Get Better. At Everything You Reasonable Can.



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What are you good at? Outside your profession, that is?

And another question – how good are you at that ‘other thing’? And a final one – How good could you be at that thing?

There is a book out there called ‘The One Thing,’ by authors Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. It’s a fine book, very easy to follow and (one might argue) twice as big as it needs to be to explain its main idea. It promotes the idea that you should focus on your ‘One Thing’ and (to use their words) to do so to the extent that by doing it everything else will be easier or unnecessary. And there’s my issue.

I don’t know anyone who does One Thing.

To be fair, Keller and Papasan are mainly asking you to address the One Thing that will make you successful and most people see that as a professional aim, and therefore seek it out in one area of life – the money-making, success-orientated part. The authors do acknowledge and promote using that question in other life areas, too. Which is where my point in this blog comes in.

First of all, I believe most people have a number of things they want to do, some of which they discover along life’s (DON’T SAY JOURNEY) path. BUT there is a tendency to seek high levels of competence in only one or two. I believe it is possible to have high levels of competence in all of them. Indeed, if you consider some important roles, it is essential to be optimally competent. Do you want to be a ‘passable’ parent? Thought not.

So secondly, I believe that it is a good idea to study, experience and apply yourself to your ‘other interests’ to the highest practical degree. I say ‘practical’ because you can’t work for a living AND study for a degree in every interest you might have. That’s impractical. But you CAN seek out experiences, and practical learning, in your fields of interest. For my part it’s in public speaking and advanced driver instruction. There have been other interests as well (investigator training and writing) which took up time, but time well spent as my competency in each area developed through osmosis. I learned as I ‘did’. That’s not as fast as 100% focus one can apply to a new career, but it is effective. And here’s the thing.

What I learned in every different and distinct role, I have discovered can be applied in all the other roles, too. My legal training helps me deal with life’s challenges because of a forensic, logical approach. My learning the art of manly and sporty lycra-wearing has made me fitter and more able to ‘work’. My studies required and developed my writing ‘ability’ such as it is (your assessment….) My desire to train required I learn to speak in public so I ‘got gooderer’ at that.

There are people in the world who can learn, qualify in and apply some serious disciplines. I’ve known medically-qualified barristers, and that is some time- and mental commitment! I’m jealous of people who can achieve this level of competence but I’m not suggesting we can all do that. But we can find something we like to do and seek out the ability and knowledge required to be the best we can be at whatever that is.

Look at your work and hobbies. Are there things you can do that will make you even better at doing them? Courses, reading, experiences you can have that will make you better at, and therefore enjoy those activities.

Go to it. Maximise your application of The Second Resolution and become a better person on your own terms.

Make the Hard Choices



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When I set out my plan for what is my 60th year, one of the tenets I elected to live by was the expression “Make the Hard Choices.”

What is a hard choice? In a nutshell, a Hard Choice has to be made when, in Three Resolutions terminology, one often has to choose between a short term preference, or a ‘fight or flight’ kind of response, where the immediate temptation is to take the easy option. Or one really thinks about it.

I have made several hard choices over the fairly recent past. Two stand out because the first impacted the latter. In 2019, I was accused in my workplace of some thought crimes. One was a silly joke I made, which in the current climate really was silly. The rest of them – well, let’s just say I dispute either the recollection, or the existence of the event. My Hard Choice was – fight, or flight? During the internal hearing, where the number of pages exceeded the number of days I’d worked, I found myself wondering if the next allegation would be that my striped tie was phallic in nature. I decided that the relationship between the people involved was such that, for the sake of the organisation, I would resign. I didn’t need the money, nice as it was. The organisation didn’t need the bother and, quite frankly, neither did I. So I left.

Two years later, an agency with which I am registered asked me if I wanted a role with that organisation. As I am lockdown-bored, I suggested that if they’d have me, I was willing. The agency said they’d contacted them and they were okay with me, “Would you like an interview?”

I actually panicked. I had the shakes, concerns about ‘them’, concerns about the work.  My blood rushed to my head; I was mentally all akimbo. And then my mantra kicked in – “Make the Hard Choice.” I replied, “Yes.”

