• If you want to fly, make sure you bring ‘You’ to work!

    Here’s a question: when you arrive at work, do you leave your personality in the umbrella stand at the door or do you bring it in with you?

    There’s a lot of cynicism around the idea of “authenticity” at work. I’ve heard people snigger at the suggestion that we should be ourselves when it comes to how and why we make our living.

    But I’m serious about authenticity. Lots of us put on a mask to go to work. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Imagine how different business life might be if we chose roles — and re-crafted existing ones — that were more “us”. I think we’d be happier and more fulfilled (and as we spend so much time at work, aren’t these things important?).

    Here’s my take on why authenticity matters:

    1. It’s harder to put on a mask for the working day when the borders between work and home have eroded. When do you take the mask off? Before or after your 9pm conference call? Today it makes no sense to separate the Work You from the Real You.
    2. But it’s bigger than that. If we lose sight of who we are, that’s where it all goes wrong. Looking back to my own story and the stresses that led to a burnout 15 years ago, it all went wrong when I stopped doing the work that fired me up. If I’d stuck to being me, I might have avoided the burnout.
    3. If we want to be happier and more productive in our lives, shouldn’t we inhabit organisational cultures that bring out the best versions of ourselves? I’m writing this in a buzzy coffee shop, sitting up at a bar. There’s music playing. For many tasks, this is my ideal workplace. If you put me in a sterile corner office I know I wouldn’t be as productive.
    4. But I’m not saying we should turn workplaces into outposts of Starbucks. I was talking to an American working in London who bemoaned how her British co-workers start their Monday morning asking how the weekend was. She doesn’t want to know the ins and outs of coworkers’ personal lives, she wants to get on with her work. That’s her preference, but knowing a little more about what makes a co-worker tick can only foster better working relationships (but OK: spare me the details on your poorly cat).
    5. Bringing ourselves to our work is not just to what we do, but also how we do it. How we manage relationships, how we conduct meetings, how we make presentations. Who knows: perhaps your distinctive business style will get you noticed?
    6. If we lose sight of our passions, our purpose and our story; if we fake it, put on a mask, and do jobs that aren’t us then what’s the point? I wouldn’t want to hire anyone who didn’t feel fired up about what they’re doing and I wouldn’t want to work for an organisation that didn’t want to let the real me in.
    7. Because here’s the thing: the best experiences I’ve had in my work life, the times when I’ve felt in flow, in my element? No surprise here — they’re the ones where I’ve not been trying to be someone else, it’s where I’ve felt most me.

    The graphic designer Anthony Burrill said recently “My personal values dictate and inform what kind of work I produce.” That’s no surprise for an artist, but why should a banker or a sales director be any different? Why don’t the rest of us bring ourselves to our work?

    This year I’ve started leading Fuel Safaris, a one-day walk-around-London coaching programme where I help executives and entrepreneurs reconnect with their passions and purpose. What I’m discovering on my walks around town is that when we get lost in our careers or working lives, we need to look to ourselves to navigate the way forward. We need to set our compass towards ‘us’.

    There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead in the job market. But one thing is clear — we’re going to have much longer work lives. Full retirement just won’t be an option for most of us. So why defer your Real You work life until you retire? This IS your life. If you’re going to spend your working life leaving your personality at the door, then surely that’s a waste of potential?

    If you want to fly, make sure you bring ‘You’ to work!

    I run one day, one-to-one coaching sessions in London where I help people reconnect with their passions, purpose and story. Fuel Safaris are ideal for anyone stuck at the crossroads and unsure where to go next. Details here or give me a shout

  • Five things to do when your fuel tank is low

    If, like me, you work for yourself — or even if you don’t — you’ll have days in your working life that are quite frankly, crap. The phone doesn’t ring, no-one gets back to you, that project didn’t happen, oh and it’s a miserable day outside.

    And on days like these, it can be hard to stay positive.

    Whilst there’s no magic wand to finding your mojo, there are some steps you can take to refuel. Start by accepting how you feel, rather than trying to deny it. If you feel really crap, then so what? Be okay with that. Don’t wallow in it, but just recognise that’s how you’re feeling. Once you’ve acknowledged it, you can do something about it. Here are five things to do when the fuel tank is low.

