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Gifts Aren’t Just for Christmas

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

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

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

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.

2 Ways to Feel Worthy


Way I see it, there are 2 ways to feel worthy, good enough and whole.

Approach 1

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush your teeth
  3. Enjoy your morning coffee
  4. Get to work early, leave a little late and work like a pack horse
  5. Go out of your way to make everyone else happy
  6. Make friends with people, even if you’re not sure you have much in common with them
  7. Work as hard as you can to earn peoples’ trust and respect
  8. Then work even harder to be seen as great at what you do
  9. Avoid situations that might show you up or expose a weakness
  10. Give away your time and trust to others
  11. Chalk up your desire for “more” or “better” to fanciful dreaming
  12. Put the needs of others first
  13. Keep your opinion to yourself if you think it won’t be popular or that others won’t like it
  14. Take off your rough edges and shape yourself to be part of different groups
  15. Repress the thought that you might not be good enough
  16. Accept and embrace your place in the pecking order
  17. Seek out moments of praise
  18. …rinse and repeat
    …and repeat
    …and repeat

Approach 2

  1. Wake up
  2. Brush your teeth
  3. Enjoy your morning coffee
  4. Congratulations
  5. You’re already worthy, good enough and whole.

Which one appeals more?

Unlocking Bravery

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 6 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

self portrait number 1

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?


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


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

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?

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