The Debt of Dreams

Gapingvoid - silly dreams

Sometimes dreaming must die to make way for dreams to come true. Paraphrasing from Jessica Abel’s article, “Imagining Your Future Projects Is Holding You Back”, Hugh posted these comments to accompany his piece above…

  • Idea Debt is when you spend too much time picturing what a project is going to be like, too much time thinking about how awesome it will be to have this thing done and in the world, too much time imagining how cool you will look, how in demand you’ll be, how much money you’ll make. And way too little time actually making the darn thing.”

Leadership might have a vision of the upside, but without the counterbalance of managing execution, thing will be achieved. Sometimes finding the balance is driving more execution, but sometimes it is dreaming less.


Death of the Dream of “No Limits”

Friday the 13th. The day of bad luck. This whole blog is centred on the notion of risk, colloquially referred to as “luck”. I found it intriguing to read Jeffrey St. Clair’s piece “Field Notes From a Mirage”…

  • “Over the course of the last 30 years, Vegas has been transformed from Sin City to a family theme park to an unapologetic advertisement for boundless gluttony. You can thank Steve Wynn for this grotesque metamorphosis…Wynn was going to name his hotel ‘Le Reve’, but instead put his own name on it and titled the resident Cirque de Soleil show by that name instead… But the dream is coming to an end. A reckoning is fast approaching. The water is running out. Today 90 percent of the city’s water is sucked from Lake Mead and Lake Mead is drying up. The latest forecasts predict the once vast reservoir may be completely tapped out by 2021. Count ‘em: That’s seven years. After that, all bets are off. No water tunnels or emergency pipelines can possibly compensate for the shortage. Vegas’s days are numbered. Deal with it, baby… His company performs a macabre service. They fish out the bodies of the jumpers: Vegas’s losers, the victims of the gaming tables, the aging strippers and hookers, the dead-enders, those who have maxed out, those who have reached their last threshold and take a leap off the new Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge, sky diving into the Colorado River, 840 feet below. ‘We snag four or five bodies a month,’ he tells me, as he tosses back his third Jack and Coke of the afternoon. ‘Vegas is still a hard town. Eventually your luck is going to run dry. Know what I mean?

America’s own city of dreams, Las Vegas, also bears the harsh lesson about the death of dreams. Better the dreams die than the dreamer.

New Years Failures – The Worst of Times are the Best of Times

New Years Resolutions

The 2016 was the worst failure year ever. Maybe that’s what made it the best.

I’m only talking about my own personal life that I have a degree of control over. All of the politics (Brexit, Trump) and celebrity deaths were major failures too (as far as their impact on me), but these environmental things do happen (while I am being philosophical here, I did campaign actively to make my voice heard in the mix).

But most of the external political events appear to be mostly an inconvenience to us. Brexit did directly lead to our house sale falling through (the buyer had a European business affected by Brexit), but we love living in our house, which is why we have rejected other low ball offers. We have two passports and international careers which insulates us a bit from the growing parochialism that Trump/Brexit represent.

We also had the first immediate family loss in many year with Lori’s mother passing away. We miss “Mimi” dearly, but she was very unhappy as her very advanced years and stroke-induced disability severely limited her life.

My venture, Forclarity Enhanced Medical Imaging, is still not yet off the ground, but progress continues exercising those failure embracing qualities of patience and persistence. Over the year, my knowledge and network of the medical arena has deepened considerably and key pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. The failed initiatives taught me much and eliminated a few cul-de-sacs from draining future resources.

The freed up time also allowed me to invest in myself. The year was filled with possibly the most athletic achievement of anytime since University (though not deluded that I am anywhere near fit as that period in my life). In fact, one downside side effect of all of the activity is that I have suffered more regular aches, pains and minor injuries more days this year than any year of my life. But , the result was a year full new achievements (eg. rowing competitively for the first time in 30+ years, basketball team championship, growth of Marlow RC pararowing).

Other pursuits also flourished with the free time afforded. For example, 2016 was the biggest year for Maldives Complete, my other blog. Unfortunately, that success (perhaps poetically so) was not replicated in this blog.

I failed to post but a mere 48 times versus 82 in 2015 (and 121 in 2014, 211 in 2013, and 244 in 2012). The upside is that I am trying to focus on quality over quantity. When I was running Piero, it really didn’t consume a lot of intellectual energy. So at that time, the two areas of creative focus were Maldives Complete and this blog, but now I am devoting more of my prime “thinking” and writing time to Forclarity and Maldives Complete. Also, 10 years in, it’s harder to say something about failure that hasn’t already been said. When I started it, the concept of “Embracing Failure” was pretty novel, but now it has become so popular it is almost pedestrian. That makes it harder to come up with material that is interesting and novel.

In 2017, may all your failures bring rich silver linings.

Good Grief

For the Christmas season, I’ve fashioned a playlist of all of my yuletide favourites. I’ve taken our stack of Christmas CDs given and received over the years and plucked the most endearing or nostalgic. I really am quite selective (especially since the playlist plays over and over again in the house this time of year) and so there are only two albums where I have included every single song – (1) Lori’s “Merry Christmas Y’All”, and (2) the soundtrack of the Charlie Brown Christmas Special collection of Vince Guaraldi jazz pieces.

Nostalgia Critic (who also did the insightful defence of the “Lie of Santa”) provides a thoughtful examination of why this quirky little is one of the greatest Christmas classics…

  • It’s letting you appreciate how much you can get with so little. In the same way that Charlie Brown found a lot of worth in a seemingly simple tree, the same way we find a lot of worth in a seemingly simple special. It’s perfection is in its imperfection.”

