I’m on the pavement, thinking about the government

Bob Dylan2

Have you noticed how boring politics has become?

Journalists search for the reasons we’ve lost interest, but they don’t need to look very far. Journalists are writers, and every writer knows that the key to a compelling story is empathy. Not fancy language, correct information or sentence structure. It’s the ability to evoke a “that’s me” response. “This story expresses exactly how I feel.”

If you can create a lead character who’s had the same dark thoughts, wrestled with the same exasperations, ironies and injustices, then your reader will follow that character anywhere.

So what happened to our leaders? – something they weren’t quite ready for.

The transparency of the digital age.

The ability to see and be seen should be a GOOD thing because we get to really know people better. Transparency gives us an opportunity to be more REAL. Becoming real involves identifying with the dynamic energy of our inner spirit, rather than our outer personality – which after all, is just something we constructed in an attempt to be popular.

Without transparency, stuff lurks in the shadows and gathers weight. When this is brought out into the light, far from being shocked, everyone has an opportunity to say “THANK GOD IT’S NOT JUST ME… who eats the whole box of Maltesers; has those sexual fantasies; hates people with dogs/tattoos/Ferraris/clipped vowels.”

Instant empathy.

But instead of embracing this opportunity, leaders (both government and corporate) run the other way into POLITICAL CORRECTNESS and a strange hinterland in which they believe that if they sit on the fence saying meaningless, aspirational things, then everyone will like them.

In fact, the opposite is true. For the same reasons we cringe when people put edited highlights of their fabulous life on Facebook. We may not dislike them, but we’re more likely to say “Are you (for) real?”

Nowadays, leaders are just like the Powerpoint presentations that they love so much – they’re a list of bullet points that prove a bunch of POSITIVE STUFF they’ve achieved in the past and the fabulous things they’ll achieve in the future. But followers are smarter than that. We know there must be a dark side, and because it’s not there, we fill in the gaps ourselves. And we usually fill them in, WITH REALLY BAD STUFF.

We’re readers. We know things are never the way they appear on the surface. We know the hero will have a crazy wife in the attic, that the pious clergyman will be fiddling with altar boys, that the smiling lady will have a poison apple in her coat pocket.

We want leaders who are real, not leaders who buy their authenticity from a branding company.

So, after all the sensational news stories about rich people getting richer, self-interest running rampage and corporate greed reaching epidemic levels, you would think there would be a huge swing to the left in politics. But that hasn’t happened, either in the UK or in the US.

Because, there are no interesting stories to follow.

In the US the Yes We Can optimism has all but fizzled out as people are realizing that it takes more than a few slogans to change a fear-based population into a hopeful, creative one.

The elephant in the room is the Federal Reserve. The people with money run the country, and they own the president, so he has no real power to change anything. If a cool, popular, black president can’t change anything, who can? How will anyone get excited about an election ever again?

Over in the UK, the elephant in the room is Ed Milliband. A recent poll reveals that only 13% of the population think he can possibly be Leader of the Country. The party faithful refuse to look at the problem and keep repeating the same mantra, that Ed may be geeky, but he’s a good sort.

But this is a guy who went up against his elder brother for the top job. Most people in the party (and in the country) wanted his brother, but Ed secured a block vote from the unions and stole the prize. I mean you just don’t DO that. It’s like stealing your older sister’s boyfriend and expecting the family to have you over for thanksgiving dinner.

Meanwhile, Russell Brand is busy working both sides of the Atlantic with his philosophy of Revolution. He advocates not voting as a form of protest. Many people are angry with him and point out how hard our ancestors worked, fought and died for the right to vote. They say, rightly, that if working class people don’t vote the Republicans/Conservatives will get back in and things will go horribly wrong.

But all Russell is really saying is that it doesn’t make any difference who wins. The whole election thing has become a circus, a farce, a smokescreen of sound-bites and 60 second soft-focus films trying to engage us in an old story that’s past its sell by date. A bit like trying to sell re-runs of Dallas to a world watching Breaking Bad.

The world has changed, and we need a different story if we’re going to engage people.

In the old story there were clearly identifiable heroes and villains.

If you’re a republican/conservative, the hero is the person who uses his entrepreneurial skill to create wealth and the villains are the people who don’t work hard enough and require hand outs to make ends meet. They also get pregnant to avoid going to school, take drugs and steal stuff from rich white folk.

If you’re a democrat/labour, the hero is the salt of the earth hard working person (typically portrayed in an artistic way by Constable or Lowry) and the villains are the bankers and CEOs of corporations who spend their time drinking champagne in the 4 Seasons and shopping for luxury brands. They are all sociopaths with intimacy issues and get their kicks from tax avoidance and light bondage with high-class hookers.

But these boundaries are messed up now. The rich category does include the old, arrogant and uncaring, but (now we’ve gone digital), it also contains young, highly conscious, social entrepreneurs. The poor category is filled with hard workers desperate for an opportunity to advance and also (since the technological revolution) a growing under class of people for whom there are no jobs. Nor will there be jobs any time in the future.

This is an inconvenient truth.

Advances in technology mean less need for unskilled labour. Population growth keeps adding to the pool of unskilled labour (because people with skills have few or no children and people with no practical outlet for their creativity, knock them out like shelling peas). It’s politically incorrect to point this out, but it’s what many people are thinking. So while they TALK about the insanity and unfairness of right wing politics, in the darkness of the voting booth, their unconscious fears draw them to the BLUE box.

