Are you a Lifelong Learner?



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Interesting question. You may reply that your employer keeps you up to date with industry developments, legal and practice changes that influence or dictate how you work. That is, indeed, training. But I am not writing about training to which you are directed on pain of death. I am writing about self-directed, self-financed (if necessary) and possibly self-interested education. I am referring to off-the-job training.

There are countless options for most of us to learn something that isn’t job-related – for example, we might decide to learn to play a musical instrument, to scrapbook (now a verb as well as a noun), to reorganise flowers or to cook. Community Education is a big area. And I recommend you do some research about that.

But available through the same route, but more competence-focused, are courses provided outside your work but which would enhance your ability to do that work.

No, I have no odea what that might be – I’m not in your industry.

But let me provide my example. I was a serving police detective, but outside of that I trained as a legal executive (lawyer) for 4 years, obtained a qualification that allowed me to teach adults in further education, and di other courses related to both of those. They weren’t provided by, nor funded by my employer – I funded part of it, grants funded the rest. Ker-ching!

On the face of it you may ask what legal training in probate law, land law and contract law had to do with policing, but I assure you the benefits to me as a Fraud Detective were amazing – the number of cases I could deal with because of that knowledge rose, as did the number of cases we passed back to complainants. Cases passed back because we knew they were trying it on – for example, solicitors, rather than dealing with a probate dispute, would point their clients at the police and scream ‘FRAUD!’ so that we would get all the evidence and they could use it having had it gathered gratis. I, on the other and, could show why it wasn’t a fraud (at least at that point) and make a perfectly good legally-sound argument for that decision. And we had one man alleging a commercial fraud that I sent back pretty much annually for 10 years because I knew about contracts while not one of my colleagues had the foggiest.

The Second Resolution states:  “To overcome the restraining forces of pride and pretension, I resolve to work on character and competence.”

Competence in the workplace is obviously covered by that statement, but I argue that such competence can extend, indeed should extend outside one’s professional obligations. In fact, I suggest it should include your societal and familial obligations, too.

Be a better citizen, be a batter parent, be a better child. It’s all there in that simple sentence. Be (character) a better (competence).

There are many facilities available for training, and in areas you might thing weren’t catered for. For example, parenting training is available from many charitable foundations, including Care for the Family. You might think parenting comes naturally.  Lucky you if it did.

Identify and seek out training in respect of the competencies you lack – and identifying and admitting that lack is an example of good character, by the way.

As they say, admitting the existence of a gap in your education is the first step to closing it and reaping the rewards that follow – both financial and personal.

What will you seek to learn after today?

A Personal Observation on My Goals Planning for 2022. Do you have the same challenges?



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Years ago I read the book ‘Your Best Year Yet’ by Jinny Ditzler, who sadly passed away last year. In a nutshell (because it’s a lot deeper than the following might suggest), she proposed that every year you go through a process of examining past success and failures, identifying what you learned from both. From that learning you consider looking at life through a new paradigm, and list three (could be more but not too many) Personal Guidelines for the next 12 months. Only after you’ve done that should you then identify your roles, values – and ten goals for that period. It’s called a BYY Plan.

(I’ve written before about ‘only’ having term goals and ‘what to do when you’ve only got 5 left and loads of time.)

Anyway, I have been doing that on and off for a while (and amending the list every time I complete one or more goals on that list) and this year was no exception. Except I wasn’t feeling the love. It’s 4 weeks in to 2022 and after a spectacular start I was feeling unmotivated. So what was wrong? I decided to look at last year’s BYY Plan.

Last year went well. I had a list, and one of my Guidelines was ‘Make Hard Choices and Act’. That was possibly the best one. Many’s the time I read that and went out and exercised, or pushed myself a bit harder, or did something towards a goal that I otherwise would have avoided. And I would guestimate I completed on well over 80% of the goals I set for my 60th year. I rewrote books, requalified as an advanced driving mentor, and drove three racing circuits of the four I planned, only being defeated when my brakes developed a fault and, let’s be frank, a race circuit is one place you need good brakes. I completed on a few procrastinated house development plans, and generally succeeded all over the place.

So why not this year, so far?