    1. Go do something else. If your working life doesn’t look in great shape, taking time off may not sound like the best advice. Shouldn’t you be hitting the phones trying to find a new gig to replace the one that slipped through your hands? But if your fuel is low, you won’t be in the right mindset to tackle your to-do list. So switch out of work mode. Go do something else for an hour or two. Come back when you feel better. Which brings me on to #2.
    2. Know what fuels you; go and do that. Those experiences when you feel in your element? Baking a cake, writing a blog post, going for a 40km cycle, playing the piano? Just go and do whatever that is, and as soon as you get into your stride, you’ll feel your fuel levels rise.
    3. Have someone to lean on. When everybody else is chest-puffing, tweeting and posting about how damn successful they are, it can be hard to be honest about how you feel. Have someone you can be honest with, who you can lean on and tell it like it is. Call them up, go and chat with them.
    4. Get fired up by someone else’s story. If your own fuel tank is empty, try looking somewhere else for inspiration. Read a book, listen to a podcast, watch a Do Lecture. Get fired up by listening to someone else’s story.
    5. Look after yourself. Remember, if your fuel tank is low, it’s a sign. A sign that you need to look after yourself. Not just your physical health, but your mental health too. Get plenty of sleep, go for a walk. Oh, and switch off that digital device.

    Find out how I can help your organisation find its fuel:

    I also run one-to-one Fuel Safaris, one-day coaching sessions in London where I help people reconnect with their passions, purpose and story. It’s ideal for anyone stuck at the crossroads and unsure where to go next. Details here.

  • “TeuxDeux Tales”: shining the light on the people not the product

    When I’m advising businesses on how to tell their story, I always say shine the light on people, not products. Your audience probably won’t care about the functionality of your product, but they might be interested in how it changes the lives of your customers.

    That’s how I approached a project for TeuxDeux . TeuxDeux is the to-do list app started by Tina Roth Eisenberg. What I love about the app is its simplicity. It replicates how I’ve been keeping pen-and-paper to-do lists for years. I rely it on every single day.

    So I was interested in what other users liked about TeuxDeux, and what difference it makes to their lives. The result is a short series of stories called ‘TeuxDeux Tales.’ I’ve really enjoyed capturing and telling these stories of working lives.

    The first in the series profiles Toronto based illustrator Lichia Liu. You can check it out on the TeuxDeux blog here.


  • Fuel-up for winter! Inspiration for your business & work life

    Hello. Perhaps you’re reading this in a cosy coffee shop, or maybe you're at your desk. Wherever you are, I hope your work life is in good shape. Here’s my roundup of posts and links to get you thinking as we head into 2016:

    Get back on track for 2016. Stuck at a crossroads in your career or work life, unsure where to go next? Join me on a one-to-one Fuel Safari in London; I’ll reconnect you with your passion and purpose. Here’s what Michael Starke said about his experience. “Ian’s Fuel Safaris are perfect beacons for anyone seeking clearer direction on their personal journey.” Fuel Safari launches in 2016 at £1,000; whilst it's still in beta-mode, it's just £500. More details here or email and we can set up a call to chat.

    Don’t let life rush by. Earlier this month I took a Monday off to spend with my family. It reminded me the importance of focusing on the Now. Here’s what I learned by implementing a 'Bonus Sunday'.

    How to stand out from the crowd. I’ve just finished a storytelling project for Buzzacott, the London accountancy firm. If you’re looking to stand out from the crowd in an abundant market, stop selling your services and start telling stories. Here’s why it matters.

    Get fired up. My manifesto ‘Five ways to fire up your business & work-life’ is now available as a limited edition poster print on Etsy. If you’d like a postcard version of the manifesto, send your address to and I’ll mail you one back free of charge (but when they're gone, they're gone!).

    Why values matter. The cynics might not agree, but I think values matter in business life; they are the ties that bind us together. Here’s my two minute take on why you shouldn’t take your organisation’s values for granted.

    Five lessons from fifteen years without a proper office. Do you spend an increasing amount of time working outside of an office? Here are my tips to get the most out of nomadic working.

    Lessons from the world’s top 50 management thinkers. This week I was at Thinkers50, billed the ‘Oscars of management thinking.’ Here are the lessons I took away.

    On stage 2016. Next April I’m delighted to be speaking at the Snap Photography Festival in Wales about storytelling and finding your fuel. Details of the festival are here. And if you would like to hire me to speak, let’s talk!

