Have you ever had one of those weeks where things don’t work out? It’s not much fun is it? You feel like you’ve failed. It can be hard to move forward from failure.

We can face this situation with 3 simple steps.

  • Feel (be disappointed for a short while)
  • Change our frame of mind (put it in perspective) and finally,
  • move forward.

This feeling of failure we have comes from something pretty common. According to a survey conducted by the National Science Foundation in 2014, about 70% of adults in the United States report feeling like they “don’t measure up” in some way.

Tough Week

This week I’ve had a number of big disappointments. I’ve had a few initiatives get ‘put on hold’ – which is the project management equivalent of limbo. I’m also working on the budget for my area for next year, and like many of us in tech – there’s a lot less money around for next year than this year. I’ve also had a really good team member hand in their notice.

I was surprised how upset I was by all of this. Sure – they are all disappointing, but these are all tiny bumps in the road compared to some of things I’ve faced in my family over the last 5 years. Normally I find that a bit of time – normally 24 hours, plus some exercise and talking it out with someone, tend to put me back in a better place. But that didn’t work this time. I was struggling to move forward from failure. I realised that I was so disappointed and upset because I really cared about the initiatives, the team, and the hopes and plans for next year. We know that failure is part of doing new things (see post on caring enough to fail). But this was a bigger than average disappointment. So I let myself be disappointed for a little while longer.

Bigger Picture

Then I started to put it into perspective. I spoke with 2 different people I know outside of work this week who’ve just been laid off. They were both really upset about it. Suddenly, my disappointments didn’t seem so bad. I started to re-frame things. What could I learn from this? What could I do differently next time?

Having re-framed the situation – I was already starting to move forward. I was (mostly) through my funk. As a team we decided what to focus on now that our resources had been freed up, and I started to look for improvements to make in team structure after as I look for a new team member. 

When I reflected on this, I came up with my 3Fs for dealing with failure:


Let yourself feel disappointed or upset when things go wrong. It’s ok to feel like that. Acknowledge and accept them. Give yourself some time and space to process your disappointment. Take a break from the situation that caused it and do something else that you enjoy.


Try to find something positive in the situation, even if it’s small, or look at the big picture. Reframing your disappointment can help you see it in a different light and allow you to move forward from failure.


Look forward and take the next step. Reflect on what caused your disappointment and what you can do differently in the future. Use the experience as a learning opportunity and allow that to power you as you move forward from failure.

If you’re still struggling … there’s a 4th F

Friends and Family

Reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or therapist and share your feelings with them. Sometimes talking it out can help you gain perspective and feel better.

Remember that disappointment is a natural part of life and everyone experiences it at some point. Be kind to yourself and take the time you need to heal and move forward.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

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Have you ever struggle with decisions? An important decision? We don’t want to get it wrong. Even worse, we’re afraid of looking bad and being second guessed? That means we’re struggling with indecision, or we’re suffering from decision precision!

Decisions are almost never as important as we think. Life, relationships, projects, or initiatives, rarely succeed or fail because of one decision. Anything of importance requires tens or even hundreds of decisions. No single one of them is very important. The path to the goal is winding. In fact, the only really important decision out of all of them is the first one – the brave one – to get started and pursue something important (tips to help you find your purpose here). Make the decision anyway – that’s what the best leaders – compassionate leaders do. They do the hard things. Especially when it’s not clear.

More is not better

Forbes magazine research found that the best leaders with the highest ratings and the ones who got promoted were also the most decisive leaders. More analysis often doesn’t lead to better decisions. There’s a term psychologists use – confirmation bias  – which leads all of us, even the most sophisticated people, to search for and interpret information that confirms what they already believe. So the more analysis we do, the more we’re reinforcing what we already believe.

For the vast majority of us, these aren’t life or death decisions – we don’t get to make those decisions. They get made for us. Just below life or death decisions are the really, really big decisions. The life changing ones. These really big decisions are often easy. When we need to make them, we are guided by our values and priorities in life. We don’t need to think much, we don’t even need to be brave.

When my wife was in a coma on life support, I had to make decisions – lots of them. For her, for me, for the kids. I didn’t have to think. There was no indecision. It was clear what was right for us. I just left work – for weeks. I cancelled everything else we had planned. I’ve made massive decisions about my life and my family’s life on the back of that. But none of them were very hard to make.

struggle with decisions

We struggle with the less important stuff

Yet we struggle with decisions all the time– recommendations at work, what school to choose for the kids, should I apply for a job, should I ask for a raise, what to prioritise, all the way down to much smaller things like when to stop editing a presentation or email.  They’re much less important than the really big kind of things. But we agonise over them. We struggle with decisions because of FOMO (fear of making mistakes) or not wanting to look bad, or concerns that people will second guess us. We’re being afraid, instead of brave.

The path to success is winding and often messy. It is uncertain, unpredictable. We will have to make so many decisions along the way. We’ll have so many chances to course correct. There is normally a plan B, and a plan C and so on. The only thing we know for sure is that if we don’t start, we’ll never get there. That’s why we need to be brave. We’ll face our fear of messing up along the way. That’s ok – that’s how we learn and grow.

James Stockdale, a POW during the Korean war said that no matter what happens:

“I control the end of the story”

That means we get to choose what we do next, and we choose how to accept what has already happened.

