Five Thoughts For Thursday on The Referendum

As much as I would like to avoid it I can’t do a weekly blog and not have five thoughts on the referendum. So tin hat on and off we go.

  1. For decades voter participation and engagement, across all elections, has been dropping. Voting for X-Factor and Strictly consistently out perform voting at elections. Although you can vote more than once in TV talent shows. I do wonder if, in the perception of some at least,  the model for democracy is more akin to these shows than the reality of our parliamentary democracy? I don’t watch X-Factor but I do see the debate across my social media streams. There are cries of foul play, vote rigging and how can anyone choose them and in the context of recent events, many a statement about the stupidity of those who voted for someone other than their favourite. There is also this simple fact, the best singer or dancer does not always win. Why? Well maybe because…
  2. Voting is rarely done rationally. We vote for all kinds of different reasons. Party loyalty, family loyalty, a whole host of different narratives will often outweigh any investigation of data. It happens in all walks of life and I have no reason to believe an election or a referendum is any different.
  3. The vast majority of people who voted leave are not racist or stupid. Likewise those who voted remain are not unpatriotic appeasers. Sadly there will be a minority who will believe that a majority of people think and believe and think the way they do. Racism in any form is wrong. It is wrong in any country not just ours. We should all unite to condemn it and work for a better society.
  4. Are referenda a good way to decide anything? Just maybe our parliamentary democracy and the sovereignty of parliament  has been dealt a significant blow by this process. I am not sure it’s been dealt fatal blow but the I think it’s been lessened. It seems Parliament does not now whether to debate the result or not. After all the people have spoken but they were elected to speak and act on our behalf just a year ago. I’ll be honest I have no clear and unequivocal answer to this but I think it’s a question that should be debated. Has the referendum irrespective of the result damaged the standing of our parliamentary democracy.
  5. Most MPs are alright your know. They have to balance loyalty to a party with personal morals and convictions. Deeply held beliefs with pragmatism. The cartoon depiction of MPs probably does not stand up to scrutiny. Most work hard with the right motives like the rest of us. There are times when they get it wrong just like the rest of us.




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Five Thoughts on Travelling, well commuting.

They say travel broadens the mind and I guess if the kind of travelling you are thinking of involves backpacks, local cuisine and many many air miles then I guess that would be true.

However the travel the majority of us indulge in is usually of the more mundane kind. The regular commute to work, travelling to see a client or a relative. I am writing this on a tube train. It’s the eighth one I’ve been on today. By the time I get home over 4 hours of my day will have been spent on this metal tube or waiting to get on one. So my five thoughts on the more mundane travel experience.

1. Commuting is hard. I am glad I don’t do it every day. I doff my virtual cap to all of you hardy souls who endure it every day. Once upon a time I guess people moved out to the suburbs for a better quality of life. You would put up with the misery of the commute because it would all be worth it just to live in leafy suburbia. OK you don’t see that much of it but worth it. just think if you had to sell your inner London home now, you could probably retire. Instead you’ll be back to the commute dreaming of the better life that lies, somewhere, in the future.

2. The number of broken down escalators is in direct proportion to a) how knackered you are on any given day and b) the amount of stuff you have to carry up said busted escalator.

3. The man or woman who has placed their bags on the only spare seat next to them is always asleep. Not dozing. Really, really, deeply asleep. Because surely the guilt alone of taking up a seat that could be used by someone else would prevent you from sleeping.

4 Fast food always smells so much better when you catch a whiff of it when the doors open at a station. I think it’s something about it being unattainable yet so close.

5. London Underground always operates.a good service. That is until you get on a train. Within two stops the whole system has ground to a halt and you are left train-less on a platform of a station you have only ever glimpsed through a window. A station incidentally that has no amenities whatsoever.

Happy travelling, it certainly broadened my mind.



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Five Thoughts on Failure

No one likes failure but it is an inevitable part of life. You’ll win some, you’ll lose some that is life in a nutshell. I am sure there are people who have experienced way more successes than failures but even they will have to look failure square in the eye.  You may have noticed failure has cropped up a number of times in recent Five Thoughts For Thursday blogs. It’s not that I have had a spell of unremitting failures but my recent reading including the excellent Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed has made me re-evaluate failure, so here are my five thoughts so far.

1. Failure is inevitable. Whoever said “failure is not an option” clearly knew very little about life. There will be times, far more than you’d like, when things just don’t work out. I think accepting failure will come your way is actually a better way to deal with it. If you live a deluded existence where “failure is not an option”, when it does cross your path it is more likely to be a crushing blow. As Rudyard Kipling wrote in his famous poem If,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;…

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!

[Clearly this advice applies to everyone not just the male of the species]

2. You fail you are not a failure. Pretty hard to separate yourself from your failures but failing at something does not make you a failure. It just means you failed at one thing, one time. Next time may be very different. Many people, successful, well rounded people, have failed on numerous occasions but no one would call them a failure. The reason for that is..

3. Failure is an opportunity to learn. Athletes fail all the time. That is the essence of their training. They try something, to run faster, to jump higher or further and most of the time they fail. Each time they fail they learn something new about what it takes to succeed.

