The Noble Art of Going Backwards

ay_110912281-e1369678833423Did you know that the first Ford car had no reverse gear?

I know of a 95 year old who gave up using reverse on his car, as he had little flexibility to see what was happening behind. Fortunately, the local church that was his Sunday morning destination had a very large turning circle in front and other churchgoers knew when to look scarce.

A fly trying to escape from a room has a single-choice plan – throw yourself forward at the light. As a strategy it sucks – glass windows have been around for over 500 years; but it’s hard to fault the logic: “Why choose reverse when your goal is ahead of you!


Reversibility is a feature of Moshe Feldenkrais’s Feldenkrais Method, one of several 20th Century movements that connect mind and body. His method of teaching self-awareness through movement attributed great importance to the concept of reversibility. It basically meant the capacity to stop a movement at any point and then go in the opposite direction with a minimum of hesitation, and this was a key criterion for determining whether a particular movement was done well. Try it for yourself: slowly lower yourself onto a low sofa and change your mind just as you touch the cushion! Most people just collapse for the last few centimetres!

Feldenkrais was also a practitioner of the martial arts, and I discovered in my own pursuit of Aikido the importance of being sufficiently balanced to reverse a movement in an eye-blink when required. It’s a great feeling, to have charge of your body in this way.

All very good, but most of us, I suspect, think far more about the route forward towards our goals than about possible routes backwards.

And yet, there are advantages to going backwards …

A strange thing happens in yoga connected with reversibility: when I have reached the limit of my stretch in a particular direction, if I imagine slackening off the effort in that direction and coming away from my edge, my body sometimes goes easily beyond that limit in that same direction, even way beyond, when the feeling has been one of giving myself permission to give up altogether! Pushing forwards isn’t always the best strategy for moving forwards.

The story goes that the scientist Marie Curie found the answer to a problem she’d been tussling with for 3 years the night after she let go of it for good. It’s not unusual.

The idea of flexibility, including the ability to reverse at will, has been part of my thinking for quite some time. I mention reversibility only briefly in my latest book, The Art of Communication, but the concept is there in almost every page. Conversation is an impromptu activity. However much you plan what you’re going to say in advance, you’ll be very lucky if it goes that way. Conversation just isn’t like that; you have to be light on your feet, ready to twist in a different direction at any point in the dance. In fact, any real response is always a flexible one.

We all need a reverse gear. And particularly now, when the world is more than ever hunkering down into different camps, each reading only its own material, believing its own half-truths and relating to other groups only in dichotomous terms of us good, you bad; us right, you wrong (“I’m smart; you’re dumb. I’m big; you’re little. I’m right; you’re wrong.” as Matilda’s Dad famously said with similarly suspect erudition).

Pushing rigidly forward is always to miss a trick. When you get into an argument, it’s always useful to change the pace by agreeing with something, however tangential. It’ll certainly change the other person’s rhythm and give you the opportunity to throw something different into the mix. And if you’re relentlessly pushing yourself toward a goal of your own, it’s always helpful to take a day or a week off and turn to something quite different – trekking, cycling, exploring – it clears your head and frees you up again.

My flexibility challenge

My weekly yoga class has come round again. My flexibility challenge for today is to stand on one leg for a minute without holding on. (Try it: good for your bones quite apart from the experiment.) Then ask yourself, “What makes for success in this particular endeavour?” On trying it myself, I think it’s this:

  • infinite micro-adjustments
  • lack of self-consciousness
  • the spirit of fun or at least experiment (i.e. not trying too hard)
  • confidence
  • … and keeping your eyes open!

Well, there’s a “Thought for Life” for today?!



I’m excited about this!


I’ll be one of the speakers for this TEDx event on 13 July  in Norwich – “Europe’s only Full Day TEDxED event”, as the organisers remind me!

Tickets apparently vanish very quickly, so buy yours in the next couple of days if you want to come!

You can meet several of the speakers tonight on Facebook Live- #tedxnorwiched – from 7.30 pm. See you there?


Spirit of Coaching

It’s a while since we held one of these beautiful events in London. Just to remind you, there is no charge, but you need to register.

Screenshot 2019-05-15 at 10.03.41

More details here


Want to read an excerpt from The Art of Communication?

Here’s a short excerpt published in the online magazine, Minutehack  –


The days are getting long; the sun’s shining as I write this 🙂
Go well,


Perhaps the Truth Depends on a Walk

Truth depends

My friends have just completed a 400-mile long walk in Portugal and Spain – in 26 days. I quickly do the maths: an average of 15+ miles a day. I’m impressed. My friend says it’s wonderful – “We just get up each day and walk: no deciding what to do, where to go, what the weather’s doing, what to wear, what to take, we just up and go.”

Now, there is a kind of walking that is focused – I’m sure my friends had their minds fixed on their goal as well as enjoying the scenery. But walking is more often an activity where conscious mental activity is absent, and that is its joy. It often represents a gap between activities – the lunchtime stroll through a park, the walk from the train station home, the quick once-up-the-local-hill with the dog.

And in this gap, good things happen.

