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Archive for August, 2013

The Paradox Of No

Friday, August 30th, 2013










Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of lot’s of No’s and a stream of disappointment’s.

No I don’t have time be involved in the project you’ve invited me to be part of …….

No I can’t do this interview for your website ………

A close friend didn’t make it to my birthday party in May and it hurt.

Last year I had a fierce conference with the organizer of a conference I was part of. I wasn’t convinced that our conversation came from the heart. I left the conversation still feeling sludgy. Something just didn’t feel right. It felt like the professional veneer was in operation, a bit like,  ‘we need to have this conversation, but we are not really having the ‘real’ conversation.’  A reminder from Susan Scott author of Fierce Conversations who writes about the seven principles of Fierce Conversations which includes, ‘Come out from behind yoursself into the conversation and make it real.’ Obviously I had my part to play in our professional niceness.

Month’s later I found out that the same conference has a new international location with pretty much a repeat line up of the same presenters and I was not invited.

I’m guessing our conversation did not go so well.

Since the publication of my new book I sent out copies to a long list of respected colleagues and authors. Not one person sent back an email commenting on the book or it’s content.  The question is what do I make of the silence? What is the conversation or conversations I have in my head?

After several not going so well conversations in my head I plucked up the courage to ask one of those people who had been sent a copy of my book why they hadn’t responded. I was surprised by the feedback. In this person’s view unless I specifically asked for feedback they were under the conclusion that it wasn’t required or expected. Hey, it helps to check things out before jumping to conclusions.

This is one of the many reasons we protect ourselves from having that difficult conversation in the first place or going that extra mile, or taking that leap of faith. We’re afraid of rejection, of being refused or not hearing anything at all. It feels far too risky and scary. This is the icky stuff we avoid at all costs.

I see it all the time in organizations. People protect and fiercely defend themselves against any possibility of being made to feel vulnerable because they’re so afraid of feeling vulnerable, humiliated or even the slight amount of discomfort.

But on closer examination No’s are often in our favour .

Looking back I needed to have the conversation with the conference organizer. It was part of my learning curve, a part of me being assertive, of not swallowing my feelings, of having the courage to speak out and making a stand for how I felt I had been treated. It was better to have had the conversation even in the likelihood of the outcome than not to have had it at all.  The cost to my emotional and mental well-being had I not spoken out would have been to my detriment. A cost that is not always obviously visible, but can be silently depleting ad harmful.

In an organisational context Susan Scott reminds us in her Fierce Conversations Training that, ‘ it is the unreal and missing conversations that are costly – in terms of morale, engagement and performance.’ Read more about Fierce Conversations and the work of Susan Scott at

Would it have been better to have not sent out all those books? No, I genuinely sent out books to teachers and writers whose work I love and respect as a gift. Once I returned and reconnected to my original intention of sharing my work without expectation my anxiety and angst about the silence evaporated. It was no longer an issue.

It made the way for me to clearly see how many people have come back to me from different places than the sources I was trying to push. You could say the minute I became unattached to acknowledgement from my peers, my tribe of readers who appreciated and validated the work appeared.

One could say that the No’s and silences have paved the way for a lot more Yes’s.

Since the experience of being on the receiving end of a string of No’s several things have happened.

I’ve treasured and deepened my appreciation of my own work and writing

I’ve gathered a range of connections and ideas for workshops and retreats based on the books content which I am really excited about

I’ve become more aware of my personal impact and how my own presence and power can sometimes not be perceived in the best light.

I’ve accepted that the international conference was not to be a part of my journey and that I could let it go. As soon as I did this so many new writing opportunities and events presented themselves.

I showered myself with compassion and forgave myself for how hard I am on myself. I made re-committed to walking my talk.

I was reminded to go where the energy feels right and where I’m wanted. How often do we waste our good energy and time trying to make other people like us or squeezing ourselves into places and events that are clearly not the right fit.?

Easier said than done when working in an organization and that person just happens to be your boss.

We worry and get anxious that these difficult and sticky conversations will be held against us.

And sometimes they are (but we can manage how we respond and live through these times) and sometimes they’re not.

But we can find a way through when they are….

