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Unlocking Bravery

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Unlocking Bravery
Once upon a time, there was a man who was strong. A heart attack and a quadruple bypass later, he found just how hard he had to work to recover, but he never complained.

He survived an exploded aorta that nobody thought he was coming back from. Once he was finally out of ICU and in the ward, recovering slowly, he cried when he saw his grandchildren walk towards his bed. Like he never thought he’d see them again.

Then, not so long ago, he slipped on a step, landed straight on his spine and completely shattered a vertebrae or two. He was in a hospital room for over 2 weeks with fragments of bone a millimetre from pushing into his spinal cord, unable to get out of bed or even sit up, while he awaited news of possible surgery. None came, and the bone fragments fused together in a clump that make it difficult and painful for him to get around to this day.

Laying there in the hospital bed, he got depressed. He started talking about how he’d never leave, and when he finally did get home, he sank further as he lived with daily pain and found how limited his movement was. He was brave enough to get some help, and today, though he’s still hobbling around he’s laughing again with his family.

And now, with the looming prospect of a blood condition that may or may not get worse, he continues to be brave.

That man is my Dad. He’s probably the bravest man I know. (He has to be, he’s been married to my Mum for 50 years. Thank you, try the veal).

Bravery vs Fantasy

We tend to think of bravery as something the knight has as he’s fighting the dragon to save the kingdom. Or what the soldier has pumping through his veins as he dives on the grenade to save his fellow soldiers.

But bravery isn’t always, and rarely is, so dramatic.

Bravery is found in the every day. In the minutiae. In the act of breathing.

Don’t for one second think that your friend who just went skydiving lives more bravely than another friend who’s more of a homebody. That “homebody” might be experimenting with art or writing, opening themselves up to those uncertain and often intensely personal pursuits. They might be dealing with a deep issue that threatens to overcome them, doing the best they can to find their way through. Or they may throw themselves into their relationship wholeheartedly, not wanting to hide behind walls or pretend.

Bravery is hard, if not impossible, to measure from the outside, because it comes from the inside.

Bravery is making a choice based on what truly matters to you, not what doesn’t.

It’s spotting all the compelling reasons not to try, and saying “No, you don’t get to call the shots today.”

It’s not the absence of fear or doubt, but it’s the ability to respond from a place of connection.

My Dad pushed through all of that for one reason: his family.

Hands-down, it’s the most beautiful fucking thing there is.

How to know if you’re brave

Don’t know about you, but I’d love to think that I’m brave. That I’d stand up and do the right thing. That if I believed in something enough and the world was telling me I was wrong and that I should move, that I’d plant my feet and say, “No, you move.

Bravery in the big and small things is what helps us to carve our path through life, but how do you know if you have it? How do you know for sure if you have what it takes?

I think there’s a simple test.

Picture that someone has taken away the thing that matters most to you in the world. Your kids. Your partner. Your creativity. Your compassion. Whatever it is, they’ve reached into your life and taken it. No explanation.

So you have a choice. Do you let them walk away, or, do you exert effort in the interests of what matters most you?

It’s that easy.

And if you’re willing to exert effort in the interests of what matters to you when it’s crunch time, you’re certainly brave enough to do the same when the stakes might be lower.

You may even get stirred into action and rush to someone else’s side to help and support, just because it matters to you, or because it matters to them.

How to unlock bravery

This brave thing seems slippery, doesn’t it? Sometimes you can feel it in your veins, letting you draw from it and do the right thing. Other times, when you feel small and afraid, you wonder if it was every really there at all.

So, how do you access or use personal bravery?

I think there are 2 parts to it.

  1. Explore what matters
    A brave act is one that’s done in service to something that matters, and figuring out what matters demands exploration without expectation.
  2. Practice what matters
    Practice is deliberately engaging with something for no other reason that it matters to you. It’s a deliberate, sometimes radical, act of love.

There are whole worlds within those 2 simple parts—how to let go of expectation, the challenge of practice, etc—but if I was to boil it down, it comes down this.

Bravery doesn’t require strength, it requires love.

If you can love, you’re brave.

The only thing that remains is the direction of that bravery; the places you want to invest it or the ways you want to exhibit it.

Tell me in the comments where you want to invest or exhibit bravery, and let’s see what we can start here.

The Ultimate Guide to Cutting the Crap and Getting Real


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An old friend of mine, younger than me, smarter than me, more giving than me, is in her final days on this planet, due to terminal cancer.

It’s nothing even close to being fair, but this isn’t a post about her, it’s a post about you.

Life has nonsense embedded in it. It’s everywhere. The Kardashians. Religious dogma. Self-appointed “mavens”. The list of nonsense could fill the whole of the Internet, and actually, comes pretty damn close to doing so.

But life is short. And sometimes it’s useful to cut the crap and get real.

Here’s a primer for you…

Quit lying to yourself

We all lie to ourselves about certain things – eating this extra piece of pie doesn’t mean I’m breaking the diet. I’ll just hang on for a few more months to see if things turn around. It’s the wrong time to make my move. I really do want to be with them.

Lying to yourself is only ever about creating a narrative that affords you safety, regardless of how the story you make up might be hurting you.

So ‘fess up.

If you’re spending too much, own it. If you’re miserable, step into it. If you’re being someone else, see it.

What aren’t you accepting about yourself? What are you choosing not to see? How are you making it okay to hide?

None of us are getting out of this thing alive, so lying to yourself while you’re here is nothing but crazy.