7 tips for the struggle with decisions

  • Make the smallest possible decisions – try to avoid the all or nothing decisions. Test things out before going all in.
  • Use data where possible (near enough is normally good enough – when we’re wrong, it is often by 500%, not 3%).
  • Otherwise, go with your opinion (you can ask a real expert for help if you have one handy) but it’s your life, you own the outcomes, you are going to do the learning
  • Work out what your plan B is if it doesn’t work – normally it is as simple as trying again with something else if you’ve made it small enough
  • Focus on plan A – think about how awesome it will be when it does work
  • Be Brave – Get on with it and start learning
  • Celebrate it – you’re being brave, you’ve made the decision, you’re moving forward, you’re learning – you deserve a pat on the back or a victory dance

Nobody gets it all right. To be honest, nobody even knows if it’s right most of the time – life isn’t like school. There are no grades. You can’t top the class in life. There isn’t a lot of certainty in this – it is just opinion. Remember – It’s your life – you get to live it. Don’t worry about what others think. Fear underestimates what you’re capable of – you’ve made it this far – you’ve got this.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

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Have you ever felt it was just too hard to focus on the important things? It might be at work, it might be at home, or it might be with life in general?

The important things are about the future. To move forward, we have to let some things go. That’s hard, stressful, and sometimes overwhelming.

Mental Health UK reports that in the past year, 74% of people have felt so stressed that they feel overwhelmed or are unable to cope.

I understand this feeling. I’m in the middle of moving house at the moment – downsizing, but taking 3 teenage boys with me! We can’t take everything with us – though I can confirm that all 3 boys have made the cut for the move. We’re going through everything – there is stuff everywhere. But there’s a clear deadline – moving day, and we’ve got a fixed limit on what we can take with us. This is a great metaphor for the need to focus on what’s important in a world where we have limits on what we can do, and people relying on us to get things done.

Letting go to focus on what’s important

We’ve lived in this house for over 10 years. This spans the period with children at pre-school, with prams, car seats, and daily paintings through to children in the final year of high school and learning to drive. Let alone all the things that the adults have managed to acquire during that time. Our needs have changed, so we’re moving to an apartment – with less space – deliberately.

After a few highly unproductive sessions of pulling things out of cupboards, boxes, the attic, the shed and other hiding places, I realised I was going to need some structure. We want to simplify things – take the important things with us, free ourselves from the rest and thus allow us to move forward to the future with open arms. I was pretty clear on what’s important, but if you need a hand – read this article.

That’s when I came up with the 3 D’s:

  • Display
  • Digitise
  • Delete (or Destroy, if you’re feeling a real passion for the process)


This involves choosing the things that we want to see everyday. They go on the shelf, or on the wall, or on the desk. Or in the case of furniture, they’re the things we keep


This is how we retain important memories without cluttering up our everyday focus. Mostly, this involves taking photos of the things that are important, but that we no longer use, or aren’t meaningful enough to put on display. Then we back the files up in multiple locations, just to make sure. Then we’re free to get rid of the items themselves


Yep, this is where we get rid of things.  Everything else has to go. To be clear, this involves getting rid of things from our environment. They may have value for someone else, so I strongly advocate selling or donating these items so someone else can re-use them. The rest will need to be thrown out. It is really cathartic. It also serves as a reminder about the temporary use of so many things. I’ve vowed to cut down on buying ‘stuff’ from now on, and focus more on experiences. Hopefully that lasts.

By following a few simple strategies, it is possible to improve our focus and prioritize the things that matter most.

By the way, I also asked chat GPT how to improve focus on what is important at work and in life, and got this advice as well:

  • Set clear goals
  • Prioritize your tasks
  • Minimize distractions
  • Take breaks
  • Practice mindfulness
  • Delegate or outsource
  • Stay organized

These are all really useful too – perhaps the subject of another post!

In conclusion, staying focused on what is important in life requires us to move forward. Moving forward requires us to let some things go, and create space for whatever the future holds. By actively deciding which things we want to take with us (display), and safeguarding the things we want to remember (digitise) we can then let go of the rest (discard) and move towards the future.  It won’t be easy, it takes practice and discipline, but the rewards are well worth the effort.

Whatever you do, do it with heart.

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Have you ever felt that your Father’s Days aren’t quite perfect like the ones on tv or Instagram?

Celebrating your father or being a father isn’t about just one day – its about every day that we’ve had and will have with our dads and our kids – even if they’re not there.

Back in the early 2000’s I used to manage the Landline Telephony business at Optus (before most of us got rid of our home phones). Apart from Christmas, the biggest day of the year for long distance calls wasn’t Mother’s Day, it was Father’s Day. Sounds weird doesn’t it? Surely your Mum deserves a call on Mother’s Day? It turns out she deserves more. The reason Father’s Day was bigger for long distance calls was because more people would go to visit their Mum on Mother’s Day, whereas a phone call was good enough for Dad.

Ever since I became a Dad, I’ve looked forward to Father’s Day. It’s a special day, not like every other day. Hand-made presents delivered in bed by beamingly proud children. As they got older, hand delivered cups of tea or coffee arrived and then even breakfast in bed. There was normally a special lunch or dinner later on in the day as well. Having experienced this side of Father’s Day made me a lot more appreciative of my own father, and having lived overseas for many years, I made a much bigger effort to spend time with him once I was back. The first Father’s Day after he passed away in 2017 was pretty tough.

