Tag Archives: life

Striding Out – Full of confidence

I enoyed the Thessaloniki museum of photography today – and full credit to them for this image that is part of an exhibition that captures the evolution of Thessaloniki over recent generations. It is a small, fascinating showing that provides though provoking images of lfe in the city through various significant events since the invention of photography enabled such documentary images to be captured.

With this image – there are actually 4 large works on the wall – what struck me so much was the confidence of youth, striding out into the sunshine, confident in their appearance, tangibly excited by what life had to offer them.

I spent some time in fromt of these images – asking what these people would say to someone like me, so many decades later. Would they whisper words of encouragement? Carpe Diem?

I wonder. What would my father want to say to me now, if he had the chance to whisper something? I think he would say “go for it – you only get one chance Nigel”.

And I am listening.

Get out there and celebrate the moment

One of the most important things I think I have finally, absolutely learnt recently is how fantastic it is to just get out and do stuff. You learn, live and celebrate.  Why do I ever take my eyes off of this very simple goal?

Two great examples form the last 24 hours here in Thessaloniki.

Yesterday evening, after two glorious days of December sunshine, as the sun went down it started to pour with rain. Rather than sit and read, listen to music or write – I looked out – saw the street reflections – reached for the camera and just tramped around for a couple of hours in the dark. What a great decision.

I spent the time wandering around in Ladadika – a very small area of Thessaloniki treasured for small intimate cobbled streets with cafes, bars and restaurants – a short stroll from the sea and opposite the main port. And about 500 yards from my hotel, so no effort at all.

Rain on tables

I ended up with some photos that I love, two of which I have posted here – I learned about the camera which is still new to me – but more importantly I have some memories that I treasure because they were created out of the moment by me getting out and just living. Upside down tables and puddles were transformed into something quite magical – and all I had to do was be there and look.

Then again this evening – no rain but its windy and cold – and off I go. No hesitation. This time the experience wasn’t driven by photographs but simply by going into a bar to shelter from the wind. Inside it was small, very dark and intimate. I ordered a glass of wine, warmed up, got settled –  and very gradually started looking around.  It took me a while to work out that I was the only guy in the bar.. I had managed to wander into a gay women-only bar without realizing it.

After my over-polite exit i fell into the next bar where the barmaid – Nandia – thought it was extremely funny, and so did I. The girls in the bar were  amused, hospitable and I am sure I didn’t spoil their evening, I was just a crazy English bloke who didn’t understand what way up anything was and left as soon as he did.

And to round off the the experience I did manage to order a sparkling water ( to go with the chardonnay ) in Greek without Nandia hesitating – although she did smile – for all the wrong reasons women have been smiling at me all evening – and how nice is that?

Just get up and get out there – it’s such an exciting planet!

Leaving space for people

In the Arts

Another great evening last week discussing creative writing with Gary Mepsted. One of the main subjects that comes up consistently is that of leaving space for the reader.

This is extremely important in creative writing – if we provide all the answers and explanations the reader will become bored. Give them the space to work things out for themselves, and leave them with a sense of satisfaction – ideally the emotion would be ‘I didn’t expect that – but yes, I understand”. People are also absolutely prepared to have many minor things left unresolved, a beginner writer like myself is too often tempted to make everything too neat.

In photography I am also learning that without a story that allows the viewer to participate the photo is a meaningless snap. A friend often describes this as ‘context’ – she will ignore a pretty scene of a boat drifting by, because there is no story. She will be facing the other way – finding images and stories amongst the graffiti on the wall.

This is true in business and also in my life.

In business we have been designing and implementing a comprehensive dashboard this month. I have all of the financial information nailed, its just a question of presentation. But one of the metrics needs to be a measure of satisfaction and engagement of our staff. I passed around a simple graph that a friend who runs a search company had found very useful – a simple graph that asks you to plot where you are on two axes – one is how clear your role / tasks are – and the other is how much freedom you have within that role.


The idea of course is that without the freedom you simply won’t be engaged – people need space to contribute – they want to chose the best way to get things done, participate fully in the way they accomplish the tasks the company needs them to complete. They need space to express themselves.

In life I am learning now to make sure that I respect peoples space – i think I have always had a temptation to try to control too much. A friend I met recently is just a brilliant example of this – she wants to live life to the full – but expects to control nothing, to enjoy the weirdness and excitement with what happens if you pursue your passions and learn from those you meet on the way.



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.