Quit wasting time

Wasting time and treading water is the last resort of the terminally indecisive.

Putting off a decision, deciding to wait a bit longer to make a decision or waiting for the perfect alignment of circumstances IS making a decision. Don’t fool yourself that it’s a positive choice, it isn’t.

When there’s a great opportunity coming your way or when a little patience will pay off it can be a good strategy to hold on. But there’s a huge difference between holding on and wasting time, and here’s how you know the difference:

If the choice you’re making to stay where you are is really about keeping you safe and not changing things, you’re just wasting time.

Time is the one thing you can’t buy more of, and wasting it is depriving the world of what you can offer.

Quit listening to assholes

There are a lot of people who will say what you want to hear. There are a lot of people who will offer the earth, take your money and deliver dirt. There are a lot of people who will give you advice that’s self-serving. There are a lot of people who will put you down rather than lift you up. And there are a lot of people who spew ignorant bile disguised as insight or truth.

Whether there’s someone close to you who only ever gives you their worst, a colleague who takes from you and talks you down, or just the shouting, clamouring garbage of 24 hour rolling news, check the messages that you’re taking in.

If you’re only taking in messages that you want to hear or fit with the way you already see things, get real. If you’re only taking in messages that run you down or keep you small, get real. Or if you’re only taking in messages that stir the worst in you, for the sake of everyone around you, get real.

Seek out the genuinely insightful, interesting, expansive and valuable people out there with great messages and great gifts.

Quit chasing a lifestyle

Seems like Facebook and the rest of the Interwebs is full of people trying to sell you a lifestyle, people who would have you believe that their lifestyle is one that you should want. They say “Look at what I’ve done, look at how I live my life – don’t you want that too?” and then proceed to sell you stuff that promises to give you the same.

Honestly, if I hear the term “lifestyle design” one more time I’m going to hurl.

You can’t buy a lifestyle as a solution to the problems in your life. Doesn’t matter if it’s location independence, entrepreneurship, working 4 hours a week, buying a tiny house or going paleo, your life will still be your life.

Quit chasing a lifestyle as a goal, and start dealing productively with the texture of your experience, right now.

Design meaning. Design nourishment. Design value.

Quit needing to be right

Being right is fun, and it sure feels good to know that we correctly called it before anyone knew for certain. Being right also leads people to do crazy shit in pursuit of that outcome, like undermining other people, engineering or “rigging” social encounters or taking a shortcut towards a cheap result.

The urge to be right drives people to engineer circumstances and stories that allow us to feel good about ourselves.

But being right doesn’t mean anything and it certainly doesn’t equal self-worth. In fact, if you place your self-worth on being right the whole time, you’re just masking a deep feeling of not being good enough and the fear of being found out.

So quit it. There’s tangible value in admitting that you’re wrong; value you’ll never realise if you’re continually caught up in the bullshit factory of being right.

Quit making shit up

I’ve fucked it all up. I’m not pretty enough. Other people get all the best chances. He’s horrible for doing that. She’s just a bitch. I can never forgive them for how they hurt me.

Stories, stories, stories.

Your brain is a story-making machine, churning out narratives like shitty airport fiction.

Storytelling is how you try to make sense of the world and what happens to you in it, and your brain will weave stories designed to do 2 things: minimise danger and maximise reward. The stories you tell yourself will be threaded with those principles, whether or not the story serves you well or fucks you over.

Some stories sell you way short, because that’s how you stop trying. Some stories will cast you as the victim, because that makes what happened undeserved. Some stories will fuel indecision, because that keeps you away from risk. Some stories will engineer blame, because that makes you right. And some stories will cast you as the hero, because then it’s always about you.

You are not your narratives. Quit making up stories that represent the very worst of you.

Quit feeling broken

Sometimes, you’re just a hot mess.

In those dark moments where it feels like you’ve fucked it all up or that you’ll never have the kind of life you wished for, it just feels like you’re missing something, like there’s something broken in you that makes it impossible to live a sweet and beautiful life. That there’s something wrong with you.

Newsflash. We all have that feeling. Every. Single. One. Of. Us.

It’s part of being human. The fear that everyone else has figured out what we never will. The fear that we’ll never be good enough for our hopes. The fear that we’ll never be loved because we’re flawed and broken.

The good news is, those flaws and imperfections form part of a whole that would be a hollow, grotesque construct without them.

You’re not broken. It just feels that way sometimes because you’re human. It’s one small piece of the whole that you already are, and having that one small piece become your truth is doing yourself a massive disservice.

A quick word on getting real…

Hanging out in the crap and the fantasy of life is pretty great. Zero responsibility and all the fun of dreaming and wishing.

It’s also a great strategy for deep regret and a diminishing soul.

It’s  a choice you have to make.

Do I keep hanging out, lying to myself, wasting time, listening to assholes, chasing a lifestyle, needing to be right, making shit up and feeling broken, or do I take a stand in my life?

Cutting the crap won’t fix stuff in your life or automatically make you a better person. That still needs work and practice.

But what it will do, is:

  • allow you to take off the armour that weighs so damn heavy
  • stop things from feeling like such a fucking drama the whole time
  • put you in the perfect place to take meaningful action
  • provide a foundation for bravery
  • give you a sense that, actually, you’re doing pretty great

And smack my balls with a sledgehammer if that doesn’t sound like a pretty damn wonderful place to be.

So. Are you ready to cut the crap or what?