It helps when thought leaders like Brene Brown words express exactly what we feel. Her research on vulnerability expresses many of the complex emotions that exist in the different layers of our daily interactions and rejections of each other which vulnerability is made up of,

“Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness.” Check out her website at

Then there’s the other end of the spectrum.

Recently I had the most gorgeous conversation with someone who said No to a work proposal but said it with compassion, who took time out to make an appointment to speak with me. Who made notes and observations about what worked about what I was presenting and what was missing.  It felt clean, clear and felt like our conversation had no load.

I bounced out of her office feeling like I had been given a gift. Evidence that No’s can be said gracefully and leave the other person feeling energized and inspired.

I often say to writers, that for every ‘No’ they receive from a publisher means they are getting closer to a Yes.  You’re getting closer to that publishing company who has your name on it.

Oh did I not mention that in the last month I’ve also had an avalanche of Yes’s and requests all from unexpected places and sources. They’ve been coming out of the woodwork hard and fast. And they’re all on point. Interested in my work, interested in me, and the energy feels way, way different.

I know that when we trust the process no matter how hard we push if we just relax our grip the right doors open.



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Baobab Magic

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Sandra and Jackee 1











I spent the last two weeks in Barbados on holiday and found time once again to go visit the oldest tree on the island, my favourite tree the Baobab tree in Bridgetown’s Queen Park. This is a ritual I’ve adopted every time I’m on the island. My visits to the island every year never feel complete until I have made time to go visit the Baobab.

This trip I was accompanied by my friend from the UK, Sandra Richards who is now living on the island and working at the University of the West Indies.

It was a lovely moment sharing this treasure with Sandra who shared in my delight at this exquisite specimen.

It was strange, as the cricketers playing Saturday afternoon cricket had turned the ground around the tree into a parking lot.  It seemed unnatural the sight of modern day cars juxtaposed against the backdrop of this ancient tree especially as I have been feeling more and more that this tree needs to be provided with some form of secure protection given it’s history and it’s heritage.

Still I am confident that this tree will be with us for many years and moons to come.

Enjoy this month’s photos and self-portraits of Sandra and I visiting The Queens Park Baobab tree.













































Thousand Year Old Baobab

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Baobab _Tree_Africa








Feast your eyes on this amazing Baobab tree in Africa.

I can only imagine what stories and history of the village this tree has witnessed.

  • What are this trees stories?
  • How old do you imagine this tree to be?
  • What name would you give to this tree?

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Simply Delicious

Saturday, August 17th, 2013











I asked some of the participants from our July 2013 Writing For Our Lives Retreat in Glastonbury to share their experience of our recent retreat.

It’s hard for me to sometimes capture what it is we do on our workshops and retreats that makes the experience what it is.

Here’s what Lynne Philp one of our retreat participants had to say about her time on the retreat:

I definitely don’t have a reputation of being great at baking cakes, but I do have a reputation of knowing a great cake when I see one!  I would imagine that anybody who does know how to bake, would say that it’s the combination of ingredients when mixed together which creates something so delicious, that its hard for anyone to resist. 

The Writing for our Lives retreat in Glastonbury with Jackee Holder, was full of such wonderful, natural ingredients,  when blended together, created such a delicious experience, that I definitely will be hungry for more…. and more.  

This workshop was definitely up on my list of one of the best training sessions I have ever been on and I was thrilled and so lucky to have had the chance to get a taste.

Jackee chose her ingredients with immaculate care………..the wonderful Abbey House, with its peaceful and so beautifully inspiring grounds, nestling right next to the old Abbey; the charming staff who worked so hard to care for us and the writing activities which magically tapped into our creativity and our hearts and souls.  Now, that was a bonus.  Added to the mix, were silent moments in the world-renowned Chalice Gardens, walking the Tor at sunset and food, which tasted so, so good!   Hmmmmm. 

Jackee blended her ingredients with her world-class style – a style which is so colourful, kind, fun, and insightful, that she creates something so wonderful, you just have to have a slice ……..a large slice!

A beautifully, created retreat.  Simply delicious!

Our next retreat is scheduled for April 2014. I hope you will come join us.



































