Connecting the dots


I was out walking in the rain this morning when I took this simple image of rain drops.

As I walked on my mind turned to a phrase that is used so commonly – “connecting the dots”. And I started trying to connect them, and thinking what we really mean by this phrase.

So what are the dots? In my new child-like world and in the context of this post they are something very special, something that adds to my understanding, helps me improve in one of my main passions, raises my excitement level or adds to my interests. I think of them as gems.

In practical terms I see them as either ideas or people –

  • Ideas – like how to improve a specific area of my company, or a subject to photograph, or a thought for a new travel venture.
  • People – people who are experts, who share their passion – or make your stomach tense when you are with them, or surprise you with their loyalty, openness and friendship.

How can we make and sustain these connections? By changing our behavior so as to find them, value them and bring them into our lives in a sustained and repeating way, rather than encountering them once – and then moving on. Some examples :

  • In Business – through processes. We take an idea – perhaps through a presentation or meeting we attended, a project that succeeded or failed or a customer that came across us for particular reasons – and we build a process that ensures we take advantage of that idea in a repeatable and sustainable way. We need to both implement the idea – bring it back to the business – but also make that experience repeatable and sustaining through incorporating it in a defined and appropriate way. Connect the idea to what we do in our companies – make it a part of how we work.
  • In creativity – through reflection and thoughtful analysis. Yes we need to continually seek out and learn  from experts to   ensure that we see and can become inspired by the work these talented people create, but then we should reflect on what their expertise might mean in our own lives and actively explore areas where different ideas intersect with each other.
  • In our personal lives – through attitude and bandwidth. This might be through exploring social networking, attending new  types of performances and shows – or going on courses to build personal relationships with talented people and fellow students. By not allowing ourselves to become lazy and complacent.

Why should we do this? Doing so increases our excitement, improves the quality of what we do and makes us more open and full of ideas. It preserves those gems over time – by connecting them we learn to remember them and stay connected, rather than feel inspired just once and then lose them over time.

What does this mean for me? I think it means I need to

  • Find as many gems as possible. I intend to do this by making sure I am always looking, pushing myself into new areas and unfamiliar territory –  always staying open.
  • Look always for new connections, new ways to keep these ideas and people connected so that I can benefit from their impact and expertise in a sustained way, and hopefully add my own thoughts so as to raise the bar in everything I do.




Acting like a child

With a new approach to life several new friends, who I admire immensely, have remarked that I am like a child.

I think they meant this in an approving way – in fact I know they did – but the concept of what this might mean in our lives and in business is worth exploring.

Recently I have found a huge level of enthusiasm for a wide range of new or revisited interests. These have given me great pleasure – cycling, creative writing, watching dance, photography – all have become significant parts of my life and have led to me meeting new friends.

Yet these cost almost nothing – apart from the initial equipment like a camera – and I could have taken them up anytime – but I didn’t. I just kept doing the same things, day after day. For more than a decade. Why did I not realize that this had happened to me? That I had become stuck in a comfort zone, not pushing myself forward. I had become fat and lazy.

Is it that we are scared of change – terrified of failure? In my case I don’t honestly think so, I was just doing the same thing again and again because it was comfortable, it was easy.

I wonder if we also do this at times in our business lives. We carry on playing in the same competitive spaces, with the same staff instead of pushing the boundaries and trying  new things with that playful sense of discovery. Business models and modus operandi  take over – improvements at the margins becomes the limit of our expectations.

Just as it was in my personal life I believe that experimenting and being child-like is not actually a costly exercise for a business They certainly do have resources available to be innovative and challenge the fundamental nature of themselves – but few actually do. Nor does it carry excess risk – the amount of play time can be controlled so as to keep the company in business until the benefit is proven – as Google famously does with their one day a week of personal project time.

Some companies famously do embrace play and experimentation as part of their culture – but they are few and far between.

My new friends are right – a personal shock actually provided all the impetus to get out and enjoy so much of the world –  playing, traveling, experimenting and pushing the boundaries in order to learn and discover myself – in exactly the same way a child does. Long may it continue.


Perfect Autumn Sunday Walk

Great walk today on the south downs.

One of those perfect days where the sky is clear, the light gorgeous and even the sheep look thoughtful.


Getting over the line – the end in business and in writing

As I am currently finding in my creative writing course one of the hardest things in writing is ‘the end’ – and I know from many years of experience that one of the hardest things in the business I run is to completely finish a project – to ‘get it over the line’.

Why might this be?

When comparing creative writing and projects in business, it recently occurred to me that the nature of  ‘the end’ in these areas are diametric opposites. What certainly connects them is that in both spheres they are challenging – and critical.

In business we are so concerned that we need to be clear about the specifications, and so the end has to be totally known before we can start to work. It actually defines the product, from the customers viewpoint it is the whole rational for the investment they are making. To them – after their role in defining the prototype – the journey we go through with design, development and testing really is irrelevant – they just care that we produce what they requested. To us any lack of clarity about the end represents a risk – so we make every possible effort to tie up all loose ends, to be crystal clear about every aspect of the ultimate product. The end is where our customer’s experience starts.

In writing however – the product is the work that leads up to the end. The reader joins us at the beginning of the work and will care enormously about the journey – with literature this shared journey is what we are creating. The last thing any reader wants is to be able to predict the end – that would destroy the value. And the way that many successful writers seem to work is that while writing they themselves have little idea – in some cases none at all – about what will happen at the end. They can work like this because the product is not defined by it’s end.