But the real dilemma isn’t about which box to choose, it’s about changing the boxes entirely! If we stick with old definitions, we miss the opportuntity to form new creative networks. The discussion we should be having isn’t about rich/poor, but about creative/not creative. Not about Republican/Democrat but about conscious/not conscious.

Because a conscious, creative republican is the same as a conscious, creative Democrat.

“Take from the rich and give to the poor” might have been a philosophy that worked for Robin Hood – but this was Sherwood Forest in the 15th century, not a Mumbai slum today. Things are more complex now because with money comes corruption, gang warfare and power imbalance.

On the other hand, something corrupt people can’t steal is CREATIVITY, particularly when it joins forces with the spirit of nature. Creativity can make electricity from potatoes, regenerate land with microbes – it can even discover mushrooms that actually eat plastic. Creativity can change the way we look at health, education, the environment and just about everything.

We need to somehow form coalitions of shared interest that go beyond country barriers. If ISIS can do it with one insane idea, why can’t we do it with a compelling, intelligent, compassionate one?

And as for that leadership issue, we do need change. Some women would be good, not ‘made in man’s image’ women but real women.

The times may feel apocalyptic, but if we can find one honest woman in time, we may just avoid Sodom and Gomorrah.




In a New York state of mind

new york“For fucks sake…”

I’m at the help desk at JFK. A sweating, overweight man in front of me isn’t all that pleased about the help on offer.


(This word seems to be the current U.S. abbreviation for “Is it just me, or do you detect a touch of irony in this exchange?”)

The much older man behind the counter is clearly embarrassed and seems to be repeating lines from a crib sheet he was given during his induction process. This only serves to aggravate the fat man further.

“Jesus…”  he shouts finally, storming off in a huff.

It’s my turn.

On the one hand I am a little outraged that the benign man behind the counter had to endure a verbal onslaught but on the other hand the sign did say ‘Help Desk’ and his powers of assistance seemed to be limited to handing out subway maps and directing people to the nearest rest room (they don’t wee in America, they just have a little sit down, preferably on seats covered in anti virus cling film).

A few minutes later I find out that Paul (for that is his name) is a Vietnam vet who loves reading. He has far too many books, which drives his wife crazy as she likes to keep a tidy house and though he is past retirement age, he likes to feel useful. He wants to stay in the game.

Because Paul is tied up in the story of New York.

It’s a story of optimism, a sense of purpose and above all, winning.

I’m just a Broadway Baby, learning how to sing and dance. Waiting for that one big chance, to be in a show…

Stories are important. Ideas are cheap, but a story is an idea wrapped in an emotion, and those emotions are powerful enough to make things happen. They can remind us of the script we’re following… Be the best; follow the dream; the audacity of hope.

But the internet has changed the story.

Winning is great, but winners create losers and the divide between winners and losers is becoming more and more extreme. Stakes are raised. It’s a winner takes all world. The losers are becoming more deranged and the winners are building higher barriers to entry.

It’s a far cry from the ‘great big melting pot’ that Blue Mink envisaged 43 years ago.

Take a pinch of white man, wrap him up in black skin, add a touch of blue blood and a little itty bit of red indian boy…  lump it all together, and you got a recipe for a get along scene…

New York is an epicenter of polarities.

Take food – part of the population live on acai berries, spirulina and organic kale, while the other part live on food that has never seen a kitchen and whose ingredients look like a page torn from a chemistry text book.

Then there’s lifestyle – meditation and yoga, Om Shanti on the iPod, jogging through Central park, versus mainlining donuts, 24/7 coverage of Fox News and screaming at Paul on the help desk.

The only melting pot on offer is Starbucks, the latter day church, that unites by catering to both sides of the divide – espresso macchiatos AND well, basically a pudding in a coffee mug.

“All part of life’s rich tapestry” Paul sighed philosophically as I thanked him for the subway map and made my way to the Air train.

Tapestry is of course the album that made Carole King a household name and there’s a musical tribute currently running on Broadway. I’m not a big fan of jukebox musicals but was intrigued to see if anyone could pull off a Carole King impersonation.

In New York speak, Jessie Mueller nails it. Not by copying but by some strange act of mysticism whereby she seems to channel the spirit of Carole herself. Perhaps this is the reason for the phenomenal success of the show. (It’s completely sold out and I only managed to get a ticket by hanging around the box office and picking up a spare from someone whose friend was sick).

Here are the bones of the Carole King story – and the reason why this story resonates with so many, often over enthusiastic, women in the audience. A teenage Carol – musician, very clever, but with chronically low self-esteem – falls in love with Gerry Goffin, confident, charismatic, lyricist. They form a professional and personal partnership, get married and write a string of number one hits together (covered by artists like Bobby Vee, Little Eva and the Drifters).

Carole is very happy with this arrangement but Gerry wants more. He wants to be as successful as the Beatles, as poetic as Bob Dylan, he wants to sleep with all the backing singers.

Things don’t go so well as Carole adapts to Gerry’s rants, rages and increasingly erratic behavior. She’s in the familiar ‘can’t live with him, can’t live without him’ story that is the blueprint of so many Mills and Boon romances. (Or as Steven Wright more wittily put it, “can’t live with them, can’t shoot them”.) There is much at stake. Carole writes the music, Gerry writes the words. She won’t be able to work without him.