During my interview it became clear that my past hadn’t been passed on. So I told the interviewers (as an answer to the question as to whether I’d ever made a difficult choice, ironically enough). No point in hiding what they needed to know, after all.

Those examples represented the making of a ‘hard’, Hard Choice. But I have made another one every morning this week. To get out of bed and exercise first thing, or (weather permitting) to go out on long/hard road cycling expeditions. Some people love doing that – I am less enamoured. But as I lay there in the morning gloom (roll on Summer), I remind myself – Make the Hard Choice, and I rise, dress, set up my tablet and watch Talk Radio and other videos as I use up the calories I will take on later in the day.

You may have a range of Hard Choices to make. Divorce, marry, date, dump. Take or refuse an opportunity. Eat a salad or a cake. Give up a vice or accept the consequences. Write that e-mail, or delete it once drafted.

Of course, some of your hard choices may affect others. Promotion/resignation affects those who rely on you for survival, after all. Facing or escaping a danger may result in the difference between saving a life or making sure you stay around for your loved ones. (I’ve often wondered why, when they DON’T leap into danger, coppers are often criticised. If it’s courageous to throw yourself into a river to save a stranger, it is ‘normal’ and expected NOT to.)

What Hard Choices do you make? If there aren’t any, are you living to your full potential? There is no doubt in my mind that it is the Hard Choices that bring out the best in us. And sometimes, that choice may seem self-centred – but might actually contravene our values in preference to the needs of other people.

Even the ones who tell tales about you.

You’ve Fallen – What Now?



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“You may have a fresh start any moment you choose, for this thing that we call failure is not the falling down, but the staying down.” Mary Pickford

Every now and then, even the best have a poor day. An actor fluffs a line, a singer misses a note, Tiger Woods misses a road. These days of woke, a slip of the tongue causes offence and you are the one in the wrong, undermining hundreds of years of basic law about intent being the important element of a crime, not the ‘feelings’ of the other party. People are losing jobs because of momentary lapses of judgment that have nothing to do with their actual job performance – and often because the ‘offendee’ has an agenda (newspaper sales, TV ratings, they want your job, etc.), and not because they were genuinely offended.

And you’re cast down. Do you stay there?

It’s entirely up to you.

Here’s some advice for those who fall. Get up and start again from the First Resolution. Re-establish the disciplines that made you the success you were until only moments ago. Address the mistake by deciding either to never repeat it or to stand by it. Depending on your perspective and the nature of the event – you decide. If you were guilty, in part or in full, accept your tort and never do it again. If you weren’t, be steadfast and step away from the situation before it worsens.

Then look at the Second Resolution: revisit your sense of character, a massive element of which is Integrity. What does your conscience say about your ‘offence’? Was it wrong – if so, decide never to do it again. If not, conclude others were in the wrong and move forward. Examine your professional competencies: which ones weren’t what they could have been – if personalities were involved, what did you miss? Who did you fail to judge accurately? What nagging doubts (‘yellow alerts’) did you ignore? What action did you fear to take? It is rarely your professional competency that fails – it is almost always relationship-related – people, in other words.

Finally, consider the Third Resolution: can you still follow through on your sense of purpose, even if it is in a different way? Who can you serve, instead? What skills do you have that haven’t been compromised or lessened by your fall, that can be put to good, or even better use?

This* happens. But only death can really stop you doing something meaningful with your life. Anything else is a temporary distraction if you decide that to be so. The world is full of recovery stories – write your own if you need to. Use the philosophies available through the many books on purpose, discipline, and so on. Discover an alternative route to the end that what you lost was intended to provide.  

Apply The Three Resolutions.

Get Better. BE Better.

Starting the moment you get over what happened.

*An anagram

Emotional Control – and Two Fights.



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Years ago during my policing career, two colleagues arrested a criminal who had a reputation for violence. On arrival at the Custody Unit car park, and just outside the Unit entrance doors, the officers alighted and invited the detainee to get out of the car. (It was before the use of vans was routine.) He declined their invitation.