What If You Could Start Again?

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Ever wish you could start again?

Maybe hit the reset button and go back to college; make some different choices.

Not roll over when you were stepped on in that relationship or in that job.

Get your mojo back, like when you used to have that spring in your step and that glint in your eye.

Make sure you won next time around, not the guy who edged in front.

Learn more.

Love more.

Give more.

Wishing is easy…

I’m not going to say that you can hit that reset button or that you always get to make different choices.

While that’s partly true, it doesn’t reflect or honour who you are and what you’ve been through. It doesn’t reflect the realities and constraints of your life, right now, and nor does it reflect the reality of how you feel about your life right now.

Wishing is easy.

What’s hard, is change.

Stories keep you stuck.

Stories about stuff that’s happened (break-ups, losses, paths not taken, screw-ups, etc). Stories about what you wish would happen (a new job, a richer relationship, a healthier body, a little more cash, etc). Stories about what you wish won’t happen (losing your spark, getting trapped in a bad job, becoming smaller, getting poorer, etc). And stories about why you can’t change (because it’s too risky, because you don’t know where to start, because you’re not supported, because you can’t ask for help, etc).

Stories, stories, stories.

Starting again cheapens you…

The thought of starting again is an easy one. You just wave a magic wand and make everything better, richer, more fun, simpler and sexier.

Zero effort. All the good stuff.

It’s cheap.

But look at how you feel around that story.

Look at the feelings it stirs up; the bubbling in your belly, the fire in your heart, the spark in your fingertips.

There just might be SOMETHING FUCKING IMPORTANT in there.

Something you’ve lost sight of, forgotten about or become disconnected from.

If you feel like there’s something missing, or feel like there’s something bigger for you, then maybe there’s an important new direction for you to grow in. If you feel a sense of sadness, then maybe that’s because you gave up on something that mattered to you, or there’s grief around how you envisaged your life turning out. Or if you feel a sense of unfairness or that you deserve more, then perhaps there’s a message for you about how you’ve been fitting in and not carving your own path.

Starting again is a question…

I sometimes wish I could start again. Make that move before that other guy got there first. Do things differently when it comes to love. Start my own business way sooner. Maybe even see if I could prevent myself from getting sick.

But rather than storytell around that very human urge (my life sucks, I’m no good, I don’t know what to do, etc), I dip into the feelings I have around it and ask myself these 3 questions:

  1. What more is there I can acknowledge or understand about this?
  2. How do I want to feel about my next chapter?
  3. What are the values that will drive that next chapter?

Those questions do 3 things:

  • Fuels self-learning. Because it’s in those murky, confusing, painful areas that you’d rather steer clear of that you might learn something important about what drives your behaviour and your thinking.
  • Opens possibilities. Getting stuck in storytelling is disabling, and looking at how I want to feel about whatever I do next takes me back to what I love and to what I’m most grateful for.
  • Anchors importance. Just having a sense of how I want to feel is nothing without the values I can demonstrate, exhibit and honour in any given moment. It’s these values that are the building blocks, foundations and cornerstones of a rich experience.

Sometimes I do this better than at other times. Sometimes I wrap myself in stories and wallow in self-pity, while at other times clarity and congruence come quickly.

Both are fine.

Because I know that the urge to want to start again is just a cue from ten thousand feet down to connect.

The 7 Dangers to Confidence

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Heartbreak. Disappointment. Stubbed toes.

Life’s perils are many, but none are as dangerous as the things you do to yourself that undermine who you are and what you can do.

These creeping, insipid and hidden patterns of behaviour are things that you might have been doing for years, without ever knowing. All you know is that you’re not where you intended to be. That your spark is dimmed. That you wanted so much more for yourself.

These then, are the 7 danger to confidence.

People pleasing

I like to please people. It’s awesome when someone looks pleased as a result of something I’ve done or is thrilled with something I’ve made happen.

Pleasing people is a good thing, unless it comes at the expense of your own sense of self.

You can try to solve someone’s problem for them, which can be a lovely and thoughtful gesture, unless it’s because you want their gratitude. You can give of your time or attention, which can be rare and remarkable, unless it’s because you want their validation. And you can diffuse a potential conflict by standing down, which can be a compassionate move on your part, unless it’s because you don’t want to attract judgement or blame.

Every time you endeavour to please someone—because that’s how you get to feel whole—you’re chip-chip-chipping away at your confidence like Woody the Soul-Sucking Woodpecker.


There’s a moment that keeps happening with clients, a moment so wonderful and painful and hopeful and emotional that it gets me every single time.

It’s when we uncover how their pursuit of perfection is really just masking deep feelings of not being good enough.

Perfectionism is a way of sidelining the feeling that you’re not good enough and forestalling the fear of being found out as not good enough.

It’s a fictional narrative that says, look, as long as I keep 3 steps ahead and do every single thing right, I might just get through this. Don’t know about you, but that sounds exhausting and about as much fun as a vacation in a cold-war gulag.

But more than that, perfectionism destroys any notion that you’re already good enough.


Life is, in what some people are calling the greatest understatement of our times, hard.

When faced with a fresh challenge, when a new situation demands we step up or show up, or even when a whole new day opens up ahead of us, it’s easy to doubt our ability to get through in one piece.

Self-doubt is the persistent wondering, down in the dark corners of your head or your heart, if you’ll ever be enough.