Eventually of course, the story reaches the dark night of the soul, whereby Carole ups sticks, leaves New York and heads for the west coast. She pours all her shattered dreams, her heartbreak and her soul’s yearnings into an album. Rather than give the material to a more bankable star, she decides to sing the songs herself, and the rest is history.

Tapestry became one of the best selling albums of all time – over 25 million copies sold – and guaranteed Carole a place in the Hall of Fame.

It’s a good story.

Before Carole King was even born, Kenneth Burke remarked that stories were “equipment for living”. At the moment, many people feel that their lives are not working out and they’re not really living at all. They don’t feel fully equipped for the internet world they now inhabit. The competition is too fierce, and there’s too much of it. There are too many people and not enough opportunities for them all to thrive.

We are a far cry from the song of the Statue of Liberty…

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to breathe free…

In business, much emphasis is placed on “changing the stories by which we live” or “going from competition and winning to collaboration and sharing”… blah blah blah.

This is a nice idea, but as we’ve observed, ideas are cheap. They need to live within an emotion if they are to be effective. Sharing and equality may be politically correct but few of us get very excited about that. Certainly not as excited as the women who were practically punching the air when Carole finally summoned up the strength to leave and do her own thing.

But I believe that the reason for her success wasn’t the fact that she was trying to win.

Tapestry is not an act of revenge. It isn’t a ‘stick it to the man’ kind of album. It contains truth. And truth is the only thing that’s even more powerful than emotion. Sometimes we have to leave the people we love. It’s usually the time when we’ve run out of excuses. When our soul just won’t buy the reason we are hiding, any longer.

Of course because our mind is usually stronger than our soul, we need a little help with this decision. And sometimes if our friends are true, they’ll provide this help. It may look like bad behavior, but sometimes that’s what it takes to push us over the edge. Because while it’s comfortable in a nest, it’s pretty impossible to fly in one.

So I’d like to say to the woman in front of me (Row M in the stalls – ‘yeah go Carole!’) you’ve got the wrong end of the stick, doll. This isn’t a story about winning, it’s a story about true collaboration.

Truth trumps heartbreak and revenge.

And I’d like to say to the man in front of me (Help desk counter JFK) – Paul may look like a 70 year old man, but he’s also a 7 year old boy who was captivated by the story of “The Little Engine That Could”. He didn’t want to be the fast train or the flashy fire truck, he identified with the train that tried to help. It’s just that no-one ever gave him the mandate to do that within the stupid system.

Truth trumps anger and frustration.

So I’m home now, surrounded by fear filled news stories of Ebola (even viruses laugh in the face of border control) and huge swathes of immigrants, apparently willing to risk certain death in leaky boats for the Shangri La of the UK benefit system. The dreamlike windfall of £36 per week.

The internet has changed everything. For better or worse, we are becoming one joined up, connected species and we need to figure out a way to do that, without fighting, hiding or running away.

Either we need some new stories, or we need to put some different energy behind the old ones. But in the meantime…

Someday maybe. All my dreams will be repaid.

Heck, I’d even play the maid.

To be in a show.







Permission to think creatively, Sir…

Seth 1It was business guru, Seth Godin, who popularised the term “Permission Marketing”.  Like all new phrases, Permission Marketing emerged from the culture that surrounded it. We had grown tired of its opposite force – “Interruption Marketing” – the barrage of information coming at us from all forms of media. “Buy me! Notice me! Like me!”

For a business to survive in the 21st century, it first needs to gain our trust, our permission, before it tries to engage with us.

Creativity – whether that’s  a two word phrase or a whole new concept – is a right-brain activity. The right brain, being the portal to expanded consciousness copes easily with cultural complexity, because it processes information intuitively, in an instant.

Seth Godin is a creative guy.

You can’t imagine him sitting for weeks like Rodin’s man of stone in an agonising process of self reflection (Culture circa 1880)

It’s unlikely that he holes himself up for days in a room with a creative team, bad lighting and a few grams of coke (Culture circa 1980)

He’s too busy to do that (over 20 books, thousands of articles, umpteen businesses and a family.)

But because we’ve lived in a left-brain culture for the past 3000 odd years, our current version of creativity looks a bit like this…

90% thinking and struggling; posturing and tantrums; wrestling dragons and cajoling demons.

9% Fuck it, I’ve got nothing here. 

1% Eureka! (The little hit of dopamine, as divine inspiration is finally allowed in).

This is actually left-brain thinking with a quick hat tip to the right brain. Creativity is something we allow in, rather than something we do. In order to allow it in, we first have to create the conditions in which it can thrive.

Let’s move on from the world of Mad Men to the Mad World we currently inhabit.

It’s a mess, to say the least. Because we’re living in the ‘end days’ of left-brain thinking.

Left-brain thinking is focussed (good for getting a job done). It’s analytical (It sees everything clearly, but as separate parts of a whole). In short, it’s a brilliant solution to an immediate problem. The 3 act play of left-brain thinking (in just 3 categories) looks like this…

Health:  1 Strategy to detect tumour. 2 Surgery and chemical warfare. 3 No tumour!

Politics: 1 Strategy to determine bad guys. 2 Kill bad guys. 3 No bad guys!