But I hadn’t realised just how much of this I was taking for granted until the year after. My wife had almost died in August 2018 when she had a heart attack while out running. She survived, but she suffered significant brain damage from lack of oxygen during the resuscitation. That changed absolutely everything in our lives.

Father’s Day came along while she was still in hospital. It snuck up on all of us. I didn’t put much thought into it during the week with everything else going on. We didn’t do anything special on that day. It was just like every other day back then. It was just like the Sunday the week before and the week after. Though it did help me realise very quickly who was behind my normally wonderful Father’s Days.

Rationally, I didn’t expect it to be like a normal Father’s Day, but somewhere deep inside, I had expectations. It was the expectations that got me. I had a crap day. My mood rubbed off on everyone else. The kids were only 8, 10 and 13 and their mum was in hospital. Their world had been turned upside down less than a month before. She was very different – they were dealing with that. It was hard to expect them to fill in for their mum. There was no special lunch or dinner. I didn’t get any special treatment. The day after that was no different, but my expectations were back to normal, so I was completely fine. It’s funny how different 2 identical days can feel. I call it the tyranny of expectations.

It took me a long time to find peace with our new life. Only when I reset my expectations was I able to move forward. It wasn’t a simple process to get there. That kind of journey doesn’t come with any sort of instruction manual. I was making it up as I went along. I journaled during the process and have recently put my thoughts and learnings together in a book – Everyday Bravery.

After looking after my wife at home for a number of years, even with the help of lots of carers, we eventually had to move her into a care home. I’m now a single Dad of 3 high school aged boys. Sure, it’s a lot of work every day, but that doesn’t matter, because it is the most meaningful thing in my life – every day is Father’s Day. The official ‘Father’s Days’ are different now. It’s not about the presents or the breakfast in bed. It’s more an opportunity to reflect on all days we’ve I’ve had with my own father and what that meant, plus all the days we’ve had as fathers, and then all the days that come. Regardless of whether our Dad is still around, or whether we have kids or not.

I still miss my Dad. Sometimes I talk to him sometimes (no … I don’t actually see him or think he’s in the room with me). But I appreciate him a lot and I love to think of that unbroken chain from my grandfather to him and then to me, that continues to my children and hopefully one day to theirs. I’m doing my bit to keep that going. Everyday. I’ll give my brother a call to wish him a happy Father’s Day and to chat a bit about Dad.

On Sunday I’ll still have a chat with my Dad, and I look forward to spending time with my 3 boys – even if I’m the one who has to organise the lunch out. I’ll do my bit to avoid the tyranny of expectations and just enjoy this day, like every other day, grateful that I am a father and that I had (and still have) a father, and that I get to spend the day with my kids which not all fathers will get to do.

Being a Dad isn’t about the presents or the breakfast. It something we do every day. Happy Father’s Day to everyone – to the Dads and those who have (or had) a Dad. Enjoy that today and enjoy it every day.

As always, whatever you do, do it with heart.

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Last week (here) we went through part 1 of how to find clarity on purpose. This week, I’ll show you 3 practical methods you can help you identify things of purpose and meaning for you.

Methods to help find clarity on purpose

There are many different exercises that can help find clarity on purpose. The 3 that I find most useful are listed below. When doing these, the most important thing is that we are 100% honest with ourselves. This isn’t about impressing others or doing what other people want or living someone else’s life. This is for you and no one else.

List of 20 – Part 1

This involves making a list of at least 20 things that you like to do (download an Excel template). It is important that you keep going until you get to at least 20 – this may mean you need to take a break and return to this after a day or 2, and you’ll find you uncover lots more things that we’re apparent the day before. It is worth revisiting this list regularly, as things will ebb and flow in importance over time.  

Having now developed this list, you can now start to fill in the other columns that answer these questions:

  • How long since you last did this?
  • Is it free or does it cost money?
  • Do you do it alone or is it social?
  • Is it planned or spontaneous?
  • Do you consider it work or leisure?
  • Does it involve risk?
  • Is it fast or slow paced?
  • Is it focused on your mind, body or soul? (or a combination)

List of 20 – Part 2

Having developed this list, step away from it for a while.

Upon your return, take another look through the list – all the columns. What do you notice? What themes are appearing? Are there a number of things on the list that are related? What does this tell you about yourself?

I bet there are things there that you’ve lost sight of in all the noise, things that you think ‘I really have to make time to do that more often’. Now have a think about 1-3 actions you could take to include more of these meaningful things, and hopefully less other stuff in your life from now on.

Coming out of this, you should have more clarity on purpose, in particular:

  • Sources of meaning and purpose in your life
  • Areas of under-focus at the moment (important things that you’re not doing, or not doing enough)
  • Areas of over-focus (non-important things that you spend way too much time on)
  • Some actions you can take to improve things

Wheel of purpose

This is a great exercise to help us get clarity on purpose, in particular, what is important and how we prioritise our time in relation to these things. It involves us getting a little creative to help us to unlock what is really important, and to really feel it. Put simply, it involves clarifying what is important to each of us in terms of:

  • Health
  • Peace of Mind
  • Relationships
  • Money
  • Contribution
  • Spirituality

Rather than writing lists, this exercise involves visualisation. So rather than writing, we draw a circle, split it into 6 segments and then we draw pictures of what that means to us. Like most exercises, this one should be revisited regularly and reviewed.