Someone tells me that when she goes for a walk with an awkward friend, conversation that might be stilted in the house begins to flow with the rhythm of walking in the open air. Back in the day, I’d walk to an activity with my teenage son and he’d turn from taciturn into talker. (The same happened sometimes when he was sitting beside me in the car, both gazing forward).

When I am coaching, my client and I typically sit at 45%, considered professionally to be a non-threatening and equal arrangement – but some clients feel self-conscious when looked at, even at an angle – maybe walking side by side would work better for them? Certainly, there are coaches who specialise in coaching walks – walk and talk and silence, silence, talk and walk.

When I got angry one day and marched out of the house, a two-hour walk completely dissipated my anger – I could scarcely grasp the reason for it by the time I got home again with renewed energy and optimism.

So walking conversations can be in communion with someone else and sometimes they are conversations with yourself – both produce something new.

It’s fine to use a walk as thinking time, but I’m reflecting particularly on walks where there’s nothing to be accomplished, no goals, no decisions. You give your foveal vision a rest – delights spring up at the periphery – a half-hidden flower, a butterfly, a pleasing pattern on a tree trunk … Walks in the town are okay too, but a walk in the countryside puts human presence more on the edge of things. Nature impresses with its permanence yet is always different. Today sunlight is creating dappled sun and shade under the trees; a few months ago, tree trunks stood out against the hill in dark silhouette. The day you venture out in wind and rain against your saner judgement, you come back wet and wind-battered with adrenaline coursing through your veins and you think, “Wow! I’m glad I did that,” thrilled that you have a wild side after all.

The physical act of walking affects your mind, of course it does. When the writer Margaret Forster was recovering from cancer, she noticed particularly the connection between walking and writing. “It was remarkable”, she writes, “to find that walking must be somehow related to writing, that it somehow fuelled it. I’d always enjoyed walks, and seen them as an essential part of each day, but I hadn’t appreciated this strange connection. The walking loosened the writing.” (I recommend Forster’s My Life in Houses).

In last year’s Wimbledon tennis, I remember a match in which Andy Murray was visibly suffering from a hip injury. This of course affected his speed and flexibility of movement. But it clearly affected his thinking and judgement too, much more than you could attribute just to his physical state. Lack of physical balance and wellbeing affect mental and emotional wellbeing too. When I had a bad back I discovered the truth of this for myself; when I couldn’t walk I couldn’t think well either.

Sometimes these days I’m surprised to spot a piece of new research that proves a connection between mind and body – as if it were something new. Who could ever think that mind and body were not connected? Often physicality unlocks something that was stuck, where any amount of thinking and feeling has failed.

So here’s something you might like to try:

Think of something that you want to be able to do or something you’re struggling with, and consider separately the thinking, feeling and physiology of it. Then change your physiology.

For example, feeling daunted? Stand up tall and strong but relaxed, and breathe fully for a few moments; notice how that introduces something new into your feeling and thinking.

Is your brain bursting with too much to think about and decide? Feeling overwhelmed? Go walking in nature for at least an hour, preferably two, putting one foot steadily in front of the other, and pay attention to your surroundings. Notice how different you feel on your return.

And here’s a speaking tip:

If you lose courage for a moment on the platform or make a mistake, move a few steps away from where you were standing and take a deep breath. You’ll find that your brain resets and your poise returns – even perhaps your sense of humour.

Feeling under the weather, walk; in any weather walk; if you are able – walk. But don’t set conditions on it. In life’s paradoxical way, walking is most restorative when you don’t demand that it restores you or cures you, or fulfils an aim. Don’t ask anything of it.

The early 20th Century American writer Alfred Kazin sums up the power of walking most beautifully in Open Street:

“Walking I am unbound, and find that precious unity of life and imagination, that silent outgoing self, which is so easy to lose, but which at high moments seems to start up again from the deepest rhythms of my own body.  How often have I had this longing for an infinite walk – of going unimpeded, until the movement of my body as I walk fell into the flight of streets under my feet – until I in my body and the world in its skin of earth were blended into a single act of knowing.”

It’s a grand time of year for walking 🙂

Go well,


You are warmly invited to my
One-day Masterclass on 17 October 2018

Coaching and the HeART of Conversation

in Guildford, (courtesy of Guildford Coaches Group)
for coaches and others interested in communication and conversation

What does new information emerging from neuroscience tell us about the different attention of the two hemispheres of the brain and its urgent relevance to our communication with each other? And how do we bring the full presence of our humanity with all its frailties into our coaching and conversation so that something new and miraculous can be born?

A rich day of lively exploration and personal experience with the aim of allowing something new to emerge in each of us

More details here.

To book, complete the registration form here.

Or simply email me to register your interest or to ask me more about it. ((Guildford coaches email me to join list)


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Enjoy bite-size learning at home

Sign up for a free E-course to enjoy at home (I never share your email with anyone):

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety
How to Speak with More Authority
Understanding NLP
10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

How to Raise Your Profile

Communication Skills in More Detail

(in my books!)

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.


A Walking Coach

My colleague Karen Liebenguth – compassionate coach & mindfulness trainer of Green Space Coaching – has many years’ experience of coaching in the open air. See for details of what she offers.


