Tag Archives | staying ahead

What My Headmaster Told Me That Changed My Life

It was snowing heavily as I walked towards The Reverend Johnson’s study one night in West Sussex in 1978. As headmaster of our 700 pupil, all border private school, he was deciding who would be the next ‘School Captain’, a prestigious, powerful position. I was a rank outsider. What happened next shocked me, and stays with me till this day. Read on…

There was no way I was going to be made School Captain. I smoked, regularly got caught smuggling duty free alcohol into the school whenever I returned from holiday in South Africa, got busted one night playing strip poker at the local girl’s boarding school, and generally broke rules.

So the odds were against me to get the gig- a highly sought after role usually awarded to the squeaky clean toff who ticked all the right boxes. My ‘year’ had reached the stage where one of us would be leader. The headmaster chose me. I was stunned. “Why me?” I asked, bewildered. His answer is burnt into my memory. This is what he said:

The Best Advice I Ever Received About Changing Jobs

I’d been CEO of Ogilvy PR for two years having sold my PR firm into the group. I was feeling stale and wanted a change. But I did not have the courage to quit, fearing a life of selling bananas on street corners if I left my current security for the great unknown. And then a wise man gave me some advice. I quit next day. This is what he told me.

I was reminded of this story while having breakfast recently with a dynamic software and gaming industry leader who recently decided to leave that career and start afresh.

He was frenetic in analyzing his recent career, and on what he thought he’d do next. I stopped him after the first coffee. “Focus entirely on the future, but don’t get fixated about having absolute clarity about what you want to do next. Rather, follow this critical piece of advice that was given to me once. It will ensure you make the right decision.”

Why Coming Second Will Help Ensure You Win- Every Time

I have always believed to succeed in business, ‘being first’ would be a bloody good place to start. But I was wrong. The fact is, coming second, or even third, is critical to succeeding in business and often, in life. Here’s why.

Malcolm Gladwell spoke about it at the Cannes Creativity Festival in June 2011: how innovators often are not the ones who end up commercializing their innovations. Rather, someone else sees it, tweaks it, refines it, popularizes it, and makes a fortune out of it. Think “Steve Jobs , the mouse, icons and stealing Xerox’s great ideas…” Jobs stole the ideas and made them great. He made a fortune out of this.

I liked the concept, but did not really understand the point, until I read this great quote from an Australian rugby union legend, John Eales, who said:

Why I Told The Monk Not To (Rude Word) With Mickey

Monks are generally gentle and peace loving people. So why was my heart beating so fast and why was I paralyzed with fear when I looked the monk in the eyes and said: “OK- I will start very slowly – but beware- whatever you do, don’t (rude word) with Mickey.”?

The story begins a few years earlier when a Walt Disney CEO, who when advised by a consultant to refresh the Disney logo, very bluntly said: “Don’t (rude word) with Mickey.” The Mickey logo was sacrosanct – a proven winner and well-loved symbol of everything the company stood for – and was never to be tampered with.

And that was equally true with what the monk wanted to do to me that day, and I just wasn’t having any of it. This is what he wanted to do to me.

Do this Every Day and Die Happy

Do You Have The Courage To Take One Simple, Life-Changing Action Every Day?

I am weak. I promised myself three years ago I would do this, every day. It’s so simple and powerful. So incredibly valuable to living a fulfilling, evolving and exciting life. But I have failed (so far). I have not had the guts to do it. Can you do any better? Here it is.

Peter Cullinane, founder and CEO of STW New Zealand-based business, Assignment, and one of our industry’s genuine leaders, suggested I read “Fun While It Lasted” by Barnaby Conrad- an incredible, true story of how an American in the 1940s trained and became a matador in Spain. One of Barnaby’s hobbies was collecting great ‘last words’… notable death bed last utterings of the famous and the ordinary. He ends his book with such a line, from a woman whose last words were: “Well, it’s all been very interesting.”

On reading this, I realized I was cruising. That a part of my life was an opportunity missed. To be able to say last words of: “Well, it’s all been very interesting”, I simply had to do one thing every day. And this is it.

The just-invented new four letter word that will save you

There has been more change in the past 5 years than the previous 50. Change will never be this slow again. To survive, we have to embrace a brand new four letter word. Without it, our careers and businesses will soon be history.

At the Cannes Creativity Festival in June 2011, I learnt a just-invented four letter word which I now use ten times a day: at work, when coaching myself, even with my children.

It’s a word that captures an attitude which is critical if we are to keep ahead of and thrive through the avalanche of change happening in business, and in our lives.

The word is Ebne…. And this is what it means.