Thanks to a friend of mine, Conor Neill, for introducing me to this one here.

3 Questions

This is a great exercise to help you get clarity on purpose by exploring what is really important in your life. Imagine that you have reached the stage of your life where you have enough money to live comfortably for the rest of your life. Nice, huh? From here on in, it is up to you what you do with your time. You can work if you want to, or you can do other things with your time, or you can mix things up.

There are 3 parts to this, that are done in distinct stages:

  1. What do you want to focus on? How do you wish to live? What do you do regularly? What things will you now include in your life? Who do you spend time with?

Write this all down. It might be a list, it might be a number of descriptive paragraphs. It could be a story, it could even be a series of pictures or images.

  • You’ve been told that you only have 5-10 years to live. Assume you will be health and able right up to the end. What will you prioritise? What are the things you still really want to do? How will you spend your time? Who will you spend your time with? What will you let go? What do you want to be able to hand over to others?
  • Now, it turns out that the diagnosis was wrong – you’ve been told that you only have 1 day left. How will you spend this last day, assuming you can do what you want? Who will you spend it with? What would you do? What would you regret not being able to do again? What do you regret that you never did? It is normal to find this quite emotional – that’s a good thing. It means you care about things. It is way better to think about this now, while we have time to do something about it than waiting until it is too late. It is also important to be kind to yourself in this process – this isn’t about beating ourselves up, this is about self-improvement. You’re in the right place!

Having done these 3, have a think about what that tells you about yourself and what you’ve been doing lately?

  • What could you stop doing?
  • What meaningful things do you need to start spending more time doing?

State of mind

Being in the right state of mind to work on purpose. Just because we want to face into these important questions, it doesn’t necessarily mean that now is the right time. You may be tired, or wired or stressed or just worried about something else in your life, like ‘did I leave the iron on?’ or ‘I haven’t prepared my slides for my 3pm session’ or ‘I really feel terrible about yelling at the kids this morning’. These things are called incompletes or blockers. They occupy our focus and/or prevent us from moving forward until we:

  • deal with them
  • find someone else to help us with them.
  • Accept that they can safely wait until we’ve finished this current activity

It is important to acknowledge and deal with these properly before moving into an important activity like this. I love the phrase ‘the obstacle to my goal becomes my new goal.’

What Next?

What comes next is the best part. This bit still seems magical to me, even though I’ve experienced it many times. The opportunities start to come to us. Yes. I know this sounds like mumbo jumbo, but it happens. Time and time again.

Once we start to get clarity on purpose and meaning, we look at things differently. We start to look for opportunities, and when we look for opportunities, we generally find them.

Need a little help seeing the opportunities?

This involves freeing your thinking up a little. I tend to go for a quick walk, or take a few deep breaths, or do a few push ups to get the blood flowing and break the cycle of whatever I was just doing.

Then I think about an area of my life that that is important and I imagine how awesome it could be. If everything was perfect. If it was the best it could ever be. Don’t worry about what is possible and what isn’t – that doesn’t matter. The idea here is to get thinking positively and to open your mind to opportunity.

Your mind will only see what it is looking for. It’s like yellow cars. We used to play a game with the kids on car trips when they were little, called Spotto. We started with yellow cars – later we moved on to Teslas. You just had to be the first to yell out “Spotto” when you saw a yellow car. Before that, I never thought about yellow cars. For a few years, I couldn’t drive anywhere – even by myself, without seeing yellow cars.

Now that I have an idea of what awesome looks like – I’m seeing opportunities everywhere. I don’t pursue most of them. I don’t have time. Most of the ideas are only half formed. But my mind is now spending much more time thinking about things that could go well. But there really are opportunities if you look at it right. Like my decision to get into coaching, training, and speaking.

Having decided I wanted to do that, and having shared that with a few people, guess what happened next? Opportunities appeared. Like the hospital asking me if I would speak at a fund raiser, which lead to me being asked to speak at the NSW Health Expo at the ICC in front of thousands of health workers. People put me in touch with other people in their network. And off we went. They never would have happened if I wasn’t looking out for opportunities. Ironically, this didn’t require anything to change in my life other than my attitude … now that’s awesome!

Help yourself

Most important of all, is to cut yourself some slack. The simple fact that you’re taking time out to think about this and work on it deserves acknowledgement. You’re taking the first step towards living deliberately and living a life of purpose. That makes you special just there. This will evolve over time, so do your best to improve your clarity and then take it out on the road and test it out – see how it works. Talk to people about it. Share your thoughts with them and ask them about the things of purpose in their life. How did they work them out? And remember, you get to decide, so if one thing doesn’t work out for you, change it!

We’re all human, and life doesn’t normally go to plan. Only you can live your life, please don’t try to live someone else’s or even live up to other peoples’ expectations. This is for you to decide.

Whatever you do – do it with Heart.

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Do you feel sometimes like there MUST be more than life than this?!? Do you feel like you are lacking clarity on purpose?