First of all, I realised that some of my goals were a bit vague. Well-intended, but vague. They needed sub-goals to make any sense, or just needed more specificity than I’d initially stated. (30 years of receiving AND giving SMART Goals input and I still screw up….)

Second, I realised that some were the goals you’re ‘supposed’ to have. Which means they weren’t really mine, they were someone else’s.

And third, I set the bar way too high. I decided to ride my bike 100 miles a week. For three weeks (and one day, to be honest) I did exactly that. And I felt absolutely wrecked, bored, unmotivated. The time it took out of each day among all the other commitments I made was mentally wearing.

And one goal was a combination of both the ‘someone else’ and ‘high bar’ faults, and it was debilitating mentally as I struggled with the effort of trying to meet it while not really wanting to. I’d walk the dog and the whole hour was my conscience debating ‘can I?’ ‘can’t I?’ and ‘How do I/Should I get out of it?’

In the end, I chose to disappoint the someone else, and in fairness they didn’t try to talk me back around, and respected my decision. It’s great to have understanding friends.

Anyway, long story short, today is the day I address all those errors and create a plan that is still challenging, but which I want to do as well. For example, one of my guidelines read ‘Exercise relentless self-discipline’. It may seem soft, but that word ‘relentless’ was causing mental and physical pain. Every time I didn’t train because of the motivation/physiological challenges, it just added more pain. Just removing that word is going to make the plan easier to execute without excusing laziness, for example. And if you’re being truly relentless, some things have to give way to other things, which in itself pulls at the conscience, which drives you nuts.

I know I promote self-discipline on this site, but in my book The Three Resolutions I address exactly when self-discipline becomes self-defeating, so my integrity remains intact!

So I recommend Jinny’s book (after you’ve read mine 😊) because properly executed in a considered way the Best Year Yet Plan I made for 2021 resulted in the best year I’ve had in quite a while.

And I was faster than the Stig around Castle Combe Race Circuit. (have I mentioned that before?)

(I admit that’s Anglesey Circuit and not Castle Combe, but I haven’t any pics of that day. Sorry.)

Decisions, Decisions. (On doing the right thing.)



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I was at a meeting last night, and the subject was Guidance – where do you find it? The trainer suggested that there were 5 sources to which you can turn when faced with a decision, or more accurately a momentous decision, the settling of which will have massive impact on ‘what happens next’ in the particular scenario with which you may be struggling at any time. Note that I said impact – the event leading to the decision may seem quite trivial, but your decision on how to deal with it will create the result you want, the outcome you need (which may be completely different), or a complete mash up mess.

The sources included reference material, social and professional peers, and previous practices or protocols. But the one that made me sit up with interest is arguably the most important one, and relates to the Second Resolution, or more specifically the second part.

The decision might well go through all of the assessment sources identified in the previous paragraph: what does the book say, what do my colleagues, supervisors and other human resources suggest I should do, and what is the current practice as laid down in page 457, paragraph 3 sub-section 2 of that manual we all say we’ve read but have actually never been able to find. And after going through that systematic(!?) approach, we arrive at the final guidance criteria, the one relating to that Resolution, and the one which causes the most trouble. And that assessment question is….

“Is it the RIGHT thing to do?”

The problem may have technical solution. It may have a protocol supporting the policy supporting the law supporting the organisation. Your friends may think it’s best. But in your heart, there is doubt.

If that is the case, you need to ask that last question and decide whether your conscience will let you do something you know isn’t right (or as right as it could be), but you’ll keep your job and reputation; or whether you’re prepared to act in all conscience, breach a protocol or practice, risk offending your peers and be absolutely content that what you did was clearly in keeping with your own personal value system, and extrinsic principles.

Not easy.

I hope that where I’ve been faced with such decisions in my past that I usually made the right choice. No doubt there have been occasions when I know I’ve done what I was told to do, in contravention of what I thought I should do, but that was often the result of a direct order by someone with more experience, knowledge (and power) than me. But in one situation that comes to mind as I write this, I was able to communicate my distaste for the execution of the instruction.

It isn’t easy fighting for what’s right. There are always consequences. But it’s a lot easier than fighting your conscience over something you did that you knew wasn’t right. You have to weight the consequences of every decision, right or wrong. You may have to weigh them up for a long time.

