December 2019


Here is Part 1:

And here below is The Lyrics Game Part 2.

Don’t cheat.

10 lyrics this time.

From songs you’ve heard.

See how many you get.

Answers below.

(Scroll down.

But not until you’ve done your best, OK?

If you get 10 you’re pretty cool).

  1. Look at your children. See their faces in golden rays. Don’t kid yourself they belong to you. They’re the start of a coming race.
  2. We lived in the shadows and we had the chance and threw it away. And it’s never gonna be the same, ‘cause the years are falling by like the rain.
  3. What have I become? My sweetest friend. Everyone I know. Goes away in the end.
  4. 57 Mount Pleasant Street.
  5. Sleep, pretty darling. Do not cry. And I will sing a lullaby.
  6. Well it’s been building up inside of me for oh I don’t know how long. I don’t know why but I keep thinking something’s bound to go wrong.
  7. We’re no strangers to love. You know the rules and so do I.
  8. The gods may throw a dice. Their minds as cold as ice. And someone way down here. Loses someone dear.
  9. Shooting stars never stop. Even when they reach the top. Shooting stars never stop. Even when they reach the top. There goes a supernova. What a pushover-yeah. There goes a supernova. What a pushover.
  10. If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?

Answers below.














  1. Oh! You Pretty Things. David Bowie.
  2. Hello. Oasis.
  3. Hurt. Johnny Cash/Nine Inch Nails.
  4. Weather With You. Crowded House.
  5. Golden Slumbers. The Beatles.
  6. Don’t Worry Baby. The Beach Boys.
  7. Never Gonna Give You Up. Rick Astley.
  8. The Winner Takes It All. ABBA.
  9. Welcome To The Pleasuredome. Frankie Goes To Hollywood.
  10. Free Bird. Lynyrd Skynyrd.

YES! A must listen:

Each year.

I stand on the same bridge.

Thinking the same things.

This Year.

Well this year.

As I once again stand on the very same bridge.

I’ve actually acted on my thoughts.

And I’ve distilled them.

All of them.

Down to one simple notion.

The Bridge.

The bridge I am referring to.

Is the bridge of 6 days that lead me from one year.

To the next year.

So it’s the bridge of 6 days from December 26th to December 31st.

One Simple Notion.

The one simple notion that I will take with me.

Over the bridge.

From 2019 to 2020.

Is this:

I am under very little pressure apart from the ones I put on myself.

I think this will help me in 2020.

Because I am at my weakest.

My most panicky.

My most upset.

And riddled with the most self-doubt.

When I feel under pressure.


So here are a few things I’ll change.

  • Say ‘no’ more.
  • Allow slightly longer to do most things.
  • Create regular gaps where I always do absolutely nothing at all.
  • Never book meetings on Friday.
  • Build fitness into my life rather than trying to squeeze it in somewhere.
  • Turn my phone off for at least 8 of the 10(ish) hours that I work each day, Monday to Friday.

That’ll do for starters.


All of this seems obvious to me.

And so much easier to see and do.

When I am stood on The Bridge

So all I need to do now.

Is to remember those feelings.

When I get to the other side.

Happy 2020.

I wonder if you can help me?

I am looking for a business where excellence is expected.

And delivered.

By every single person in the business.

At every single second that the business is delivering experience.

And at every single business touchpoint.

You see, I am asking because.

I can’t find any business like this.


Is it you?

You might think it’s you.

But it probably isn’t.

It probably isn’t because of how hard it is.

And because it requires always-on attention to this important subject of ‘Excellence Expected (and Delivered)’.

In a plan/do/review kind of way.

It requires you to actually do something brilliant and cyclical.

Excellence Expected. 

The reason I am suggesting that it is unlikely to be your business that expects and delivers excellence.

Via every single person in the business.

Every single second that the business is delivering experience.

And at every single business touchpoint.

Is because every business I experience.

Doesn’t have a team where every single person wants to be excellent.

Every single second.

In everything single thing that they do.

They might say that they do.

And the leaders of the organisations might say that they do.

But they don’t.

Not really they don’t.


There is something you can do about it though.

There is action you can take.

To improve.

To get closer.

You can sit down with everyone.


(And I do mean everyone. 

And I do mean weekly).

And ask this.

