Aug 14

Mission success: Not Guaranteed

fail - gilbert

There is a very famous quote which I suspect is actually required to be included, by law, in any self development book: “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” It’s a useful question to break the deadlock of fear that stops you doing something.

In her wonderful book “Big Magic – Creative Living Beyond Fear”, Elizabeth Gilbert asks a different question. Her question is this.

What would you still do even if you knew that you might very well fail?

What is it that’s so important, so enjoyable, so critical to you that even if you thought it might not work out, that you would still do it anyway? What do you love so much that success doesn’t matter? What is it that would cause you to risk your fragile ego and go do it anyway?

As Liz Gilbert points out, your worth is not measured on the outcome. It’s not measured by whether you succeed or fail – it’s measured by whether you followed your heart, whether you put your heart and soul into it. As Coach Taylor exhorts his gridiron team in “Facing the Giants”:

Hold nothing back.

Don’t lose heart.   Don’t stop fighting. Do not quit.   Do not give up.

You have got to leave everything on the field.

That’s all that matters. “Did I give my best?” “Did I follow my heart?” If you do, then success is kinda irrelevant. It’s easy to decide what you’d do if you were guaranteed to succeed at it. But what is it that matters so much to you that success ceases to matter?

Liz says “What if I go through all the trouble of creating something if the outcome might be nothing?”. And the answer: “Because it’s fun”. Or “because I have to”. “Because it consumes me.” “Because it matters.” “Because it makes me happy.” “Because when I do this it feels as if I’m really living.”

For each of us there’s something. A cause, a purpose, a longing, a desire, that’s our true self expression. Go find it. Go do it.

Sometimes I’ve struggled to find mine. But asking that one question has helped me more than anything else.


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(Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of (most famously) “Eat, Pray, Love”. Big Magic is a book about creativity, and fear, about Courage, and Enchantment, about allowing Creativity to have its way. I’d recommend it to anyone who’s an author, a painter, a sculptor or engaged in anything creative. And if you are one of those who don’t feel they’ve got a creative bone in their body, then you should read it. Because it will show you that you are oh so wrong about that.

May 27

Changing your story

change the story - weatherwax

A little while back I was asked why I see humans as privileged, compared, say, with animals or insects. The context was a debate on whether we have the power to change our circumstances, or whether some of us our powerless to change a bad situation. As a good friend of mine put it – “I looked at the things I was doing that I liked doing, and the things that I was doing that I didn’t like doing. and adjusted my life accordingly”. But can we all live like that? Do we get the choice?

So, the reason I see human beings as privileged – particularly in the context of this dialogue – is that we get to choose the meaning that we associate with events. The meaning we attach to events is what matters – not the events themselves.

A story I love is of a Cambodian imprisoned and tortured during the Pol Pot regime, who said “One night they told me I would be shot at sunrise – so, you see, I was completely free.”How did he figure that one? “Things could not be worse,” he explained, “so I was free to take any opportunity that came.” And he did – during a commotion that night he ran for the fence, since he had nothing to lose.. and ran to freedom.

Viktor Frankl spent time in the most atrocious of conditions in a Nazi concentration camp in World War II. In amongst the death, the despair, the filth and the hopelessness, he wrote “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms-to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” He went on to write “Man’s Search for Meaning” – a book which, wonderfully, was earlier published under the German title “Trotzdem Ja Zum Leben Sagen” or “Nevertheless, Say “Yes” to Life”.

That’s a huge shift of meaning from hopeless to hopeful. I have had to do it on many many occasions in my life – to shift myself from being a victim of circumstances (or, to be honest, the results of my own stupidity!) to having options. And I think we always do have options, particularly on how we choose to react to what’s around us. We may say we’re stuck – we may believe we’re stuck – it may even seem to those around us that we’re stuck – and yet I think we really do have the ability to decide to behave differently – whether that’s in our attitude, or in our behaviour. 

As Granny Weatherwax observed in Terry Pratchett’s DiscWorld series “There’s always a story. It’s all stories, really. The sun coming up every day is a story. Everything’s got a story in it. Change the story – change the world.”

We can use story and meaning to create our world the way we want it – one way to build a concrete path to your dreams is to write a movie script of your perfect day, building in all the detail, the sounds, the sights, the aromas, the sensations, the feelings. creating so much more of a powerful energy than simply “I want my own successful business” or “I want to get married”. What will that really feel like.?