My Life and Executive Coaching and Voice Coaching

Whether you already feel successful or are struggling with challenges, coaching can help you make the most of your potential. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.


And for voice coaching – it’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

“The Blackest Month”


Old Man's BeardThe blackest month in all the year
Is the month of Janiveer.

The beginning of the month came and I had nothing to write, not a single idea. It’s never been like that before. Okay, I’ve had a bad cold and feel a bit strung out, but even so.

In popped a favourite gremlin – that all or nothing one. “Ah ha, that’s it, that’s the end. Good while it lasted, but you’ll never have an idea again.”

It took me a while to dispatch that gremlin, but when I did, I then reflected on what the absence of ideas was about. And I realised I felt weary:

“Too many words” was the first thing to strike me. Too much said. Too many blogs, too many articles, too many opinions, too many solutions to life’s questions, too many huge promises, too many summons with peeps and tweets and alerts – I felt tired with it all.

Too many adverts crowding the sides of my Internet pages purporting to know something about me. Too many ulterior motives – blogs posted in order to attract advertising, or to sell something.

Too many circular arguments such as “Brexit means Brexit”. Too many words distorted way beyond any sensible meaning – such as “freedom”, and “control”. Too many promises that eschew a large glaring part of the truth. Too much playing with language, like “bringing peace” through provocative acts of aggression. And little optimism on my part to do anything about any of it.

It suddenly struck me that the feeling was one of watching a theatrical production, where I was a spectator and nothing more. Several years ago, the novelist Elena Ferrante wrote in a letter to her publisher that to be an Italian in the Berlusconi years was to be like an audience rather than a citizen. Berlusconi, she said,

has completed the transformation of citizens into an audience, and is for now the most unprincipled exponent of the reduction of democracy to imaginary participation in an imaginary game. He succeeds thanks to his tendentious monopoly of the medium that best realises and imposes that suspension of disbelief.” (from Frantumaglia)

I recognise that feeling today. So what’s the answer?

I haven’t got one … or maybe just one tentative one today. After all, this world circus I’m talking about is a story, one version, chosen mainly by powerful interests, politicians and the media. It’s not the only story, and it’s certainly not a reliable one.


So, in the spirit of David against Goliath, here are specks of other stories:

The farmer John Leis Stempel writes about wandering as a child one day through high wheat that came as high as his armpits. (NB it’s in his beautiful book: The Running Hare). He suddenly spotted a corncrake standing silently close to him. For perhaps a tenth of a second their eyes met. The experience was so intense it was able to “expand and inform existence ever after.”

And another: Mary Oliver when she watched a white swan take off and stream across the clouds (from The Swan). “Did you see it?” she asks. “And did you feel it, in your heart, how it pertained to everything?”

Or myself, still a child, standing on Wittering sands at low tide one cloudy late afternoon when the wet sand reflected sea and sky, and feeling tiny, but glad to be tiny, a minute part of that immensity that stretched in every direction and tugged my heart with it.

Wordsworth wrote in The Prelude about “spots of time” that have a “renovating virtue.” What moments capture that sense of what matters for you?

A friend sent me a poem at Christmas. I’ve posted it on my website under Links/Poems. Frances Horowitz writes:

I shall not be careless this year:
I shall not forget to see the wild garlic blossom
-as I did last May, and the May before.

I don’t want to be careless this year. I want to capture those tiny moments of immensity – you know, those unique scraps of consciousness that make life worth living. Crazy maybe, but I think that with all of us in it together they have a power that we might need right now.

Bring it on, 2018. May it be an exceptional year for you!




NLP Coaching

NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) still stands out for me as a repository of some of the most useful leadership and coaching tools on the planet. I have recently been coaching people – individually or in pairs/small groups – in some of the most exciting of these tools. 4 Sessions of 1½ hours would give you an excellent grounding. Email me or call on 01306 886114 for further information.


New Year, new resources? You might think that your own particular difficulties, setbacks and doubts don’t fit any coaching model. But you’d be surprised how simple conversations with a coach help you to get rid of obstacles and move forward to what you really want from life. Email me or call on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you. Coaching can take place face-to-face or via Skype or phone.

Voice and Communication Coaching

It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Do you realise what an amazing potential resource you have in your voice … or not? How you come across depends on your voice and how you use your body AND your breath. Self-consciousness is the grand saboteur. You’ll experience positive results after even a single coaching session. Email me or call me on 01306 886114.

My books

The Art of Conversation
What an important topic! Conversational skill isn’t really about being articulate and having a fund of things to talk about – though that’s what most books on the subject would suggest. It’s more about being at ease with who you are and knowing how to connect with others. Only then do you have authentic and satisfying conversations.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms
This is a book about performance anxiety – offering 25 different strategies to perform with confidence. But it’s not just about presenting and performing – you’ll find its ideas useful for eliminating anxiety throughout your life.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies
The perfect resource to discover the power of your voice, understand how it works and use it like a professional, whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence
“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Newsletter Archive

Look here for older blogs – just scroll down. Or click on one of the descriptive tags to sort the archive.

