-- Business blog now available --

A quick note to say that I've set up my Business blog, to be able to speak with a clear voice on both personal and work issues (i.e. by having separate blogs).

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Resources for a Teenager – Atul Gawande

The third in a series of posts detailing those resources I’m finding useful on my own particular (life) journey.


I think these lectures – and the thinking behind them – are extraordinary.

I listened to them in the car on a couple of long journeys.

I’ve recently started reading Atul’s personal exploration ‘Being Mortal: Illness, Medicine and What Matters in the End’. It’s also excellent, and timely for me to read it.

The List

The rationale

I read Atul Gawande’s book ‘The Checklist Manifesto’ and loved it.

I thought it common sense but which hasn’t be common practice, until Dr Gawande’s efforts to improve global public health.

I was therefore delighted to learn that he would be delivering the BBC’s Reith Lectures.

I’ve copy-pasted the following info from the BBC’s website to save time etc.

Dr Atul Gawande - 2014 Reith Lectures

Atul Gawande, MD, MPH is a practicing surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Professor at both the Harvard School of Public Health and Harvard Medical School.

In his lecture series, The Future of Medicine, Dr Atul Gawande will examine the nature of progress and failure in medicine, a field defined by what he calls 'the messy intersection of science and human fallibility'.

Known for both his clear analysis and vivid storytelling, he will explore the growing importance of systems in medicine and argue that the future role of the medical profession in our lives should be bigger than simply assuring health and survival.

The 2014 Reith Lectures

The first lecture, Why do Doctors Fail?, will explore the nature of imperfection in medicine. In particular, Gawande will examine how much of failure in medicine remains due to ignorance (lack of knowledge) and how much is due to ineptitude (failure to use existing knowledge) and what that means for where medical progress will come from in the future.

In the second lecture, The Century of the System, Gawande will focus on the impact that the development of systems has had – and should have in the future - on medicine and overcoming failures of ineptitude. He will dissect systems of all kinds, from simple checklists to complex mechanisms of many parts. And he will argue for how they can be better designed to transform care from the richest parts of the world to the poorest.

The third lecture, The Problem of Hubris, will examine the great unfixable problems in life and healthcare - aging and death. Gawande will argue that the reluctance of society and medical institutions to recognise the limits of what professionals can do is producing widespread suffering. But research is revealing how this can change.

The fourth and final lecture, The Idea of Wellbeing, will argue that medicine must shift from a focus on health and survival to a focus on wellbeing - on protecting, insofar as possible, people’s abilities to pursue their highest priorities in life. And, as he will suggest from the story of his father’s life and death from cancer, those priorities are nearly always more complex than simply to live longer.

The Task

Atul Gawande strikes me as an outstanding role model.

Our challenge is to rise above our everyday conditioning and aim to be as good as Dr Gawande in the things that we are passionate about, and which bring us to life.

It’s easy to quote Ralph Waldo Emerson
"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail."
The tricky bit is sailing towards the horizon and not knowing where you're going. It's spectacularly more difficult than you might expect...

As one of my Mentors said to me:
"Justin, it's not about leaving A to get to B, it's about leaving A"
Thank you Steve!

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Resources for a Teenager – ‘Living’

The second in a series of posts detailing those resources I’m finding useful on my own particular (life) journey.


I’ve chosen these books to hopefully be an accessible way into cultivating inner knowledge, and valuing our inner teacher [or whatever you would like to call it…].

IMHO there is no ‘correct’ way to live, only continual experiments in vulnerability and courage.

I’ve come to believe it’s a life-long practice, with many speed bumps along the way #crikey

The List

To grow, as I come across new materials and / or think of additions.