It’s the thing that drives you toward safety, because you couldn’t bear it if you tried and failed. It would be proof, yet again, that you’re not up to it. And the great part is that all the time you don’t try, your self-doubt will never win.

Only, it does win. Every single time you hold that little bit of you back it diminishes you. Inch by inch by inch.

By creeping fences, self-doubt destroys your confidence.


If self-doubt is the deep wondering whether you’ll ever be enough as a person, second-guessing is the worry that your actions and decisions will never be enough.

Did you take the right job? Did you move to the right city? Are you dating the right person? It also projects forwards. How do I know which job is the right one? How do I know where I should move to? How do I know if this relationship will work out?

Once again, I’m exhausted just thinking about how it would be to live like that. Every day, undermining your decisions by wondering about whether it’s right or whether it will work out.

It’s an attachment to outcomes and results and goals over having trust in your ability to make choices and deal with whatever happens.

Fitting in

I remember at college, thinking how great it would be to be part of the crowd who had the cool parties and had all the pretty people. They seemed to be having all the fun, but fitting in with them would have meant being something I wasn’t. I was geeky and academic and a little shy, and luckily I never tried to fit in.

But that urge is a mighty one. To be part of a group. To blend in. To fit.

The urge to fit in comes from a couple of different places. First, it’s the need to be part of a social group—programming that goes deep in our brains. And second, it’s the need to be safe and not be singled out, because that’s how you get judged and maybe rejected.

Each of these urges requires that you do what other people expect. All the time you tick their boxes you’ll be blending in seamlessly. All the reward of belonging, none of the risk of rejection.

Only, it’s not real. You’re pretending. You’re not showing up as you.

And the more you do that, the more you’ll forget what showing up as you ever looked like.


I have really high standards, and when I sense that I’m falling short or missing something, I can be pretty hard on myself.

At least, I used to be. I used to gather evidence to support the belief that I’d never get to where I wanted to go, and I used to find every detail to support the fact that I wasn’t good enough.

I searched for, found, sometimes fabricated and used data to beat myself up.

But why would someone do that? Gathering ammunition for the express purpose of beating yourself up seems crazy, like trying to fight fire with actual, burny, screamy fire, right? Well, the simple reason is because it’s easier to set yourself up as not good enough than to have your hopes crushed.

You diminish yourself so nobody has the chance to do it to you.

Which, of course, is like putting your confidence in a blender and reducing it to smooshy pink stuff.

Treading water

People wait. We wait for the perfect conditions to switch jobs. We wait for the perfect partner. We wait for the perfect time to speak up. We wait for the perfect idea before we start to execute. We wait for just a little more in the savings account before we go it alone. We wait for someone else to make a great decision.

The motivation for waiting and treading water is safety, of course. And safety’s great and all, but if you want your life to be all about safety then one of the safest places on Earth is six feet under in a casket.

Treading water is only ever a useful tactic if it directly honours or demonstrates one of your personal values. Otherwise, without the nourishment that living in line with your values brings, your muscles atrophy, your bones ossify and your life shrinks down to nothing

Treading water is too often trading possibility for comfort, and that has a real and tangible cost. Make sure you know what it is before you decide that’s the route for you.

The Balm to the 7 Dangers

These 7 dangers are perilous indeed. More perilous than a blindfolded skunk in a bomb vest balancing on a cliff-edge in a strong wind with a school bus full of kids beneath.

The balm—something that heals, soothes, or mitigates pain—at first seems complex, multi-faceted and impossible to systematise. but it boils down to this:

Compassionate knowing

It’s an area I’m digging into more and more, because there’s truth here. Learning too. I think there are 3, vital elements to it.

  • non-judgemental – doesn’t make judgements of value or worth based on moment to moment experience
  • respectful – respects value, wholeness and boundaries
  • allowing – allows the full experiencing of emotion and experience

This is a deliberate practice. A radical practice. A necessary practice.

And it’s a lifelong practice.

Those 7 perils are still there, and they’re always ready to pull the rug out from under you—and that will happen—but this compassionate knowing thing really is a balm.

It doesn’t fix things or give you an easy out.

But it helps.

And couldn’t we all use a little help once in a while?

Embracing Possibility Over Fear: The Philosophy, The Strategy and The Hack

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Embracing possibility


– the state or condition of being possible
– anything that is possible
– a competitor, candidate, etc, who has a moderately good chance of winning, being chosen, etc
– (often pl) a future prospect or potential

action, circumstance, hazard, hope, opportunity, fortuity, chance

certainty, safety, surety, plan, impossibility, unlikelihood

What’s your catalyst for action?

Is it the sense that something’s possible, even if it’s risky or scary?

That delicious sense that it just might happen.

Or do you need to get to grips with it first? To figure it out. Think it through. Make a plan. Get it right.

If you’re in the latter camp, stick around—I’m going to show you a hack, a strategy and a philosophy for embracing possibility. If you’re in the former group, you’ve probably already gone and started a new project, are off to your co-working space or are diving out of a plane, in which case you won’t be reading this so I can really just say anything… Tiny horses will inherit the earth. That guy next to you is an imposter. You shoes are made of cheese and magic.

So, now that it’s just us, I know how tough possibility can be.

I really do. I’ve grappled in that space between what’s known and what isn’t, and I’ve erred on the side of caution more times than I like.

You might think that’s an odd thing for a confidence coach to admit, and maybe it is. But I’m human, just like the next guy, and it’s through the decisions I’ve made as much as the behaviour I’ve observed in others that’s allowed me to dig into the murky depths between safety and possibility.

