If you must

For a long time, people would confirm that they’d rather watch a flawed character, but deep down, they’d like to be Superman.  Because his humility, kindness and resilient mental health are a perfect match for his unlimited powers.  Unfortunately, as we’ve turned our lives into a reality show, more people seem happier emphasising their mess.*
(Seth Godin)

Many can be the challenges within, even more than those without.  The good news is:

‘Everyone has some Superman in them.  But it takes emotional labour and hard work to reclaim it.’*

Our superpowers, though, are unlikely to stop buildings collapsing with our bare hands and make it possible to fly.  There are, however, amazing powers to be found that, largely, go unnoticed, like patience.  Who’d have thought patience might be a superpower:

“And patience has a positive tonic effect on others; because of the presence of the patient person, they revive and go on, as if he were the gyroscope of the ship providing a stable ground.”**

At any, we are both who we are and what we do – we are an incomplete truth.  Without these, our different looks like everyone else and being different takes us nowhere that really matters.  Youngme Moon describes an assignment from her high school days, ‘to go for twenty-four hours trying to be nonconformist … a chance to reveal a more authentic version of ourselves to each other’.^  Her repost to this challenge was to wear pyjamas and sweatshirt – pretty much the same as the rest of her year.  Except for one quiet person, J, who began standing up to answer questions, respectfully as if they mattered to him:

‘What I learned from this assignment was that there are two kinds of difference.  There is a kind of difference that says nothing, and there is a kind of difference that speaks volumes. … I chose a kind of difference that said nothing.  Not that I was alone in this respect; most of us chose to say nothing that day.’^

True nonconformists ‘change the paradigm of what people believe possible’^^ and we all have different ways of displaying this:

‘But each of is is temperamentally sensitive to a certain range of information that we learn to value more than most other people do, and it is likely that we will consider feedback involving that information to be more relevant than others might.’*^

Another way of seeing this, through the lens of character and personality, is to notice what matters to you and why it matters.

Your MUST is what your life is saying you have to do in response to something that matters in the world.

In the journeys I take with people, I ask them to keep two lists over several weeks: a “loved it” list and a “loathed it” list.  These are about noticing energy: the loved it for noticing when we are really energised by something, the loathed it for when we feel energy seeping out of us in a dangerous way.  In-between there’s a lot of “white noise.”

What we discover is that we can find our must in the things that comprise our loved it list and sometimes in the contents of our loathed it list – where we identify something we want to change.  Sometimes both.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: A slow motion train wreck.)
(**Paul Goodman, quoted in Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.)
(^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(^^From Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler’s Bold.)
(*^From Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s Flow.)


My Journey Into the Heart of Terror by Jurgen Todenhöfer
Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor by Maria Popova
One for the haters by gaping void
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin

The Mindful Doodling Workshop

Explore some slowness through mindful doodling, learning about the different ways visual practice can help us to see more, feel more and do more.

The workshop can either be a 6-8 hour experience exploring the difference dawdling can make to our lives.  Get in touch to find out more.



When doing what you must do helps me to do what I must do

Why should you compare? said Uncle.  Each thing possesses its own special essence which has nothing to do with anything else.  Understand the essence of a thing said Uncle, and you know everything you need to know.*
(Alan Lightman)

All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them.  We need too be taught these skills, we need guides to show us how.  Without them, our lives get made up for us by other people.**
(Ursula Le Guin)

Don’t get equal, get different.

Your different helps me be different.  That’s how we pass different on.

(*From Alan Lightman’s Mr g.)
(**Ursula Le Guin, quoted in Maria Popova’s Brain Pickings.)

A different kind of playfulness

In play we may move below the level of the serious, as the child does; but we can also move above it – in the realm of the beautiful and sacred.’*
(Johan Huizinga)

Each day your soul weaves your life together.  It weaves the opaque and ancient depth of you with the actual freshness of your present experience.**
(John O’Donohue)

Are you ready to play?  To play more?

Or is play something you’ve left behind as you “grew up”?

If we feel playfulness is beneath us, that we want to be known as a serious person, then we’re really worried about what others may think of us.

Playfulness requires our humility to enter; it is a child-size doorway.  But whilst playfulness can be lighthearted, it can be the highest form of seriousness.  Here we find a playfulness that lies on the far side of seriousness.

(*From Johan Huizinga’s Homo Ludens.)
(**From John O’Donohue’s Eternal Echoes.)