The rationale

  1. Daring Greatly: Brené is reframing vulnerability so that we can welcome it as a superpower. I’m coming to the belief that vulnerability is a vital stepping stone to presence, and that we are fortunate to live in a time to absorb her wisdom for ourselves.
  2. A Hidden Wholeness – Parker’s work powerfully resonates with me. I’ve attended three retreats – and counting – based on the insights of the Centre for Courage and Renewal. Their ‘Clearness Committee’ format is the most respectful and dignified way to hold other people which I have come across.
  3. What shall I do with my Life? – I remember reading this and thinking: that’s actually really helpful.
  4. Sophie’s World – IMHO we should teach philosophy to Primary Schoolers. A brilliant way to create a coherent understanding of the major schools. These are thinking skills and a mind gym we can all benefit from.
  5. Mindset [& Bounce] – a vital contribution from Carol Dweck about the Growth Mindset. Aka all feedback is an opportunity to learn, no matter how difficult it might be at the time.
  6. When Things fall apart [and they often do] – Ani Pema’s synthesis of this Buddhist lineage will be something I expect to return to time and again. In fact Ani Pema’s ability to convey profound wisdom is something I greatly value. I plan to return to her work in different formats, in future.
  7. Man’s search for meaning – out of some of humanity’s darkest hours emerges some rays of light. Night, by Elie Wiesel, taps into the same elemental forces.
  8. Quiet – I came away from reading this by thinking that I could well be an introvert, with extrovert tendencies. Perhaps an ‘ambivert’. A fascinating reframe…
  9. The Hero with a Thousand Faces – who would have thought that humanity shares many ways of thinking about our existence, when so often we (collectively) seek to differentiate our wisdom traditions?
  10. The Art of Asking – just ‘take the doughnuts’: aka let people help you. Something I’ve found very useful myself!
  11. Heart Sutra – something to come back to whenever needed. I understand the preamble better than I do the Sanskrit…

The Task

It’s been said that there are many ways to live life. Our individual challenge is to figure out a way that works for us, at our deepest levels (and even to discover them in the first place…).

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Resources for a Teenager - blog series


Living can be a challenge. Feeling like you’re connected - a jigsaw puzzle when the pieces fit together – is a challenge for most of us.

When you love a parent, and lose them before you might reasonably expect to, I can only imagine it’s incredibly difficult.

I thought it’d be helpful to breathe life back into this blog - after a prolonged quietude – by making a record of those of the resources I’m finding useful on my own particular journey.

I’m offering them here so that others may refer to them, choose what resonates, and read, watch, mark, and inwardly digest to support a life more fully lived.

I hope they are useful!


I’m planning to coalesce my findings – to begin with – about ‘Living’; Economics; and Fiction.

These signposts will (probably) be books; videos; blogs & online articles; and podcasts.

I’ll hopefully have bandwidth to provide a minimalist commentary.


I plan to embed a number of widgets in these posts.

It may well be that the order is a bit haphazard (according to the collation of various types of materials), and that the order is the type of material, rather than the theme. I’d apologise, but better to ship than be perfect… ;D


Any thoughts, additions, amendments – whatever – please add in respectful and constructive comments to the posts. Thank you!

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Please help me raise Movember £$€ for Men’s cancer charities


Yes, hi folks – it’s Movember time, a time when we aim to raise awareness and funds to support research into Prostate and Testicular cancers.

This is therefore a quick post to spread the word, encourage you all to give money in support, and tell you what I’m doing to earn your commitment and hard cash!

Movember recap

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces in the UK and around the world. The aim of which is to raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and testicular cancer. 
Once registered at movember.com each Mo Bro must begin the 1st of Movember with a clean shaven face. For the entire month each Mo Bro must grow and groom a moustache. There is to be no joining of the mo to the sideburns (that’s considered a beard), there’s to be no joining of the handlebars to the chin (that’s considered a goatee) and each Mo Bro must conduct himself like a true gentleman.
A Mo Sista is essentially a woman who loves a Mo. An individual that is dedicated to supporting the Mo Bros in her life through their moustache growing journey; whether it be a friend, colleague, family member or partner. These inspirational women are committed to raising awareness of men's health issues and much needed funds for men's health along the way. 
Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November and through their actions and words raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health. 
At the end of the month, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas celebrate their Movember journey throwing their own Movember parties or attending one of the Gala Partés held around the world to stand tall and celebrate the moustache.

Sideburns, Burnsides, and Cider

A quick back-story to this year’s ‘tache.


Ambrose Burnside was an American Civil War general, known for his fantastic pair of burners, which happily joined in the middle under his nose. Oops, there goes rule 1!

According to that old faithful, Wikipedia:
Burnside was noted for his unusual facial hair, joining strips of hair in front of his ears to his mustache but with chin clean-shaven; the word burnsides was coined to describe this style. The syllables were later reversed to give sideburns.