There’s a books worth of content on this (agents, feel free to hit me up!), but in the interests of brevity here’s a philosophy, a strategy and a hack for you to start embracing possibility, more.

The Philosophy

The known and unknown are always there, right through the centre of your life, like a tightrope. On one side, it’s safe and warm with lots of soft padding should you fall, and on the other, it’s dangerous and scary and full of sharp edges that will make you bleed.

No wonder we prefer to stay safe, when we see things that way.

But you and I both know what happens when that’s the only way you see things.

You get small. Life becomes all about what’s comfortable and what can be predicted. Your spark goes out.

That’s not how I want to live my days; as a small man in a tiny life.

I don’t want that to be my story. I don’t want that to be my example. I don’t want that to be my legacy.

I’m still figuring out what the alternative is, but I know sure as all hell that there is an alternative.

Balancing on that tightrope doesn’t always equal a choice between falling into marshmallows or plummeting into knives. In fact, seeing it as a tightrope doesn’t help at all because it creates a tension. A tension between the two sides and a tension in the rope that you’re hoping will support you.

So what if there wasn’t a tightrope? What if there were no “sides”. No fluffy pillows and no jagged rocks.

What would be left, then?

Just you. No expectations about this or that. Just the ground underneath your feet and the sense that you’re not constrained by a straight line or motivated by the tension in the rope.

You get to carve out your own path and your own story, independent from any fears about what might go wrong or how you might screw up.

This is the philosophy of personal possibility. Worth exploring, no?

The Strategy

You want a strategy—a thing you can employ as a plan, method, or series of maneuvers or stratagems for obtaining a specific goal or result—to embrace more possibility, more frequently? You got it.

Step 1: Notice
It all starts with noticing. A gentle, non-judgemental noticing of what happens in your head when faced with possibility.

There’s a bucket load of fear about fucking up. A sense of not wanting things to change (even though you might think you want things to change). The feeling that you’ll discover you’re not good enough, after all.

Just see it. Feel it. Welcome those sensations in like old friends, which, in a way, they are.

You can’t make any smart move without first of all noticing where you are.

Step 2: Open
Then, get curious. Ask questions that will increase your learning and awareness. Questions like:

  • What else is there to learn about this situation?
  • What is it I’m feeling here?
  • What is there in the way I’m feeling that I might be able to learn from?
  • What assumptions am I making?
  • What story am I making up here?

Go digging. Dig into what’s really happening and do so in a spirit of curiosity and exploration. There are no judgements to be made here, just insights.

Step 3: Values
Now’s the time to bring out the big guns. Your values.

These are the things in yourself, in others, or out there in the world that matter most to you, and any decision you make that’s underpinned by them will be the perfect decision for you.

Your values are hardwired into you. They’re ten-thousand feet inside you and tell you what really matters. They’re the foundations, building blocks and cornerstones for who you are.

Dig into the moments in your life when you felt most alive, most at peace, most in flow, and those will be the moments when you were honouring, expressing or demonstrating one or more of your values.

Figure out what your values are (and just holler if you need a hand doing that), and they become like a star in the sky letting you know which way is north. These values of yours aren’t just an abstract concept, they’re things you can apply right at the point of change to make a decision that honours everything you already are.

Step 4: Action
No amount of enquiry or clarity is worthwhile unless it fuels meaningful action.

Taking action is the scary bit, of course, but if you’ve followed the 3 preceding steps then 3 things will have happened:

  1. You’ll no longer be invested in the fear-laden story you’ve been telling yourself
  2. You’ll have fresh perspective on how you may have been holding yourself back
  3. You’ll have a deep impetus to engage and connect in ways that matter to you

Here, in this place, action flows. You may need to take a deep breath and find a burst of courage, but the choice to act has already been made and the permission needed to move forward has already been granted. Now you just need to follow through.

It just so happens that this strategy spells out NOVA – a star that suddenly becomes thousands of times brighter.

The Hack

When it feels like you have to get it right, to nail it, to try for something and still be safe, embracing possibility is tough, if not impossible, right?

Fortunately, there’s a hack that cuts right through that like a blowtorch through butter, and it’s all to do with running experiments.

Here’s the thing: you don’t have to invest your whole future or your bodily safety in your next decision. You can run an experiment for a week, 2 weeks or a month and see what happens, then change course as appropriate.

  • If you’re thinking about changing career, run an experiment to see who you can connect with or what conversations you can have inside the next 2 weeks around that.
  • If you’re frustrated with how your relationship is going, run an experiment for 1 week to practice deliberately responding to your partner with compassion and generosity.
  • If you want to start up your own business, run an experiment to offer your product or service to as many people as possible in 1 week and learn from what happens.
  • If you want to relocate or move overseas, sublet your place out and run an experiment for 3 months to see how you like it, then figure the rest out from there.
  • Or if you want to open more possibilities in terms of passion projects, run an experiment for a month where you try 4 different things (volunteering, taking a class, going to a local meetup, etc).

Experiments take off the pressure. You get to learn from an experiment, rather than judging an outcome. You get to challenge a premise or idea from a place of curiosity rather than defensiveness. And you get to change one or two variables to see what happens rather than feeling like the die is cast.

Running an experiment is a hack that short-circuits the normal fight or flight response, bringing out natural confidence and opening possibility up rather than closing it down.

And that’s what embracing possibility is about. Being open to it rather than closed to it.