    Craig Finn plays ‘Extras’. Music is important to me, it fuels much of my 'head-down' work when I'm writing a story. In September Craig Finn (from Brooklyn band The Hold Steady) played a set at my local record shop. I went along and grabbed this video of him playing Extras. Grab yourself a coffee and check it out.

    My 8 year old's to-do list. "Do stuff. Be nice. Write stories." I found this on the side of my son's bookcase. Not just a to-do list, a mantra for life! 

    Thanks for reading. As ever, get in touch to have a conversation about any of this. And please do share this if you know anyone who might like a slice of this content!

    (This is my Winter 2015 newsletter that was sent out to subscribers today. You can subscribe in the box at the foot of the page)

  • Lessons from the world’s top 50 management thinkers

    A few months ago I was at The Do Lectures, a conference on a farm on the west of Wales, where delegates and speakers sleep under canvas. On Monday I was at Thinkers50, an event held in the palatial surroundings of London’s Drapers’ Hall, a building that was once Thomas Cromwell’s London mansion.

    Talk about worlds apart! At the Do Lectures, the dress code is wellies and hoodies; here at Thinkers50 it was suits in the daytime followed by tuxedos and evening dress for dinner. It’s those kind of juxtapositions I enjoy about my working life; after all it would be tedious if every event looked and felt the same.

    Thinkers50 is billed as the ‘Oscars of management thinking,’ an event that ranks the top management thinkers in the world. The day included panel discussions and lightning round presentations, closing with a gala awards dinner. Here are some lessons from the day:


    1. Power belongs to the individual, not the organisation. Nilofer Merchant told us how the individualisation of power creates value for what she’s branded our Onlyness: that each of us is standing in a spot that no one else occupies. To have power in the old days, we had to belong to an organisation. But today, ‘digital’ lets us find other people who care about the same thing as us (look at #BlackLivesMatter).
    2. Value isn’t what I know, it’s how what I know benefits someone else. And similarly, leadership is not what you do, it’s how what you do benefits others. Thanks for the reminder Dave Ulrich.
    3. Not knowing is an opportunity. There’s a lot of bullshit in management; I’ve rarely heard a business leader say “I don’t know.” So it was refreshing to hear Steven D'Souza’s say knowledge can lead to overconfidence, and that not knowing unlocks answers. By having an open mind - or better, a clear beginner’s mind - we can delight in new possibilities.
    4. Being out of your depth can be a good thing. Steven’s ideas were a neat segue into Liz Wiseman. Who wants a job they’re qualified for? asked Liz. The more challenged we are, the more satisfied we are.
    5. Work out now what you want to do in your 60s. Marshall Goldsmith coaches CEOs with what their ‘what next’ - what will they do when they retire? Marshall’s advice was to work out now what you want to be working on when you’re sixty (oh, and playing golf is over-rated).
    6. Each life stage is not about age, it’s about mindset. I smiled at Dan Pink’s revelation that at the age of fifty one - and as a bestselling author - he still has moments when he wonders what’s he doing with his life. Dan asked us what life stage we’re in now and where we’re headed next. I replied that my different life stages have not been governed by age, but by mindset and circumstance. Some of us reinvent ourselves professionally in our sixties; I’ve reinvented myself in my thirties and forties (and will continue to do so).
    7. You can’t separate the dark side from the shiny side of talent. Jennifer Petriglieri said employers need to invite people to bring their whole-selves to their work. In her own case she said she can’t bring her creativity to a role, without also bringing her angst. You can’t separate the two sides.


    Of course like all the best conferences, my highlight was sitting in a booth at Hoi Polloi restaurant at midnight, a Havana Club in hand, meeting a bunch of new people and putting the world to rights.

    I look forward to the next Thinkers50: it’s just that next time I’m going to copy Umair Haque and wear my leather jacket...

    Thanks to Nilofer for the invite.

  • Three storytelling tips for business leaders

    I just got asked what is an effective storytelling technique or mindset I would recommend for business leaders. Here’s my answer:

    Three things.

    First, make sure that the story you are telling your organisation fires YOU up. Because if it doesn’t get your fist-pumped, how on earth do you expect it to inspire others?

    Second, make your story simple. Don’t reach for the dictionary just because you’re telling a story in a business context. Speak in the same way you’d speak to your friends or family.

