.

Unspoken expectations shortcut innovation, but they don’t survive in the spotlight. So talk about them. Talk about what is and isn’t expected. Talk about how it’s okay to challenge assumptions. Talk about how great work can’t happen if you’re simply delivering in line with expectation.

2. Encourage vulnerability

Picture it. You go into the meeting with your best idea and a spring in your step, thinking that you’ve come up with a brilliant solution to a thorny problem. But then you get you laughed out of the room. Your idea doesn’t work. It’s crazy like a box of frogs. How could you have presented something that is clearly nonsense?

The thought that you’re not good enough or that everyone will find out that you’re not up to the job after all… Terrifying…

So it’s no surprise that the biggest killer of innovation is the fear of getting laughed out of the room. It makes ideas smaller or safer because those are unlikely to blow up in your face. It makes you tread a safer, known road rather than stumbling through a potential minefield in the dark. And it even makes you avoid situations where you risk “getting found out” altogether.

A truly innovative company is one that makes it clear that judgement, shame and blame has no place. It’s one that encourages vulnerability—taking off the safety harness and going out on a limb in the service of great work.

3. Nurture confidence

Picture a workforce that always has to double-check decisions with management. Imagine a team that doesn’t have the courage of their convictions. Or how about an employee who isn’t confident in their ability to contribute something worthy.

There can’t be much innovation when individuals don’t feel confident enough to go into the unknown and see what’s there, and it’s funny how companies conduct 360 degree reviews and send people on presentation skills courses, but rarely, if ever, look at nurturing an employee’s confidence in service of great work.

Why not? Probably because it seems nebulous, or out of scope, or just beyond reach.

Confidence is the ability to trust your behaviour with implicit trust in that behaviour. It’s the partner to vulnerability and the mother of acceptance.

It’s not about investing self-worth in a specific outcome, it’s accepting that you’re enough, right now, no conditions, and that you have nothing to prove. It’s bottom-up (connecting people strongly to who they are and how they are when they’re at their best) and top-down (productively dealing with stuff like second-guessing, self-doubt and people-pleasing that get in the way of confidence). It’s equipping people with the ability to make decisions and trust themselves in the service of great work.

Allowing innovation

To bring these 3 elements to life, there’s a certain amount of “hands off” that’s needed. Oversight, reviews and check-ins are all well and good, unless those things focus solely on certain outcomes.

It’s tempting to build processes to make innovation happen, but innovation can’t be forced any more than a bowl of spaghetti can be forced to speak Italian. Process needs to enable and support great work and innovation. It should work for the teams, not have the teams working for it.

And this “allowing” of innovation is no small feat in itself. It requires trust. A steady nerve. Faith, even.

Things can get messy, uncomfortable and difficult, so for sure, it’s the open, brave and hopeful who are the true innovators.

A Manifesto for the Hurt & Hopeful

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Manifesto for the Hurt & Hopeful
So. It’s been a crazy few months. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.

Sometimes words get stuck in my head, and these last few months 2 small words have been rolling around up there.

Hurt, and hope.

I don’t know why those specific words have got stuck in my brain, but I always find that if something keeps tugging at me then it’s there for a reason. So I dug a little, and explored some, and I put together some words that I’ve called a manifesto (for want of a better term).

The way I see it, those 2 small words are things that those of us who try our best, those of us who value compassion, and those of us who exert effort in the direction of the things that matter to us, have in common.

Right now seems like a fitting time to share this with you. Please, go check out the manifesto for the Hurt and the Hopeful.

I’d love to know what you think, and if it strikes a chord in whatever measure, please do feel free to share.

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