Existential loneliness: 1 Strategy to find true love. 2 Marriage. 3 Live happily ever after!


Health: Tumours come back (the culture in which they grow has not been addressed.)

Politics: For every dead bad guy, there are dozens of sons, brothers, fathers, uncles, cousins and THEY ARE REALLY PISSED!

Existential loneliness: Just far too complex to be solved with a signed piece of paper and a large cake. (Though the joys of a large cake are never to be underestimated when dealing with angst!)

It is of course easy to look at the world and think that all problems were created by men, after all this did happen on their watch, but really it’s been created by our love of left-brain thinking.

It’s also difficult to imagine that right-brain people would have done much better. We’re only just beginning to understand the potential of our right brain and early adopters have sometimes been deluded in their approach. Just like our version of creativity, we approached the right brain THROUGH THE LENS of the left brain. This has had some difficult to reconcile consequences…

Health: It’s difficult to cure a tumour with aromatherapy. Obviously. If a garden is left for a week, it’s easy to pull out a few weeds, but leave it for 20 years and you pretty much need a guy with a tractor.

Politics: It’s difficult to solve terrorism by lighting candles, sending love and recycling. Let’s not forget that the charge of the Light Brigade ended with very heavy casualties! (Haha… one for the new agers!)

Existential loneliness: Or the great soul mate scam. Finding a more evolved partner will make everything better! This is like having the radio tuned to XFM and thinking it will pay classical music IF WE MEDITATE AND WE ARE VERY PATIENT. The kind of love we long for does exist but if our dials are stuck on left-brain mode we end up looking for love in all the wrong places. (Bon Jovi a regular feature of XFM)

Yes the right brain is the portal to mysticism and cosmic consciousness, but we shouldn’t let some of the naive interpretations of the new age deter us from going there. That would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

So back to Seth!

Perhaps instead of a left-brain, right-brain ratio of 90/10 he is more like 80/20 or 70/30 (remember each small increment changes the game significantly). So just imagine what the world could look like if we were all 50/50!!

This is certainly something to aim for. But how to do it?

We can’t talk AT people any more because they’re  not listening. They’re inundated with requests for their time, their attention, their eyeballs. They’re exhausted. Because of this exhaustion, they allow popular culture to form most of their opinions.


In other words a 3 act play of…

Health: Sponsorship by drug companies and THOUSANDS of commercials for medicines to cure everything from tumours to tiredness (hello? switch off your left brain and get some sleep) and the sadness created by left-brain thinking that can’t find any long term solutions. (A staggering 11% of the population of the US are on anti depressants).

Poltics: Fear. Fear and more Fear. With fear icing.

Existential loneliness. Fox news attempts the higher vibration of cosmic love, ecstasy and tantric sex? I didn’t think so! How about a quick, warm, fuzzy feeling at the end of all that doom and gloom. A FEW KITTENS SHOULD DO IT!

Yes, we are living in the Best of Times and the Worst of Times. And the only thing that will ensure survival of the planet is a radical shift in consciousness to a higher vibration than the one we’ve agreed to live within. A more expanded, creative, right-brain consciousness.

One day people will look back and wonder why we didn’t wake up earlier. And we will say “I didn’t know I was creative” (NEWSFLASH We are all creative) or “I was waiting for the world to validate my creativity (hey! the world is clearly fucked up so is there really any value in validation from that source?) We will say “I was waiting for  permission”.

Fair enough, we were raised to be obedient. Not to ask for what we want, not to ask for more. Or as Seth would say “not to make a ruckus”.

But the past does not determine the future.

We have to give ourselves permission to be creative, to trust our right-brain.

We have to turn down the volume on all that “Interruption Marketing” of the left brain – buy this, notice that. Dream about the past (ah! nostalgia) worry about the future (eek! fear), worry about the past (ew! guilt) dream about the future (sigh! fantasy). THIS IS ALL THE INTERRUPTION TACTICS IN THE ARSENAL OF THE LEFT BRAIN!

We have to get off XFM and give ourselves permission to listen to our inner guidance. That quiet voice that wants to be heard.

Tune in to that. Then slowly turn up the volume, and you might smile as you realise…

“Aw… they’re playing our song.”

P.S. Trailer! New creative courses… FOR MEN! Because women are already well served in this arena. Because men sometimes don’t like the woo woo language of the mystical. And because most men don’t even have the consolation of a really good cake.

My mission… No brain left unturned.



Can festivals change the world?

BM Embrace

I knew there was a problem when the head of site services stormed into the Production office demanding payment for 30 toilet doors. Before that I was too stressed to wonder what the small bonfires in the distance were made of. It was cold. So, in a gesture of creative anarchy, the heavy metal fans had ripped off the toilet doors and set fire to them.

But there was a more pressing drama about to unfold. The wop wop sound of helicopter blades announced the arrival of a man with an empty suitcase…  and there wasn’t enough cash to fill it. Ticket sales had been lower than expected. Looking across at the field of huddled bodies, litter and campfires, I half expected to hear Flight of the Valkyries as the chopper came into land. But this wasn’t Vietnam, it was Derbyshire and the only sound was the  closing refrain of Long Live Rock and Roll, just before Ritchie Blackmore smashed a Fender Stratocaster onto a Marshall amp.