But while you wrestle with your feelings over what you decided and what you did, don’t forget to consider that other alternative: how would you feel if you hadn’t stood up for what was right?

Don’t focus on the problems created by acting correctly, in accordance with your conscience, values and personal character.

Focus instead on the personal integrity you demonstrated. People can see it, even if they rarely point it out.

Frustrated? Attack the Problem, not the Person.



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When do you get frustrated? Not disappointed – that’s a different thing. Disappointment means something hasn’t and will not happen. Frustration means it either hasn’t happened yet, or that it hasn’t happened in the expected fashion. And that’s the crux of today’s article – how to view frustration, which goes to the Second Resolution, and Character.

Frustration is a function of failed expectations. A promise is made, a contract signed, a E-Bay order submitted, an appointment set, and so on. In that moment, an expectation is established on the part of at least one party involved that the agreed consequence of the transaction will be met by the other. At this point, the ‘other’ party has only one obligation, which is to do what is expected of them. Probably nothing more. They entered into the agreement intending to do just that. To do X by Y.

Very often, the party with the expectation will have other activities which rely on X being done as agreed, which the second party knows and cares nothing about. Not their job. Why you want them to do X may not even be known to them.

This is the crux of frustration. A failure to communicate the consequences of any failure to meet the expectation. Of course, in day to day transactions such as those on-line (E-Bay, Amazon) the seller isn’t in a position to ask, and the buyer in no position to add to their order ‘I need that item for Claire’s birthday party so if it doesn’t come on time I’ll be embarrassed and she’ll be disappointed’, and it probably wouldn’t make any difference to their ability to deliver what they’ve already promised. But there are circumstances when an agreement is set, and bot parties made aware of the consequences of failing to act as expected.

But sometimes ‘it’ happens, and the expected action isn’t completed on time or as otherwise expected. That’s when Character comes in.

Character means the ability to look at a situation with an emotional detachment sufficient to see the reality – that sometimes promises are made and circumstances outside the other’s control came to pass that affected their ability to meet their obligation.

All too often, our response to a frustration is anger, accusation and a complete lack of acceptance of an absolute reality – that not everything and everyone revolves around us. Circumstances change and o one is to blame. And in situation of frustration, the first approach of a person of character to the ‘offending’ party should be inquisitorial, nor adversarial. To ask why something hasn’t happened before assuming it happened out of spite.

Not easy when your wife hasn’t come home to make the dinner. (I’m not good at this, either.)

Be honest – when someone doesn’t come through on your expectation, what’s your first inner reaction? Me, too. But there is another way.

Proactivity – the ability to make a considered choice in the gap between what’s happened and our response to it, is key. It allows us time to recognise that the world doesn’t always do what it’s supposed to, and that finding a mutually acceptable solution to a problem is better than starting a war over what is often quite a trivial problem, but one we’ve blown out of all proportion.

Next time someone doesn’t do what was asked by the time their action was needed, ask yourself whether the expectation was set as clearly as you thought, and then, if it was, enquire with the other person as to what has happened. Don’t assume you know, and then attack them.

You might need their help again, and that relationship is more important than being right. And you know, in your heart, that you aren’t perfect. And if you aren’t, why should anyone else be?

For more on character and the other Resolutions, read The Three Resolutions, available at Amazon HERE in paperback or Kindle.

‘Tis the Season to be Stupid, falalalala, lalalala



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(Republished and amended from Dec 2016)

“To change one’s life: Start immediately. Do it flamboyantly. No exceptions.”


Funny, isn’t it? Right now, with 20 days to go, I am positive that millions of people are making their rules for 2022, applicable from Day 1. (Okay, maybe not so much the Chinese, who have a different New Year.) They plan to diet, exercise, rise early, watch less telly, etc. Or maybe that’s just me. Again. Every year since ever.

Honest intentions, I have no doubt.

Next funny thing. Having promised to eat better, exercise etc. etc., they (we)  rationalise that because this is the season of celebration (and the conventional wisdom for celebration is to eat and drink to a massively stupid – yes, stupid – degree),  the fact that we are definitely starting to live better on Jan 1st means we can justify doing the exact opposite.