Because a life without possibility is like an egg without salt, the sky without blue or Bert without Ernie. Bland, dark and lonely.

So, how will you embrace possibility?

Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up


Why Everyone Wants You to Fuck Up

Ever been so excited about an idea that you couldn’t keep it in any longer and told your friend who was all a bit “meh” about the whole thing?

Ever had an opportunity come along that might bounce you up to the next level or beyond and you sit down with your other half and talk about how amazing it might be and watch as they scrunch up their face and tell you all the ways it might not work?

Or have you ever worked and worked and worked only for your family to take you down a peg or two just as you start seeing how all that work will pay off?

Sometimes, people are schmucks.

Particularly when it comes to your success.

See, people don’t want you to succeed because they’re afraid.

They’re afraid that it will change how things are, even if how things are is shitty.

They’re afraid that it will change you, even if you’ll change for the better.

And they’re afraid that if you succeed, it means they’re not good enough.

Your failure is easy for people to get behind

Seeing you fuck up provides reassurance that things can continue on an even-keel, risk-free. Phew. Pressure’s off.

Seeing you fuck up offers relief that you won’t grow beyond the confines of the relationship or circumstances. Thank God. We can keep on being us.

And seeing you fuck up means they don’t have to ask themselves difficult questions or try to better themselves.

Your fuck up is their blessed relief, validating how risky it is out there and how much better they are staying safe in the confines of their old choices.

It gives them evidence that supports their choices not to take action, not to go for it, not to try, and it shrouds their insecurity and fear in a warm blanket of comfort and the feeling that they’re the smart one.

But sometimes, sometimes, there are people who see things differently.

These are the people who will cheer you on when you had no clue what you were doing warranted a cheer.

These are the people who will tell you how wonderful it is to see what you’re building and how proud they are to know you.

These are the people who will offer their time, spirit, focus and experience for no other reason than they believe in you.

These people are fucking awesome, and while I definitely don’t have it nailed and occasionally catch myself sneering in the face of someones’ success, I’m trying my best to be like that.

So don’t be an ass-hat who wants people to fuck up just because you don’t have the cajones to peer into your own insecurity and lack of self-confidence.

Be the other kind of person.

Be the one who believes.

What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success

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What it Takes to Beat the Fear of Success
I was 12 years old when Mr Saatchi (yeah, of the mega-rich Saatchi’s) asked for my help. I was a geek at the time (some things never change), having got my first computer a year earlier and getting into trouble for hacking the school network, and my Dad was doing some work for him.

I guess they got to talking about their kids, and the next thing you know Dad comes home and tells me that Mr Saatchi wants me to teach his son all about computers. He’d pay me and send a car to ferry me to and fro, how about it?

Opportunities like that rarely come up for your average 12 year old kid. So I said no.

I regret that now, of course I do, but at the time it felt like a lot of pressure. It felt like my attempt to teach Mr Saatchi’s son would be scrutinised, and while I was sure I could teach his son a couple of things I also knew I’d need to put effort into figuring out some kind of program or structure or we’d just end up playing video games. I had no idea how long I’d be expected to teach, and the safety of my normal routine pulled at me hard. I didn’t want to miss my cartoon shows. And then if I really nailed it, I was scared of being sucked into an orbit that wasn’t my own, where Mr Saatchi called the shots.

I was scared of what doing it—and what succeeding at it—would mean, and it was the first time I experienced the fear of success.

It’s safe to say I’ve experienced it many times since then, and I’m willing to bet it’s not unfamiliar to you either.

It’s one of those unspoken, insipid fears that drives you towards being small and saying no, when a little bit of courage or faith just might change your trajectory for the better. Which, of course, is exactly what’s so damn scary about it.

There are 3 places that the fear of success come from…

Fear that you’ll lose what you have right now

You might have a steady job, a comfortable lifestyle, a great partner or a rich social life. Perhaps you’ve got an awesome balance between work and life. Or maybe you finally have a bit of security; something solid and known under your feet.

So it seems logical that any shift towards greater success will take you away from what you have today.

Say yes, and everything you’ve worked so far for might crumble away.

Fear of unsustainability

Let’s say you get there. You succeed. You’ve nailed it.


Now all you have to do, is keep it going.

The thought that you can fleetingly get where you want to go, only to watch it all slip away or watch it get taken away from you, is enough to create a stomach-plunging anxiety. It’s like wanting to run for President but then becoming terrified that you’ll screw it up, get impeached or lose your second term by a landslide. Or like seeing your business take off and then saying yes to everything because you don’t want it to go as quickly as it came.

The pressure of expectation is huge.

Fear of being found out

You did it! Awesome. Good for you.

Now, better hold your breath because it’s just a matter of time before everyone discovers what a fluke it was and how much of an imposter you really are.

How embarrassing would it be to get called out or found out? What if your new peers see who you really are?

The fear of being found out is the fear that you were never really good enough to have success in the first place.

What might be…

You might have noticed what these 3 fears have in common, how they’re all based on assumptions and stories about what might happen.

Other things that might happen in the future include:

  • the discovery of Atlantis and a whole new race of fish-people just off the coast of Wales
  • Jimmy Fallon cage fighting Putin for his freedom after being kidnapped by the FSB
  • God appearing drunk, live on Ellen, and telling the world he might swap around our arms and legs for shits and giggles
  • the Internet becoming sentient and taking a sabbatical in Thailand to get away from the crowds, then dropping out and starting a folk duo with Joaquin Phoenix.

