Posted on

Neil Young – the journey to wonder

For the past few months I have been writing the first draft of my next book. It’s called “The Journey to Wonder”. It’s about the people who have been a huge influence on my life, on how I think, how I work and what I produce. Here is the chapter about Neil Young:

The wild and curmudgeonly man that is Neil Young. This is the man who produces at least one album a year as he heads into his 70s. His music never rests – one minute he is championing high fidelity sound with a new streaming service, the next he is releasing an album recorded in an antique sound booth from the 1950s. Every turn is an exploration, everything he produces is another aspect of the creative flow of this unique talent.

Neil Young – I first heard him in the 1970s when a school friend brought in the double album gatefold sleeve compilation album “Decades”. I took it home and listened. At first I wasn’t sure about the voice, barely reaching the note and so fragile. It took me a while to see the uncompromising nature of his work. Songs of protest and songs of love. But when I did fathom it out, I became a massive fan. Over the years he has travelled the musical sound world. You always know it’s Neil Young because of that voice, but no two albums are the same. He also assembles and dissolves bands as he goes. It’s as though he gets a huge stimulation from working with others, but needs to keep control so he will switch from group to group, looking for something different in each space. Crazy Horse is one of the most famous bands he has put together, and yet still none of these groups transcend what Young brings himself. Going way back, his work with Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (CSNY) was a step beyond the band with just the other three members. It was as though Young’s input brought a disruption to the harmony and created a tension that made for remarkable work. Neil Young really does understand, perhaps intuitively, the role of tension or disruption in creating great work. The challenge is always to maintain the tension so that it doesn’t destroy what is being created. That wasn’t always achieved with CSNY.

As well as releasing 37 studio albums at the last count, he has also released vast amounts of archive material and also produced a number of films, using the pseudonym Bernard Shakey. He has an obsessive interest in model trains and in cars. There is a childlike quality to Young that is both endearing and also perhaps the reason he is able to be so creative and restless in all that he does.

I also really love the way that he releases material. There are always really high standards in his work, but this is someone who has figured out how to keep the inner critic at bay. He gets on with it and produces material at a fearsome rate. And he has the ability to still write songs that sound like they should have been written long ago – they are so natural that I can’t believe that they didn’t exist before now. Perfect tunes and wonderful guitar work. It all fits together into someone who isn’t perfect, someone who is still so inspiring and thoroughly entertaining.

That work rate shows someone who does see the whole creative process as a discipline, something that requires us to settle to the work and get on with it. Each day, being productive – and pushing the work forwards. It’s now such an overstated thing, but still worth repeating: the muse doesn’t visit us so that we can sit down and write. It’s the other way round. We sit down to write regularly and the muse finds us because we are ready and in the process.

The passion in Neil Young comes from truly believing in the things he writes about. Whether it’s a love song, or a song of loss for the band member who died of heroin, there is a part of him in each song. When he chooses politics he may not sit on the correct side of the political fence all of the time as far as the fans are concerned, but he cares deeply about what he writes songs on. From an early song like “Ohio” about the Kent State Massacre, through to the deeply political later albums like “Living with War” and “The Monsanto Years” – Young makes it patently clear what he thinks. This passion shines through in his work.

On top of all this, the man has struggled throughout his life with epilepsy – and has three children, two sons with cerebral palsy and a daughter with epilepsy herself. He helped to found the Bridge School project for children with severe physical and verbal difficulties and supports an annual concert to raise funds for it.

It’s not difficult to see why Neil Young would be a source of inspiration. He has strongly held beliefs, works from a place of passion to create an ever evolving and expanding body of work.

Posted on

Who inspires me 8: Brené Brown

brene-cc-880x1320I wrote about our approach to Rehearsal Days here a while back. In one of our early days together I showed the TED Talk by Brené Brown called “The Power of Vulnerability” (27 million views and still counting). I knew it was a powerful talk and I knew that it was deeply inspiring. I also thought that it was probably a risk to show it to the team as it is so raw with emotion and the team were having a tricky time with some issues when I shared it.

What I didn’t expect was the impact the film had! It was profound. One of the things that I really wanted to achieve with Rehearsal Days was an open space for the core team to work together and feel that there is a trusted space where we can share together, create together and build our own “island of sanity” in an otherwise mad world.

This video achieved that. It brought us straight into some of the really key things about working together. We had the opportunity to consider shame, guilt and vulnerability. Core emotions that are usually under the surface in the workplace and go unnoticed.

