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Read anything you can get your hands on

Liverpool Central Libraries – The Atrium on Light Night 2017

Reading books, magazines, articles and blog posts across a truly diverse range of topics is a huge help to stimulate novel ideas. This is, I think, the heart of a creative approach.

To be stimulated to generate new ideas, we need to draw from a wide range of influences. To achieve this, we should always read in fields or disciplines that are not familiar to us. I often read books that stretch my thinking, with a limited understanding of the topic.

Does it matter that I don’t understand? I don’t think so. I remember, for example, reading “Small is Beautiful” by E F Schumacher and only having the slightest grasp of the economic theories he was describing. I pushed on through and finished the book because it opened up the world of new ecology thinking and a whole way of thinking that I knew very little about when I read it in the 1990s. It set me off in many new directions, reading Fritjof Capra, for example – who I wouldn’t otherwise have come across.

Stretching our understanding, being open to ideas and letting them in so that we can absorb them to grasp them at a later date – like mental gymnastics. It doesn’t just happen when we read. A few years ago I asked an old school friend of mine, now a university lecturer in Mathematics, to explain String Theory to me. His description was beautifully clear and concise. I think I understood the concepts there and then – for about an hour or so, then it faded. But the clarity at the time was stunning.

There is a thought with Buddhist teachings, that as we receive the transmission from a great teacher, even if we don’t understand what we are hearing at a conscious and logical level, there will still be a shift at a deeper lever. This is a great way of describing this phenomenon. It’s always worth keeping our minds open to ideas, no matter how far removed from our current thinking they are. An open mind is a rigorous mind!

Advice to my three sons – read anything you can get your hands on. Oh, but do bear in mind that we have limited time in our lives, so don’t waste it reading things that don’t stretch us and show us something new. See reading as a sense of constant wonder. And enjoy.


Whilst you are here: have you seen my two books released this year?

Values Count is available from Amazon or directly from my website. It’s a book about values based approaches to work. Essential for anyone who wants to work with a strong sense of purpose.

Blue: Experiments in Sound is my latest collection of poetry with illustrations, the latest stories about Blue, the misanthropic 21st century man in search of a meaning. It is available in a limited edition from my website.


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Values Count – here are the opening paragraphs

Earlier in the week I mentioned that my new book has just been published and is available on Amazon. Here are the opening paragraphs from the Introduction:

“It’s all about the money – that seems to be the measure by which everything is judged these days. Every day we hear about new scandals relating to the ethical basis of business, whether it’s large multi-national companies not paying their taxes or corporates who distort their accounts to massage the stock market, or banks that lend irresponsibly and then look to governments to bail them out when they are at risk of collapsing. Too big to fail was a mantra that was all over the newspapers a few years ago.   Those of us who work in the public sector are not exempt from these problems.

In recent years there has been a growing rhetoric that says “private sector good, public sector bad”. This manifests itself in neo-liberal politics where the market rules and public sector provision is seen as intrinsically inefficient. We increasingly live in a world that knows the price of everything without any underlying sense of the value of what we do.”

Intrigued? Why not read the whole book. Follow the links in this post or search for my name on Amazon.

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What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common?

Yes, today is launch day. I’ve broken all of the rules. Apparently, the idea is to get ready for book launch – prepare all your social media, have pre-release copies ready to share with people to get reviews on Amazon. Did I do any of that? No, it took so long to get to this point that I just pressed publish and the book is live on Amazon right now. Strangely, Amazon has decided that the book was published back in September 2016. OK, confession time – that would be my mistake as I forgot to change the publication date and now it is fixed and unchangeable. Oh well!

Here we are then, February 2017 and the book that I finished the first draft of in September 2015 during the Writing Marathon which I described here in the blog, is finally published. Since that first draft I have gone through a lot of redrafting, layout and basic design work. I taught myself how to make a book cover which was not as easy as I thought it would be. Then I have gone through the process of learning how to self-publish through CreateSpace. A few months ago I almost gave up as I hit the wall on pagination and page numbering problems. For a few weeks I had “ghost pages” that couldn’t be seen but were there in the number count. Very strange! After a few weeks of rehabilitation and a huge amount of support and badgering (thanks Su!) the book finally made it to the finishing line.