    Third, keep it human. Your story should be about people, not products. If you want to change hearts and minds, make sure your audience can relate with the people in your story.


    If you want some more tips, check out my two minute video ‘The importance of storytelling: How to tell a better story’:



  • “Simplicity is powerful. Because you can't hide from it.” The Gospel According To Dave.

    Isn’t it refreshing when someone comes along and tells it like it is? And says, enough of the jargon, enough of the bullshit.

    That’s what I like about Dave Trott. Dave is a former ad agency chairman and executive creative director. Born in east London, he went to art school in New York on a Rockefeller Scholarship. From there he began an illustrious career in advertising, as part of the creative team behind 'Hello Tosh Gotta Toshiba', the Cadbury Flake ads and many, many more.  He’s been training young copywriters and art directors since the 1970’s. Promoting an ethos of ruthless simplicity, Dave’s message is to stop being so damn clever.

    Last week Mark Borkowski hosted a breakfast chat with Dave at The Ivy Club. Sitting there I realised how quotable - and tweetable - Dave is. Rather than flood my Twitter feed with his one-liners, here are some notes I scribbled in my notepad.

    The Gospel According to Dave:


    1) On tech

    “Don’t start with technology. Start with the people and work back from there.”

    2) On standing out from the crowd

    “If you’re going to be a pirate, you don’t want a navy full of pirates.”

    “I don’t want to be the wallpaper. I want to be the picture on the wall”.

    3) On creativity

    “Creativity isn’t a discipline, it’s how you do your job.”

    4) On punters

    “Why have we forgotten how the punter’s mind works? Our market is punters. You’ve got to talk to them in the right away.”

    5) On simplicity

    “It’s like Einstein said. If you can’t explain it to an eleven year old, you’re over-complicating it.”

    “Simplicity is powerful. Because you can’t hide from it.”

    Every industry needs a Dave Trott. Whether it's advertising, journalism or recruitment, we can get so wrapped up in jargon and the way things are meant to be, we need a reminder to take it back to basics, to keep it simple. To call time on the bullshit.

    [Thanks to Mark Borkowski for hosting the event]


  • Don’t sell a product, tell a story.

    You’re a digital agency. Or perhaps you’re a law firm. The services you offer are identical to your competitors across the road. You realise that the long list of services stencilled on the wall behind your reception won’t get you noticed. So how do you stand out?

    It’s a familiar problem for any business that operates in an ‘abundant market’ - surrounded by similar-sounding, similar-positioned businesses. Competing on products and services won’t cut it.

    So how do you get noticed? Switch from selling your services to telling stories.

    My experience as a storyteller has shown me that every organisation has a story, it’s just that sometimes they aren’t easy to spot. You need to dig and scrape to find the good stories. You need to ask the right questions. You need to look in unlikely places.

    What makes a good story? The best stories you can tell are about how you helped transform a customer’s business. How that website you designed gave a customer the confidence to win a new project. Shine the light on people, not products. Make it interesting by focusing on the human aspect.

    Recently I've been working with Buzzacott, a 270-person firm of chartered accountants. Moving away from a traditional brochure, Buzzacott created a magazine ‘Beyond the Numbers’, full of stories about their people and their customers. As part of the project I sat down and interviewed their Head of VAT Services. A story about VAT may not sound a very interesting subject, but as we got talking I found out about eventful road trips across the US to meet clients. It felt like something out of ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles.’ I’d found a human story!

    So the next time you go to meet a prospective customer, don’t bore them with a long laundry-list of services, tell them a story.

    Stories are unique to you. They’ll get you noticed.

    [email if you’d like me to help your business tell its story]

  • The ties that bind us together. Why values matter.

    In yesterday’s Financial Times, Lucy Kellaway railed against businesses that publish their values. Her rant was based on the fact that out of 24 well known businesses, only five of their managers could recognise their own values from a list. Kellaway says that whilst values may be important, they are also “slippery.”

    The minute anyone tries to write them down they become trite and unhelpful,” she says.

    I agree they can be slippery but that’s exactly why you should write them down! If you haven’t nailed and captured your values, then how can you expect your organisation to align with them?

    What are values anyway? In his post The Difference Between Culture and Values, Matt Blumberg says values “guide decision-making and a sense of what’s important and what’s right." Values, identified well, should underpin a brand or organisation.