Many, many things could happen, but have you stopped eating fish and booked your personal submarine tour of the Irish Sea yet? Have you put any money down on Fallon vs Putin? Are you recording every episode of Ellen just so you don’t miss the moment when everyone starts walking and eating upside-down? Or have you dug out that fax machine because it’s only a matter of time before the Internet packs its bag and fucks off?

No. You haven’t (at least, I hope you haven’t). And nor should you base your decisions and consequent behaviour on your assumptions about the potential impact of a success event.

Any moment of change, whether that change is one you label success, failure or whatever else, means a shift between what was and what is. Change always involves loss.

Confidence at the point of change

Which is why confidence is nothing unless it’s applied right at the point of change.

Trust. Faith. A deep breath. A gentle smile. A graceful welcoming.

These are the things that help you to acknowledge that you are not “no good”. You are not “not good enough”. You are not “not up to it”. You are not “not worthy of success, or love, or belonging”.

Beating the fear of success is just choosing where to put your trust. Do you trust the stories you make up about what might happen, or do you trust your ability to approach a moment in time in as someone’s who’s already whole and has nothing to prove?

What would it take for you to take trust in the latter?

Is Taking Offence the New Black?

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Cecil the lion. And that Dentist.

Starbucks cups getting de-Christmas’d

The Stanford rapist outcry.

Poor ol’ Harembe the gorilla.

And then, of course, you have all the cooties. And you suck. And smell. Of poop.

That’s right. You heard me.

What’s that? You take offence?

Well, yeah, that’s kinda understandable. I was just prodding you for a reaction.

Taking offence is a new currency of communication; increasingly powered by the Internet and bandwagoned by people to show just how damn engaged and outraged they are.

Something in a magazine, or in a movie creates a meme of outrage on social media. Something a friend or family member said starts a fight or a bubbling resentment. Something you saw on the news, or an outrageous story you read about online results in a public apology that doesn’t put a dent in the outrage.

People seem to be becoming more polarised in their views of what’s “good” and “bad”, and are less shy about keeping that to themselves. It typically consists of train of thought that goes something like this:

I just heard a thing. That thing I heard doesn’t fit with what I think. That thing I heard is wrong. How can someone else believe that? How can someone else think that it’s okay? That’s all kinds of wrong. I’m offended by the thought of it. I should let everyone know.

Offence, powered by the Internet

The world we live in celebrates and elevates the individual. Build a personal brand, they tell us. Don’t let them get you down. Follow your passion. Don’t compromise your values. Plant your feet and don’t back down.

In a time when the individual is Queen (or King), the altar of self, that towering edifice people build in honor of who they are, is the very thing that makes people become self-righteous pricks who think that other people shouldn’t offend them.

You know, you do have the right to take offence at something. And there’s a lot of stuff out there to take a view on and perhaps get offended by. With so much content out there, it’s easier than ever to be offended.

You even have the right to think that you’re right and the other guy’s wrong (which, incidentally, doesn’t mean that you are right).

But you don’t have the right not to be offended by something, and there’s a huge difference between genuinely taking offence and being outraged that someone had the gall to offend you.

Using your outrage at being offended as a vehicle to steamroller your point of view is pious narcissism.

The Great Illusion

And then sometimes, taking offence is a response to the lack of control you feel.

It’s a way of controlling the uncontrollable, even if it means deriding, besmirching or repudiating it.

It’s a way of maintaining the illusion of control and feeling more confident as a result.

But confidence founded from control isn’t really confidence. It’s wrapping yourself in a blanket of certainty and being swaddled in the notion that you’re right, when you know ten-thousand feet down that you’re just about managing to hang on.

Taking offence can fuel both self-righteousness on the surface and self-doubt underneath.

The next time you feel yourself taking offence at something, pause.

Instead of slipping right into that opposing view, get mucky in the uncomfortable and murky greyness that sits between the “bad thing” and your reaction to it.

Look at what it says about you and whether it brings out the best or worst in you.

Reside in a some backbone or dauntlessness rather than permanent offence.

Consider how things might change if you brought something like compassion or empathy to the table.

And never, ever resort to piety over enquiry.

How The Need to Be Right Will Royally Fuck You Up


European Flag

My eyes flicked open on June 24th, just after 6am, the alarm not really an alarm at all, but a shuffled playlist of 200 of my favourite songs. What can I say, I prefer to ease into the day with a song that makes me smile rather than a blaring klaxon of doom.

I reached across and grabbed my phone, knowing that the result would be in. One swipe was all it took to see the headline that had been pushed onto my phone – “The UK has voted to leave the EU”.

I was a “Remainer”, with the firm belief that we’re better off forging a bright future as part of something that’s bigger than just us, and things didn’t go my way.

So the Brexit vote is a decision I’m having a hard time with, to be honest.

I don’t get it…

I don’t get the jingoistic rhetoric or the denial of the turmoil that’s already happening. I certainly don’t get the increasingly bitter split, right down the middle of the UK.

All over Twitter and Facebook, on the news and on debate shows, and even in the pub between friends, I’ve seen increasingly vitriolic comments and jabs that are increasingly divisive.

I’ve seen smart people saying dumb things, and it’s all just…increasing. (I even thought about linking directly to some of these posts, but that just made me feel all dirty inside).

Yes, I’m going to be a bit angry and confused for a while, and I may continue to throw around words like jingoism or even hypocrisy.