Merry Christmas to all ad may all your failures be embraceable!



The Sound of One Hand Clapping

John Grady - the moth

International Day of Persons with Disabilities today. Disability is one of those adversities that so many people have turned to advantage. Former Blue Man Group member John Grady tells the delightful story

of a one-armed girl who was chosen from the audience at random to participate in their act. An act which, in many parts, required two hands. Or so it seemed.

  • “And we dig in and it’s all good. I’m feeding her. She’s feeding me. We’re all cross feeding each other. It’s a big flirt fest. And the piece just crescendos and explodes I this huge celebration and the audience bursts into this enormous applause. For her, really, because she was beautiful, she was amazing and she was the catalyst for this whole thing to happen. And she brought that element back that I had completely forgotten about. She brought this innocence, this child-like innocence. That ability to remain present and be honest and fearless and not try to manufacture anything.”

In Grady’s case, the lady’s disability not only provided a complete refreshing twist on their increasingly routine routine, but also shook him from his doldrums and inspired a new energy to his work. Today we applaud all of the energising perspective and adaptation that persons with disabilities spark in all our lives. (thanks Isley)

The Grand Detour


The Grand Tour is one of the most anticipated “television” events of the year…and it’s all based on failure. Not just Jeremy Clarkson’s Top Gear set fisticuffs (and litany of other HR infractions and PR gaffes). Top Gear itself seemed to percolate on a frisson of failure with every episode. What mad cap stunt will the trio pull this week?

In fact, an editorial glimpse behind the scenes of the old Top Gear by former Top Gear script editor Richard Porter, “There’s been an accident: we’ve struck TV gold”, recounted just how much failure was woven into Top Gear’s very existence…

  • “We were surprised that people were watching our poky little car show. We were surprised that three men bickering, blustering and falling over also had the sort of genuine and watchable chemistry you simply couldn’t synthesize. We were surprised when things worked out, when they didn’t and then surprised when actually our biggest failures were also our most beloved successes. We were often as you might have gathers, a shambles.”
  • “You could tell as much from the working conditions of under which the Top Gear was made…Our production office at the studio was even worse, being bleak and cold and of such rank odour that once, when an owl got into the building, flapped around a bit and died, we only noticed the corpse because it made the place smell nicer.”
  • “We were, after all, the show that began life by making a pilot episode so bad the BBC, showing a weary tolerance that would become the hallmark of its dealings with Top Gear. Which we did, only to turn in something that managed to be even more terrible.”

The Telegraph’s own report on the show wouldn’t be complete without the list of “Jeremy Clarkson Gaffes

Clarkson doesn’t just embrace failure in his show production, but also in the very works of engineering that he adores…

  • The Ferrari 458 Italia? The dashboard is unintelligible. The BMW M3? If you put the steering in Sport Plus mode you will crash…The Jaguar F-type’s ride is silly and the car’s too expensive…The Volkswagen Golf R is a bit boring. And so on and so on. All of the world’s great cars have something wrong with them…It’s part of what makes us love them.” – Jeremy Clarkson

That’s not gone welland on that bombshell.”

Embracing the Unreal

Gapingvoid - people who fail

This is not writing. Well, not “real writing. According to some.

Whatever it is, I have been doing it for a complete decade as of today. Recently, life has indeed seemed a bit unreal. So it is hard to determine the ‘real’ from the ‘unreal’. With the override role of cognitive bias in the human condition, the only “real” answer is constant questioning. Especially self-questioning. And whatever this blog is, it does that.

Seth Godin penned in his own blog a fine defence for the “unreal” in his post Walking away from "real"

  • As in, ‘that’s not a real football team, they don’t play in Division 1’ or ‘That stock isn’t traded on a real exchange’ or ‘Your degree isn’t from a real school."Real contains all sorts of normative assumptions and implicit criticisms for those that don’t qualify. Real is just one way to reject the weird. My problem with the search for the badge of real is that it trades your goals and your happiness for someone else’s.”

Embracing failure often means debunking fallacies (ie. failure of knowledge) and this “real writing” arrogance does sort of wreak of the “Real Scotsman” fallacy (ie. a logical fallacy that occurs when: during argument, after their favored group has been criticized, someone re-defines the group in order to deflect uncomfortable counter-examples and thus makes the group entirely praiseworthy).

Blogs get poo-poo’d by the pros as not ‘real writing. But I have been in the fraternity of ‘professional writers’ both as an overseas correspondent in Africa and commissioning work in my role at Microsoft marketing. I can tell you right now that a very large majority of ‘professional’ (or ‘real’) writing is in no way real. Rehashed press releases, anodyne stringing together of buzzwords, pay-per-word padding. Echoing Seth’s sentiments, most of this material is also written to the lowest common denominator or normality and unexceptionality.

But it is in the printed world where the embrace of failure to secure a publisher is most interesting. My mother adapted my letters home when I was in Africa into a self-published book. At first, I thought it would be a book that ‘only a mother would love’, but it kept her busy in her new phase of retirement so it seemed harmless. The book hasn’t been a best-seller, but it has been a great way to share a part my experience with not just extended friends and family, but also with other people interested in the topic. My father self-published ‘Shorelines’ and it is in many ways a culmination of his life’s work as a clergyman. Our daughter, Isley, self-published a book of poetry after getting more and more popular on the poetry recital and spoken work circuit and having people ask for a copy of her work. Our son, Chase, self-produced a field recording album “Four Points” and it turned out that the British Library wanted a copy for its archive (being an creative acoustic illustration of the British Isles).

Amateurish? Get real.