Photo credits Lynne Philp July 2013

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Writing For Our Lives Retreat 2013: Awe & Wonder

Friday, August 16th, 2013












Our Writing For Our Lives Retreat in July 2013 in mystical Glastonbury was magical

Glastonbury was the perfect writing spot. The sun stayed out and played with us























































The trees waved and held the space whilst the breeze danced  and swirled offering a comforting breeze against the sun’s heat

On the first night as we got acquainted under the branches of a great tree, Badger came

We wrote, walked, wrote, walked and talked and wrote and wrote

We played, rested, ate well, shared, deepened and unbuttoned

The Wild self came out to play on and off the page












We fed our writing and creativity in a space of ceremony, ritual, inner reflection and emptying on the page

We entered silence and many did not want to break the sweet territory of silence once the time was up












We woke at 4am and did a silent walk up the Tor and greeted the day with the Rising Sun, the howling wind and the crows

It was a natural high, the body sang and rejoiced















We walked to Chalice Wells Gardens and wrote and Dee found her sacred writing spot

We read and shared with each other









































Wrote each other affirmations and word gifts

When the time came to leave we did not want to return home

We’re doing it all again next year April 2014

Don’t leave it too late to join us next year

It’s too good a writing retreat to miss

It’s more than a writing retreat so come find out

Your writing self will hug and be delighted for you.

In the meantime enjoy some of the photos and video testimonials from our 2013 Writing For Our Lives retreat

Photo credits Lynne Philp & Jackee Holder July 2013

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Watch Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa’s Inaugural TED Talk

Thursday, August 15th, 2013









I am delighted to share the Ted talk by one of my former BBC Mentor Scheme mentee’s Tokunbo Ajasa-Oluwa.

Click here to watch 

I wrote about Tokunbo in an earlier blog post click here to read:

and he just keeps going from strength to strength.











He’s now heading up the O2ThinkBiG

Check out their website as they are doing some really cool stuff.

Albeit one cannot tie him down now for the busyness you can see how all the years experience is now being utilized in so many different ways in his new role.

Nothing we do is ever wasted. He spent years in terms of time and energy building the Origin’s Young Men’s project in South London with the dynamic Pablo Reid and then moved on to head up as Editor in Chief Catch 22 Magazine.

Tokunbo has worked hard to get to where he is and it has not been without its struggles and challenges. I have witnessed his resilience grow and develop and watched him grow and get comfortable and confident in his own original style and uniqueness as a leader..

I met Tokunbo when he was aged 17 when I was heading up the BBC Mentor Scheme and I saw his potential then ( he was bursting with enthusiasm, had a way of articulating the truth with empathy and compassion and within an instant I knew we had to recruit him to the project) and I am witnessing the awesomeness of his potential manifested abundantly now. He is now mentoring and inspiring young people to Think Big… The circle continues….

The seed of his potential has grown into a mature tree with many more branches still waiting to stretch and bring forth even more…..

Enjoy his inaugural TED talk on the power of potential. Need I say any more?

Tok’s as he is known to his close friends is a natural born leader.


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Biped Monitor

Friday, August 2nd, 2013










My third creative adventure this week happened yesterday again in the evening. I had purchased myself a ticket for an event, which was part of the local Nunhead Cemetery in South London and described as, “ a surreal performance at dusk in the trees, chapel and avenues of Nunhead cemetery.”

Organised by Arbonauts performance collective, Biped Monitor is experiential theatre including a cast of physical performers, a choir of 20+ local singers, classical musicians, soloists and operatic works inspired by William Blake and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

A cemetery is an unusual setting for a play but given that it is the home of so many who onced lived, a perfect setting for stored stories in one place.

I find it rewarding to have something creative to do in the evenings that drags me from collapsing on my sofa or reminding myself of how much work I still have to do.

The whole atmosphere around the event means that as a spectator one is invited to be present and to be really there. From the start we were asked to switch off mobile phones and not to take any photo’s to distract the actor.

We arrived and were instructed to stand behind a green line. Then in batches of seven or eight we were invited one by one to slowly walk the gravel path that leads to the ruined chapel in the centre of the cemetery. Lining the path from top to bottom were the choir draped in whote robes.

Our walk along the path was accompanied by choral singing, chanting and reciting imitations of animal noises. It was enchanting and at moments haunting.