Cotswold Cider Co – Sideburn

In his spare time, my brother makes cider, and he’s actually rather good at it! In particular, he makes Sideburn Cider:
A lightly sparkling, real good "toffee-apple infusion" - splendid...
ABV 6%, 500ml
Celebrating the Sideburns proudly worn by real cider lovers. "Gracing the bottle is their inventor and our hero, Ambrose Burnside."

My own work in progress

IMG-20121109-00292Given that I didn’t totally obey the rules last year with my “monkey’s tail”, I’ve ploughed ahead with my Ambrose Burnside tribute.

Here is a week-old version. I’ll post a more up-to-date photo asap.
I think it’s splitting opinions, although I'll admit that a normal ‘tache probably takes a bit more courage and persistance than my own facial fuzz!

Please give what you can. Thanks

Albert has got the ball rolling on http://mobro.co/justingsouter.
I’ve put my money my where my mouth / top lip is. I hope you can do the same!

Thank you.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Brené Brown and wholeheartedness


A quick post about a recent discovery I made, and grateful for the serendipity that brought me!

I recently gained a new Twitter follower, @kabbenbock, over at @souterconsults. I usually find out about new followers through an e-mail alert, and those with bios that resonate with me I check out, and follow back, as appropriate.

@kabbenbock IRL is Andy Smith, who I was aware of him as one of the authors of The Dragonfly Effect: Quick, Effective, and Powerful Ways to Use Social Media to Drive Social Change.

I felt flattered to be followed by someone like Andy, and checked out his Twitterstream before tweeting my thanks for the follow. One of his tweets was:

Kare Anderson’s article includes this quote:
Ironically, the sharing of one’s vulnerability with trusted others is one of the prime gateways to overcoming shame according to the star of one of the ten most watched TED talks, Brene Brown. In Daring Greatly, she describes the paradoxical power of embracing our vulnerability and acknowledging our fears as a path towards being more courageous and connected with others. That means letting go of the need for certainty and control.
This intrigued me, and I sought out Brené’s TED talk.

Brené Brown

The following is an except from Brené Brown’s bio page:
Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW is a research professor at the University of HoustonGraduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past decade studying vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  
Brené is a nationally renowned speaker and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College’s Outstanding Faculty Award. Her groundbreaking work has been featured on PBS, NPR, CNN, and has appeared in The Washington Post,Psychology Today, and many other national media outlets.

Her 2010 TEDxHouston talk on the power of vulnerability is one of most watched talks on TED.com, with approximately 5 million views. She gave the closing talk, Listening to Shame,  at the 2012 TED Conference in Long Beach. 

TED Videos

The videos are below. The first has now reached 6.1m views; the second is on its way towards 1.5m. Half a dozen of these combined views are from me! ;-)

The Power of Vulnerability

The blurb for this TED talk is:
Brené Brown studies human connection -- our ability to empathize, belong, love. In a poignant, funny talk, she shares a deep insight from her research, one that sent her on a personal quest to know herself as well as to understand humanity. A talk to share. (Filmed at TEDxHouston.)  

Listening to Shame

Blurb for this one is:
Shame is an unspoken epidemic, the secret behind many forms of broken behavior. Brené Brown, whose earlier talk on vulnerability became a viral hit, explores what can happen when people confront their shame head-on. Her own humor, humanity and vulnerability shine through every word.
IMHO even more powerful than the first talk. I love Brené’s admixture of vulnerability, insight, and joy. Thank you, Brené! :-D

I've put in YouTube versions of these talks as they're easier to tweak to fit in the blog design...

Videos for further context

I've gone a bit crazy with all these videos, but this for me is extraordinary stuff! Let me know if it takes an age to load...

TEDxKC - Brené Brown - The Price of Invulnerability

Shame & Empathy by Dr. Brené Brown


Check out Brené’s resources page for links to videos, podcasts, and online articles.


I’m still in the early stages of exploring Brené’s work, however I’ve cued up Brené’s books on my Amazon wishlist:
  1. I THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ME (BUT IT ISN'T): Telling the Truth About Perfectionism, Inadequacy and Power
  2. The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You're Supposed to be and Embrace Who You are
  3. Daring Greatly


I’m a big fan of podcasts, and have listened to the Smart People Podcast interview with Brené. The first 5 minutes or so are context, which I’ve fast-forwarded when I’ve listened to the podcast again! ;-). Direct link

You may also want to check out this interview with Koren Motekaitis with is rather tremendous. Direct link.