Festivals were different in the old days. It was difficult to convince people to buy tickets in advance. People waited to find out which bands were playing and what the weather was likely to do. This led to a white knuckle ride for the promoter, who would spend the months leading up to the festival engaged in a variety of methods for stress reduction – meditation, long walks, LOL. Of course I mean heroic quantities of cocaine, tequila worms and indiscriminate shouting.

The rock and roll industry was full of tales of shysters, charlatans and shenanigans.

There was very little trust.

By contrast, the corporate world, the world of the ‘suits’ was measured, structured and calm. There were procedures, purchase orders, and status reports. There were meetings with lovely sandwiches where people were polite, agreed to suggestions and didn’t swear. It was an oasis of calm…

Except it wasn’t really.

Now that the internet is here, transparency has become a real thing (as opposed to a buzz word people are fond of adding to mission statements). We now know that those clean cut bankers were taking mad risks with other peoples’ money; that the caring clergy were preying on the vulnerable members of their flock; that CEOs and politicians were lying and cheating their way to the top.

In short, scratch the surface of this seemingly nice, ordered world and it is full of gamblers, rapists, punks and whores.

Meanwhile, what’s going on with the festivals? If they are indeed the harbingers of change, this is an interesting question.

There is trust galore!

Festivals sell out now before a bill has even been thought of. People don’t go to be passively entertained. They go because they actively want to be part of an experience. Part of something real in an increasingly surreal world. They don’t expect things to be presented to them, they bring the spirit of the festival with them. And of course no expectations means no disappointments, and therefore no corresponding anti social behaviour.

This new spirit is exemplified at Burning Man which kicks off next week in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert. It’s not so much a festival, it’s more a gathering of people who want to create a different way of life, dedicated to art, self-expression and self-reliance. Tired of the fear filled ‘rule’ dominated societies we now live in, they want to demonstrate what a highly principled, totally connected community could look like.

It’s mind blowingly creative.

Rather than a financial exchange, whereby the audience part with large amounts of cash to buy the products or services on offer, there is a bartering system. Trade a hat for a bicycle pump, a massage for a feathered headdress, food for shelter. You can guarantee the food won’t be modified by Monsanto and the shelter will resemble something you built out of Lego or egg cartons when you were 8 years old… possibly the last time many of us were truly creative.

At the end of a week of partying, playing, climbing, cooking, dancing, talking, laughing and sharing, everything is dismantled and either taken home or burnt. Days after the event there isn’t a single piece of litter, in fact there’s no trace of anybody having been there at all – let alone 70,000 people hell bent on having a good time.

So, can festivals change the world?

Yeah, I think they can. The world changes when the culture changes. Culture is about art, music and the way people behave relative to their circumstances. Festivals are about art, music and community. They allow people a ‘lived experience’ of being part of a whole. And ‘lived experiences’ will always trump beliefs.

The corporate world would have us believe that anarchy is chaotic and frightening; that we need rules, protocols, health and safety regulations. That we need to be governed to within an inch of our lives for our own safety. They peddle fear. Because without fear they would have no power.

Of course socialist action groups try to gain public support and entice people to be more community spirited – caring, recycling. But they have limited success because they spring from the old regime. We were fooled by Tony Blair. But, in the words of the Who…We won’t be fooled again.

So, how to change a culture… when the centre of this one is not holding?

I was at a set of traffic lights the other day when a man pulled up in an extremely flashy sports car. Visibly annoyed at this brief interruption to his journey, he glared ahead while revving the very throaty engine. Twenty years ago this picture of alpha male supremacy  would have been designed to make women go weak at the knees. There were a couple of twenty something women in front of me, waiting to cross. They looked at him and burst out laughing. “Knob” one of them said as she skipped across the road.

This is how culture changes. Not by committee… but by humour. By our collective decision to break the old paradigm about what is cool.

I used to look back and cringe at my attempts at being cool. Adopting mannerisms I’d seen work for other people, repeating phrases I didn’t fully understand in an attempt to sound intelligent. How many original choices did I really make?  Steve Tyler’s cowboy boots, Stevie Nick’s  haircut, Patti Smith’s angst.

Now I look back and laugh. Because all we’re ever really doing is trying to belong. Trying to get someone to love us.

And this being the case, it’s time to throw away a few things we know will not help our endeavours. Things like… Cynicism. Being special. Pouting. The world would look a lot better if these were replaced with… Trust. Shared experience. Laughter.

If fear is what keeps us trapped in our own individual boxes, then these three things will not only free us from those boxes but they’ll create vast amounts of courage, vast amounts of creativity, and vast amounts of love.

There’s a scene in Dead Poet’s Society in which each schoolboy becomes brave enough to stand up and be counted for what he believes in. Throughout his life Robin Williams stood for humour, art, and that creative spark that links our human self with our divine one. But the old world weighed too heavy on his psyche. The old world is well and truly broken. But we need critical mass if we’re going to change it for a new one.

Perhaps it’s time for us all to make a stand. Not by attacking what’s there. But by making it irrelevant. Refusing to buy the stuff it sells… the fear it promotes. By imagining new ways of being.

Because as Robin said “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas CAN change the world.”






My indecision is final

Heligoland 2Just finish the damn book already.

There are too many books. The world doesn’t need another one. Nobody reads anyway.

I need coffee.

