Category Archives for "Writing"

The War of Writing

In any act of creativity there is always a war going on. Many people attempting to create don’t get very far because they are unaware of this. Writers suffer from this war. In fact, all writers do.

This particular warfare is waged between the writer’s ears. It’s in the mind. It’s about which mental narratives she is tuning into at any given time. There are fundamentally two ‘voices’ that vie for the writer’s moment-by-moment belief in the act of writing: the Creator and the Critic. Commentators on this conflict use different labels. Some call them the right-brain and the left brain, or the Artist and the Judge.

But which of these voices is right? Which one should the writer listen to?

The war between the Creator and the Critic is between the writer's ears.

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Well, usually they both are right to some degree, but they are best listened to at different times in the process of writing.

For example, the Critic is essential before a piece is shared in public. But the Critic is less useful when in the act of drafting for the first time. The Critic can prevent or interrupt a sense of flow. In fact, if the Critic is the dominant voice in the writer’s head, then it can cause writer’s block. It has I’m sure prevented many potentially good writers ever attempting to develop their skill in any significant way. At worst, the Critic can begin to shape the writer’s identity in a very negative, limiting way.

However, the other voice, the Creator comes into its own when it comes to the matter of getting something down as a draft. But left to their own, in extremes, they will burden the world with poor writing. They will create a lot of incoherent ‘noise’, with the skill of writing hardly developed at all.

How do should we bring each of these voices into play at different times? Well, I have a free email series called, “How to Write a Book.” Subscribe below and I will share with you by email different ways of bringing each voice into play at the right time.

The Dual Mindset of an Entrepreneur

At the weekend I came across this gem of a video posted over six years ago. Marten Mikos, the then-CEO of MySQL who sold the company to SUN Microsystems for $1 billion, gives a candid short interview during the Innovate! conference in Zaragoza, Spain, about his key learnings as an entrepreneur. It’s a nine-minute masterclass:

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Do you have a leaning to be negative?

At the BCS Business Change SIG last night in London, we had a great conversation. I expected we would, but I wasn't sure what turn it would take. But isn't that the way of all great conversations?

We were exploring the concept of Resilient Hope. In the discussion following my presentation, one person mentioned he'd be reading Daniel Kahneman's seminal work, Thinking Fast, Think Slow, and he referenced what Kahneman had identified as the Loss Aversion Bias, the tendency we all have for protecting our decisions and investments even if they might be wrong and we are losing, by investing, even more, to shore them up. We don't like losing. This works itself out in public, for example, by major projects and programmes, where clearly the business case is failing or has gone, but such is the investment that has gone into it, we pour good money after bad, because we don't to face the fact that we might have backed the wrong horse.

[shareable cite="Dr Dean Ornish"]Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear.[/shareable]
The conversation led on to talk about the climate of negativity in many of our work cultures and why that is.

I'm reminded of a great book by Dr Brené Brown, called Daring Greatly. Dr Brown is known for her research on shame, vulnerability and scarcity, but what emerges from her work, her interviews with parents and others is something transcendently positive. She is able to identify health through connecting with joy through gratitude.However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.

However, she has remarked that we find joy "terrifying." She has identified a mental narrative that most of us recognise called foreboding joy. Foreboding joy` is where we catch ourselves in joy, and immediately fear that we will pay for it, or fear that something will come along to snatch it away.

This is perfectly irrational of course. People do prevail in joy. Look at this Oprah Winfrey interview with Brené Brown:

In my presentation, I quoted from Dr Dean Ornish, the leader of a breakthrough programme in leading behavioural change for chronically ill patients from lifestyle-induced illness. He said, "Joy is a more powerful motivator than fear." Indeed it was, as people soon began to see and feel health benefits from a radical and repeated regime. Rather than be motivated by "do this or you will die" sort of counsel, they connected with joy and through that resilient hope emerged.

Maybe we need to take more care of joy in our lives and not snuff it out too quickly.


What do you think?
Leave your thoughts below.

If you'd like to access my presentation from last night, plus other material around resilient hope, complete this form below.


What just happened in August??!