For that reason alone, Brené Brown wins a “people who inspire me” award. But the journey goes back further. After seeing the TED Talk the first time a few years ago I bought her first book “The Gifts of Imperfection” and loved the way it talked to the core of our emotions. As Brené likes to emphasise, she is a researcher working in social work research. She knew that the terrain she was heading into was open to criticism. The social sciences have spent so long developing their credibility as “sciences” and then along comes a researcher who wants to talk about soft emotions like shame. And she wants to raise these issues because they were what emerged as she interviewed more and more people. I also read “Daring Greatly” and was again deeply inspired by what she was saying.

These books aren’t just lazy self-help books. She takes the research base really seriously. And then she has the courage to develop her argument out into the space that is so difficult to express and yet so vital to address. In her second TED Talk “Listening to Shame“, Brené Brown half-jokes about the outcome of telling people in her first talk that she had a nervous breakdown whilst going through the research and reaching her conclusions. She then tells us how the explosion of attention for the first talk sent her into a panic about what she had done.

It is so refreshing to hear her talking in such a self-effacing way about her own raw emotions, being so honest and open about the human condition. She really is a wonderful role model of what she is talking about.

Her work has been truly inspiring to me and I look forward to continuing to be inspired by the path that she takes. Thank you Brené.

(November Challenge 13/31)

Posted on

The Day Bowie Died

david bowie

– a poem written yesterday for the new collection called “Blue: experiments in sound” which will be finished by the end of this month. Seemed appropriate to share it today… 


Blue was a big fan –
the day Bowie died, he wore black, was on Facebook early that morning
telling everyone how devastated he was
and then…
when the outpour of emotion had faded, he realised
that he hadn’t actually had a cup of tea with his hero,
he hadn’t shared a conversation,
nothing had happened that wasn’t one way.
The emotional flow was unreal,
like any feelings we have for someone we have never met –
not the emotion that comes from someone we love, lost
but the emotion – all mixed up – that comes from experiences that mean so much.


Blue takes the emotions he pouted out onto social media
wraps them up in a great big silk scarf – puts it in a box
and climbs the ladder to hide it in his loft
safely away from prying eyes.

Posted on

Who inspires me 7: Brian Eno

484px-Brian_Eno_2008It’s been a long time since that first time when I heard the music of Brian Eno and was completely captivated – and there began a lifetime obsession. We are talking the mid 70s. Of course, I had heard Roxy Music before that – but it was his solo work that really began the journey. It’s a journey that I could spend thousands of words describing. But let’s begin with a few headlines.

‘Discreet Music’ was arguably the first album to be called ambient music. It’s not a straightforward case of novel invention – there were many things before it that led to this album. Eno himself refers to the music of French composer Erik Satie whose piano pieces which were minimalist and repetitive and called furniture music by the composer. Eno talked of wanting to make music that could be played in elevators or large open spaces and ignored, but that would be really interesting to listen to as well. Eno was also very interested in systems theory, citing the work of Stafford Beer. He drew on this to develop ideas for repeating patterns that would create gradually changing music with loops of different length.

For this early album, the Discreet Music track itself which filled an entire side of a vinyl album, he was inspired by listening to a piece of classical music that was turned right down low on a record player with only one channel / speaker working. This gave him the idea for a piece of music which should be played so that it is barely audible.

The piece of music he produced was extremely minimalist – another influence was Terry Riley – using simple loops that constantly shifted. It’s a beautiful piece of music. On first hearing it, I was really inspired. Within a few months I had also heard the albums of a friend in the village where I grew up – this included Eno’s earlier solo albums which were a mix of vocal and instrumental, and the albums he made with German musicians Roedelius and Moebius (known as the band Cluster). This was beautiful, stark music heavily influenced by Kraftwerk. I loved it.

Since those early years the journey of listening to Eno’s music has taken me through to places and influences that have created obsessions in their own right. The music of Jon Hassell for example (he will be the subject of another ‘Who inspires me’) – he made an early album with Eno called ‘Fourth World: Possible Musics” which whilst being ambient also included music from Africa. I fell in love with the sounds of Jon Hassell’s music – his trumpet playing heavily influenced by Miles Davis, but also drawing on being taught Indian Raga forms by Pandit Pran Nath. Then there was the work he did with Talking Heads and David Bowie (the Berlin albums for example). The album he made with David Byrne from Talking Heads called “My Life in the Bush of Ghosts” took field recordings of voices from around the world and set them to backbeats. This was at least 20 years ahead of its time. When Eno works with artists he is never just there as a producer. He gets involved in composition, idea generation, plays instruments and sings too. The influence he has on musicians is really profound.