Using ‘minimum force’ I used a technique I had learned in training, I put the blunt end of a pen against his earlobe and putting the two between my fingers, squeezed. He got out, at which point my two colleagues pinned him against the wall and tried to cover all his limbs and torso at the same time. I observed two things – one, he was trapped, and two, he wasn’t actually resisting any more.

“Flipping heck Dave, help us!” yelled one of my mates.

“He’s not resisting anymore.” I calmly responded. And he wasn’t. he meekly accepted his fate once the two sweating coppers eased off and the rest of the process went easily.

For 24 hours the two colleagues thought ill of me. The following day, they apologised. The emotion of the moment had taken over.

Another day, same unit. A well known and truly violent prisoner, with a history for acting up in the Unit, was asked to remove his clothes for forensic examination. Predictably, off he went. Yelling, demanding, threatening. It was going to take the world to get his kit off.

“Oy, ******,” I shouted. “WHAT?” he replied.

“Has behaving like that ever actually worked for you?” I asked.

A moment passed and he started undressing.

I’m no saint. I lost my temper now and then. Which doesn’t make today’s lesson less impactive, it merely reinforces it.

When emotions are high, when stresses are present, when losing your temper and abandoning all emotional control is ooohhhh so easy,


There are two reasons for this. First of all, it makes you feel good afterwards. Your keeping control is emotionally satisfying.

But second, it means you keep control and are able to deal with the event better. While I’m not proposing you will ever need this advice, my experience has always been than in a fight it’s the one who loses control that loses. I was attacked many times during my career but I always (somehow!) managed to keep my cool – even when a criminal bit into my leg and I let him stay there because it meant he wasn’t running off – and I literally tied them up in an effective controlling hold because they had lost control and I hadn’t.

You may not be involved in fisticuffs, but the same advice applies to those verbal confrontations we all, occasionally, find ourselves starting or trying to finish. Maintaining emotional control is key to resolution, and it is a truly empowering characteristic that those who wish to be principled leaders should seek to adopt.

All it takes is a moment to decide – who’s in charge here? Me or my emotions.

Choose ‘me’.

Buy this book – Be Like Russ.



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Why did you pick up a personal development book?

You are on Amazon or you are in a bookshop, searching in the business or self-help section for one of a few reasons.

  • You’ve tripped over it by mistake. Could be serendipitous, and you’ve accidentally discovered something that piques your interest.
  • You have recently been introduced to the concept of personal development and are exploring available options. You are looking to be better than you perceive you are. This is your first foray in the well of wisdom. Good luck. There’s plenty to see, here.
  • This isn’t your first self-help book. You are an avid reader of this kind of material. You’re addicted to researching the solutions that all your previous reading hasn’t provided. I feel your pain, because I have been there. Like me, you’re into ‘shelf-development’ by accident.
  • You are already successful by all ‘normal’ societal measures but there’s something that you either can put your finger on and you think an answer might be found within these pages, or you can’t put your finder on ‘it’ and you hope to realise what it is as you progress through the chapters. You’d be surprised how many potential readers come under this description.

But do you want to buy and read it, yet? No?

Let’s explore further.

Do you know someone who you think represents your ideal? And why do you think that person is your ‘ideal’?

I had someone in mind when I wrote that question. He was a consummate professional, arguably a leader in his field even though when I really knew him he held low rank in the organisation for which we both worked. He was at the same time one of the most caring supervisors and individuals I had ever known. His name is Russ. I hope you know someone like that.

If you really study people like Russ, you will notice certain things. You’d probably notice that they possess six character traits, and in my book The Three Resolutions I argue that those six traits come under three pairings. Mastery of those pairings will enable you to emulate your ideal and thus become someone else’s representation of ‘great’. Oddly enough, if you look at disgraced celebrities and politicians you will notice the lack of some or more of the same six character traits that make for true greatness.

Do you want to know what they are? Better still, do you want to possess them yourself? Good. But wait a little longer before making the commitment.

What if I said this was a book on ‘the simple, quick way to success?’ Would you buy it then? I certainly hope not.