I liked the fact we had to walk on our own without speaking even though the woman behind me overtook me and walked briskly forward overtaking several others. Her fast walking, despite being invited to slow it down reminded of a conversation in a DVD I watched last week entitled The Way where a father (Martin Sheen) is walking the pilgrimage of The Camino de Santiago, a Catholic pilgrimage route to the Catholic cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in Spain following the death of his son whilst walking the pilgrimage. One of Sheen’s companions along the way comments that he is walking so fast he is missing everything.

I won’t go into everything about the Biped Monitor production, lets’ just say it was haunting, evocative and bizarre in places and I am still unsure about what I was watching. But it was captivating and a sensual experience to watch dusk fall and to see the actors shadows lengthen against the backdrop of the walls of the chapel ruins. The light was superb as dusk fell. I just wished we had been allowed to use our camera’s more at that point (I did steal a few shots, albeit on the iphone, not very good though) towards the end).





















Table _Shot_Biped









Following the performance what I really connected with is the value and the importance of slowing down. The mindful walk along the gravel path at the start of the performance reminded me of how many times during my day I could do with slowing myself right down, taking a breath and becoming more mindful. So many of my coaching conversations are about slowing down. Of making time to breathe and smell the roses as a way of really fine tuning our awareness and capacity to make better, more informed choices rather than rush to make quick and hasty decisions that have not been thought through.

Yesterday morning on my way to a coaching session in central London I was shoved several times by individuals whose whole bodies were contorted signaling a non-verbal message, “Get out of my way. I’m in a hurry.” I kept stopping noticing and breathing and using each moment to return if even for a few seconds into my own body.

My creative adventures this week has made me remember how important it is to make this time to feed my own creativity and what it does for the thinking quality of my own thoughts and how this enables me to deepen into my work as a coach and a writer on many levels in a way that makes me more alive and helps me create work and words that have meaning.

I plan to create an Autumn/Winter 2013 Creativity Curriculum Class for the next six months to continue this creative input. I have an eclectic taste culturally so I am open to being fed creatively from many sources.

Why not join me by creating your own CCC. I will be posting more events as I complete between now and December 2013.

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Nights Out: Drinks With Virginia Woolf

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

My creative adventure on Tuesday evening took me across the river from South to North to the Hampstead area of London.

I had signed up for another School Of Life event: Drinks with Virginia Woolf.












The rain held off and the sun wavered in and out of the clouds as around 70 gathered to hear a collection of interesting facts and stories about the writer Virginia Woolf.

I am no great reader of Woolf’s work but her name pops up everywhere in literary circles and is often a common quote in books on creative writing.

I have on several occasions written about the need for one’s own space something that I feel strongly about and live by inspired by the title of one of her books: A Room Of One’s Own.















The School of Life continue to take learning outside of the usual class room environment and take it out into the natural world in a way that to me is engaging and stimulating.

So our setting for the evening was amongst the stunning grounds of Fenton House a historic gem tucked away in the lush and lavish, leafy lanes of Hampstead.

The air of money hangs in the air as you pace yourself up steep hill towards Fenton House passing the former homes of the likes such as celebrity chef Jamie Oliver. This was the house and garden that was recently featured in the excellent BBC drama series, Dancing On The Edge a true story about a black Jazz band in London in the early 30’s.









Fenton House is a 17th century Merchants house with a walled garden which includes a rose and vegetables garden and  a delightful Apple orchard. Plenty of time was given to roaming the gardens whilst having conversations revolving around themes emerging from Woolf’s work.




























Alexandra Harris, author of Virginia Woolf, passionately presented the evening. I really enjoyed the way in which she shared some great stories and lesser, known facts about Woolf, her work and her writing. For example many photographs of Virginia Woolf are often showing her rather grim faced when in fact Woolf had at times a real love of life.














In one particular photograph Woolf is getting ready to go for a walk and has an appointment and needs to get out of the house. Perhaps this is reflected in the seriousness and purposefulness in her look.

I came away really keen to read more of Woolf’s work based on a more intimate understand of her and her writing.

Find out more about the School Of Life and their series of Nights Out events and other classroom and sermon activities:


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