He developed an innovation generator with artist Peter Schmidt called ‘Oblique Strategies’ in the mid 1970s – a deck of cards that helps to shift thinking when the artist gets stuck. It really works. These cards have been incredibly widely used over the years. There are now online versions too.

So, the obsession with everything that Eno did continued. In the 1990s he released a book called “A Year with Swollen Appendices” – a diary of the year 1995, some of which he spent in Russia. It captured beautifully the sheer breadth of his curiosity, his open minded pursuit of so many interests. There is even a section on his interest in perfumes. The book was a huge influence on me. I still dip into it from time to time for inspiration.

Over the years he has created record labels. Obscure Records – with albums by the unheard of at the time Gavin Bryars, Penguin Cafe Orchestra, Michael Nyman amongst others. After 10 albums he ended this project and moved on. Then there were 4 ambient albums, including the sublime “Music for Airports” which I played until it was worn out when it first came out. There was another record label called Opal which produced much of his material in the late 90s and early 2000s. He has created computer programmes for Generative Music and more recently has developed Apps that create music.

Even now, his music pushes boundaries and is always exciting and new.

I love the way he keeps pursuing the new, pushes boundaries and is not afraid to try things that may fail. Some of the things he has tried haven’t worked – but so many have been astonishing, and have opened up new areas for others to follow.

Brian Eno is not just someone who has inspired me. He has influenced my thinking, been a massive influence on my listening habits since my early teens, and has encouraged me to take risks when creating.

As I said at the beginning of this piece, it would be really easy to expand this piece to a whole book on the work of Eno. Others have already done that (see “On Some Faraway Beach” by David Sheppard for a good example)! His direct influence on me could have been described with countless other memories, routes through ideas, pursuit of specific influences and associated thoughts. Suffice to say that I owe the man a big debt for the musical pleasure he has given me and for the impact he has had on my own work. Thank you, Brian!

Posted on

Who inspires me 6: Stephen Covey

The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” -Stephen Covey

I came across Stephen Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” quite late. In mid-career I was working for the NHS Modernisation Agency. This was a national organisation here in England which focused on developing programmes of work that modernised healthcare provision. It was the agency that introduced concepts like lean thinking, six sigma, statistical process control, process re-engineering and many other approaches.

It was a great time in my career. I learnt so much and had so many opportunities to develop new ideas myself. One workshop that was really helpful was a paradigm sharing workshop. This offered staff within the agency an opportunity to present paradigms, theories or approaches that had made a significant impact on their work. It was a great day full of many diverse theories and approaches all presented with the enthusiasm of their sponsor!

When I wasn’t presenting my own thoughts on evaluation, focusing on Realistic Evaluation, I had the chance to look at some of the other ideas. One of these was ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’. I had heard of the book, but I hadn’t read it. The title had put me off. Ginny Edwards, who was running one of the major collaborative programmes, described the approach with such passion that I went away and got hold of the book that week.

The Seven Habits are grouped into 3 sections. The first section looks at the move from dependence to independence (self-mastery):

1 – Be Proactive
2 – Begin with the End in Mind
3 – Put First Things First

The next three habits talk about Interdependence (e.g. working with others):

4 – Think Win-Win
5 – Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood
6 – Synergise

The final habit is concerned with continuous Improvement

7 – Sharpen the Saw

As you can see, some of these concepts have become well-worn phrases – think win-win for example. It is important to read the book and truly grasp what Covey means with these concepts. The whole system as it is reflected in these terms is very powerful. Having read the book and begun to work with some of the concepts in the book, I then began to teach it one-to-one in coaching sessions, and to a group on a Masters programme. This really embedded the learning at a deeper level for me. I found myself using Covey’s ideas and achieving much better results.

After the Seven Habits had become so popular, Covey wrote further books that went into greater depth on some of the key principles. Later, he also wrote a book called the Eighth Habit in which he described a further habit that moves things on from effectiveness to greatness. He describes this as “Find your voice and inspire others to find theirs”. This is very like the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which he calls Self-actualisation. This further habit addresses the issue of contribution and is as important as the other habits, whilst creating a greater coherence and depth to the approach as a whole.