In writing we don’t have to tie up every loose end at all – just the major ones. Some unanswered questions and unresolved minor things are perfectly acceptable. It is a positive experience for the reader to have to finish it themselves – that’s the power of unresolved endings. We need to leave a space for the reader, we don’t want to patronize them, to patiently explain every aspect, leaving them no room to imagine and to think.

The best endings in literature have an element of surprise – but then seem to be inevitable. “I didn’t expect that, but I understand now” – is the kind of response we are looking for. In business the last thing we want as we complete a project is any surprises at all.

So it seems to me that in writing the end is challenging because we cannot define it until we are nearly there – as it must be fitting – and in business we cannot start until we know it completely. But in both cases the consumers ultimate sense of satisfaction with ‘the end’ will define the project’s success – and for us both as authors and entrepreneurs this is what makes it all worth while


The lack of importance of ‘The Big Idea’ in Writing and in Business

We were discussing the importance of the ‘big idea’ as part of our creative writing course with Gary yesterday.

Once again I thought this was a great concept for exploring the implications between my separate areas of interest – what part does a ‘Big Idea’ really play across my major interests of travel, writing, photography and running a business?

Today I would like to explore the “Big Idea” both in writing and in running a business.


Gary – the creative writing teacher –  explained that many new writers are  discouraged from writing anything of significance because they feel that they do not have that ‘Big Idea ‘. They are not sure why anyone would read their work as they do not have a neat, original significant message that they can capture and present through plot. They are conscious that they lack any well packaged idea that will fundamentally change or illuminate the way their readers feel about life, and for this reason they are reluctant to write anything at all.

However as Gary pointed out a good story teller can put two interesting characters in a room and create a work that runs across the spectrum of human experience – great ideas are not a significant part of the output of professional writers.

 Running a Business

I see exactly the same concept in the whole field of starting and running SME businesses.

People are obsessed with a ‘great business idea’ when in fact the success of an enterprise is all about the people and execution. We are familiar  with exceptional role models, and indeed we enjoy reading about their lives. But the reality is for almost all people starting and growing a business is that there is simply no original big idea they can effectively exploit with their limited working capital. They should focus instead on the quality of the team and the processes and execution required to deliver the returns anticipated.

What a shame that in both of these endeavors – writing and entrepreneurship – the hunt for a ‘big idea’ can be so counter productive, and so often result in a paralysis that limits our ability to express ourselves and learn these crafts through practice and feedback. Both of these crafts are almost impossibly difficult to do well – but if you don’t start you will never learn.

 The business of the novelist is not to chronicle great events but to make small ones interesting – Schopenhauer


Spiders Webs

Morning walk with Charlie led to many additions to my Autumn shots – great light – just a beautiful autumn day.

Just for variety I spent some time photographing some spiders webs in the wet morning dew.


















I really like these three, just the right amount of abstract colour. Better resolutions on Flickr



Fiction is like a spider’s web, attached ever so slightly, but still attached, to life at all four corners – Virginia Woolf


Writing a Screenplay

I am currently half way through a creative writing course and as a continuous task, as well as weekly assignments, we are to write a 30 minute screenplay. As I have never thought at all about writing screenplays this is a big ask.

It is proving a really great way to learn about some sides of writing. For me the most fascinating aspects are

  • Can’t get inside a characters head at all
  • Really have to stay to the point – just action / dialogue / action / dialogue
  • Allowing myself to leave some space for the viewer – so not repeating things just to make sure they didn’t miss it
  • Having 20% of what I write – at least – deleted by the teacher. And seeing that the piece is better for it.

Conveniently it transpires that a minute of screenplay is a page – so the target is clear – I need to write 30 pages. Currently I am on page 13, so a bit behind. And in true amateur writers procrastination fashion I have done just about everything today – including blogging about writing – rather than actually write.

When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap.

Cynthia Heimel.


I have been thinking about focus – something that keeps coming up across the main things I am interested in – Business, Writing and of course photography.

In business anyone can be a busy fool – and much of the challenge is to focus. Doing this consistently, for a long enough time to get results, is far from easy.

In writing it can be so easy to drift off and just write almost because I can, rather than to contribute anything to the plot or action. This is particularly tempting in novels – but less likely in screenplays – as I am finding out in an exercise on my current creative writing course. The constraint in screenplays of not being able to get into a characters head – as frustrating as this feels sometimes – helps us to stay on subject.

We are all surrounded by so much potential for distraction. In business we can work with the wrong kind of customers, or pursue products and services that are outside of our brand and our strategy. In photography we can just snap away with little plan or thought for the story we are portraying. In writing it is all too easy to let one’s thoughts move away, and fail to finish the piece we are working on.

Focus seems to be something I need to work on, it’s challenging and interesting in many areas of my life.

Having a Me Day

One of the best Sundays for a long while – really enjoyed a morning walk with Charlie – and taking photos of some Sussex Puddles…. and then all about a log fire, family friend popping by to take Mum on a well deserved vacation – Mark Shepherd, Karen and Abbie dropping by for coffee – then a log fire, learning LIghtroom 4 – starting work on this website and generally doing the things I love.. fantastic and energising!

Burning the candle

I am really enjoying the chance to touch base with the more creative side of myself, something that during the last 10 years I had really let slip.

Not just going to shows, but participating and pushing myself in areas which I find difficult and challenging. I am loving a creative writing class in Brighton, and have also started photography again. With all this has come new friends, and I am really enjoying being around people who love the night and can lose themselves in creative projects.

I took this photo last night and I think it captures something of that kind of atmosphere – late night working, deadlines and passion for what you do that breaks down barriers and conventions – which is so attractive and exciting to me.