We should all strive to be the best at what we can do. That is the objective of much of the personal development literature out there, but I think there is one problem with a lot of it.

A lot of the books have a tendency to over-promises and under-deliver. They offer ‘massive’ success, ‘greatness’, an ideal that is all too often defined as rich, famous and accompanied by the lifestyle of millionaires. Which is not to say that isn’t a worthy ambition and that you should never, ever pursue such a goal.

Unfortunately, the sad, sobering truth is that we can’t all be at the top of our respective field, even if we can strive towards that goal. We can’t all be celebrities because don’t all have voices like Katherine Jenkins or Andrea Bocelli, we can’t all act like George Clooney or Tom Hanks, and we can’t all write like J.K. Rowling and Lee Child. We can’t all be immensely rich because there’d be no-one left to do the work that we do. Economics would make all millionaires ‘poor’ if that was even possible. We can’t all run the organisation we work for, because there’d be nobody in the shop floor making the widgets we need to sell in order to pay our salaries.

Which is not to say we can’t try. And I will argue that we all have an inkling of what is required, but many of us tend to avoid actually doing it.

The six character traits under the three ‘headings’ are easy to understand, I assure you. The challenge is that they can be surprisingly hard to do. True greatness doesn’t come about through just pottering at something – it takes some effort, at least. I can’t make it easier to do, sorry and all that. Any author/ trainer/coach who says s/he can, is a liar. A charlatan. A snake-oil salesman.

But what I can do is make it easier to understand the traits, systematically help you see how they inter-relate, and motivate you to do something about what you discover.

Are you willing to consider doing that? To putting in the effort to understand and then actively apply what you read?

Still not convinced? Okay, let me try another tack. What if you don’t buy this book, don’t study its content and leave your success to accident, to other people’s design, or to fortune? What do you think will happen? Could you win a lottery if you haven’t bought a ticket? Can you get a job you haven’t applied for? Can you have a beautiful garden you don’t plant, nurture and maintain? In fact, can you get anything meaningful without taking action towards that end? Without at least doing something? Everything in life requires input if we are going to get output. Everything.

The fact is that while there’s not enough room for everyone to be at the top because the bar is always rising (and what represents talent changes with the mood of the client!), there is no need to be despondent because there is one thing at which we can be best, and once we achieve that we can all have the potential to go for the bigger things.

The one thing at which you can be great is – being the real, best, most competent, nice, disciplined, healthy, slim, helpful, dutiful and ultimately Russ-like ‘you’.

And that’s where The Three Resolutions come in. I invite you to read about them while you’re stuck indoors – and before you’re set free and accidentally default to how things were before.

Vietnam and The Three Resolutions



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For the past 8 days I have been dutifully watching a PBS documentary series on the Vietnam War, covering the 1961-1973 American involvement in what had hitherto been a French problem. And the overarching message that I have received has been – if they’d just applied the Second and Third Resolutions, maybe the lives of 282,000 US/South Vietnamese and other allies’ service personnel, 444,000 North Vietnamese/Viet Cong soldiers, and  627,000 civilians, would have been saved. Not all, I suspect – if North Vietnam had simply been handed control there would no doubt have been the kind of casualties usually associated with a communist takeover.*

Why would the Second Resolution have saved them? Character.

You see, the recurring message of the testimony and evidence produced showed (a) how often the US authorities admitted, in secret, that they were fighting a losing battle from when Kennedy was still alive and (b) that the self-interest of Presidential re-election was the focus of some of their decision-making. They even produced evidence that Nixon sabotaged peace talks as a way of supporting his efforts to replace Lyndon Johnson in the 1968 elections. How many of his citizens dies because of self-interest – because of a lack of character?

Which also brings up the Third Resolution. The other factors that killed countless people was unbridled ambition on the part of the leaders of both sides. The North could argue that they wanted to unite their country under one flag, albeit a communist one. The American evidence was clearly that, rather than acknowledge a huge error and step back from it with careful consideration as to how, they just threw people at it to avoid having to admit to a mistake – even someone else’s! Just to maintain power 6,000 miles away.