4. True success is built on trail and error. Theory is all very well but in the end you have to try something and see if it will work. You may have 100 failures but each one of them will contribute something towards the eventual success. Read any biography of any inventor and you will soon learn that the fantastic product they ended up inventing was really the product of many, many failed attempts.

5. A fear of failure will mean you never really advance.   Some people, maybe even you, are too scared to try anything, to advance anywhere because of the fear of failure. Fear of the failure itself or fear of what people will think of you because of your failure.   I genuinely believe it is better to have tried and failed than to have never tried.  The inevitability of failure is not a licence to be reckless. I am not suggesting you go “gung ho” into a situation. There is still a place for research, planning and, yes, caution but to dwell on all that can go wrong can have a paralyzing effect on you. Anticipate the obstacles, plan how to hurdle them and, most importantly pick yourself up when you’ve hit one.

Here’s to your future success, from one who has failed to another.  Definitely not from one failure to another. Maybe one learner to another.



FOOTNOTE: I send this blog out via email to my Five Thoughts Mailing List, which you can join by the way. Just fill in your details in the box on the right. Imagine my horror when my copy popped into my inbox with nothing in the email. CLICK HERE TO SEE  Frankly I should have left it as the perfect example of failure, but I learnt my lesson corrected the mistake and sent out the newsletter again. I suppose I should just have left it as a prime example of failure, it’s inevitability and a lesson learnt.


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Five Quotes that inspired me this week

I have started reading a self improvement book. The title is a little bit immaterial but generally speaking it involves getting up early and having a good long look at yourself. For a variety of reasons I needed to get my life back on track, or at least back onto a different track. Inevitably I have come across a number of quotes from the great and the good of self improvement. So here are the five that stood out.

  1. Life’s too short” is repeated often enough to be a cliche, but this time it’s true. You don’t have enough time to be both unhappy and mediocre. It’s not just pointless, it’s painful  Seth Godin. Having has a glancing blow with my own mortality I decided I didn’t want to be either, unhappy or mediocre. It’s a good job this quote was at the beginning of the book as it inspired me to read the rest of it.  
  2. “Thanks for being on my team.” – not a quote I found in a book but in an email to me. Encouragement is so important in life. Six words and the sentiment behind them made my day. I felt I belonged, my work was validated and it inspired me to look further up the road.
  3. “You gotta get out of the boat” This was the main message of an address I heard many years ago, when, in another life I was a Baptist Minister. I will write a longer blog explaining the wider story behind the boat but essentially it means getting out of the comfort zone and taking a few risks. The sea may be choppy and deep and the boat secure but you’re not going to achieve anything be remaining in the boat.
  4. “the first hour of the morning, is the rudder of the day.” ― Henry Ward Beecher. For me the first hour of the day was a moveable feast. I work from home so what did it matter how long it took me to get up, shave or not, as long as I got stuff done. Well I have learnt it does matter. If the the start of your day is lazy and unfocussed then the rest of the day will surely follow in the same vein.
  5. “Everything is difficult before it is easy.”  Hal Elrod.  We would all like the easy way out, the magic bullet, the one easily implemented strategy that leads to wealth, health and happiness. Of course it doesn’t exist. Anything that is worthwhile comes with its own struggle. 

The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod

If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat



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Five thoughts on beating the creative roadblock

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I think just about every profession goes through a creative block at some time or other.  That feeling when you don’t seem to be able to do anything.

Often called writer’s block but it affects artists of all kinds, indeed anyone who is trying to create something. It might be a book or a blog, a painting or a sculpture, a new concept or a different way of working. All of us in one way or another have reached that point when no matter what we do the page, canvas, notebook or screen remains stubbornly empty.  So here are my five five thoughts.

  1. Keep a storeroom. Always seek inspiration from others. Reading, watching, listening and recording are, in my opinion, essential to creativity.  Keep a notebook, scrapbook or online gallery of things that have inspired you or made you think or you just liked. When barren times come wandering around this storeroom will, I promise, spark your creativity. You will find stuff you had long forgotten, dusty and neglected that will trigger new thinking. If you are not already doing this start today, it may be a while before you see the benefit but it will help. This blog would not have been written without visiting my storeroom.
  2. Try a bit of demolition. Any task can seem daunting and overwhelming. Being overwhelmed is not good for the creative juices. So break the project down. Find elements you can do right away. Start with small bricks and soon you will have a wall and eventually a temple. I might have pushed that metaphor a touch to far but you get the idea. War and Peace starts with one word, then one sentence.
  3. Get on with it. Work anyway. What stifles most creativity is the screwing up of paper and throwing it in the bin. Whether metaphorically or in reality. Get some stuff done, it might be utter rubbish but you will have done something and once you get over that hurdle you’ll be surprised how ideas start to flow. Keep everything and then come back to it. It might be days, weeks or even years later. Some of it will still be crap but there will be others things you find are actually little gems.
  4. Listen to music. The theologian Karl Barth said he did his best work to Mozart. Music can lift the spirits, get the blood pumping and inspire you. Play something that lifts your spirit and if you can play it loudly.
  5. Realise great work comes from great struggle. There are times when things just flow. You can barely keep up with the creativity coursing through your brain. Hey, savour the good times but don’t beat yourself up when it doesn’t come quite so easily. Sometimes it is the struggle that makes it all worthwhile.

Gordon O’Neill




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