Catching a Summer Moment …

Georgia O'Keefe: Sky above Clouds (in her exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, till 30 Oct 2016)

Georgia O’Keefe: Sky above Clouds (from exhibition at the Tate Modern, London, till 30 Oct 2016)

I’m sitting in my father’s old house, sorting through piles of papers. I’ve just come across a copy of deeds from when the house changed hands on 18 October 1892.The house was on a 1000-year lease going back to the reign of Queen Elisabeth I, and every leaseholder from that time on is recorded in the document. The lease-holders in 1892 are Harriet and William Martin. Harriet has painstakingly signed her name. Her husband William has produced a shaky inky cross, traced over a pencilled cross.

For some reason, that stops me in my tracks. I’m suddenly struck by the contrast between these familiar rooms in 2016 and during the years of this earlier inhabitant, William. How different our lives… He can’t read or write – so books, newspapers, computers, phones, all reading material lies outside his awareness. His range of movement is much smaller than mine – maybe he has a horse and cart and travels the few miles to Guildford or Farnham. He could then travel by train, but probably didn’t. No cars or planes. He certainly walks: the house is almost two miles from the village, the common for grazing extends quite a few miles around. In the house, lighting is provided by candles and maybe an oil lamp; heat is the flame of an open fire. No electricity signifies no kettle, no central heating, no fridge, washing machine, electric mixer, coffee maker, toothbrush – the list sounds faintly ridiculous.

What really grabs hold of me as I reflect on this, here and now? He has much more physical work to do than I have, but he too uses his brain. From where does he acquire knowledge though? I think of how I am willingly bombarded by knowledge and information, always consulting the internet, catching up with items on Facebook, reading news, books, on-line articles, listening to radio, watching TV; navigating my way through life by means of signs, papers, bills, invoices … often reading at table, reading in bed, falling asleep over book or Ipad, waking up in the early hours and making note of something …

Whereas William? Maybe he talks to Harriet after a day’s labour. He meets a neighbour on the common and picks up some news or gossip. Maybe he walks the couple of miles down to the village pub, maybe shares thoughts on life, work. religion? Someone sings a song; tells a story. The likely paucity of information is staggering.

But most of his knowledge comes from observation. He looks at the sky and assesses the weather. He checks his garden vegetables for drought or blight. He examines his tools and sees what repairs are required. He listens to the calls of the birds, spots a deer on the common, succeeds in catching a pigeon or a rabbit. He hears a cart trundle down the road. He smells his bread in the oven and knows it’s ready.

Sitting on the floor of the bedroom, my legs have become stiff. I’m left feeling my life’s too complicated. I spent at least 5 hours in the past week grappling with the complexity and aggravation of changing my phone and sim. I constantly manipulate information and spend much less time using my five senses directly on the outside world. Okay, I’m living now, not then, and I mostly appreciate the wonder of having instant access to communication and information. But there’s a part of me that’s tired – that needs something simpler.

I suddenly want to laugh as my information-grabbing mind instantly starts to create solutions for myself: meditate! Resume yoga, tai chi, chi gung! Practise mindfulness! Learn how to breathe! Organise a new relaxation schedule! Get more disciplined about it! Oh dear, William of the simple X, are you laughing too?

Then I think of the advice an old and valued friend gave me twenty plus years ago. “Make time for a cup of tea,” he said. “Just sit down for a few minutes, and just drink your tea.” Best advice I ever had.

I think that’s right. If you walk too far your legs get stiff; if you carry too many heavy things your shoulders ache; if you over-eat your stomach complains. But when you use your brain too frantically, it’s easy to miss the signs.

So make a cup of tea, sit down and – without actually labelling it – there’s a surrender. Your body relaxes and your rigid hold on yourself lets go. Letting go may release as yet unacknowledged emotions, and these, once recognised are experienced and dissipate, or are recognised and can be dealt with. Then, emotional blocks quietened, you access once again good thinking, creativity and intuition. And the joy of being back in flow.

But that’s my mind making sense of it again. What about you? Maybe you’re giving your brain a rest this month – in the country or by the sea? Whatever you’re doing, I hope that you too are able to let go of busy-ness for a while and take time to laze …

I’ve just discovered the magnificent word ‘lollygag’. If we can this summer, let’s all lollygag for a while.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for. Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.
Maya Angelou


Coaching with Compassion – Sun. 9 Oct – a date for your diary

Another great event in the Spirit of Coaching series, hosted by the Brahma Kumaris in London – 2.00-5.30pm.

An opportunity to explore the meaning and depth of compassion and the important role it can play in the coaching process for both coach and coachee. For all coaches and anyone interested in personal growth and development.

It’s free, but you need to register. Registration details will be posted very soon on


Do things sometimes go round and around in your brain without resolution? How do you become more confident? How can you stop that negative inner voice? How can you sort out your life? How can you be the person you want to be?

Coaching helps you to make more sense of your life, and take positive steps to create the life you want. Don’t underestimate the power of a simple coaching conversation to create change.

Email me or call me on 01306 886114 if you want an initial conversation about what coaching might do for you.