But while I disagree strongly with the outcome and how it came to be, that doesn’t mean I’m right anymore than eating a steak makes me a cow.

Everyone’s so damn interested in proving how right they are or how wrong the other guy is. It’s being right at all costs, even if that comes down to playground name calling or public shaming.

The flip-side of wanting to be right is, of course, not wanting to be wrong, and not wanting to be seen to be wrong.

Being right is a pursuit that robs you of your senses and good judgement. It subverts and it derails. It distracts and it damages.

Ass-hats and angry bears…

As well as turning you into a total ass-hat, the pursuit of being right will fuck you over like an angry bear, tearing chunks out of you as you cling onto being right as a means to being whole.

I don’t know if I’m right or wrong when it comes to the EU. I honestly don’t care either way.

I’m just trying to find ways to make sense of it that allows me to move forwards in ways that bring out my best, not my worst.

Acceptance and pragmatism over judgement and bitterness.

I’m not there yet, but I know it’s a process.

And this is the nub of it.

Letting go of the need to be right is an active, ongoing choice. It takes work and it requires uncertainty, which is why it’s easier not to bother.

But in the face of uncertainty, I would much rather proceed with grace and a gentle confidence rather than posturing and blame.

That’s gotta be a better way.

Am I right?

How to Confidently Say No Without Being An Asshole

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It's a No!

Can you just do me a quick favour?

I need you to drop what you’re doing, run down to the end of the road, flag down a car, take a ride to the mall and get hold of some floral print wallpaper, a pair of chinos and a Lego Princess Castle. Can I get that stuff in the next hour, cool?

What do you mean, no?

Okay, so that’s a bit of a silly example, but what if you were asked to stay late at work through this week? What if a friend asked you for a loan? What if your partner asked you to get matching tattoo’s? What if someone at work asked you to help them out in covering up a screw-up? And what if someone you weren’t in love with asked you to marry them?

Saying “No” is one of those things that make us feel horrible. Like we’re doing wrong by someone. That we’re letting someone down. Or that it makes us an asshole for not saying Yes, because helping people out or grabbing opportunities is what we’re lead to believe is the “right” thing to do.

But the balance between the things you say Yes to and the things you say No to is one that can spin your life into a confidence-free realm of people-pleasing and validation.

Your confidence can vanish in the face of a conflict or a difference of opinion, so here’s how to say no without being an asshole.

1. Know that it’s your right

The meme that grabbing life with both hands means saying Yes to everything you can is wrong like penguin pie and panda pudding at a Greenpeace picnic.

So check out what your beliefs are around this. Do you believe that saying No is unhelpful or inherently negative? Do you believe that saying No to someone is letting them down? Do you believe that saying Yes is what successful people do, or that saying Yes more often is a desirable trait?

Saying No is your right. And it’s a right you can employ when:

  • offering the resources asked for will cause you or someone else harm or damage
  • saying Yes will fly in the face of what matters to you (i.e. one of your personal values)
  • you simply cannot afford, on a physical, emotional or spiritual level, to say Yes

Exercising that right doesn’t make you mean, it doesn’t make you selfish and it doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you assured and confident in knowing your self.

2. Make it less dramatic

It’s easy to see the act of saying no as something that’s inherently conflictive, that it sets up a situation where one of you is right and one of you is wrong. And sure, sometimes it might lead to a difference of opinion or even a polarization.

But it doesn’t need to be a drama or a screaming catfight. It can be “I’m really sorry, I can’t this time” rather than “No, fuck the fuck off“.

Look at what’s in your head around creating or avoiding conflict (after all, unless you’re Blofeld or Trump nobody really likes entering into conflict) and see how you might be conflating that with saying no.

Replace the thought that wants you to avoid conflict with one that says, “It’s okay if I say no to this”, and remove the drama from the act of saying no by recognising that you’re not rejecting the person asking, but simply saying no to what they’re asking of you in that moment, and for good reason.

3. You Don’t Have to Wound

I’ve said no in my work, in friendships, in relationships and in the bedroom. And through the act of saying no I’ve learned how easy it is to mess it up.

I’ve hurt someone by rejecting them or their idea rather than saying, “You know, that’s really not for me.” I’ve offended someone by attacking the fact they asked in the first place rather than saying , “I love that you asked me but I can’t right now.” And I’ve wounded someone by unwittingly making it personal instead of saying, “I won’t be able to do that, but how about we do this instead?”

Sometimes you avoid saying no because you don’t want to hurt, offend or wound, right? But you don’t have to make it personal and you can say no with compassion and empathy.

Compassion and empathy don’t require that you understand the reasons why they’re asking, only that you appreciate that they’re doing their best with what they’ve got.

So what if you took it as a compliment that you’re being asked? What if you could express gratitude for the fact that they reached out and asked you for something? What if there was another way—perhaps even a better way—you could help or add value?

Come from a place of love, compassion or empathy and you never have to hurt, offend or wound.

But, above all….

Clarity counts.

If you employ these strategies and the result is a jumbled forest of grey trees with a good point lost somewhere inside, then you’re doing both of you a disservice.

You can stand firm and be clear where you need to be, and indeed, often that’s exactly what’s called for.

Think, “Sorry, I can’t do that” rather than “Well, maybe when I have a bit more time or when the days get longer or when there’s a full moon or when my cat learns the merengue.”

Saying no doesn’t make you an asshole. It makes you a person who trusts they can make a good decision.

It makes you confident.

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