When I saw how many soldiers died taking ‘strategically important’ hills, only for the victors – survivors – to leave them once they got to the top, I was grateful that my children never volunteered to join the Forces, and simultaneously even more respectful of those who do.

I have always been willing to acknowledge and apologise for my mistakes. Even when my efforts have been rebuffed, and lies told about my errors, my disappointment has been more about another’s unwillingness to accept my apology out of self-interest, than it has been about the negative personal consequences.

Saying sorry often takes courage. It means acknowledging imperfection, it means risking a reputation – it means being vulnerable. Acknowledgement of a genuine effort to apologise is the least one can ask for.

But as Vietnam shows, stubborn insistence on ‘being right’ when patently ‘doing wrong’ in an effort to hide being even more wrongis dangerous to everyone involved.

Particularly for those who didn’t realise they were being misused by the players in the game.

Tell the truth. Live the truth, Acknowledge the truth.

Whatever happens.

*Turns out there weren’t any massacres. Just big re-education camps. Honest.

Handforth and the Third Resolution



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As I write this blog, the Handforth Council Planning Committee video is viral, the major press has got wind of it, and it has apparently chosen sides. Having been party to many a committee meeting myself, I thought I’d explore the concept from a Third Resolution (service) perspective. The question so obviously arising from this amusing event is – why do people choose to serve?

The most attractive and most frequently given answer will be ‘I want to serve the association, public, country, community’ (delete as applicable). For many, that is true. I know I wanted to serve my own Institute when I volunteered. Which was not necessarily my only motive, and therein lay the crunch.

In my opinion, when volunteering there is also the ego-driven desire to be/do something of importance. Don’t judge – there is an element of ‘What’s In It For Me’ in everything we do. That is a psychological truth. If there was nothing at all in it for you – what possible reason would you have for doing it? My evidence? ‘I want to be a nurse’ is a worthy vocational ambition, but years later ‘emptying Gladys’ colostomy bag’ loses its edge. You still do it because it serves your greater vision, but you’d be equally happy if you didn’t have to. We want the good stuff of the service we provide, and we endure the bad. Which is why there is no such job as ‘colostomy bag emptier’. No-one wants it. But they will do it as part of work they do want. You wanted the overall job, and to serve. You do the bad because it serves something else that IS in it for you.

The problems arise when instead of serving in order to get ‘something’, you start to serve with a view to making that service – serve you. Instead of giving to the cause, you start to demand that the cause gives to you – not just emotional contentment and a sense of purpose (which is why you started), but everything. The cause/organisation you serve now belongs to you, and you demand to direct it.

When I watched the Handforth video I found myself asking questions the press seemed to have ignored. Why was this ‘volunteer’ running the Zoom meeting and deciding who was in charge? Was she there because she wanted to serve – or because she didn’t like what she (or someone else) was hearing and wanted to stop it despite really having no business doing so? Watching the earlier part of the meeting suggests at least some internal politics at play.

If someone turned up in your meeting and declared she was running it because a third party ‘asked her’, what would your response be? If s/he rejigged the agreed agenda, added bits in and threw the Chair out because he wasn’t content to allow the hijack – would you go, ‘Fine, no problem’? And what if it was clear that half the attendees seemed to be either in on the hijack or willing to endorse it? (Which, if that was the case, would explain the anger displayed by the Chair/Vice-Chair particularly if it was happening ‘again’ and they’d had enough of it. Half a story is not a whole story.)

The Third Resolution is intended to counter the Restraining Force (possibly) demonstrated in Handforth. (And I emphasise – none of us knows the whole story, so that’s a big ‘possible’.)

That RF is UNBRIDLED Aspiration and Ambition. Note the importance of the adjective ‘Unbridled’ – aspiration and ambition in an individual is laudable until it becomes self-serving, and serves the individual at the very expense of the body being served. My observation of the meeting – which is admittedly subjective and may be misinformed – was that someone appeared to be interfering in someone else’s game, as modest and (in fairness) emotionally cool as she appears in the video, and perhaps shouldn’t have. I have done some research and have some questions but – not here. 🙂

So was she there to serve? And if so, serve whom? Only the parties involved know the whole truth. But if I wanted to serve the local authority I’d seek election or employment. And I’d only do it because I wanted to serve, even if I wanted to progress and serve from the top. Ambition good, unbridled ambition, bad.