And that is where I am today. Wondering why I didn’t think about a marketing campaign before now. That process needs developing over the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you are interested, here is the description of the book from the back cover:

The world is falling apart, governments are losing control of their economies and of their tax levying powers. With this backdrop, Stuart Eglin sets out to describe how values based working can act as an antidote to the problems we face. Beginning with his own experience and setting out a range of practical approaches that can be taken to develop a values base, Stuart also looks at large-scale examples of values based approaches and identifies some of the challenges that are faced by corporations. This is a practical book which shows how to develop a values based framework…

Here is the link to find it on Amazon. It should be appearing as a Kindle book in the next few days too. (Another formatting process to learn!)

Oh, and finally, if you would like to leave a review on Amazon that would be absolutely brilliant.

What do Innocent Drinks, Ben & Jerry’s and Robin Williams have in common? Well, the answer is in the book of course. It’s all to do with taking values base approaches to the way that we work.

You can also buy the book directly from this website here. Here ends the shameful piece of self-promotion. Thank you for reading.

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Living Libraries

picton-libraryWe are all living libraries. We carry within us memories, ideas, beliefs and stories. Imagine a world beyond the bookshelves where we function like tribes and tribal leaders – carrying the traditions and ideas of the human race in our conversations and interactions. And stories are built upon and curated by each of us, adding our own perspective on it.

Imagine a world where those interactions exist in real time, conversations between us. And also exist in virtual memories, blog posts, tweets, posts on Facebook. All of these could be seen as different ways to build these living libraries.

Librarians and Knowledge Workers will be shouting to me about the need for taxonomy, for structure so that things can be found. But in a world of advanced search maybe we really don’t need sophisticated cataloguing systems. We would just search these living libraries with the terms that we want to know about.

Would that work? Should we be worried that perhaps 99% of information that is on the internet is part of the long long tail that no-one ever reads because it is beyond the first few pages of search results on Google? Is this why community and connection are so important to ensure democracy of information, to ensure that the living knowledge that we are building is of value to someone out there – even if it is only a very small community?

Living Libraries into the future become an augmented and virtual reality mix between online and in memory sources of knowledge that we develop simple approaches to searching so that we can be part of a gorgeously curious world. Imagine that!

(November Challenge 11/31)

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Remembering Borders: gone but not forgotten!

borders-bookshopI’m taking you back a bit here. More than a decade, I think. It was the opening of a Borders store near where I lived in the Wirral, North West England. Shortly after it opened I visited to see what all the fuss was about.

The new store was in the middle of a large shopping outlet. It was a huge warehouse filled with books, CDs and a Starbucks cafe. What was not to like!

That first visit was remarkable. I had been working on a PhD thesis for some years, and finding the books I needed was always tricky. One book, for example, I had tracked down to a bookshop in Australia as it was long out of print at that time (the book, Barbara Hannah’s “Encounters with the Soul” in case you were wondering). I waited weeks and weeks for that book to be shipped half way around the world. It arrived whilst I was away on summer holiday. I was so excited when I found the parcel on my return. I was equally excited when I borrowed a book from the British Library through my local library for £2-75. Being able to access books like this was amazing.

So, imagine how exciting it was to browse through bookshelves and find book after book that was on my reading list, all in this bookshop just a few miles from where I lived. After about half an hour I emerged from the bookshelves with a pile of 20 or so books. Of course, I knew I couldn’t afford to buy that many books in one go – I had to put most of them back. But just knowing that the books were there was the exciting bit! Knowing that I could call in anytime and pick up a book.

That’s only half the story. In the CD section I was amazed to find a whole set of shelves dedicated to one record label. And that record label was ECM. To understand why this was a big deal, read this blog post. Having been obsessed with music on this label (Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Ketil Bjornstad, Sidsel Endresen) since I was 15 I couldn’t believe that a shop had a huge chunk of the label’s catalogue there for me to buy.

Again, much as I would have loved to borrow the whole collection of CDs and promise to return them once I had listened to them – I had to content myself with a couple of purchases and placate myself with the fact that I could return again at my leisure.

And I did – many times.

But my visits weren’t enough – no single individual’s shopping habits can save the fate of a shop. After several years of happy shopping, Borders changed. It was struggling with competition from online sellers like Amazon (or perhaps it was only Amazon!) Borders made the fatal mistake of chasing sales to the bottom of the market. Instead of sustaining an incredibly wide range of specialist books, they filled more and more shelves and tables with cheap books. That part of the market was really busy already. They would never sustain a business model in the pile them high and sell them low part of the market.