  1. Is excellence expected by every single person in this business?
  2. At every single second that our business is delivering experience?
  3. And at every single business touchpoint?
  4. And does every single person in this room actually deliver excellence?
  5. At every single second that the business is delivering experience?
  6. And at every single business touchpoint?

Then discuss it.

Look people in the eye.

Ask for examples.

And when you find the people that don’t deliver excellence.

And when you unearth the times that you don’t deliver excellence.

And when you unearth the ways that you don’t deliver excellence.

(And you will find all of these things).

You will see that I am right.

A Final Point.

You can’t go to numbers 3, 4 and 5 above.

Without addressing 1, 2 and 3 first.

Because 1, 2 and 3 address whether your business actually wants to deliver excellence.

And if you don’t get 1, 2 and 3 right first.

Then you will never get 4, 5 and 6 right.


And that’s why I get sad about business in general, really.

Not because any particular business is not excellent.

I can, on some occasions and under certain circumstances, accept that.

I get sad because business doesn’t actually want to be excellent.

And that I can never, ever accept.

I think that never trying to be a Superhero.

Is as ill-advised as always trying to be a Superhero.


Never being a Superhero.

Means never pushing to the edges of your life.

(And the best stuff is always at the edge).

But always trying to be a Superhero.


That’s exhausting.

Time Out.

One of a raft of mistakes I made in 2019.

Was trying too hard and too often to be a Superhero.

(Everybody needs time out.

Even Bob Parr*).

So as we move into 2020 I have decided to relax more.

I’ll still try to be a Superhero from time to time, of course.

But I will also remove my imaginary lycra completely from time to time.

And just be ‘off’.


When I am ‘off’.

I can repair.



So that when I am needed to do important, time critical things.

I am ready.

Better prepared to come up with magic rather than just solutions.

Because I know that if I am bouncing from thing to thing to thing.

I am not looking for magic.

I am just looking to ‘get things done’.


So that’s it for me for 2020.

More downtime.

So that when I am called upon to be a Superhero.

Or when I decide that Superherodom is for me.

I am more ‘Mr. Incredible’.

Than ‘Mr. Incapable’.

Happy 2020.


*Here’s Bob Parr.

This Christmas.

The present that made me think most.

And that made me smilecry.

(‘Made up word.

But you know what it means).

Was a book that I bought for Izobel.

Called ‘The Fate of Fausto’.

The Fate of Fausto.

Here’s the epigraph.

There was once a man who believed he owned everything and set out to survey what was his.

“You are mine,” Fausto said to the flower, the sheep and the mountain, and they bowed before him.

But they were not enough for Fausto, so he conquered a boat and set out to sea…

The story is powerful.

The ending is better.

It is wonderfully illustrated too.

For children from 3 to 100.

Take a closer look:

It just depends on how you look at it.

It always does.

Steph Houghton. 

2019 was a great year for International footballer and England Captain Steph Houghton.

A pioneering year.

Because her journey led England somewhere new.

And it also included.

For Steph.

Perhaps the most awful thing that could happen to a professional footballer.

So was 2019 a good year for Steph Houghton?

It just depends on how you look at it.

It always does.

11.7 Million. 

The most watched TV programme for 2019.

Was the women’s World Cup semi-final.

11.7 million people watched England take on reigning champions the USA.

Steph Houghton, MBE.

Manchester City player and captain.

England player and captain.

Was doing what she does best.

In front of almost 12 million people.

So many, many people knowing her name and seeing her do what she loves the most.

So many, many people knowing her name and seeing her miss the penalty that might just have helped England to move past the USA to the final.

Aiming High.

That’s the thing with aiming high.

The view from such an elevated place is stunning.

But when your head bows.

(And heads always bow).

The view down is not so amazing.

And when we fall.

(And we always fall).

It can be a long way down.


So if you decide to be pioneering.

You have automatically decided to fail.

Because you’ll never just keep going.

No one ever did.

You’ll find the limit of your journey.

And the more interesting and brilliant your journey.

The more people will see you journey.

And more people will see the limit of your journey.

The point in your journey where you fail.

So be ready for the good times.

And keep climbing.

But be ready for the fall too.

And how you react to the fall.

And don’t forget that when the fall comes.

It does not have to be the end of everything.

There are more journeys to be had.

It just depends on how you look at it.

It always does.

One Christmas Day.

In my early 20s.

My ‘early grown up’ years, if you like.

I found myself sat around a strange table.