    Kellaway reported a recent piece of research of FTSE 100 businesses that found three words - integrity, respect and innovation - cropped up in values over and over again. If you set your values by ticking off a list of business buzzwords, then of course they will be meaningless. But just because some businesses fall into a cookie-cutter approach to value-making doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bother at all.

    If you set your values based on what’s true for your organisation, then they can be a powerful touchstone for employees and customers alike. The design and consulting firm IDEO created The Little Book of IDEO. This is a handbook that aims to capture “the ties that bind us together as coworkers," including such values as “Talk less, do more” and “Take ownership.” In its introduction CEO Tim Brown explains that for many years he’d shied away from capturing the organisation’s values:

    For 20 years, I did a lot of hand-waving and gave vague answers. Then, about a year ago, we decided we really should put our values in writing.

    The Little Book of IDEO is not just written by the CEO. It features contributions from employees which reflects the different voices and attitudes that make up the organisation (you can see a slideshare of some it here).

    So perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your values. Do they mean anything or are they just jargon? Do they reflect how you behave as an organisation, as a brand, as an employer? Do you put them into practice?

    Keep your values hidden, and you can get away with ignoring them. Put them on your wall, wave them about online where all can see, then if you don’t actually live them, people like Lucy Kellaway have the right to call you out.

    Need help capturing more meaningful values within your organisation? I can help, get in touch:


  • My 'Five ways to fire up your work life' manifesto: now available as a poster

    My 'Five ways to fire up your work life' manifesto: now available as a poster

    Earlier this year I created a manifesto (designed by the talented Lizzie Everard), 'Ian's Five Ways To Fire Up Your Business & Work Life'. I got a few requests asking if the manifesto would be available to buy as a poster.

    Well it is now! Follow the link to Etsy, but hurry, there are only a handful available.

    Any questions, please shout

  • How to get unstuck.

    Most of us get stuck. Whether we’re deciding to take a new job, to go freelance or to launch a new product, we get to that stage where it feels like we’re banging our head against the wall: we struggle with the same question and can’t move on.

    In his new book The Achievement Habit: Stop Wishing, Start Doing, and Take Command of Your Life, Bernie Roth provides help to address those questions that continue to bug us, the things that keep us awake at night. Prof Roth - who is a professor of engineering at Stanford University and a director of the  - suggests if you’re stuck with a problem, you’re probably asking the wrong question.

    The way to find out the right question is to ask: “What would it do for me if I solved that problem?” Here’s an example from the book:

    • First Roth takes the question, “How might I find a spouse?”
    • He says if you are stuck on this, ask yourself “What would it do for me if I solved this problem?”
    • The answer to this can be converted to a new question e.g. “How might I find companionship?”
    • This new question unlocks possibilities.
    • If you get stuck with that question, the process can be repeated at a higher level e.g. ask yourself,“What would it for for me if I found companionship?”
    • Again, that delivers a new question, “How might I feel less lonely?” that should unlock fresh ideas.

    Roth argues reframing the question brings fresh solutions: you just have to commit not to hang on to the original question, but to let go of it.

    You can find out more about Roth’s book on his website The Achievement Habit and watch his recent talk at Google’s offices here:


  • The SNAP Photography Festival

    Photography has always been one of my passions. In the late 1970s it was a Kodak Instamatic, in the 80s - and pretty much for the next twenty years - a trusty Pentax K1000. Today I have a digital SLR, but like most of us I tend to use my iPhone 6 more - after all, the best camera is the one we have with us.

    Whilst I didn’t pursue photography professionally, I still loving taking pictures (you can follow me on Instagram here). So I’m delighted to be on the speaker-line up at next year’s SNAP Photography Festival where I’ll be talking about storytelling and finding your fuel.

    SNAP is a rather special event that mixes conference, immersive learning, a creative retreat - oh, and glamping - at the lovely Fforest Farm (the old home of the Do Lectures) in Cardigan, Wales from 18th - 22nd April 2016. Imagine The Do Lectures for photographers, and you get an idea of what SNAP is all about.  

    SNAP has been designed to inspire existing professional photographers as well as those interested in turning a hobby into a business. Check out for more details. There are a variety of accommodation ticket packages available alongside some offers: the code EARLYSNAP will give 10% off or you can use the code DEPOSIT to pay 50% now and 50% in November.

    See you there!