Another? I thought you were trying to be healthy. What about a green juice?

But I’m writing. I haven’t got time to make juice.

Who are you kidding? You haven’t written a thing for the past two hours.

Well maybe it’s low blood sugar. I should make some eggs.

I thought you said you had no time.

Just biscuits then.

For breakfast? You know if you start now you’ll be on the chocolate bars by lunch time… this will all end in tears.

Oh God, Oh God, Oh God.

God can’t hear you. And if he could, he’d say… Just finish the damn book already.

This is what it sounds like in my head today…

Massive Attack.

Our ancestors may have battled with sabre tooth tigers, but the epic struggle for many of us these days seems to be with ourselves.

F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that the sign of a first rate intelligence was the ability to hold two opposing ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.

Sir Ken Robinson on the other hand joked that the world was divided into two types of people – those that divide things into two and those who don’t

In truth, unless we are enlightened beings, we are all in the first category. Everything in our world is separated into Energy or Matter.

Our task as human beings is to turn one into the other; to successfully turn an idea into a thing – whether that thing is a book, a beanstalk or a boyfriend.

We are alchemists… in training.

But we’ve got it the wrong way round.

Instead of Energy to Matter (idea into thing) we try to turn Matter into Energy (we try to turn things into feelings).

For example Happiness is Energy while Toast is Matter.

My head tells me that toast makes me very happy. But happiness is fleeting and pretty soon I need more toast – with extra jam. So I keep going, until I reach an event horizon, where toast starts to make me very, very unhappy.

I don’t need F. Scott Fitzgerald to tell me that this is not the sign of a first rate intelligence.

You can of course forget about toast and substitute things like cars and designer shoes but the principle is the same. The joy we get from things is an illusion. Like a little thrill bump on the road well travelled.

Energy is ephemeral, refuses to be tied down and comes with no after sales support.  It’s a little reminder of our natural state – the one we lose, when we become slaves of the mind.

So now that quantum physics has verified that our thoughts become things, the only question worth asking is…

How well are we managing our creative powers?

Of course we know the theory…

To get a healthy body…

START exercising, and eating real food.

STOP sitting on the couch mainlining Haribo.

To make more money…

START feeling abundant. If we focus on what would add value to others, there’s a good chance they’ll want to pay for that.

STOP believing in scarcity and pointing out how impossible everything is.

To find a soul mate…

START giving love to the world. When we do this, an invisible cosmic light appears above our head. And, like a taxi on a dark, rainy night, our arrival anywhere is greeted with shrieks of delight.

STOP needing love from the world. This strategy leads to lonely walks home in the rain. With no umbrella, dancing shoes or Gene Kelly soundtrack.

So if we know this, what’s the problem?


Consequently, our creation process has to involve ‘things’ so it goes something like this…

To get a healthy body…

Fill out some paperwork and join a gym (no need to worry about actually going to the gym because work will miraculously develop some urgent project we have to be solely responsible for).

To make more money…

Buy a book on wealth creation. In fact buy many books – after all there are only MILLIONS to choose from. (Notice in a subsequent trip to the Charity Shop that none of the spines are even cracked a little bit).

To find a soul mate…

Join an internet dating site. Sift through pages of inane conversation, appalling grammar and lewd suggestions until you are firmly convinced that evolution is in fact going backwards and there is no point pursuing the matter further.

Energy or matter?

If we want to become better manifestors, we need to understand the rules of alchemy… the Mind has to join forces with the Heart.

Mind is all about Matter. Matter likes to accumulate more matter – it’s magnetic.

Heart is about Energy. It creates desire – a limitless energy that makes things happen.

At the moment we have a separation of forces. Because we create with our head, we’re all about accumulating.

The conversation goes something like this…

I just love thinkin’ ‘bout my baby… Maybe I’ll do it some more… Damn. Now I’m in full blown obsession…. THAT’S attractive.

I want to be wealthy…money makes me feel wealthy…I’ll get some more… Damn. Now I’m mesmerized by the numbers in my bank account.

I came back from that retreat feeling amazing… I’ll go again, and again. Damn, now I’ve become a seminar junkie… and (double whammy) my bank account has gone down to single figures.

But there is hope! Scientists have now found that the Heart has its own intelligence. Intelligence that’s far superior to that of the brain – electromagnetically, it is 500 times stronger. There are 40,000 neurons in the heart.

And while the brain is in two hemispheres representing duality, the heart represents unity. It’s the portal to universal consciousness, intuition and deeper knowing.

We need to manifest with the heart as well as the mind. This unity of forces will create a chain reaction of such magnitude that it could transform what it is to be a human being – in our lifetime.

While the mind loves to plan things, the heart loves to experience things. The mind loves strategy. The heart loves joy. The mind loves independence. The heart loves connection.

And that connection links us to the matrix of universal consciousness, intuition and deeper knowing – which makes decisions much, much easier. 

If we tap into that energy, the conversation in our head changes to something more like…

What would you love to write?

A play

Then ditch the book

But I’ve spent ages on it.

Time is an illusion

If I let it go, will something better come along?

Honey, you have no idea!

Hurrah! An end to indecision for ever…

Lancing the self-help bubble


It started out so well… like most ideas whose time had come.

No-one knows exactly HOW it started, but suddenly people began waking up to the fact that the future wasn’t fixed. It could be changed. WE could change.