The inevitable happened just before Christmas one year (I think it was 2009). The store closed as Borders went through a massive restructuring in the USA.

I really miss that store. Of course, I can buy whatever I want through Amazon. And for second hand and out of print books there are global sellers too. In Liverpool, where I live there are independent bookshops too (although they struggle to keep going) and a branch of Waterstones and Blackwells (but they were never quite into the eclectic buying patterns of Borders). Somehow, it’s not the same as being able to walk the store and pick up books as I passed. Then, to enjoy the total pleasure of browsing through the books and music in the coffee shop before deciding which to buy.

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Four Bookmarks

pile-of-books-008It’s nearly the end of April and I have read 24 books so far this year. That’s double the number I had read by this time last year. No, I haven’t been doing a speed reading course or only reading books that are no more than 20 pages in length!

There are a number of reasons why my reading pace has quickened. Partly it’s because I am reading books which are really firing me up. It’s also because I am spending spare moments reading, whenever I can.

I also will always have three different books on the go at the same time. I make sure that three books are very different, so that I can feel motivated to read one of them depending on my mood.

Then there are two other tricks – firstly, I set myself a daily target of 50 pages. That means completing the average book (200 pages or so) in 4 days.

The second trick requires 4 bookmarks. The first bookmark shows where I am up to in the book. The second bookmark shows the page I am aiming for by the end of the day i.e. 50 pages on in the book. The third bookmark shows tomorrow’s target page, another 50 pages on. And the final bookmark shows where the book ends. This is important because often a book has an index, notes, bibliography etc and the actual book finishes well short of the final cover.

It sounds simple – but those bookmarks turn a book into realistic chunks.

So, it may not be a sophisticated speed reading course with eye tracking and the like. But it is a simple set of techniques which has resulted in doubling the number of books I am getting through.

And it does that without losing the meaning and value of what I am reading.

Give it a go!

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Back to Jung

P1030306I first became interested in Jung when a friend at university, Helen Scholes (now Chatterton – a textile maker living in Liverpool), bought me “Memories, Dreams and Reflections” for my birthday. This was Jung’s memoir written towards the end of his life. I was instantly captivated by the things he wrote about. Many years later a PhD gave me the opportunity to read much more of his work and grasp many of his concepts in more detail.

Between 1997 and 2004 I worked on my PhD. The thesis I produced was called “Working with Archetypes”. The focus of the thesis was organisational change in healthcare. I took the work of Carl Jung on archetypes, alchemy and individuation. From this I then explored the work of the Archetypal Psychologists, a group founded by James Hillman who had studied with Jung in Zurich. This group comprised a diverse range of thinkers who took archetypal principles and applied them to their own fields. Hillman emphasised the importance of metaphor and image in helping us to understand the world. He also stressed the need for a poly-theistic view of the world.

Within the PhD I developed a set of techniques to make organisational change easier to understand and easier to endure.

The problem with doing a PhD is that when you reach the end of the journey you can find yourself not wanting to revisit the material again for a long time. Having immersed in it for 7 years and become an expert in a very narrow field, it’s time for a break!

So, here I am 9 years later and finally interested in revisiting the writings of Carl Jung, James Hillman, Daryl Sharp, Marie Louise von Franz and Barbarah Hannah amongst others. I am saddened to hear that Hillman died a couple of years ago. Towards the end of his life his writings had received a relatively wide exposure and become big sellers. Work has begun to publish a collected works which I will be keen to get hold of (although I do already have a dozen of his books in separate volumes). Dipping back into the original Jung is also refreshing.

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What’s he reading in there?

20120406-145504.jpgI mentioned in an earlier post about Speed Reading that I am trying to increase the speed at which I read and be much more focused about getting the most out of reading. So far this year I have read 18 books. The pace has gone up in the last few weeks. Of course, some books deserve to be sipped slowly and savoured rather than read at speed.