We’re over-complicating the question when we expect a simple answer. We can have a number of things of purpose or meaning in our life, but when we don’t pursue them, we suffer.

According to the New York Times, only 25% of people say that have a clear sense of purpose in their life. In my coaching over the last 3 years, I have found that 100% of my clients have struggled with clarity on purpose. People get tied up and confused by work or financial goals. In the middle of all that busyness, we lose sight of the things that are meaningful for us – the things that are on the other side of the work or financial goals.

This requires real honesty – the kind we have when we lie in bed with our eyes closed in the middle of the night. There’s no judgement in this. We have to be 100% honest here. If we want more money or status, why do we want it? What will we do with it? That’s what we need to focus on and pursue, because otherwise, the risk is that the money or status because the goal and we forget the real purpose.

Benefits of Purpose

Many of us tend to push our own needs out of the way by saying things like ‘family comes first’. While family is important, except in extreme circumstances, we can’t just focus on them. To be fulfilled, we have to look after what is important to us as individuals too. There is a spin-off benefit of looking after ourselves – we end up doing a better job of being present, engaged and looking after our families too.

The benefits of Purpose are many and significant. Studies show that people with purpose are happier, more satisfied, less depressed and have stronger personal relationships (Steptoe and Fancourt, 2019), they live longer and wealthier lives (Applied Psychology, 2010) and they sleep better, and have lower disease rates (Time Magazine), they maintain their independence longer when they age (JAMA Psychiatry).

Having a breakthrough on purpose

My own breakthrough on purpose, meaning and authenticity came as the result of the incredible pressure created when my wife was on life support following her heart attack – that’s learning things the hard way. I had been too worried about living up to others’ expectations of me to find the courage to be authentic and honest with myself about what was really important AND to pursue it.

I had a realisation: my role was to help my kids now, and then my wife, get through this challenge. This was what I had been put on earth to do. This was the big thing I’d been building up to. A friend had often said, “You only get a few chances in life to do the right thing — don’t miss them when they come along.” This was going to be the biggest challenge I had ever faced. At the same time, it was also the easiest thing to face into. It wasn’t a decision. Things just had to be done. It took over everything else — all thought in my head. From the instant I woke up, until I was finally able to sleep, everything I did was geared around dealing with this.

The realisation that this was my mission, one of the most meaningful things I would do in my life, was quite calming. The panic subsided somewhat. The life and death stuff, as important as it was, moved to the background a bit. My thoughts turned to what I needed to do: help the boys and Tove through this, and then live as fulfilling a life as possible, regardless of what had happened.

The boys shouldn’t need to be defined by this. They should be able to pursue their hopes and dreams unhindered by this. They might even be able to come out of this better for it… hopefully. It was kind of like the old saying — you can’t choose the cards you’re dealt, you can only choose how you play them. I had to be brave enough, strong enough and caring enough for all of us.

What is it all about?

One of my favourite books as a teenager was the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. One of the most memorable lines from the book was the profound statement that the answer to the question of ‘What is the meaning of life?’ is … ‘42’. The problem was that we didn’t know what the question was. While this is of course, absurd (and also very funny) it is also quite applicable today. The majority of the book was then spent trying to work out what the question was (apparently it would take 10,000 years for the most advanced computer in the universe to work it out).

We want simple answers to complex questions, but it’s not always that easy. We know that a lack of clarity on purpose leads to suffering. Therefore this unrealistic expectation of a simple answer is a setup for us to fail.

That applies to most of us. I’ve been working with a CEO client recently who was struggling with this – personally and for his business. He was certainly suffering. It was impacting his sleep, family, investors, board, team and results. Decisions were agony without this clarity. It got so bad that he was thinking of quitting. But he didn’t know what he would do next either, so he was really caught in a bind.

I took him through some structured exercises to help him both feel and see what was meaningful and why. There were many things that provided meaning, he’d just lost sight of them in all the business and stress. It took less than us less 4 weeks for him to get clarity on what was important.

Clarity on purpose

When he had clarity on this, he transformed. He was sleeping better, exercising, and having fun. Things improved at home, as he was present with his family. He was making decisions, and the board and team both responded. Results improved and things were looking up.

The idea that there is one single purpose sounds great until we really dig into it. For most of us, there are a number of things that are meaningful, and they ebb and flow with our seasons of focus. That’s normal for most of us and relieves the pressure of choosing 1 big thing. Maybe we can have our cake and eat it?

We all want to make a difference. This isn’t about happiness. This is about fulfilment. If we don’t know where we’re going, we’ll sure never get there.

Part 2 of this (next week) will cover practical steps we can take to get clarity on purpose.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

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Have you ever found yourself avoiding the hard stuff, or not being authentic, in order to avoid a problem? If you have, you’re not alone. But although we’ve avoided the problem, we haven’t solved it, and we know it will surface again.

Courage enables us to face the unknown and the difficult. Courage isn’t just for heroes. It’s available to all of us. If we want to be courageous, we can start by being authentic. After that, the rest is easy.

Psychology Today reports that 85% of people suffer from low self-esteem.  That’s 5 people in 6! That issue with low self-esteem lies at the heart of the challenge with courage.