Strange now, to imagine that things could ever have been otherwise, but before the 1960s most peoples’ expectations were fairly limited. If your Dad was a baker, you knew you’d end up making bread rolls for a living, unless you were slightly delusional and had secret fantasies of pushing a bicycle down a cobbled street in the Hovis commercial.

But raising our expectations of life was a bit of a double-edged sword.

From a spiritual perspective, believing in possibility is a good thing – it’s expansive and creative. But from a personality perspective (where the vast majority of us are living) expectations can create a lot of disappointed people.

Once the big bang of the self-help idea exploded into our consciousness, a few self-help stars were formed.

Like Tony Robbins.

His Philosophy: NLP. Our mind can be programmed. Unleash the power within and you can be or have whatever you want.

Watching Tony turn a miserable person into a super positive person in seconds had the same effect as watching Jesus turn water into wine. In other words the response was NOT…

“Hmmm that’s interesting, I wonder what I can change about ME”.

The response was “Wow Tony!! I want to be HIM.”

This signaled the beginning of a revolution in which thousands of people queued up to buy his books and took out second mortgages to pay for seminars in exotic locations.

They wanted to improve the quality of their life by selling quality of life to others. They didn’t want to be themselves, they wanted to be someone else, someone who looked and sounded suspiciously like Tony Robbins.

Meanwhile, over on the other, more spiritual side of the equation, Louise Hay, self appointed Queen of Aphorisms, started a publishing empire. Because people needed more information! Her business model was one of “Build it and they will come”. And they did… in droves.

Psychics, Mystics, Healers. People who held regular conversations with Angels, Deities and Inter galactic beings. They each had a book in them, and for a reasonable fee Louise was happy to publish them all.

After that, the inevitable happened. The mind people got together with the spiritual people and created a love child, and having been born in the computer age, this one was internet savvy. He wouldn’t deliver a sermon from the mount. She wouldn’t write a library of books. They would spread the word DIGITALLY.

Cut to the present day and the internets are awash with Webinars, Summits and You tube clips delivering more and more information on how you can heal your pain, change your psyche and be somebody different.

These new wave purveyors of information have some identifying characteristics.

1. They have a glazed look on their faces – a bit like the Barbie doll at the end of Toy Story 2 – which could be the result of too much smiling.

2. They say ‘Wow’ a lot of the time when they interview each other – which says so little but wants to imply so much. Like the fact that everything that’s being said is just so awesome and profound and gosh darn it we still have another 45 minutes to fill.

3. They have an “offer”. Not a normal offer, like 10% off if you sign up now. But a weird offer put together for special needs people which is like 97% off. There is an arbitrary list price of 2000 dollars and an actual price of 60 dollars.

This is all fine and dandy and doesn’t harm anybody and I’m sure some people get value from it, so I’m joshing. But really, here comes that double-edged sword.

1. Happiness comes from expression – whatever is inside us gets expressed out through love and creativity. And it’s only the expression of who we are that counts – not who we wish we could be!

2. If we’re too busy putting stuff IN, (more information, more learning, more understanding) then there’s no opportunity for expression OUT. We just create a logjam.

In the old world people said “I’ll be happy when… I’ve lost a load of weight, made a ton of money, won the competition.”

In the new world people say “I’ll be happy when… I’ve healed my low self esteem, my relationship with my mother, my bad karma from past lives.”

Same story. Different day.

Rev Cynthia James says that everything in life is either information or energy. I love this! I used to say everything was matter or energy because that’s how the scientists describe it but calling it information is more relevant.

In other words we’re either working with information or we’re actually living.

Working with information takes the form of:

Talking, reading about or ‘processing’ the current situation. Analysing what happened in the past. Strategising for what might happen in the future.

This has its place in life but we’ve become completely submersed and consumed by information. There’s just no wiggle room. No scope for freedom or action. No room for the ENERGY of life.

And let’s not forget that the energy has far, far more intelligence than we have – even on a good day, even if we HAD read all those books at the side of the bed.

The most common killer of dreams is NOT lack of information, know how or ideas…

It’s the inability to feel.

The inability to deal with the energy.

Because feelings are energy.

As a philosophy for life Jesus pretty much nailed it (which is, I suppose, why they had to nail him).

1. Love God.

2. Love your neighbor.

3. Love yourself.

Simple. In other words…

1. Love (and be one with) the energy of creation. Open your heart and FEEL things.

2. Don’t be a dickhead – appreciate and be kind to other people and forgive them when they fuck up.

3. Stop beating yourself up by thinking you’re not good enough.

Strange that every book about his way of life is a thousand pages long!  (In the beginning was the word, but in the end there were probably far too many of them.)

So, if you want a more expansive, happy, creative life…


Wake up your inner Sleeping Beauty.

Don’t allow the computer screen to become your glass coffin.

Resist the urge to open just one more attachment. One more life changing seminar. One more Guru interview.

You’re ok.

Really, you’re more than ok.

You’re perfect.


The Same Old Story


“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity”

Charles Dickens certainly knew how to describe the general mood prior to the French Revolution. Many people feel this sentiment applies today… though no-one expects a revolution any time soon.

Because revolutions are messy.

We’ve seen Les Miserables and we know it doesn’t end well. Blood. Confusion. Own goals. Sad songs.