 In the interests of balance, I might do a blog on emotionally-controlled addressing of interference and trespassers…….

It’s never too late – nor too early – to learn



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Ordinarily I write my blogs on the day I post them. I wrote this one five days ago, because I knew I’d be busy this morning. I mean that morning. I mean …. Oh, you know.

I knew I was busy on the morning this post would appear (that’ll do) because of my adherence to my personal value relating to ‘intellectual pursuit’ in that I had booked to attend a webinar. To be frank, it’s a webinar the content of which I already know and I could probably plan and present it myself (although the presenter is doing a bang up job). It’s on a subject I’ve studied for decades, hence my apparent over-confidence.

But I have always been of the opinion that ‘competence’, the ‘working’ half of the Second Resolution, is not something you achieve once. Competence is an ongoing obligation, and as competencies develop so does my need to maintain some kind of currency with the latest thinking on the subject at hand. It ahs been said that competencies have a half-life of about two-three years, meaning in that period you’ll lose half your usable ability if you don’t maintain some kind of continuing professional development. I know from recent experience that the procedural changes in the organisation I left in 2014 and to which I returned 18 months later meant that I was way behind in some respects. A steep learning curve was a pleasant surprise!

Many people rue additional training, while some welcome it. I find that the first group is split into people who hate it whatever it is, while some (cough) just detest such training if it is unnecessarily frequent or poorly delivered.

(Did you know that on the first anniversary of the day they are taught how to hit people with a metal bar, police officers are deemed to have forgotten? The same with First Aid. Complete mental collapse in some areas of their work that many apply frequently but on day 366 – all forgotten. Yes, I am being a bit sarcastic and there are valid exceptions.)

In the main, however, frequent attendance at training courses will at best enhance your professional (and personal*) competencies and at worst reinforce the ones you already possess.

So why not approach imposed training as something which will serve you in some way, and proactively seek out training in areas which until now you may have felt unnecessary – or better still, something you want to do just ‘because’.

When the lockdown finishes you will no doubt get the opportunity to return to a community college, further education facility or other provider who will teach you something you will need to know, or will want to know.

I know I will be.

( *I’m booking some ‘relationship’ courses even though I’m approaching my 40th wedding anniversary. Can’t be too careful…….)

For more on principle centred leadership, ready my book The Three Resolutions, available HERE.

My Biggest Mistake



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One of my deepest regrets in my professional life relates to a character flaw I had (have?) which was an unintentional, and oddly counter-intuitive effect of having studied the field of personal development, particularly the writings of leadership thought-leader Stephen R Covey.

Those who knew me best overlooked that flaw and saw something which I seemed determined to hide but (at least for them) shone through the cracks in the illusion I’d somehow managed to create.

It was this. Having discovered a sense of self-direction borne of the personal development world, everything that got in its way was annoying. And even if I didn’t say so out loud, which I occasionally did, then I would still somehow manage to communicate that frustration.

For example, in a busy CID office I walked in one morning to the news that my DI had selected me to investigate a vulnerable missing person. He was vulnerable by definition (over 65) but there was no actual fear for his safety. Anyway, that day I had a plan, and the news wasn’t welcome. I rang the DI, who wasn’t in, and left a message about how I was going to comply with his request and ‘then do some proper police work’.

Apparently, I went viral.

Good boss, raised it with my immediate supervisor and I went to apologise. (As an aside, that’s what I mean by ‘people who knew me well’ were able to make allowances.)

With 20/20 hindsight I wish that instead of having a ‘plan’ priority I’d had an ‘excellence’ priority, instead. That instead of moaning and whingeing (while still doing a great job) I did an excellent job in good humour, welcoming the trust and the challenges that were being offered to me. Perhaps I would have achieved just a bit more professionally – I did specialise and I did well, but much later on my hubris – and perhaps unwillingness to absolutely follow the change in political ‘line’ – bit me on the bum.