Combined with “Getting Things Done” by David Allen ( more on this book here, here and here) the ideas developed by Covey create a beautifully coherent system to underpin our interactions with others, networking, negotiation, effectiveness and work-life balance.

If you haven’t read the “Seven Habits” book (perhaps like me you thought it sounded a bit of a cliché from its title) then do give it a try. Hopefully it will have as significant an impact on you as it did on me.

Posted on

Who inspires me 5: James Hillman

HillmanSo, I had read “Care of the Soul” by Thomas Moore and found it deeply moving. It was a book about the nurturing of our souls in a world that alienates us. Moore had been a Jesuit monk, and has a doctorate in religion, and further degrees in music and psychology. He worked for a while as a psychotherapist. The book was one of the most startling books I had read – I didn’t pretend to understand all that he was writing about, but it was as though the writing was speaking to something within me that “got” what he was saying even if I didn’t grasp it at a surface level.

I looked around for other work by the same author. He had edited a book called “A Blue Fire” which was extracted writings of James Hillman. And that was the beginning of a reading and listening journey that took me through 15 of his books, each pushing my thinking into new arenas. I had never read psychology or soul work that travelled so widely through architecture, mythology, art, theology, fiction, recipe books and on to the archetype of insects.

James Hillman became a major focus for the PhD thesis I was working on. This work had begun with studying Carl Jung. Then I found that Hillman had studied with Jung in Zürich. He became the Director of Studies at the Jung Institute in Zürich before relocating to the USA where he founded a new movement of Archetypal Psychology (although I suspect he would object to it being described that way). He was also editor of Spring Publications which featured many of the authors within the movement – Charles Boer, Robert Sardello and Thomas Moore himself.

The movement founded by Hillman was not without controversy. Many traditional Jungians thought that he had created a branch of psychology that was frozen in time, reaching back to Platonic thinking, steeped in Greek mythology. They also argued that he had discarded much of what was core to Jung’s work.

Nonetheless, the journey it took me on was fascinating. As a poet, I really enjoyed the way he worked with language and unpacked its latent meaning – often delving back to the derivation of meaning in words to reveal what’s going on when we use language. Fascinating!

Hillman’s work had a huge impact on me – it shaped my thesis, and it drove some of my mid-career thinking about what drives the self forwards. Perhaps his most accessible book is “The Soul’s Code” which puts forward a view that we are born with something in us that drives us forward to fulfil our purpose in life. If you have ever found yourself chasing something, or driven to distraction by something that you have to do – you might find a lot of sense in what he has to say.

Hillman died in 2011 at the age of 85. His substantial collection of books and papers are located at  the Pacifica Graduate Institute in Carpinteria, California. Most of his books are still in print and well worth dipping into.

Posted on

Who inspires me 4: Robert Wyatt

wyattThis week I have been recovering from an operation which has given me plenty of down time for reading. In just a couple of days I devoured a new biography of Robert Wyatt by Marcus O’Dair called “Different Every Time”. It’s a wonderful book – full of well researched insight into Robert Wyatt informed by extensive interviews. I have been mad about the music of Robert Wyatt since the mid 70s when I stumbled across that angelic voice through a series of links. I’m also really keen on Robert Fripp, Brian Eno and Gong. All of these provide links to Robert Wyatt. I think the first time I heard Wyatt singing was on a track from a Daevid Allen (Gong) solo album called Bananamoon. I was transfixed. The track, ‘Memories’, has been recorded a number of times by Wyatt – each time slightly different, each time stunning.

Hearing it sent me rushing out to buy an album by him. I came back with “Ruth is Stranger that Richard” and was educated in jazz – it wasn’t the easiest listen, but I loved what I heard. Then I heard “Rock Bottom” – a magnificent piece of work which creates a totally unique space all of its own. With guests including Mike Oldfield and Ivor Cutler it was a curious and beautiful work of fragile beauty.
I was hooked. Since then I have mined his work – both as member of Soft Machine, Matching Mole and also his solo career. He whimsically describes himself as a minimalist, saying that at least he doesn’t produce a lot of material, unlike others who hardly live up to the name.

I love his singing voice, the instrumentation and the eclectic way he scavenges from all types of music. He is wonderfully humble.
The biography divides into two parts – before and after his fall from a window at a party that left him in a wheelchair. As I read through the book I realised just how much Robert Wyatt has inspired me and in so many ways. From early and obscure work singing poems by ee cummings, and extracts from James Joyce (both to be found on an album on Brian Eno’s Obscure Record label), to his fantastically uncompromising political songs – it’s all done with such conviction and total belief.