For this post, I thought I would give you the Top Six books I have read so far this year:

  1. Margaret Wheatley – So Far From Home. This is a beautifully written book. The author has found regular space in her life for writing retreats. It shows. The book draws on the Buddhism of Chögyam Trungpa. It is all about looking for the place beyond fear, finding the warrior within.
  2. Seth Godin – The Icarus Deception. I have yet to read a book by Seth Godin that hasn’t sparked inspirations for me. I particularly like the bloggish way that he constructs his books making them easier to read. We are all artists and we need to see whatever we do as being about creating art.
  3. Michael Gelb – How to think like Leonardo da Vinci. This is the third time I have read this book. It is hugely influential in my creative and coaching life. The challenge from this reading – should I find a way to work with Gelb? Interesting thought.
  4. Richard Skelton – Limnology. I am gradually collecting the poetry and music of Richard Skelton. I love what he does and the way he does it. This is a beautifully produced book of poetry and poem art. On the theme of rivers and with a CD of music to accompany it. Sublime.
  5. Dalai Lama – Freedom in Exile. The life story of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. A fascinating read. I learnt so much from this book. Some of the passages about the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese are chilling to read.
  6. Chris Brogan – It’s not about the tights. A short kindle book which I really enjoyed reading. I also like listening to his podcasts. It’s not the tights that make the super hero, it’s the CAPE (confidence, acceptance, permission and execution).

All books well worth a read. At the moment I am in the middle of reading a book of poems and lyrics by Paul McCartney, a book by Carl Jung about flying saucers and the latest book by leadership coach Michael Neill. If they are great reads I will let you know.

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Different ways of thinking

A few years ago I read an inspirational book by Michael Gelb called “How to think like Leonardo da Vinci“. It’s an amazing book to prompt different thinking and increase your powers of creativity. The book came to mind last week as I was thinking through some ideas in the day job.

I want to push our work to the next level, really explore a big idea and take it out across the region. To do this, we need to be thinking differently.

Revisiting some of the ideas in that book by Gelb, I found the 7 types of thinking which he identifies. It’s a great way to classify diverse approaches to thinking. Here they are:

  1. Curiosita – insatiable curiosity and an unrelenting quest for learning.
  2. Dimostrazione – testing things out through experience, persistence and willingness to learn from mistakes.
  3. Sensazione – continual refinement of the senses to enliven experience.
  4. Sfumato – literally “going up in smoke”. Willingness to embrace ambiguity, paradox and uncertainty.
  5. Arte / Scienza – the balance between science and art, logic and imagination. Whole brain thinking.
  6. Corporalita – cultivation of grace, ambidexterity, fitness and poise.
  7. Connessione – recognising the connectedness of all things. Systems thinking.

When I look at that list, I can see that there we already have work across a number of these areas. But there is a lot to be gained from ensuring that we are truly embracing ALL of these ways of thinking.

I’m trying to draw together the strands of work that we do into a coherent and overarching programme. This model developed by Gelb from da Vinci’s Notebooks provides a framework to help to build a coherent approach.

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Speed Reading

I love reading. I’ve always got a few books on the go at once. I also like variety, so I do read books from a wide range of genres. Years ago I set up a simple set of lists to keep track of my reading:

  • Books Read – I keep a list of the books I have read as I complete them. In my personal journal I also write a short review. This might only be a couple of lines but it’s often really useful to prompt me when I look back. It also gets my critical faculties going which is no bad thing. 
  • Books to Read – I have a list of the books that I have bought or borrowed that I have yet to read. This list also includes virtual books in Kindle or iBooks and PDFs of books too. This list just seems to grow and grow. At the last count it had reached 120.
  • Books to get hold of – this is a list of books that I want to get. It’s a paper list, but I also use Amazon’s Wish List to capture as well.

That middle list is getting bigger as I buy books at a faster rate than I am reading them. I tend to read about 30 – 40 books a year. Now, some books don’t take long to read, whilst others can take quite a big commitment.

That’s where this idea came from. When I was doing my PhD a few years ago I learnt how to speed read, and I also learnt how to glean from a book what I want from it. It’s not always necessary to read every word that exists in a book.

If you consider that reading books at 50 per year, it’s not possible to read more than 2,500 books in an average adult life. Then you realise that it is important to be selective about what you read, and also to ensure that you maximise the learning by being selective about the time commitment given to each book.

With this in mind, I am going to sift through my list of 120 books and select out 20 that can be speed read. They will be books that can be read quickly either because of the length, content or because I only need a small part of it. Having selected the 20 books I will then read one or two a week. I’m curious to find out how this goes. Wish me luck!