Great little chunks of learning – gifts to download from my website. Just sign up to the ones you want (I never share your email with anyone) Choose from:

10 Tips for Having a Great Conversation

10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

How to Speak with More Authority

Understanding NLP


My latest book, The Art of Conversation, is appearing all over the place – my daughter spotted a copy on display in a bookshop at Kuala Lumpur airport last week! No one ever taught us the art of conversation – no wonder many of us struggle. Change your life with confident communication.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms is the practical answer to the fears and anxieties of presenting, speaking in meetings and expressing yourself when the going gets tough. 25 brilliant strategies for speaking and presenting with confidence.

Voice and Speaking Skills for Dummies will help you discover the power of your voice, understand how it works, and use your voice like a professional whether in meetings, addressing an audience, or standing in front of a classroom.

Voice of Influence“The body language of sound”. Like body language, your voice gives you away. Find your authentic voice, speak powerfully and influentially, and reach people on a deeper level.

Training Courses

Read testimonials here. Would your company benefit from a session on voice, communicating, presenting, NLP or coaching? I’d like to help. Get in touch.

A Poem on Taking a Moment

Here is Rumi on letting go of insistence.

Don’t insist on going
where you think you want to go

Ask the way to the spring.

Your living pieces
will form a harmony.

There is a moving palace
that floats in the air
with balconies and
clear water flowing through,
infinity everywhere,
yet contained under a single tent.


Have a look too at Mary Oliver’s famous poem, The Journey, which talks of the necessity sometimes of withdrawing “from the cares which will not withdraw from us.”

Happy summer, friends,
Go well,



What do you want to be remembered for?

Henni copyHenning Mankel, author of the Wallender mysteries, died a few weeks ago. You know, Henning Mankell, the Swedish Crime Writer …  It’s interesting isn’t it how we shoebox people with our brief descriptions? – Swedish Crime Writer … bestselling author …

Mankell’s Wallender mysteries have sold over 40 million copies, but Mankell’s life was more than two-thirds over before he published the first of these novels when he was 49; many exciting experiences of his life were already behind him.

At 16 he dropped out of school, left home and travelled to Paris, and then went to sea working on a freighter, an experience he’s said to have enjoyed.

(Henning Mankell, young adventurer…)

Returning to Paris, he worked as a stagehand in Paris, set out to become a writer, and took part in the student unrest of the late 60s.

(Henning Mankell, Bohemian ...)

The proceeds from his first published play financed a flight to Africa, where he spent much of the rest of his life. He was proud of his theatre work – he wrote over 40 plays, and spent many years as the artistic director of Teatro Avenida in Maputo, Mozambique. He built up his own publishing house to support young talents from Africa and Sweden.

(Henning Mankell, playwright and theatre director ...)

Yet, asked where his heart was, he would probably have said he was most invested in social and political change. He used the crime genre as a means of critiquing politics, big business, social unrest and corruption. In Africa his outrage at the inequalities of the world grew and deepened. He campaigned against Aids and landmines. He endowed a children’s village in Mozambique and gave much of his fortune to charities he believed in. He sailed on one of the ships that attempted to break the blockade of Gaza in 2010 and was seized by Israeli commandos.

(Henning Mankell, committed political activist …)

Always questioning, in almost the last article he wrote before his death from cancer he asked, “What happens to people’s identity when they are stricken by a serious illness? … Have I changed …?”  Knowing the end was near, I wonder what he would have most liked to be remembered for? What epitaph would he have chosen for himself?

(Henning Mankell, himself …)

Autumn sunshine and the dying year – perfect weather for wandering around churchyards. It’s got me thinking about epitaphs – a whole life in a handful of words –

“HERE lies the body of Daniel Saul,
Spitalfields weaver, – and that’s all.”
(St. Dunstan’s, Stepney)
HERE lies poor, but honest Brian Tunstall;
he was a most expert angler,
until Death, envious of his Merit,
threw out his line, hook’d him,
and landed him here the 21st day of April 1790.
(Ripon Cathedral)
A TENDER mother and a kind neighbour
(Stock Church, 1845)

Isn’t that one of the best? I wouldn’t mind that one.

Epitaphs are mostly composed by others, like an end of term report. Not many marks for the next!

HERE lies
Ezekial Aikle
Age 102
The Good Die Young.
East Dalhousie Cemetery, Nova Scotia

Geoffrey Chaucer became the first poet in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey when he was reinterred in a grand tomb by one Nicholas Brigham 150 years after the poet’s death. The engraving tells us – in letters the same height as those used for the word CHAUCER – that “BRIGHAM paid for this at his own expense.” thus getting Nicholas Brigham remembered as the person who muscled in on Chaucer’s fame and mentioned money!

Jo Rowling was asked how she would like to be remembered, and she answered, “As someone who did the best she could with the talent she had.”

When Hilary Mantel was asked which book she was most proud of, she mentioned neither Wolf Hall nor Bring Up the Bodies, her Booker Prize winning books, but said, “A book I wrote in my twenties called A Place of Greater Safety about the French revolution. It wasn’t published as my first book but as my fifth. I wrote it against the odds as nobody except me believed in it.” She was more proud of her self-belief in hard times than of the fame that came later. Jo Rowley would probably have empathised with that.