Then there are the singles which brought him close to being recognised in the mainstream – especially his cover version of “I’m a Believer” in the 70s and his version of the Elvis Costello and Clive Langer song “Shipbuilding” about the Falklands War in the 80s.

It’s staggering to hear that he still suffers from horrendous stage fright and has hardly appeared live for at least a couple of decades.
He and his wife, Alfie, are an inspiration in their clear vision and total commitment to their art (Alfie is an artist and has created all of his cover art since they met).

On so many levels, Robert Wyatt’s voice has been a constant for so much of my life – reminding me why it is important to follow our hearts, why we need to speak up about things, and why we should never lose our sense of humour.

Thank you, Robert.

Posted on

Who inspires me 3: Margaret Wheatley

“In these troubled, uncertain times, we don’t need more command and control; we need better means to engage everyone’s intelligence in solving challenges and crises as they arise.

From the first time I read the work of Margaret Wheatley back in 2003 when I read her first book, Leadership and the New Science, I was struck by the originality of her thinking. In that book she was connecting together the ‘new’ sciences of chaos and complexity with the work of leadership. It was a refreshingly different book.

At the time I was just concluding my PhD thesis in which I drew heavily on poetry, fiction, art and music to look at archetypes in organisational change. It was a somewhat lonely path to be pursuing but one that I was really excited about.

Since then I have continued to read each book that Meg Wheatley releases – from that first ground-breaking book she has pushed the boundaries, using poetry (often her own), art and photography in her work. She has also taken her work, through the development of the Berkana Institute to communities all over the world and looked in depth at how to work to develop strong communities that are sustainable. She does this through compelling conversations which, more than anything else, work from those who are in the community and build from there, rather than dropping in from outside with ready-made solutions.

It has been a fascinating journey following the work that she has done. Her last book, ‘Walk Out Walk On’,  is a hugely inspirational work. Co-written with Deborah Frieze, it looks at work that has been carried out around the globe to find local solutions to massive problems. In each case, the solution is not what you would expect, and often it rewrites the world view. It takes a given and unravels it.

A couple of months ago I decided that it would be inspirational to work with Meg, someone whose work has been so inspiring. I wrote to her.  As I write this, we are in negotiations to get her to the North West of England as an add-on to a trip she already has planned to Wales. The plan is for her to work with us on looking at how we can sustain communities of practitioners so that they become strong places to support exciting careers.

Hopefully we can combine this with another workshop led by Etienne Wenger – another person who inspires me, but that is another story.

Posted on

Who Inspires me 2: Tom Peters

TomPeters300I studied for a PhD in the 1990s and early 2000s. It took me seven years to complete it part-time. The host for this PhD was Manchester Business School. Inevitably I came across the work of Tom Peters – I had heard of his work much earlier when I read about the influence that “In Search of Excellence” had on the management world. Written with Robert Waterman and based on work that he had developed whilst at consulting firm, McKinsey – it was a book which launched the quality agenda to a whole new level.

Back then, this book felt like the crowning glory of a view on the world. Looking back now, it was just the start. Tom Peters went on to champion the cause, and also develop his thinking. I read “Liberation Management” and “Thriving on Chaos” with enthusiasm. Then, in the 2000s I was caught up in the work he was developing focused on an article he wrote for “Fast Company” magazine which popularised the term “Brand You” (see the original article here). This was the first time I had come across this idea that we are all brands. In Tom Peters’ world we are all in need of some personal branding if we are to survive the highly disruptive world of work where there are no such things as careers and lifelong jobs anymore. We need to make sure that others understand what we are all about, what our unique selling points are.

In many ways, Peters was way ahead of the curve, writing before the influence of the internet took hold. He predicted through this concept of personal brand, what would become a growing sense in which we all define ourselves either through our Facebook page, or our blog.

As Peters found his own way onto the web, I started to follow his blog – a series of increasingly noisy rants. He also started to produce short videos, and then found his way onto twitter. Somewhere in the middle of this shift, he produced the book “Re-imagine” which was published by Dorling Kindersley. Early versions of the book were beautifully designed and captured the essence of the importance of brand in delivering the message.