Other blue reading:
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus.
Powerful metrics with hidden variables (blog) by Seth Godin.
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King
Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.
The Craftsman 
by Richard Sennett.
The Power of Moments by Chip and Dan Heath.
Words Are My Matter by Ursula Le Guin.
The Flat White Economy by Douglas McWilliams.
Different by Youngme Moon
Talking about a revolution (blog) by gapingvoid.

No one is better at being you than you

Impersonators are always playing catch-up.

Every day, though, we have the opportunity to develop and contribute who we are and what we do.

This is how we are able to find and live in meaning.

It isn’t this way for everyone yet, by any means.

What better thing then can we live for but to spread the word, encouraging and enabling as many as possible to bring more to the party than others expect?


The hostile life

they graffitied on the walls of the city, sometimes the very ones  on which was already printed Défense d’afficher (‘It is forbidden to post’).  Défense de ne pas afficher (‘It is forbidden not to post’), someone wrote on the wall at Sciences-Po in 1968*
(Lauren Elkin)

The greatest gift you can give to a person is to see who she is and to reflect back to her, when we help people to be who they want to be, to take back permission they deny themselves, we are doing our best, most meaningful work.**
(Bernadette Jiwa)

There’s such a thing a hostile brand.  Youngme Moon describes how,

‘Instead of laying down the welcome mat, they lay down the gauntlet.’^

The hostile life is not easy to find, it’s almost as though it doesn’t want to be found.  When we cross its threshold, though, we realise that it has been our own reluctance to something more difficult, more challenging, more demanding that has made it appear as it has.  In the movie Avatar Jake Sully will know which flying banshee he must bond to because it will be the one that will try to kill him – a picture for the way before us being the one that will demand much of us:

There are many easy ways, this is not one of them.

(*From Lauren Elkin’s Flâneuse.)
(**From Bernadette Jiwa’s Meaningful.)
(^From Youngme Moon’s Different.)

Other blue reading:
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus.
Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb.
How to give a five-minute presentation (blog) by Seth Godin.
Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor (blog) by Brain Pickings.
Letter From Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King.
Drawn Together Through Visual Practice.
by Yuval Noah Harari.

Now let that be a lesson

The night is large and full of wonders.*
(Lord Dunsany)

Choosing to develop character is difficult, because it requires avoiding the shorter, more direct path. It can be slow, expensive and difficult work.  […]


Every time we avoid the easy in favour of what’s right, we create ripples.**
(Seth Godin)

Some see facing our failure as being nothing more than accepting our punishment.

It isn’t easy, but those who are prepared to face their failure, to be open to it as something transformative then they find growth for who they are and what they can do.

(*Lord Dunsany, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(**From Seth Godin’s blog: Character matters (if you let it).)

Other blue reading:
Different by Youngme Moon
My Journey into the Heart of Terror by Jürgen Todenhöfer.
Flâneuse by Lauren Elkin
Words Are My Matter by Ursula Le Guin.

Add-venture (out of bounds)

‘Work that alters the canon, that begins outside of it but then is incorporated into it, is how our culture grows.*
(Seth Godin)


Breathe deeply.

Breathe deeper, more slowly, expanding.

Breathe even more deeply.

I could continue for a while yet and what we’d find is that we’re capable of deepening our breathing.

It’s just a little picture for us of how there is more to us than we first thought, that often we stop inside the bounds before we push them, before we leap beyond them.

Worlds within waiting to be discovered as we find ways to explore them.

And then theworlds we are for each other, too.

(*From Seth Godin’s blog: What happened and what will you add?)

Other blue reading:
Different by Youngme Moon
Messy by Tim Harford.
It’s all about the adventure, baby (blog) by gapingvoid.
The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell and Bill Moyers.


I wanted a bike but soon discovered that I couldn’t make one by taking a wheel off my trike – whichever wheel I chose.

I should explain, I was perhaps four at the time.

As I think back, I also realise I couldn’t have made a trike out of a bike by somehow adding a wheel to it.

They’re different machines.

I hope I now know now that I can’t be something I’m not, but I can be who I am.