The brave young Pakistani woman, Malala, shot by the Taliban, said, “I don’t want to be remembered as the girl who was shot. I want to be remembered as the girl who stood up.”

Rosa Parks (famous for sitting down) said, “I would like to be remembered as a person who wanted to be free … so other people would be also free.”

So here’s a coaching question for you and me:

How do you want to be remembered?

And (following your answer), that being so:

What are you investing now on this legacy?

How much of your time?

How much of your energy?

How much of your money?

And – given that information:

What do you intend to do about it?

The fact is, that many (most?) of us don’t spend our time, energy and money on the things we would claim to be most important for us and that we would want to be remembered by. For example, a study was done on teachers who were asked to list 25 value words in order of importance, and then to describe three examples of how they put their number one value into action in the classroom. Most teachers in the study had great difficulty in providing even a single example of how they put their most important value into action. No wonder they were stressed.

Ask yourself the question in your own line of work. How much of your time and energy are you spending on what’s most important to you? Happiness is about spending most time with things that you value most, and least time with what you value least. If you find yourself doing the reverse, you’re out of tune with yourself.

A self enquiry for this week perhaps? November’s a good time to plant bulbs for flowering in the spring. What do you want to be remembered for?

Have a good month,

Go well,


Of interest …


Do any of the following apply to you?

  • You feel a bit stuck – in your job, or a relationship, or in life in general.
  • You’ve some ideas you’d like to follow up, but you never quite get round to it.
  • You lack the confidence to do certain things – including maybe contacting a coach!
  • You guess that coaching is quite a major undertaking – in terms of time, commitment and cost.

What to do?

Jot down first thoughts about your issues and what you want in an email and send it to me, Then we can talk it through on the phone. If you wish to proceed with coaching, you can start with a single session with no expectation or obligation to continue. Costs are surprisingly reasonable.  If you go for Skype coaching – which works brilliantly – you can learn in the comfort of your own home.

Workshop – Voice of Influence

Gain this important life skill once and for all – the confidence to get up and speak with authority and influence in any context. Is the next workshop going to include you? Email me now to register interest. Groups are kept small. Next workshop February 2016 – I hope to meet you there.

Event – What to Say When you Don’t Know What to Say

A coaching event to watch out for, with Jo McHale. I love the title – it should be an inspiring session – and it’s a great group, open to all: Guildford Coaches at Trinity Centre, Guildford, 27 November, 9.30 – 12.30.  More info and register here.

E-course – 10 Tips For Having a Great Conversation

  • Overcome your nervousness with other people.
  • Find out how to break the silence and get a conversation going
  • Learn how to get on someone’s wavelength in conversation
  • Find out how to make more intimate connection in conversation
  • Learn the secret of enjoying chatting to people.

Over the next 5 days you’ll pick up 10 valuable tips for improving your conversational skills. And over the next months you’ll notice the difference in how people respond!

Other Free E-Courses to Download

* How to Speak with More Authority

* 10 Secrets for Overcoming Performance Anxiety

* How to Raise Your Profile

* Introduction to NLP

YouTube video –  the excellent Brene Brown again

Excellent as ever in this short talk about what gets in the way of your doing what you’d like to be remembered by.

Books – The Art of Conversation

My most popular book – change your life with confident communication. Learn how to connect better and enjoy successful conversation with people. Check out all my books on my Amazon page

Voice and Speaking Skills For Dummies

All you need to know about speaking – in the familiar easy-learn format of this series.

Butterflies and Sweaty Palms

Suffer no longer from paralysing fear – you too can speak confidently and surely. 25 sure-fire ways to speak and communicate with confidence. This book is highly practical and effective.

Voice of Influence

People jump to conclusions about you because of your voice. Get your voice working for you and see the amazing difference it makes in your life!

Daily ideas and speaking tips on Facebook and Twitter

Enjoy the tips! Join the discussion!

Dog Days

NB Book Autumn Courses in London now!

Voice of Influence Workshop – 24-25 SEPT
Find your powerful speaking voice. Connect with confidence

NLP Diploma – Starts 19 October
Powerful communication skills – successful relationships, leadership, influence, coaching. Three 2-day modules over 2 months
Details below

Summer time and the livin’ is easy … ♬ 


Warm days, long days, dog days …

I associate August days of my childhood with kicking a ball idly in our road with the dusty smell of privet hedges in the air. For many of us summer’s a dull routine time at work, a period when people take a holiday if they can, or if they can’t – or want to avoid school holiday periods –  just carry on.

Last year I had a lively August with interviews and article writing following the publication of The Art of Conversation. This year, it’s quieter, and in the less urgent pace of this time of year age-old questions find gaps to creep in: “What am I aiming at?” or “What should I do next?” or “What am I doing with my life?” You know the kind of question, that brings with it a dissatisfaction with the status quo, a discordant sense of un-channelled energy and an inability to settle to things; so that the easy-livin’ time of year gets to be the most disturbed, even as the sun shines and nature looks at its most beautiful and inviting.