  • The importance of telling stories in business: my presentation in Harrogate


    Last month I was in Harrogate, Yorkshire to speak at the launch of ‘How’s Business’, an initiative from the York, North Yorkshire and East Riding Local Enterprise Partnership. ‘How’s Business’ is a website where business owners and founders can get advice from fellow business people. The emphasis is not on business theory, but on “real life, straight talking business advice.”

    My presentation was on the importance of storytelling in business. You can watch the video above and see my slides below. There are also a series of bite-sized videos from my talk:

    1. Ian Sanders, People not products (2:22)
    2. Ian Sanders, How to tell a better story (2:31)
    3. Ian Sanders, The three acts of a story (2:46)



  • A Manual For Using Your Story & Purpose To get Your Business Heard

    Right now, this very second, in garages, coffee shops, barns and garden sheds around the world— and yes, maybe even in offices too — people are beavering away making their business ideas happen.

    And in this uber-long-tail of startups, the challenge remains the same for every early stage entrepreneur with an awesome product or service that’s going to change the world: how the heck do you get heard?

    There is no magic wand to getting your startup noticed, but instead of competing on your product benefits, try shining the light on your story (how you had your business idea, how you made it happen) and your purpose (your Why).

    I've just published a manual that will help you leverage the power of your story: “Don’t tell me how awesome your product is, tell me about YOU!” (you can read it here).

    If you want to have a conversation about how I can help your business capture its story, or you’d like me to give a presentation in your organisation, contact me

  • Stick what you stand for up on the wall

    If you know what makes your organisation tick, if you know what you stand for, why don’t you stick it up on the wall so that everyone can see it?

    That’s what TheFamily has done. TheFamily is a Paris-based accelerator housed in a beautiful space in the city. When I arrived there yesterday, it felt more like a hotel lobby - or perhaps an intellectual salon - than a tech co-working space, with plush armchairs, bookshelves and wooden furniture, of course punctuated by the sight of obligatory MacBooks on every lap.

    I was at TheFamily to give a presentation on how startups can leverage their story and purpose to get heard. As I waited for people to take their seats, I took a look at TheFamily’s manifesto that’s on the wall by the front door. This is their story and purpose, for all to see.

    And what better place to put your manifesto than on the wall so everyone can see it?

    As Simon Heath commented on Twitter earlier, “it's the most important thing about values. You have to embody them. Otherwise they're just empty words.” He’s right. If you keep your values hidden, perhaps you can get away with not adhering to them. I think putting your values up on the wall for everyone to see is an exercise in transparency - if you’re not living up to them, then people have the right to call you out.

    So if you know what your organisation stands for, don’t hide it away, stick it up on the wall. Put your values where everybody can see them.

    (If you don’t know what you stand for or you've lost sight of your story, and you need someone to help extract and capture it, that’s what I do -

  • Changing How The Story Ends - the 2015 Do Lectures

    “It’s time to stop tiptoeing around my past. To take back my narrative and insist on a different ending to my story.”

    This is what Monica Lewinsky said in her recent TED talk - I shared these words when I stood on stage at The Do Lectures last Friday.

    When I first attended the Do Lectures in 2012, I was there as a storyteller. Not standing on stage telling stories, but in the audience, writing an article for the Financial Times and reporting for Monocle radio.

    Those who met me at Do in 2012 might have viewed me as a journalist or a writer, but the part those roles played was just the tip of the iceberg, a tiny part of The Ian Sanders story. It was great to be invited back in 2015 as a speaker and given a brief to share a story I had never told before. I decided it was time to change the narrative, to tell the real story about who I am and why I do what I do professionally today. It was time for me to stop tiptoeing around my past and to be honest about the roadblock I encountered fifteen years ago that forced me to change direction in life. And most importantly, I decided it was time to shine a light on the parts of the story I had previously edited out - the depression and other struggles I faced as a young man.

    Speaking at Do was a great experience, but also one of the hardest things I have ever done: not only to nail my story in twenty minutes, but also to stand up and talk openly about facing and overcoming adversity.

    It can be hard to stick your head above the parapet and expose your vulnerability, it’s not a very British thing to do. But it was made easier because of the environment. The Do Lectures is special. And yes, that may sound cheesy, but it is really like no other event I have been to. Held on a farm in the Welsh countryside, sleeping in tents under the stars. 90 minutes from a main railway station, the hard to reach location means the event attracts a different kind of attendee. But still they came, and not only from the UK but also from the Netherlands, the US and South Africa. The people who come want to make a change in their life or do something different.