Tom Peters is still showing little sign of slowing down, in spite of the fact that he is celebrating his 72nd birthday on the day I am writing this. He travels the world delivering keynote presentations with voluminous slides and big bold messages. His current preoccupations are the fact that so many businesses are ignoring the importance of women for their brands. He is not just talking about women as customers here, but also the desperate need for businesses to open up their boardrooms to women. He also emphasises the importance of older people as they become more numerous.

His message then, whilst still being very much about the importance of quality in delivery (“Little Big Things” from 2010 is all about the little things that make a difference), is also about the need to see the highly disrupted modern world we live in. To recognise that nothing is certain, everything is up for grabs. We need to embrace this or die in the water.

He emphasises the fact that many of the companies he celebrated in his first book “In Search of Excellence” back in 1982 went out of business or had to radically change their business model.

So, why does Tom Peters inspire me? He has helped me to understand the importance of being absolutely clear about what I am focused on. Absolute clarity about the need to deliver massively to clients. (He gives fantastic examples in his books of how companies go to massive lengths to satisfy the customer.) His concept of Brand You is one that I return to frequently. Many of the bloggers I read draw on this and develop their own version. It’s Tom Peters we have to thank for steering us into a world where we all need to constantly reinvent ourselves, and be crystal clear about what we are delivering to the world.

Posted on

Who Inspires Me 1: Michael Bungay Stanier

MBSThis is the first of a series on the people who have inspired me which I will be writing over the next few months. I hope you find it useful and look forward to your reactions.

I can’t remember where I first came across the work of Michael Bungay Stanier. I suspect it was through a reference from another blogger or podcaster. I started to follow his blog because he had some interesting things to say. From a bit of googling I found a few videos of him at work. There was a really interesting film of him working with a team at Google itself.

Michael was also touting a short animated film which captured some of his coaching messages about success – it was the 8 irresistible principles of fun. And that seemed to resonate so well with what I was about and how I liked to work.

Then after a short while Michael launched his first full length book “Do More Great Work” and with it a new podcast series with the same title. I bought the book and started to listen to the podcasts. At first they came at a phenomenal pace – I suspected that he had been stockpiling interviews so that he could share them at a rapid pace as he launched the book. The book – was really good, a very practical workbook approach that set out clearly how to get things done with exercises to complete.

I liked the quirkiness of Michael’s approach mixed with the real insights that he shared. I was also impressed with the willingness to share that Michael showed.

Then one day, 3 years ago, I took some books into a team meeting at work to show who influenced me. Amongst them was ‘Do More Great Work’. The team’s reaction was to suggest that we read some of these books and discuss them. We read Michael’s book – and then one Friday afternoon I had an idea (Fridays are my inspiration time!) I sent an email to Michael to ask if he would be prepared to work with us. The result of this email, after some negotiation and a few discussions was a workshop which Michael delivered via Skype from Toronto, Canada to the team in Manchester. The topic he chose was ‘courage’, one of the three key features of great work (the others being focus and resilience).

That workshop had a huge impact on the team. It also massively influenced me.

Since then I have continued to follow Michael’s podcast, his blog, his daily Great Work quotes, Tools for the Time Crunched Manager. The list goes on and on.

And then, there was a remarkable piece of work produced by Michael in November 2013. Working with Brian Johnson’s En*Theos platform, Michael produced a week-long virtual conference called the Great Work MBA in which he interviewed 25 people about great work. It was a beautifully constructed learning experience which had me watching each day’s videos on the train to and from work. I learnt a huge amount and also responded to Michael’s call within the programme to buy the book he had edited as part of Seth Godin’s Domino project. The book was called ‘End Malaria’ – a set of articles about leadership by an amazing array of names with all the profits going to causes that support the fight against malaria. The conference was watched by 10,000 people!

There’s so much more than the headlines I have written about with Michael. I’m inspired by so much of what he does. For example, he introduced me to the idea of a Mastermind Group, and I am in the midst of setting one up.

Michael’s influence is ongoing. If you haven’t come across anything he has done, go take a look.

Going back to that Skype workshop, I remember being sent a note by Michael. He is always self-effacing with a rich Australian sense of humour. Rather than talk about his achievements, he wanted to be introduced like this:

George Orwell said, “An autobiography is only to be trusted when it reveals something disgraceful.” In that vein, Michael was banned from his high school graduation for “the balloon incident”, was sued by one of his Law School lecturers for defamation, and managed to give himself a concussion while digging a hole as a labourer…

I love that sense of fun and irreverence – and look forward to continuing to be inspired by and learn from Michael Bungay Stanier.