Now you’d think urgency might be good – that it might make something positive happen. But I’ve found this kind of urgency to be exactly the opposite: there’s nothing worse than that speeded-up “gotta do, gotta do, gotta do” feeling for achieving anything useful.

  • “Gotta meet people” – and your vibe puts people off
  • “Gotta get work” – and your desperation repels
  • “Gotta do something important/worthwhile” – and your jittery energy scatters your thoughts and produces confusion and hopelessness

Yet, remembering back a few years, it was in just such a slump time of year when I created the bulk of my first book. It was autumn. Paid work had dropped off and I was feeling, if not exactly a failure, very far from a success. I didn’t realise at the time what a fertile period it would prove to be.

So I’m thinking now, how did that happen?

Very simple really, I found a way to accept that it was the way it was. I’d just read Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now, that probably helped. For once I stopped fretting and accepted that this quiet period was how it was and this was where I was. It was the absolute opposite of “gotta do gotta do”.

So, looking back from now, I’d say this is what helps:

  1. Accepting that things are as they are as they are …
    not trying to change reality, and not taking anything in life as a personal affront. Knowing that nothing is more important than whatever I’m doing now. Telling myself, it’s okay; there’s a time and season for everything; a pause is good too.
  2. Finding joy in simple things, birdsong at dawn, sunshine, a tree, daisies at the roadside, a kind word – pausing for a moment to appreciate
  3. Focusing on this moment – watching my breathing and witnessing it slow down as often as I remember during the day. Telling myself, breathe, just be; everything’s okay; all is well.

And then, from this space, to notice any inner touching – any tiny thread of intelligence/desire/intention as it arises. For me it was, I wonder if …?” “What if I just write some of these thoughts down…?

Occasionally I do things against my inner voice, but you really should go for the thing that touches you most – even if you don’t quite know why it does. Alan Bates

In that state of ‘non-doing’ seeds had time to germinate and an idea matured without conscious pushing. I look back on the time with gratitude now, as that writing was the beginning of much good stuff that followed.

I wonder what might touch you or occur to you in odd idle moments this summer?

Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant. Robert Louis Stevenson

Happy long days!

Go well,




Naomi Woolf wrote in an article last week in the Guardian that “When people feel from your voice that you are confident, they will believe that you are smarter, and that you are better at what you do – even when you are saying the exact same thing.”

It’s true – people immediately think they know what you’re like, just from listening to your voice. If your voice doesn’t work well for you it’s really worth doing something about it.

The next Voice of Influence Workshop in London on 24-25 September is a great way to find your voice and confidence in a small group. Don’t put it off if you feel a bit daunted – every bit of feedback I get after this course confirms that it’s friendly, supportive and highly effective – even transformative – so what better time than now?

I also offer one-to-one face-to-face or Skype coaching on voice and presenting. Email me if you might be interested.


The new NLP Diploma starts on 19 October. NLP training is surprisingly effective. What will you get from it? Powerful communication and better relationships, confidence in all situations, more focus and clarity about where you’re going, surer decision making, leadership and coaching skills … and much more. Past delegates’ comments.

Module 1: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct,
Module 2: Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov,
Module 3: Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.

Never has quality NLP Training been so accessible! – Pay What You Can system for self-funding applicants. The very modest registration fee is for the basic venue and material costs, and the voluntary (but necessary!) element payable anonymously at the actual course according to what you can pay is for the NLP training and coaching you receive. More here.


The NLP Practitioner qualification is widely recognised professionally as a mark of your ability to resolve problems, achieve successful outcomes and lead others with skill and emotional sensitivity. Personally, you will find that your relationships improve, you achieve your life goals more easily and you ‘find yourself’ in all senses of the term.

If you’ve completed my NLP Diploma you can be certified as an NLP Practitioner. This includes attendance at the 3-day intensive NLP Practitioner course.

NB!  If you have already completed the NLP Practitioner Module you are welcome to repeat the 3-day training completely for free. Email me very soon if you’re interested.

Spirit of Coaching Retreat in Oxford

The Spirit of Coaching next international retreat for coaches is at the Brahma Kumaris Retreat Centre in Oxford from 2-4 October. Other retreats have been rich and rewarding for participants. If you are a coach and would be interested to attend this ‘by invitation’ event, email me and I’ll pass your name and details on. It is free, though contributions are always welcome.





Going All Out

Autumn Workshops – sign up now

Voice of Influence24-25 September

NLP Diploma: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct, Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov, and Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov.  Special “Pay What You Can” terms.  More below …

Going All Out

Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 16.18.23I put in lots of effort to do a good job. I’m sure you do too. If a job needs strength, we go all out to be strong. If positivity is needed, we go all out to be positive.

Surely? But life often laughs at us.

Here on the left is one of my favourite photos. On the left of the picture you can see pallbearers carrying a coffin out of church after a funeral, watching appalled as simultaneously the hearse they are making towards is loaded onto a tow-truck to be carted away for having contravened parking restrictions.

Good job, traffic warden!

There’s another story about an old lady billed for late fees by her bank for months after her death in spite of her surviving relative telling the bank again and again that she’d died. The bills kept on coming month after month.