    Some of my fellow speakers had products and businesses to talk about, others just had a story to share: Matt Lane on starting his online beer club in a shed; Anna Jones on becoming a food writer; CJ Bowry on starting a charity that finds new feet for outgrown kids shoes. And then Ryan Holiday, a former director of marketing at American Apparel surprised us all with his passion for the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius. Yes, there were plenty of surprises, even for me (including the moment I choked up on stage talking about my eight year old self).

    A few years ago I would have run a mile from speaking on stage. I’d lost my confidence and my voice. But now I’m back, back on stage and feeling back where I belong.

    I’d like to thank: David and Naomi at The Do Lectures for inviting me to speak; the Do attendees who listened to my story in the barn; Nilofer Merchant; Sarah King; Michael Townsend Williams; Mark Shayler; Nancy Duarte; David Sloly; Hannah Allen; and Zoë Sanders who provided me with the fuel and confidence to find and share my story.

    [Thanks to Andy Middleton for the photograph]

  • Every business has its story

    When the Welsh jeans brand Hiut Denim launched three years ago I spoke to founder David Hieatt about his plans for the business (you can listen to the interview I did for Monocle 24 here).

    Last Saturday I went back to see David at his factory in Cardigan, Wales.

    Here’s the Hiut Denim story in David’s own words:



  • A Manifesto to fire up your business and work life

    My focus this year is helping others - whether startups, established organisations or individuals - find their fuel, uncovering and capturing what makes them tick.

    I’ve just created this manifesto (nicely visualised by Lizzie Everard): Five Ways To Fire Up Your Business & Work Life.

    (If you’d like to buy a poster print of this manifesto, email and I’ll let you know once they are available).


  • Trawler - a community-generated, crowdfunded side project.

    Like most good ideas, Trawler was born in a coffee shop.

    In 2013 I co-founded a local meet-up group with Michael Mentessi (we met because he’d read my book ‘Zoom!’).  This community of Leigh-on-Sea based freelancers, solo workers, creatives and  small business founders has developed a number of side projects under The Made In Leigh brand: in 2013 we organised a series of talks - The Made In Leigh Conversations - and now, we’ve produced a publication, Trawler.

    Trawler isn’t a local newspaper, this is a publication for curious people everywhere, telling stories of passion, hard work, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit. It just happens that we’re anchored by the Thames estuary here in Leigh-on-Sea, England. The 24 pages have been written by and about local people, it’s very much a community-generated project. And in order to crank the handle on the printing press, we’re turning to crowdfunding.

    Today we launch Trawler via a campaign on Crowdfunder, £2 buys you a copy of the paper. This side project has been a labour of love; everyone - from designers to writers and photographers - has given their time for free, giving up evenings and weekends to make this idea happen. It’s been quite a journey, so it’s great to turn that idea we had in a coffee shop into reality.

    If you’re curious about what’s in our launch edition, please follow the link to Crowdfunder and support us:

    Thank you

  • The Do Lectures: getting fired up

    Three years ago I made the three hundred mile journey west to The Do Lectures. Twenty speakers and just eighty attendees sharing ideas in a big tent in the Welsh countryside.

    It’s not your average business conference. There are no name badges, the dress code is wellies rather than suits, everybody stays in tents spending the evenings around a fire. Oh, and there’s no wifi.

    And these are the reasons I liked it so much. The speakers don’t disappear on their flight home as soon as they come off stage, attendees don’t spend lunchtimes huddled over their iPhones checking Twitter, there are no VIP parties. Everyone is here together to inspire each other to DO, to get fired up, to get inspired, to make changes in their business or work life (what’s it all about? Read my post ‘Why The Do Lectures Exist’)

    In 18 days I’m back at The Do Lectures. But this time, it’s different. I’ll be on stage as a speaker.

    I’m currently putting some ideas together for my talk. Their brief:

    “Be human. Be vulnerable. Don’t do the talk that you normally do.”

    This is going to be a big one for me, putting my head above the parapet, telling my real story of how I got to here. Telling a story I haven’t told before.

    Videos of the talks will go online later in the year, but in the meantime tickets for June are available here:

    I recommend it.