The same applied at home. If I had a plan and something interrupted it, instant strop. If someone doesn’t do what I ask (reasonable though it may be), I mention it DI-style. Not good for relationships, even if the penalty isn’t quite as drastic as a job loss, for example.

The point is – instead of pausing in the Stimulus-Response Gap and considering that a request was reasonable, do-able, developmental and relationship-building before welcoming those opportunities, I chose conflict. Imagine that – I chose conflict. How dull am I?

After all I have studied, agreed with, understood and desired to apply, I still find a tendency to bite. Not as much as I did, but too late to do anything about those mistakes I made, and to have another chance to learn from them.

Time is a bitch. It won’t move in the direction I need it to.

Anyway, apologies to the offended. It wasn’t personal unless I made it plain that it was.

The message?

Now is the time to adopt a considered, conciliatory approach to work, impositions, interruptions and people. The alternative isn’t worth the lack of effort. (It does make sense.)

Have a great week, everyone. Even those who offended me. Because now – I understand.

Failure is Meaningless – AND Meaningful



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Viktor Frankl, psychiatrist, victim of the Holocaust and author of the most impactive book on a purpose-driven existence (Man’s Search for Meaning), wrote, “Suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning.” In the same vein, philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

How true is the life philosophy that such sayings promote? To be frank their veracity can probably be underlined by the fact that so many writers on the subject of personal development and the associated psychologies quote them. But their popularity does not necessarily make them right, any more than Lady Gaga’s views on American politics have a sound academic base because she writes nice songs.*

What is your experience?

My own life is a series of successes, followed by severe disappointments followed by bounce-backs followed by plummeting failure and back again. In fact, if I delve too deeply into my history I’ll probably depress myself – which is okay because I’ll come right back in any case. History says so.

Seriously, most successes have a history of failures to look back on. (Some successes still have those failures to come!) Two good example are Abraham Lincoln – many, many failures in terms of his political ambitions before becoming arguably the greatest US President to date – and Winston Churchill, who was up and down like the proverbial whore’s drawers (best simile I could find, sorry) between:

  • entering Parliament, becoming Home Secretary and being hauled over the coals for personally attending a siege,
  • later First Lord of the Admiralty, resigning over Gallipoli and sending himself to the Western Front,
  • then being constantly carped at over his warning about a famous German painter and decorator before
  • finally being given total command over Britain’s defence during WWII, then
  • voted out of power immediately after victory before
  • becoming PM again at the age of 77 before finally retiring from politics at 81.

Churchill could really have been forgiven for thinking, ‘Bugger all this’ instead of more famously deciding to ‘Keep Buggering On!’

Both these famous men, along with the likes of Gandhi, Malala Yousufzai, Britney Spears, Drew Barrymore and Robert Downey Jr, are testament to the fact that if you have a deep, meaningful reason for doing what you do (and a talent for it that people recognise and appreciate) then the occasional setback – even the really embarrassing ones – need not be your Final Act.

The examples I use – celebrities and politicians – may not have had to deal with quite the levels of Nietzsche’s ‘what’ that Frankl suffered (concentration camp bereavements and horrible experimentation visited upon his person) but ultimately they had a sense of purpose that drove them through the pain and back towards success. As some sage put it – “When you’re going through Hell, keep going.” (I’d say Ducky from NCIS but I think he pinched it).

I’m still really awaiting my next comeback after my last setback, but it’ll come. Meanwhile I have a sense of meaning that revolves around my grandchildren and their parents. (Is that order somehow symbolic?) I am lucky in that income isn’t a big issue – not rich, but secure – and maybe one day all this writing will ‘pay’ off. But if it doesn’t I’m still going to try.

I’m going to try because The Third Resolution drives even the biggest failures towards optimism. It drives me and it serves others – even if they haven’t been served yet. They’ll come around when they need me.

Which reminds me, the grandkids are coming around and I need to brace myself……..

*She may well have a degree in politics but THAT will be why her views have strength, not because she has a Poker Face.