After months of wrangling with the bank the frustrated relative finally snapped,

“How can I say it? She’s no longer at that address!”

“So do you have her new address?” asked the bank official.

“Her current address is Odessa Memorial Cemetery, Plot Number 69.”

First sign of life from the official: “Sir, that’s a cemetery!”

“Exactly! What do you do with dead people on your planet?”

The bank was very consistent. Well-done, bank official!

Jobsworths rule okay! There is no one who pursues their job more single-mindedly, no one who is more consistently consistent than a jobsworth. A vehicle parked in the wrong place? Remove it. No ifs and buts; no special circumstances. Someone hasn’t paid a bill? Pursue them … to death and beyond!

Of course we like such stories, but how often do we pursue some end ourselves with everything we’ve got and somehow miss the point?

At yoga this morning I wanted to bend further towards my toes, but with my best efforts always reached an edge, beyond which I couldn’t go. But then, listening to the yoga teacher, I withdrew a little from that edge and let go on achieving the outcome. Result? Letting go, I found myself actually able to bend further than before and without strain.

That’s a good metaphor for what happens in our dealings with people. Have you ever had a situation where you are adamant about something and the other person is adamant too, and you both push and push to get what you want. Then one of you draws back and gives way, only to discover that the other person all confused becomes more compliant and you find a happy solution.

This is how life works. When we go all out rigidly towards a goal we go against life and create resistance. Life is never rigid. When we look for flexibility and balance we succeed.

If you don’t, if you insist rigidly on certain outcomes, you’re in for trouble. You go all out for happiness and fail to find it. You push for your children to succeed and they protest and fail. Or you do everything to avoid pain and end up suffering. ISIS goes all out with rigid certainty for god and creates the devil. Governments go all out to ensure the freedom of the individual and put many in chains of misery. A politician shows strength at every turn and fails to influence.

I recognise that all-out mood in myself when I get a pressing feeling that I ‘gotta do, gotta do gotta do,’ or experience that urgent insistence that something has to be right at all costs. It’s always counter-productive. I’m noticing it in certain Wimbledon tennis players too – that desperation to win a point that so often loses it. In a favourite book of my youth, Zen and the Art of Archery, the Zen Master says:

The right art … is purposeless, aimless! The more obstinately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen. Eugen Herrigel

Our real strengths are found in balance. And what I find fascinating and paradoxical is that it’s not a matter of finding the happy mean – you know, not too strong and not too vulnerable, or not too happy and not too sad. It’s about both coexisting. Authentic strength coexists with vulnerability. Communication is most powerful where there is high energy and peacefulness. The truly happy person knows sadness – in fact, happiness needs knowledge of sadness.

I’m just beginning to get it – two sides of the same coin. If you insist on just one side you lose the other too. When you are aware of both, you can have one and both. Both and: life all of a piece.


Sign up now for workshops this autumn:

Voice of Influence24-25 September.
Go beyond performance anxiety to powerful performance. Use your voice to influence with presence and connection – even if you are seriously daunted now! 2 fun-filled days that will make a profound difference to your confidence and authenticity and impact on every part of your life. Small group coaching at its best. Many enthusiastic testimonials here.

NLP Diploma: Communication & Relationships 19-20 Oct, Leadership & Influence 9-10 Nov, and Coaching & Change 26-27 Nov. You can register here. 6 days in total of great communication and personal effectiveness learning, or sign up for individual modules.

Once again, I am broadening the reach of the NLP Diploma with a Pay What You Can system based on trust for self-funding participants.  The registration fee is for the basic venue and material costs, and the element payable at the actual course – voluntary according to what you can pay – is for the NLP training and coaching you receive. More here.

Spirit of Coaching

The conference on 27 June was an exciting and meaningful event which witnessed some magical conversations that went beyond the everyday – video available soon. The Spirit of Coaching next international retreat is at Oxford from 2-4 October. Other retreats have been rich and rewarding for participants. If you are a coach and would be interested to attend this ‘by invitation’ event, email me and I’ll pass your name and details on. It is free, though contributions are always welcome.


One of the most satisfying things about my work is to see coaching clients grow into larger confidence and bigger roles. If you’re in a rut, or struggling, or feel you may have more potential than you’re currently using, don’t hesitate to get a coach – a few coaching sessions can make a huge difference to your self concept and confidence. It is truly worth it. And if you think that I might be the person to help you, have a look at my thoughts on coaching, and email me or give me a call (01306 886114) to have an informal chat about it.


My four published books, including the most recent, The Art of Conversation, have helped many improve their communication and speaking skills and build their self confidence. Read more about their content here, and or check them out on Amazon.

I’ve just finished Jackee Holder’s 49 Ways to Write Yourself Well. I can thoroughly recommend it for anyone who’s ever kept and journal or might think about journalling – it’s a rich source of treasures and practical tools.

I’ve also been listening again to the CD of Eckhard Tolle speaking at Findhorn – Eckhart Tolle’s Findhorn Retreat: Finding Stillness Amidst the World  – peaceful listening for long summer days …

Right, back to Wimbledon!

Go well,