And I am just as stupid as most of you, in that regard. (Not as stupid as those who think it’s okay to do it FROM New Year until Christmas. Love to those alcoholics who will give up booze for a month to prove they’re not.)

William James, the ‘father’ of psychology (not psychiatry, different science), sought to identify the proper prescription for a successful life. By successful, he spoke not of fame and fortune, but of greater personal effectiveness and integrity, where one lived in accordance with one’s values and therefore did not suffer the debilitation of depression, stress and guilt. His prescription was to advise people throw themselves ‘flamboyantly’ into their primary objective – living life with the peace of knowing that what they are doing is good for them, good for others, and which serves a greater good. Even if that service only means becoming a role model for others.

Bear with. You have a conscience. It may be teeny weeny, or it may be a big bu66er. But you have one. When you fail to act in accordance with its sage advice, you feel a soupçon or a bucketful of guilt, depending upon its capacity and your willingness to listen to it. What you do with that knowledge is the difference between achieving James’ definition of success and living a life of quiet desperation where you spend every evening wondering where the day went and why you haven’t achieved what was on your principled list of things-to-do.

How do I know? I know because that has been a tendency* in my life. A lot of my friends seem impressed with the amount of ‘stuff’ I do and the miscellaneous blobs of service for which I am known support their belief, but know I could be a doing a whole lot better.

And with few exceptions, so do my readers.

Right now, those close to me privately and professionally are all preloading every conversation around the cake/biscuit barrel/sweet tin with ‘well, it is Christmas’, then stuffing their face knowing how daft they’re being. And (here’s the annoying part), after Christmas they’ll all go on a diet and bring their left-over cr4p into work. Thanks a bunch.

Starting today is key. It’s not easy, but it is the only truly sound route to getting what you want, and getting it soon enough to enjoy it.

My advice, therefore, is to follow William James’ advice. But be a little bit careful with the ‘flamboyantly’ bit. I think he meant do it ‘big time’, not dressed in a pink tutu, wearing a Stetson and covered in Braveheart make-up.

*Does ‘tendency’ mean absolute headlong throwing-yourself-into-dedicated-idiocy?

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A Badge That Makes You Skinny. Honest.



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The greatest writers on time management all agree – plan weekly, adapt daily. I subscribe to that ideal and do my planning on each Friday, but don’t worry – this post isn’t about time management. (That’s my other blog at )

No, this blog being about The Three Resolutions, my focus this morning is about how ‘weekly’ doesn’t cut it for so many of us. A weekly review of our commitments and plans isn’t enough if, like me, you’re not as disciplined as you’d like to be. Recommitment every Sunday morning isn’t enough for us just as much as it isn’t (really) enough for churchgoers who are all pious from 11am to midday, and then go for a beer and heavy Sunday dinner in a pub.

Nope. I’m afraid for those of us still striving to become what we have concluded is ‘our best’ once a week may not be sufficient for our needs. We need to remind ourselves on a daily basis what it is we are about, what we are for. For those of us who really struggle, we may have to recommit every time we pass a temptation – like the fridge.

Having your values/mission/plan as a handy reference is, well, handy. In fact, having it to hand can be a literal requirement. An ‘in-yer-face’ representation and reminder could be key to keeping you on your set path. It’s not absolutely reliable – it takes personal proactivity to actually comply – but having the reminder present is certainly helpful. It reminds you of the guilt you’re going to feel when you don’t act in accordance with the values you set yourself.

In my ‘other’ book, ‘The Way: Integrity on Purpose’, I promote the analysis of personal values and the creation of a personal mission statement in much greater depth than revealed in The Three Resolutions book. I also discuss iconography. (See also Dan Brown and his ‘Robert Langdon’ novels.)

What’s that got to do with the price of eggs?

I’m a bit OTT. I have my ‘mission compliance reminders’ on the screensaver of my mobile phone and in the front of my planning system, but I’ve also had badges made, badges that I wear on at least one piece of clothing (coat or hat) that remind me I’m a frequent failure. 😊 Surprisingly cheap to obtain, given they’re custom designed. (£14 for 14 2 ½ inch metal badges from Awesome Merchandise, free plug).