I was brought up to worry about what other people thought of me. We were all pretty conflict and risk averse in my family. So I tried to please everyone else, and in that vacuum of not knowing or communicating what I wanted, quite often ended up doing things that other people wanted me to do. I wasn’t being my authentic self and having the courage to speak from my heart about challenges or priorities. That resulted in the classic ‘too many priorities’ problem, and the inevitable need to work way too hard and still having to let people down at work and home.

Deep down inside I knew I was not being my authentic self. I didn’t feel like I was bringing everything I had.  I wasn’t really pursuing my purpose or bringing my skills to bear on what was most important. But then … I didn’t really know anyone else who was either.

No one really talked about any of this. In fact, everyone seemed pretty happy with me. Bosses, senior stakeholders, colleagues, friends, family too. I was moving along quite comfortably. Pretty successful but not setting the world on fire. My lack of authenticity did nag away at me on the inside, but it didn’t seem to create any massive problems.

Breaking through

Then everything changed in an instant. As a result of a family tragedy, I ended up effectively a single parent of 3 school-aged children and a carer for my beautiful fit 46 year-old wife who had suffered brain damage as a result of a heart attack that left her on life support for 10 days and in hospital for 10 weeks. In those first few days no one knew if she would even survive. It was only the machines that were keeping her alive. All the safety and security that I thought my life was built upon was ripped away in an instant. All of a sudden, I was trying to navigate the greatest uncertainty I’d ever faced with no control over the outcome whatsoever. The most important thing to ever happen to my family and I, and I had no influence … none at all. How was I going to get her through this? How could I help the kids through this, let alone myself?

This was the worst thing I’ve ever had to face. But it wasn’t 100% bad. Some good has come from it. That extreme situation completely blasted away any worries I had about looking bad, or making mistakes or even living up to other peoples’ expectations. I had to learn to ask for help, and say no to just about everything. I had to let go of expectations about the present, the future and people who were dear to me. Put simply, I had no time or ability to be anything other than authentic.

Benefits of being authentic

As I became more authentic, I changed the way I behaved at work, and the way I lead my team. I was authentic at work as well. I had discovered purpose and compassion.

It didn’t mean I blurted out everything all the time. I was still respectful. But above all I was authentic. I was honest about what I could and couldn’t do.  I didn’t over-commit anymore. Purpose was at the fore of everything I did, and also, what we did as a team. I was playing full out and really throwing myself into whatever I was doing.

Taking risks became possible. In fact, they became more important. If we were going to innovate and improve, we had no other choice. I’ll be honest, with everything else in my life, I was working fewer hours at work than before. But the irony was, I was getting more done. Especially the important stuff. My team were performing amazingly. I shared what was going on in my life with them. They stepped up. They supported me. I was doing things I’d never done before, and so were they.

My 1:1 conversations with colleagues and friends went to a new level of honesty and importance. I didn’t hold back if there was an issue that needed to be dealt with. But I did it with compassion – from a genuine desire to help. Then they started sharing too. I was able to help them too. So many of them have grown so much since then. They’re much more authentic, courageous, and successful as a result. I’m so proud to know them.

It took me a while to realise it, but that authenticity that we had made us all more courageous than before. Most importantly, the courage to be ourselves.  The scary stuff wasn’t always as scary as before. But even when it was still scary, we supported each other through it. We were able to operate outside of our comfort zones a lot more often than before. We had created psychological safety for ourselves.

But the main benefit of being authentic is for ourselves. Acting in congruence with our beliefs is extremely fulfilling. In fact, it is liberating. I was able to be myself, and I didn’t have to hide or suppress what I believed. I was being congruent with my values.

When I reflect on all of this, I wonder why hadn’t anyone told me about this before? Surely other people had stumbled on this? I mean, this was awesome, life-changing stuff. I had spent 46 years worrying about stuff that wasn’t even real!

What is authenticity?

The expert in authenticity and courage, Brene Brown, describes it as:

the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.”

While we’re at it, let’s look at Brene’s definition of courage:

“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” 

This is about heart – acting with honesty and integrity.

Your team can smell it a mile off when you’re not acting authentically. The easy stuff is easy. This is about the hard stuff. As a leader, you need to face into the uncomfortable and awkward situations. That’s what the team needs from you. The growth lies there. That’s where you earn their trust and loyalty. Do that, and they’ll follow you anywhere.

Once you’ve got your authenticity sorted out, courage will follow shortly after. After all, courage comes from the heart. Literally. It is based on the latin word ‘cor’ for heart, which then became ‘couer’ in French, and hence courage in both French and English.

These days this is rarely the Braveheart kind of courage where we charge into battle in the face of seemingly impossible odds. This is more like being the first person to speak up or being prepared to challenge the view of the team or the boss’ recommendation. Or it could be giving people the development feedback that you know will be tough to hear. Then there’s the one that people fear more than death … public speaking.  

How to be authentic and courageous

Can you learn to be courageous? Absolutely.

How? We learn it the same way we learn everything else. First we learn the theory and a few tools. Then we need to practice them. A lot. Until we’re good at them. This involves not being very good at it for a while. The trick is to keep going. If we want to progress more quickly, we’ll probably need some help from a coach or mentor. The big thing that separates people is whether they’re prepared to face down their fear of doing what it takes for long enough to get good at it.