Other blue reading:
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus.Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb
On taking a hint (blog) by Seth Godin.
Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor (blog) by Brain Pickings.)
Different by Youngme Moon
More Tine to Think by Nancy Kline
The Craftsman by Richard Sennett
What do you want to be when you grow up? (blog) by gapingvoid

Reverse creativity

You are eliminating the extraneous in order to shed light on the fundamental.
Less is more only when more has become a commodity.*
(Youngme Moon)

Just as having too much stuff shrinks our brains through the activation of stress hormones […] so does having too little time.  The stress of having lots to do is compounded by the stress of never having enough time to do it.**
(Michael Bhaskar)

You’d think that with all we have we’d be way happier but what one piece of research after another shows is that our levels of happiness have not gone up in accord with our income, possessions

and life opportunities.  Michael Bhaskar tackles what he names the “creativity myth,” differentiating between creative solutions and creating more things – everything being lumped under the one banner of creativity.  So much of what we think of as creativity today is about making more faster:

‘Most #creativity is much more about doing the actual work than it is about being a frickin’ genius.’^ 

Hugh Macleod points out that coming up with something creative is really 95% schlepping and only 5% being in the zone.  Perhaps we ought to be making less more slowly if it means coming up with better solutions to problems affecting people, and our planet and everything in it.  Perhaps if we are less in a rush to be seen as the next genius and put in the hard work which begins with humility, gratitude and faithfulness then we’ll value the failure that leads the better gift.  As Moon describes the “reverse brand” she could be describing the reverse creative or reverse genius:

‘They draw us down a divergent path by applying pressure in exactly the place where we least anticipate it.’*

There will be a lopsidedness to this, Moon says, and such brands find themselves under pressure to be more well-rounded, which often means more features and more choice, which then means producing more faster.  It is a journey to the over-competitive middle.

How does reverse creativity work?

My experience tells me it happens by slowing down in order to see more, feel more and do more.  To see what is needed up close, to feel not only what this means for us but to those we seek to help, and to be more imaginative with what we have rather than producing more.  Not only for what we can make but also for who we are.

(*From Youngme Moon’s Different.)
(**From Michael Bhaskar’s Curation.)
(^From gapingvoid’s blog: How to scale your genius.)

Other blue reading:
Messy by Tim Harford
Create Dangerously by Albert Camus.Fooled by Randomness by Nassim Taleb
Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin.
What do advertisers want? (blog) by Seth Godin.
Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor (blog) by Brain Pickings.)

The blue planet

This is what the search portals provided; they promised to hold our hands as we ventured into this unregulated ocean of content.*
(Youngme Moon)

Live the questions now.**
(Rainer Maria Rilke)

The year is 1995 and Youngme Moon is discovering the internet.

In milliseconds we can be hyperlinked to thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions of pages of content.  These blue hyperlinks promise us the world and more: a blue planet.

Yet the world has always been blue.

Perhaps more slowly, but we have always been able to connect with people, ideas, artefacts and the natural world.  What has happened, though, is that the borders have become more permeable or have disappeared completely.  Once information and knowledge was power.

You might have known something that I needed but because you did not want to give that power away, you didn’t tell me.  Now I can find out what I need online.  In fact I can find out way more than I need or want to know.

Now I have a different problem.  Now it’s my need to navigate or curate all the information: to find my way through and know how to use what I discover.  Relationships are even more important now:

‘How we treat others is the only proof of truth we have.^

We are seeing the development of new kinds of navigators and guides.  These people help us to live in the question, to remain open for longer, discovering what we need, identifying what resonates with us, developing our awareness, gathering and extending skills.

Moon describes Google as a “reverse brand.”  Google came along with a largely white home page and changed the information market:

‘Whereas Yahoo! offered an ocean, Google offered a blank slate.’*

Instead of look at all this information we have for you it’s asking where do you want to go? This idea of reverse branding makes me imagine the reverse guide:

‘They take away what we expect, but then give us what we don’t.  They say no where others say yes but they also say yes where others say no. […] They eliminate but they also elevate.’*

These blue guides or navigators first of all listen – they are our white page.  They live within the questions of who we are and what is our contribution.  They help us to see that who we are and what we have already provide the initial hyperlinks to others, to our world and to ourselves

(*Different by Youngme Moon.)
(**Rainer Maria Rilke, quoted in the Northumbria Community‘s Morning Prayer.)
(^From Frank Schaeffer’s Why I Am An Atheist Who Believes in God.)

Other blue reading:
 Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari.
 Create Dangerously by Albert Camus.
 Letter from Birmingham Jail by Martin Luther King Jr.
 Flaneuse by Lauren Elkin.
 Let's get equal (blog) by gapingvoid.
 Why even bother to think about strategic? (Blog) by Seth Godin.
 Nietzsche on Truth, Lies, the Power and Peril of Metaphor (blog) by Brain Pickings.)
 Drawn Together Through Visual Practice by Aftab Erfan.