Something strange has been happening this month. In fact, not just this month, but it has begun to repeat a pattern over the last three or four Augusts. This pattern is so strange, it prompted me to investigate, and what I have found concerns me.

As you may know, I chair pearcemayfield, a company that offers help and guidance through consultancy and training in major transformational change. pearcemayfield has found that August has been their busiest month for bookings on training courses, and it's been like that for the last two or three years.

That's good, isn't it?

Well, compare that to five or ten years ago. August was a dead month for training courses. It was not worth running any events over the summer because everyone took time off to go on holiday.

So why are we seeing the opposite behaviour now?

From talking to clients I am getting the same story again and again. They need our coaching. They need training, but they can't find the time during the rest of the year. They are driven and distracted by so many things at work. The only time the pressure lifts off a little seems to be in the summer months. This kind of work lifestyle pressure is something that has crept up on most of us in recent years, There's a name for it: chronic time poverty. It's something we have all thought about from time to time... that is before we are distracted by the next thing in our over-busy lives.

There is a name for this phenomenon: chronic time poverty.

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From where I sit, some effects of time poverty in business are quite alarming. It is driving out a set of behaviours that prevent us from doing our best work.

For example, here are a few of them:

  • Decisions take longer to make. In the course of this time, they become more vulnerable to new events and issues interrupting them, or even disrupting them. 
  • People are more distracted by multiple channels of communication, each calling for their attention.
  • There is more noise in the system  and less margin or slack  to take autonomous creative action.

I advise clients engaged in strategic change. These kinds of changes often need to be quite transformational, and so change needs to be led carefully. Most of my clients are time poor to the extent that they are driven by massive multiple agendas.

This sounds far from positive, right?

So, I decided to create some space in my own life, deliberately trying not to consort with this excessive busyness, to investigate this whole area. Among the conclusions I have come to are the following:

  • The drivers for this massive change in working culture do include the usual suspects, such as the internet of things (IoT), but IoT, for example, is merely a type of deeper more structural drivers at work on business,
  • Most "experts" tackle this as a productivity problem, merely about using a few time management techniques or apps. This is both helpful and deceptive. It's helpful in that some of these approaches do give quick wins. Quick wins motivate us and give us hope. But the danger is that we stop there.
  • People address the problem as time management, and that frames the problem in a way that misses a major breakthrough.
  • There is an emerging better way to work that some have identified, and it is profoundly freeing, liberating for all of us.

Busyness is a great enemy of relationships. We become preoccupied with making a living, doing our work, paying bills, and accomplishing goals as if these tasks are the point of life. They are not.

Rick Warren

So I set out to write about this better way of working.

My new book: Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out

In the next few weeks I will be publishing my second solo book: Leading Yourself: Succeeding from the Inside Out. It's been said before that all change starts within the individual, the leader. So my new book will be an exploration of this emergent way of working that frees us from the tyranny of busyness to do our best work.

leading yourself 3d book cover

The reviews I'm getting back are very encouraging. More than that, it comes from my own experience of fighting for this freedom and succeeding. So I'm quite excited about how the book will help the reader, and ultimate their organisations to shift from being driven to pulling into the present the future they'd hoped for.

Get your free chapter now

If you would like to get a chapter from the book now, just click here.

I have a question for you: What is the most important self-leadership lesson you have learned? What effect did it have on your life?

Please leave your answer below. I'm genuinely interested.

Welcome to my new home!

Since I first started blogging on TypePad in the early 2000’s I have moved twice:

Recently I stood down as an Executive of the company taking up an associate Chairman role, and handing over the reins to my valued colleague and friend, Richard Rose. So it seemed right to begin posting on my own site.

In fact, blogging is becoming more important to me once again. I am doing more writing. In fact, I have my second book, where I am the sole author, well on the way. It will be about an emerging new way of working in the 21st Century that we can all choose to adopt. If you would like to be kept informed of when and how the book will be published, please leave your details below and I will give you early access to some samples.

Blogging was supposed to “go away” with the advent of new social media platforms and other media like podcasts. Instead, we are seeing a resurgence of blogging.

So, for now, welcome to my new home.

Question: Why do you think there is a resurgence in blogging? What would you like to read about in these blogs?