I have a simple 3 step model for how to learn authenticity and courage – 3 C’s:

  1. Care – Find something that means enough to you to be prepared to be yourself to pursue. Your glorious, flawed self. Something you care enough about to fail at it.  
  2. Continue – Then release your hand brake and pursue it. We succeed through temporary incompetence, not through magic.
  3. Compassion – Be compassionate to yourself and others – create the safety for yourself to try, fail and try again

Start with number 1 and go from there. Start nice and small and then build it up.

Being authentic and courageous won’t happen overnight. It is something we build up over time. The more we do it, the better we get. There’s magic in there for us along the way. Just making the first attempt is amazing. It is petrifying too, but once we’ve done it, the sense of pride (and relief) is something we just don’t forget. And it is something we will want to do again … and again.

If you’d like some help with authenticity, courage or just progressing faster, reach out to me here.

Remember, whatever you do, do it with heart!

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We all want to retain great people. But retaining great tech people seems to be getting harder and harder. As leaders, we’re battling a super tight employment market, huge wage inflation, as well as companies tying themselves into knots over return to office policies, flexible working arrangements and struggling with hybrid teams.

Instead of getting defensive or blaming the market, we can encourage great people to stay by actually making it easier for them to leave.

A recent study by the international recruitment company monster.com reports that an astounding 95% of people are thinking about leaving their jobs. I’m still stunned by this number. But even if it were lower, there are still a lot of people out there considering leaving.

People want to feel like they’re achieving something important

I know 3 people close to me who have resigned this last week to take up a new job in tech. I can think of dozens of people I know who have changed jobs in the last 6 months. There are a combination of factors behind each one. Sure – an increase in salary is one. That’s a given in the current environment. But salary is almost never the main reason. Speaking to these people, one common thread for all of them was this. They didn’t feel they were getting anywhere or achieving enough. They were worried that if they stayed where they were for much longer, it would get harder and harder for them to move on. So they felt they had to move on, before their prior achievements had passed their use by dates, and their resume started to lose its shine.

Nothing succeeds like success

All of them said that if they felt that they were getting more things done, especially meaningful things, they wouldn’t have been worried about their ability to get a better job in the future. That fear of being left behind wouldn’t be there. They would have been too busy growing, developing and achieving important things. The irony of this, is that the more we grow, develop and achieve, the more attractive we become to future employers. Yet at the same time, we’re more likely to stay where we are, in order to keep growing, developing and achieving even more! In addition, if you have a reputation as a team that gets meaningful things done, when you do need to hire someone, you’ll find it a lot easier to attract the right people.

There’s a great proverb for this:

Nothing succeeds like success.

So as leaders, how does this help us retain great people? Let’s break this down.

The individual team member

There’s a wonderful phenomenon that we can take advantage of called ‘flow’. This comes from the work of a psychologist called Mihály Csíkszentmihályi. Put simply, this is the mental state where we are completely absorbed in using our strengths on something important. We lose track of time. Flow leads to higher performance and greater satisfaction. Who doesn’t want to work somewhere where they get to experience that?

The team

Performance is contagious. We are far more likely to put in effort, pay attention to quality when we work with others who are performing. Google’s Project Aristotle found that the #2 driver of team performance was Dependability – being able to rely on team members to do quality work on time. Moreover, the #1 driver of team performance is psychological safety, i.e. feeling safe to take risks and try new things, is more likely if the team is confident in its own ability.

The team leader

Performance inspires confidence. A study from CultureAmp found that the #1 factor in inspiring performance, was confidence in leadership. We also know from a study by Steve Tadelis from the University of California that the best leaders are able to retain staff at a 60% higher rate than other leaders. As leaders, we’re already responsible for team performance. But this should add fuel to the fire. This makes it much, much bigger than just us as the leader. This becomes part of our ‘why’ – to help this individual team members succeed by helping the team succeed.

Compassionate leadership and the 3 Ps

As compassionate leaders, we’re ultimately responsible for performance. That’s great when things are rosy, but when they’re not, it’s even more important. We need to act. Even when it had. In fact, especially when it’s hard. Doing the hard things with heart is what compassionate leadership is all about. The question of what to do depends on the situation (that’s where a coach can help).  How to do the hard stuff is often about courage.

Courage helps us do uncomfortable things like performance discussions, pushing back on senior management, making tough priority calls. When I coach leaders, I help them focus on the greater purpose – something bigger than them. It could be the team purpose – the benefit for the customer, or the wellbeing of the team, or the consequences of not dealing with the hard stuff, which is normally a much bigger problem to deal with later on. When we aren’t able to retain great people, that impacts the rest of the team – they have to fill in the gaps until we replace and onboard the team member that just resigned. That’s a 3-6 month headache for the team and the leader.

The other thing I help them with is accepting they can’t always control the outcome. Only what they bring to the situation. Results certainly count. But so does effort and application. We miss 100% of the shots we don’t take. The team always notices when we choose to avoid an issue.

It works like this:

Deal with the hard performance issues (with heart) … that will both inspire confidence and improve performance. That performance and confidence now inspire loyalty and help people fulfil their own purpose in terms of development, growth and achievement. On top of that (yes – there’s more) performance and purpose enable psychological safety, which helps the team to innovate, further improving performance. Hey presto – we have a flywheel for outstanding team performance.