In a strange house.

With strange people.

Pushing turkey around a plate.


A couple of half-mouthfuls into the meal.

I sensed myself floating.

Well, it felt like floating.

Because as the conversation ricocheted around me.

And across me.

I became aware that I hadn’t looked up from my plate for a good two minutes.

I became aware that I was pushing food around my plate.

I became aware that I felt alone.


And it was part way through one of these plate-stares that I felt the stinging in my eyes.

And the warm tears rolling down my face.

Just a couple of them.

And I remember thinking:

I hope no one noticed that.

And I also remember thinking:


I hope they did.


My new girlfriend was sat to my right.

But I didn’t know her, of course.

She was new.

We were new.

And the beautiful, perfectly Christmassy room.

Packed with her uncles, aunts, mum and dad, sisters and brothers was all new too.

And I remember thinking.

That it’s funny how you can feel so alone.

When you’re not alone.

The Invitation.

It had seemed like a good idea at the time.

A new girlfriend inviting me to her place.

For Christmas Day.

Especially because the house I shared with my friends in Newcastle was empty over the Christmas period.

And especially as my mum’s house contained my drunk, bullying coward of a stepdad.

So when the invitation came.

I went.

Grown ups.

I want to go home.

I thought.

I didn’t say it out loud of course.

Grown ups can’t say things like that out loud.

Can they?

But then I thought to myself that.


I didn’t actually want to go home.

What I actually wanted.

Was a home.


On Christmas Day in 2019.

I was sat in my home.

In an imperfectly Christmassy room.

With all the right people.

And my mind floated back 29 years.

To a 22 year old me.

A teary me.

A lonely me.

Sat in a perfectly Christmassy room.

With all the wrong people.

I thought about my journey.

From there.

To here.

I thought about the people I’d known that would make my homes over the years.

And I thought about the people I’d known that would break my homes over the years.

I tried to dilute the bitterness I can still taste so vividly.

With the pockets of happiness I remember so warmly.

During my teenage years.

And during every decade since.

And naturally.

I thought about The Smiths too.

Singing this:


For me.

The most difficult question.

So difficult that it panics me.

Has always been:

What do I want?



After many years.

I’ve worked out why I find this question so difficult.

It is because when I hear it.

I twist it.

To become a slightly different question.

What Do I Want?

If I just left the question alone.

If I just left the question as:

What do I want?

I am comfortable with that.

I am comfortable that the answer includes certainty, Izobel, warmth, safety, home, dogs and a few really nice material things.

And I am comfortable with the addition of apparently conflicting elements such as a craving for uncertainty, adventure, risk, success, excellence and winning.

I can manage all that.

But once I twist the question.

To become a slightly different question.

That’s when I panic.

The Twisted Question. 

Here’s what I do.

I twist:

What do I want?

To become

What is everything that I will ever want?

And that’s where the problems start.

For me, at least


Ever is hard.

I don’t know about everything ever because I haven’t seen everything I am going to see yet.

I have not met everyone I am going to meet.

And I have not had to think about all of the things I am going to have to think about yet.

So I cannot answer the question:

What is everything that I will ever want?

Because I don’t know.

(Who does?)



I have what I want.

But I definitely do not have everything that I will ever want.

And I have to remind myself of the difference between those two things.

Having what I want.

And having everything that I will ever want.

Because having what I want makes me feel safe and secure.

And not yet having everything that I will ever want makes me feel adventurous and alive.

And I need both.

This is useful.

Here are the headlines.

It is better to describe your emotions.

Than it is for you to be emotional.

Not all the time.

But most of the time.

And especially with negative emotions.

Sheila Heen.

I first heard Sheila Heen talking about this.

Sheila is an American author and public speaker.

And a senior lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School.


My own personal addition to Sheila’s excellent observation is to do with vulnerability.

And it is this.

If I choose to describe my emotions.

Instead of just allowing myself to be emotional.

I somehow feel much more vulnerable.

And that is quite unnerving.


It is unnerving even though.

Deep down.

I know that allowing myself to be vulnerable is a good thing.

Because being vulnerable lets the other person see the real me.

And this encourages the other person to show the real them.

Which is good for everyone.

But I still find it hard.



I think I’ll give it a go.

Describing emotion rather than just being emotional.

Except when I am watching ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ this Christmas.

Because with that film.

I’ve got no chance.