Then there’s the ugliness.  Not only does Anne Hathaway die, but she loses her teeth, her hair and any vestiges of self esteem before doing so.  And while Anne managed to remain pretty during this process, we suspect reality is less kind.

So we stick with what we’ve got. A pseudo aristocracy of rotten bankers, dull politicians, uninspiring business leaders, who (unlike their 18th century French counterparts) are not even attractive to look at.

No-one’s happy about the way things have turned out. So where do we go from here?

Robert McKee, the Story Guru, teaches blueprints for storytelling.  Here’s the scoop – if you want to write a successful story (i.e. one that sells novels or gets turned into a blockbuster movie) you have to write a CLASSIC story.

Apparently it’s in our DNA. We’ve been programmed through millenia to respond to this type of storytelling.

These are the characteristics of a classic story…

1. It’s linear – it has a beginning a middle and an end IN THAT ORDER!!

2. It has a single protagonist so we can identify with the Hero!

3. The protagonist is ACTIVE because we hate identifying with the Victim.

4. Though the protagonist struggles with EXTERNAL forces everything turns out well in the end.

5. There is a clearly identifiable close to the story.  In other words, all questions raised by the story are answered and all emotions evoked by the story are satisfied. 


Sadly, although we have tried to shoe horn LIFE into doing our bidding, Life is now choosing a different story… the Anti Structure Story.

It’s more like THE NEVER ENDING STORY. These are its characteristics…

1. It’s non linear – everything is in fact happening NOW.

2. There are multiple protagonists – we are all in this together.

3. The protagonists are multi dimensional – we are both hero and villain not either/or. (Or as Caroline Myss would say, let’s not kid ourselves –  there’ll be someone out there who’s in therapy because of YOU!)

4. The protagonists struggle with INTERNAL forces – our desires to control, to accumulate and to win. We know they’re not a good idea but we just can’t stop ourselves.

5. The story is open ended – we somehow have to learn to live with open ended questions and unresolved emotions.


And the unresolved emotions aren’t even familiar ones like heartbreak!  Let’s face it, heartbreak has been around a long time – way before Romantic fiction, tequila and country and western music got involved with the marketing. Love can hurt, but it’s a familiar pain that we’re used to now.

I’m talking about things like NOT FINISHING… the feeling that we are incomplete and have to get somewhere.  I mean seriously, how irritating is this?  We’ve been wired to finish, so we can tick things off a ‘to do’ list.

Very posh girls even went to a place called Finishing School! This was the ultimate Access All Areas pass to the High Life. #Winning.  If you Instagram Winning it’s usually portrayed as Finishing First, which is of course the Oscar for finishing in general.

But we can’t be finished, we’re a constantly evolving process. Like a waterfall. Try to stop it and it ceases to be a waterfall. It reassembles itself every second.

We’ll never be finished or complete. We’ll never get to the horizon. That’s why we create artificial goals – to keep the illusion that life is linear and logical.

No wonder we haven’t been able to get our head around a new story for the times we live in.

Sure we TALK about the new story, because fighting, competition and winning is so Old Paradigm. Governments and Businesses talk about Collaboration, Integrity, Vision, Service… but these are just WORDS.

Words don’t make a story. Something more profound than vocabulary is at the heart of a good story. Something more real.

It’s Truth.

And as Jack Nicholson remarked in A Few Good Men… we can’t handle it.

Because Truth can rip through our illusions like a knife through butter.

That’s how it sets us free.

In the classic story the Hero is perfect and he has to fix LIFE which is looking rather like Gotham City. This involves an awful lot of drama, car chases and blowing things up.

In the new story we need to do a 180 – an inner journey. Not in a navel gazing sitting on the couch kind of way – that’s often an excuse for narcissism – just in an honest ‘Oh, there you are’ kind of way. In fact, there you all are, aspects of myself!!  The needy, the fabulous, the jealous, the kind, the boring, the brilliant, the fearful, the adventurous, the goddess, the bookworm, the despot, the mystic…

Welcome!! I could certainly use some help. I’ve been trying to do this all by myself. Just me and my carefully contrived, very well edited persona. Sorry… I blame Facebook.

Now let’s take a look at Life…actually it’s not looking so bad now that I’ve pulled back a few projections!

Life is a mystery. We spend so much time trying to control it, to make it logical, to ‘win’, that we miss the whole point of it.

Winning at anything signifies the end of the game and as Sadhguru says ‘you can fit logic into life, but you can’t fit life into logic.’

Life is made of energy. If we want it to be more interesting, we need to stretch our capacity to contain energy – all of it, even the messy stuff.

Instead of developing strategies for things like work-life balance (what a strange concept… it’s all life!) we need to create balance within ourselves.

If we have internal balance, we can live with open-ended questions. And if we live with open-ended questions we can access a different form of intelligence – one that is beyond our intellect (which has pretty much screwed things up so far, because it’s WAY too small to contain the mystery of life.

If we have internal balance, we can live with an anti-structure story (think Monty Python and the Holy Grail!)

We want life to be complex and easy because we like to figure things out and we don’t want to work that hard.

The truth is, it’s simple and difficult…

It’s all about creativity and love.

The revolution… not televised, internalised. Because, in the words of John Lennon…

“We all want to change the world.”

That would be a story even Robert McKee would approve of.


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