On of the key outcomes for Brené’s research has been that some people are what she calls “wholehearted” – in summary, they are confident that they are ‘enough’ and worthy of other people’s love.

I guess that’s the point of her writings, so I plan to read them after Loving What Is by Byron Katie, and Coming to Our Senses by Jon Kabat-Zinn. The books-to-read pile is growing! ;-)


These are some graphics from Brené’s website which I am posting here to bring to a wider audience. I’m seeking to “be the change I’m trying to create”.


Wash up

I’m sharing these materials as they have resonated strongly with me. Whilst I’m keen to read all three books straight away, I sense that part of me is seeking in them “the answer” which I am coming to realise doesn’t really exist. I am confident that they will, however, be part of the solution!

I also like the idea that they are something to ‘move towards’, rather than ‘move away from’ – in the words of a buddy of mine. That puts Brené’s work in the same category as the positive psychology movement, in that it is creating new skills, rather than sorting out the past. Time to leave the past and create the future!

UPDATE 06/10/12: Added link for podcast interview with Koren Motekaitis.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

The Power of TED* - summary presentation to Action for Happiness North East


Although I am an avid student of personal development materials in order to become more present and mindful, I am deeply indebted to my learnings from The Power of TED*. TED, in this instance, refers to the Empowerment Dynamic.

This post is a reflection on how much I have gained from my (so far) six readings of the book!

Slide deck

Way back in the Spring I presented this summary slide deck to Action for Happiness North East, a group I help found earlier this year, and about which I’ve already blogged about here.

TED* Library

Check out the TED* library, full of podcasts, articles, and videos. Mmm, podcasts! I am still a regular listener to these podcasts, to help embed my learnings.
The following videos are linked through from the library page.

Describing TED* (*The Empowerment Dynamic)

David Emerald describes TED*

Master Certified Coach Molly Gordon Talks TED*


Key things I have learned from both reading the TED* book, and attending the TED* for Coaches webinar series:
  • Decide what you’re for
    • It was surprisingly challenging to find answers to the question “what do I really want, what am seeking to create”
  • Taking quiet time in the mornings
  • See other people as creators
    • Everyone has potential – it is up to us to be connected with the creator in other people
  • Interpret life situations through the lens of the empowerment dynamic
    • Although much of life seems to correspond to the Drama Triangle, I find it more empowering to keep in mind what one wants to create!
  • Choose choice
    • We’re all at choice, all of the time. It’s empowering to know this, and to consciously choose choice and choose to be a creator.
I could carry on in this vein – however this’ll do for now ;-)

Wash up

Reading The Power of TED* and working to absorb the lessons has been a watershed moment for me. I feel really grateful to be able to take on the learnings, and happy to share them with others – and answer any questions.

Definitely worthwhile saying many thanks to both David Emerald and Donna Zajonc for their help in my growth!

Sunday, 27 May 2012

How can you learn greater well-being? What is Positive psychology? -- Some insightful concepts


I was pleased to be able to attend another showing of the movie ‘Happy’ – hosted by Dr Deborah Jima-Otero at the Newcastle Centre for Positive Living, part of Northumbria University.

I was grateful to do this, as I had become aware of what I believe is some really insightful wording relating to positive psychology, in the context of a course run from October 2011 to help attendees improve their quality of life, and well-being.

Deborah kindly assented to me reproducing the wording – with the appropriate attribution.

Descriptive text from NCPL’s “Eight week programme in positive living”

This is verbatim from the course outline:
Dr Deborah Jima-Otero and Dr Matthew Lewis from The Newcastle Centre for Positive Living (NCPL) at Northumbria University are pleased to announce their eight week programme in positive living, starting on 20th October 2011 every Thursday 6.30-8.30pm, for members of the general public.
Leading people to positive lives
Using scientifically validated exercises from the field of positive psychology, the programme aims to introduce participants to techniques which will enable them to experience more positive emotions and flourish in life.   It will seek to help the group of participants to assess their personal well-being and satisfaction with life; plan a meaningful and satisfying life for themselves and try out various exercises which are aimed at increasing positive emotions and decreasing negative emotions.  These guided exercises will be completed during the weekly sessions and in the participants' own time between these sessions.