You see, I’m trying to create a kind of obligation to act in accordance with the motto/philosophy that these badges represent. You might think that’s a bit weird, but there you sit in your football club’s shirt, or a branded shirt that just advertises someone else’s mission. Think about that. You paid more for your shirt than I paid for my badges, and you’re reinforcing and funding someone else’s mission. Duh!

Have you explored your personal values? Have you a personal mission statement or stated, written ‘constitution’? If so, great. If not, do the exercises that create them.

Then think of a way to reinforce your integrity, and if that means designing your own logo, get to it and get compliant. Identify with and confess to the meaning behind your logo – it is your personal brand iconogrified (new word © ).

Then look at it every time you fancy another emergency pasty, and see if that makes you skinny.

(Click on the links in the article to see the books that give rise to and expand upon this wisdom.)

We ALL Suffer from Velleity.



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Velleity. Ooh. New word. One for Scrabble, minimum 14 points. But also important when defining your goals. Particularly at New Year……

What does it mean? According to Edwin C. Bliss, author of Getting Things Done (that isn’t the David Allen version) and Doing It Now!, it means “wanting something, but not wanting it bad enough to pay the price for it.” Yes, losing weight comes a rampant first place in the list of velleitous goals. (Oh look, I made up a  new word. Yay, me.)

I’m gambling that you, dear reader, like me, have a bucket load (list) of such goals. They’re ‘Like to Dos’ rather than ‘Will do at any costs’. They’re the ones that start with good intentions and usually remain there. Or they do mean something, but every time you consider committing to them – usually when action is actually called for – then you vacillate, meditate, procrastinate, and then change-the-date.

For example, I have a desire to drive the Nurburgring, but when the offer came up recently I put it off until next year. On the one hand, I could drive my car around it gently, but the enthusiast in me would inevitably try hard and risk having to walk the 450 miles back home, red-faced.

The answer? There is one, but even it can be looked at with velleity. The famed climber William H. Murray, leader of the Scottish Himalayan Expedition* in the early 1950s, once wrote an oft-quoted ‘personal development’ paragraph that read,

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way. I learned a deep respect for one of Goethe’s couplets:

Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.

Boldness has genius, power and magic in it!”

Velleity in a well-crafted nutshell.

To do something you ‘kinda’ want to do but keep putting off, you have to invest something of yourself, or your cash. One of the least mentioned elements of Murray’s quote is that the ‘commitment’ to which he referred was – wait for it – paying for the boat tickets to Bombay. But as simple and uninspiring as that may seem as a ‘commitment’, popping some cash down when you are financially challenged is a good way to reinforce commitment – once you’ve coughed up cash you struggled to obtain, it’s mentally stressful NOT to come through on your goal.

Another way to overcome velleity is to make non-performance more painful than performance. A famous example is a Jewish gentleman in the USA who publicly swore that if he didn’t come through on a commitment he made, he would donate a four-figure financial sum to the Ku Klux Klan. He came through.

What can you do to, today, to overcome your wanna-do reluctance?

*Still can’t find the Scottish Himalayas on the map.….

Don’t Value Excellence (WHAT??) Read on…..



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Assuming you have taken the time to identify your personal values/principles, let me take a punt at identifying two of them.

Family. See, told you I was clever. Okay, unless you’re living alone or are a complete psychopath there is a good chance you put Family on your list. The level of compliance with that value (over work, for example) is another question, but for another time.

The second on is Excellence. Was I right? Is excellence on your list of personal value statements, appropriately defined? Well, if I was – I recommend that you take it off.

That may seem an odd thing to suggest. You may feel that excellence as a value is an accurate reflection of what you believe to be a unifying truth. Well it is. And it was on my list of values for a long, long time. And then I removed it.

I removed it because excellence is a lovely target to have, but an impossible one to hit. Not always – sometimes you do something that you think is perfect, and sometimes you will be absolutely right.

But I know of no-one who is ever completely satisfied with an outcome that can be and is affected in any way at all by the actions or assessments of other people. Excellence is so easily defined as being somewhat parallel to perfection. And that target constantly changes.

I have written books, and both although and because my valuing of ‘excellence’ existed, I rewrote them all. Some needed routine legal/practice/digital updating but others just weren’t good enough – for me. And even when I was happy with it, and felt I had achieved excellence – someone else saw it and made some genuinely pertinent observation that made me wish ‘I’d thought of that’.