We can use story and meaning to change the way we look at a situation – something which is disempowering in one story can suddenly become incredibly powerful in another. How many times do we have to hear the story of the cabin boy who became captain, of the pageboy who became king, of the scullerymaid who marries the prince, to know that what people decry as ‘fairy stories’ actually contain some of the most enduring truths about our world and the way it works.

And we can use story and meaning to change our lives. I have a story which I have never shared with anyone that describes my life so far, and the way I see it unfolding in the future, in empowering, powerful metaphors and images, full of richness and archetypal heroes. I have chosen to attach new meaning to the events of the past and to my current reality, that allows me to create a future full of possibility and energy. The beauty of doing this is that it hasn’t tied my story down to a specific way that it must unfold, simply because it’s full of metaphor rather than specifics.

We can continue to replay the old story of despair “well, I’m bankrupt so that means I haven’t got the financial freedom to create the life I want or do the things I want” or we can change it to a story of hope “I’m bankrupt, and that frees me up to have the time to choose what I want to do, and the opportunity to reshape my life just the way I want it”.

We have the power to change the meaning of the events that shape our world. And that means we change how we experience our world. Because even if nothing changes, everything can change. In a heartbeat.


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Aug 14

Creating the hero . . .


The storm happens to each one of us. No question. The big question is.. how will you respond to it?


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PS – I’ve just started sharing my series “Walking With Heroes” over on the blog at – go take a look!

Sep 16

Hope. Always.

tent night

Here’s the thing. Shit happens. Doesn’t matter who we are. stuff goes wrong. I’ve had my share of things go wrong in my life, and I know that there are only two places we can live. We can choose to live in despair, convinced that things can only get worse, that this situation will never get fixed.. or we can choose to live in hope, expecting that no matter how dark the night, morning is coming. I’ve lived both sides of those tracks, and I know where I’m deciding to live. in a place of hope where anything can happen, where there are solutions, and options, where there is possibility. where there is promise. Join me?


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Mar 04

Really? Yep..really really.

sunrise earth

There are times when I feel as if I have screwed it up and there’s no way back. I can find myself not knowing how to step forward, how to make progress toward my dreams. And it’s those times when I hear a voice whispering to me “All the abundance, all the power, all the love, all the joy, all the happiness, all the excitement of the Universe is available to you. All of it. You just need to show up for it. You just need to recognise that it’s available for you any time you choose.”

And in that moment. hope lives again.

Mar 03

Why don’t you dust yourself off?


Have you ever felt that sense of crushing disappointment when something didn’t work out in your life? have you ever felt that something great was going to happen, and it didn’t work out the way you expected it to? Have you ever been in a situation where you knew that your prayers had been answered – and then you found that the thing you were relying on suddenly fell apart? Perhaps you felt that your career, or your finances, or your love life were sorted out – and then suddenly they fell apart.

Sh*t happens. It really does. You don’t need me to tell you that. It’s how we respond to it that matters. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a huge major disaster in your life, or a minor upset.. we find ourselves derailed by changes that we weren’t expecting and didn’t plan for. And if we’re not careful, we can end up spinning into a loop and out of control, struggling to recover. I know how that feels, by the way. I’ve had some crushing disasters in my life – some self inflicted, some inflicted by others, and some under the category of ‘sh*t happens’.

I’m here to remind you that it’s not a question of whether you stumble and fall. It’s not a question of whether you got tripped, or someone let you down. It’s not even about how you feel about life. The winners, the ones who succeed big time, the ones who get remembered, the ones that they write stories about, are the ones who get back up. They are the ones who dig deep down inside themselves to get back in the game, to get back on track, the ones who pick themselves up off the ground, dust themselves off, pick the grass out of their teeth, put their eyes back on the horizon and decide that the game isn’t over.

As Reuben’s father, whose name I forget, remarks in the movie ‘Along came Polly’)

‘Why don’t you let go – move on with your life. It’s not about what happened in the past – or what might happen in the future. It’s about the ride. No point going through this crap if you’re not going to enjoy the ride. And who knows – something might come along that’s even better than you planned’

As we learn to let go of the stuff that gets in our way, the stuff that trips us up, then the future starts to open up to us.  St Paul shares his philosophy in the book of Philippians:

“Forgetting what lies behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead, I press on to the prize”

If we let ourselves get stuck in the past, if we let ourselves get bogged down in ‘if only’ then we lock ourselves out from the future that awaits us. If we hold things lightly, if we enjoy the ride, if we learn to go with the flow, if we trust that it’s all working out perfectly – then that’s the thing that fires the engine of creation – and bit by bit your life will start to change.

You hold your own destiny in your hands.