That’s the 3P model of compassionate leadership – performance, purpose and psychological safety

If you’re interested in learning how to retain great people through compassionate leadership and the 3Ps – get in touch here:

Please share this if you found it useful.

And remember, whatever you do, do it with heart!

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Does your team struggle to take enough risks to really innovate? If so, you’re not alone.

I have found that as a compassionate leader, the crucial ingredient to innovating as a team is that we have a purpose that is greater than we are.

Google’s project Aristotle back in 2012 set out to identify what made teams effective. They reviewed 100s of teams using psychologists, engineers, researchers and statisticians. They looked at everything – academic results, employee performance ratings, team structure, whether they ate and socialised together and a whole lot more. What they discovered came as a big surprise.

The #1 characteristic of the most effective teams?

It turned out that the #1 characteristic of the most effective teams was psychological safety.

Psychological safety means that you feel safe in the team environment to take risks and fail. Innovation by definition requires that we take risks and many of them will ‘fail’. We just need to know that it ok – that someone’s got our back. Yet the most common fear that people have is the fear of personal or possible failure (Anxiety & Depression Association of America). So how do we create a psychologically safe environment? (I’ll get to that below)

I grew up worrying about what others thought of me. I was risk averse and I wanted people to think I was good. And I didn’t like looking bad, or failing. I avoided risk and played things pretty safe. All that changed about 4 years ago. My beautiful, fit, 46 year-old wife went out for a run one morning, suffered a heart attack, and almost died. She was on life support, and in a coma for 10 days. When she awoke, we found out she had suffered significant brain injury during resuscitation. She was going to need a lot of help.

In that instant everything in my world changed. My future, my hopes and my dreams. I was effectively a single parent of 3 children plus a carer for my disabled wife. My future was suddenly unclear. Everything had changed. I had to change. I had to stop worrying about what others thought and get really clear about what was meaningful and focus on that.

Finding a purpose greater than you

For the first time, I had found a purpose in life that was greater me (I’ve since found more than one of them). I had also learnt firsthand about compassion. Everything I did from then on was guided by purpose and compassion. Sure, I made heaps of mistakes along the way, but that didn’t matter. I was pursuing things that mattered.

I became a compassionate leader. I still did the hard things, but I did them with heart.

That changed the way I did things at work too. Together with my team, we started innovating more, failing small and fast, and delivering better results. Without thinking about it too much, I had helped the team buy into the purpose of what we were doing, and since I’d stopped worrying about what others thought, I was able to help them feel safe taking the risks we needed to take in order to fulfil that purpose.

Create an environment of psychological safety

As compassionate leaders, we need to let our purpose guide and motivate us to do the hard stuff required to create an environment of psychological safety. But how do we create that environment of psychological safety?

CREATE is the model I use for how, as compassionate leaders, we need to lead:


“To speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart.” This is about heart – acting with honesty and integrity and being authentic. This is about the hard stuff. As leaders, we need to face into the uncomfortable and awkward situations. That’s what the team needs from us. That’s where we earn their trust and loyalty. Do that, and they’ll follow anywhere.


As leaders, we need to be crystal clear on the mission or purpose of the team. We need to communicate it in a way that engages. We need to understand what provides purpose and meaning for each of the team members and be able to link the 2 together.


This is about acting as one human to another and connecting with team members. Breaking down the hierarchical barriers and enabling honest 2-way communication. If we want to have a long-term working relationship, we need to accept there will be ups and downs. On both sides. Remembering that people want a role that enhances their life experience, it needs to support their life. This is about respect, flexibility and understanding.


We live in an uncertain and ambiguous world. As leaders we help the team navigate that. Firstly, through honest communication – admit we don’t have all the answers and being transparent about what we know and don’t know. Secondly, we can reduce ambiguity by making decisions. Mostly these are around priorities – what are we going to focus on, and what are we NOT going to focus on. That is the single best way to reduce ambiguity for the team.


Positivity is infectious. Nothing succeeds like success. The team loves to see progress and growth. This is about the team making progress towards our goals, and growing and developing as a team. This is also about the team members growing and developing in pursuit of their own goals. There will always be bumps in the road and setbacks. A resilient team expects these, learns from them, adapts and continues in pursuit of their purpose. We’re all hard-wired for negativity, so as leaders and as team members, we support each other in creating a positive, growth oriented environment.


Leader ego causes more problems than anything else. Nothing poisons the well for the team more quickly than a leader who takes all the glory or makes everything about them. When a deal doesn’t get done, or poor decisions are made, it is often because ego gets in the way. Then blame gets thrown around. People stop listening. Sharing decreases. It’s all about protection. We’re in survival mode. We’re stressed, afraid, and we’re not innovating. These are the kind of leaders people leave. Remember – people join a company, and leave a manager.

Compassionate leadership is the future of leadership. As compassionate leaders we create an environment that supports innovation and outstanding performance because it guided by a purpose shared by the team, where everyone feels safe to bring their best and be their best. Because we care enough to fail, we’ll succeed in the end.

If you’d like to learn more about innovation, shared purpose, psychological safety or to explore becoming a compassionate leader, get in touch with me at [email protected] or explore my coaching.

Whatever you do, do it with heart!

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