Which is a good example of showing that excellence is very often in the eye of the beholder, which means it is to some degree outside of your Circle of Influence. Well, certainly the smaller Circle of Control, anyway.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t aim for excellence. But if you’re going to make it a value, prepare to disappoint yourself. You will do that constantly.

What to do, instead? I suggest you consider valuing Effort. You know how much of yourself you put into any endeavour, and you know when you aren’t doing enough. Other people’s opinions and assessments can’t affect what you know you have done, and how well you tried to do it. If you value effort, you value the mental effort you take to learn the particular method for doing something, you know whether you sweated enough in terms of the physical effort, and you know whether you put the time (psychological effort) into the task.

You can also, then, make some allowance and forgive yourself when you did all you could and it still wasn’t enough. For example, when you make an error that costs you dearly. You may well have done an excellent job, but something or someone felt disappointed and the result was you lost out. But you know, at the very least, that you did the best you could with the resources you had.

You put in the Effort. Your integrity is sound, and you maintain your sense of dignity and personal self-esteem.

Which is excellent.

Review your value of ‘Excellence’ and redefine it to mean Effort. It is worth the, er, investment.

We all suffer from Hubris. Yes, probably even you.



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Hubris. A word you’ve heard but until you’re accused of having it have probably assumed you understood but in fact have no idea. At least, that was my experience. Thought I knew what it meant, didn’t. Maybe suffered from it, I don’t know. If I did, maybe I realise it now by seeing it being more and more evident in the news. How so?

Most of us possess reasonable levels of self-confidence. A few, lucky people possess enormous levels of self-confidence, but of a type that isn’t ‘in yer face’ and annoying. These people we respect and seek to emulate, and we do so in the knowledge that emulation will serve us well. Nice, professional, generous and inclusive people who pull us along and make us better than we are.

I’ve been lucky enough to work with a few of those.

Then there are those I call Flashhearts, based upon Rik Mayall’s delightfully funny Blackadder character. They truly are ‘in yer face’. They have self-confidence, but they demand that you acknowledge it. They don’t want respect and mere emulation. They demand ad-oration. You mere underlings are there for them, not the other way around.

Sometimes, these people start out well. They perform at a level of excellence, possess some serious talent, and have worked hard to get where they are. But at some point in this development, they start to believe, and to believe in, their own publicity.

And then they believe they can do no wrong. At the government/celebrity level, they believe themselves to be untouchable, unreproachable, unstoppable and unimpeachable. They dismiss criticism as badly-motivated. They see those who challenge their poor behaviours as jealous, as threats, as beneath them.

Name one. Actually, let me change that challenge. Try to name ONLY one! Bet you can’t. bet you know the Robert Maxwells, the Donald Trumps, the Jimmy Saviles. And many more.

I have two points to make from a Second Resolution perspective (on character).

First of all, the people who follow or serve them, but fail to challenge them, are enabling their bad behaviour. The follower’s self-interest is undermining their integrity. They won’t speak out because they feel they can’t. I understand, but there is a cost.

The second point is – we all suffer from it to some degree. Including me. We commit acts that we know would and could get us into trouble. We tell a joke that in the current climate just isn’t allowed, and we expect others to laugh and move on. (Whether that should be the case is a ‘cancel culture’ question but my point remains valid.) it’s 2021 and the English Cricket Board is now dealing with a racism issue, which I bet was seen by those committing the offensive behaviour as ‘team banter’. We are sexist, racist, homo-ist and so on – usually for the sole purpose of humour and not necessarily directly towards and in the presence of the target, but we do it anyway. Not maliciously, but we do it believing ourselves, in that specific instance and with our humorous intent, to be safe in doing so.

Hubris. It’s defined as ‘excessive pride towards or in defiance of the gods, leading to nemesis’. That’s posh for thinking you can beat the principles or rules, and then you get what’s coming to you in the form of poetic justice.

So when you tell that joke (for example), or ignore the systems, protocols and ethics that life calls upon you to observe because you think you’re above them, don’t be surprised when they bite back.

I wasn’t.