What are the benefits of positive emotions beyond ‘feeling good’?

Research has shown that positive emotions have a number of beneficial effects, beyond simply ‘feeling good’. 
Happier people:
  • Are more creative and better at problem solving – Positive emotions broaden people’s outlook, bringing more possibilities into view.  Greater openness makes them more creative as they are more likely to let go of preconceived ideas and think outside the box.
  • Are more productive and successful – They are more engaged both at work and play and tend to take less time off work due to sickness.
  • Are more resilient – They tend to bounce back from life’s setbacks more quickly.
  • Experience more fulfilling relationships with others - They are also more likely to help other people and benefit from social support themselves.
  • Are healthier – They tend to lead healthier lifestyles and research has shown that they even live longer!

What is positive psychology?

Positive psychology is at the heart of much of our work at the Newcastle Centre for Positive Living (NCPL).  In a nutshell, positive psychology is the scientific study of optimal human functioning and is concerned with positive aspects of human life such as happiness, well-being, flourishing, engagement, meaning, accomplishment, and positive relationships.  The aim of the field is to redress the imbalance that has emerged in the field of psychology from emphasising ‘misery and suffering’ (i.e., shortcomings such as depression, anxiety, drug addiction, schizophrenia and post-traumatic stress disorder) to understanding factors that make life worth living (i.e., potentials and human strengths).

Building ‘psychological immunity’

Positive psychology is keen to promote the idea that the full range of emotions have their place in human existence and that we need to give ourselves the permission to be human and accept that we all experience life’s ups and downs. So positive psychology is not about being ‘happy clappy’ but about being real.  However, it espouses the view that through hard work and practicing scientifically validated interventions (and experiencing setbacks along the way!)  individuals can learn resilience and build up their ‘psychological immune system’.  The idea is that, like physical immunity, individuals with a strong psychological immune system may still ‘get sick’ but this happens less frequently and when setbacks occur they get over them more quickly.

Prevention through cultivating the positive

Positive psychology is not targeted at fixing problems (i.e. remedial) but works on getting people to their upper range of well-being.  If you imagine a scale of well-being ranging from -10 to 0 to +10, psychology has traditionally focused on getting people who may be a -8 on the scale up to 0 or 1.  Positive psychology, by contrast, also focuses on those who may be at 0 or +1 or +2 and teaches them how to get to +8 or +10.  It helps individuals who may be ‘getting by’ in life to truly flourish, find meaning, and build resilience. In this respect it is much more preventative in its approach.  For example, Martin Seligman the founder of the field of positive psychology, has found in his research that learning optimism prevents depression and anxiety in ‘at risk’ children and adults, roughly halving their incidence over the next two years.
Finally, we would like to point out that you may find this course personally challenging at times as it may involved changing deeply entrenched habits. We do not advocate the view that there are a few ‘easy steps’ to happiness. Instead, we believe it takes commitment, motivation and hard work. We aim to support and encourage you on this journey but ultimately the main drive and effort needs to come from you. That said, you also need to accept that you will experience challenges and setbacks along the way – these are all part of being human!

Take away

Key points for me:
  • Well-being and meaning is something that can be developed and grown – chiming with my recent reading of ‘Mindset’ by Carol Dweck, and ‘Bounce’ by Matthew Syed
  • Well-being and happiness is about being authentic, and raising one’s “mean” state of experience
  • Going through the exercises is personally challenging
  • I really like the idea of a “psychological immune system”
Arguably these are incredibly important life skills that many more people would benefit from, and deserve to be part of a wider set of life skills courses that form part of everyone’s basic education. What do you think?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

“What are the skills that build positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, engagement in life?”


Since last June, I've been working with a start-up called http://happie.st. Our tagline is 'get rewarded for doing the things that make you happy".

I've come across some awesome personal development materials since then, and have got stuck into a lot of podcasts, DVDs, books, articles etc. ;-). For the eagle-eyed, you probably already know that! lol

This post records some of my recent discoveries, and the inspiration they provide:
  • Some reflections by Martin Seligman, arguably the moving spirit behind Positive Psychology, and someone I first learned about on my Psychology undergraduate degree – as he had convincingly put forward the theory of ‘learned helplessness’.
  • A summary from Time magazine about Positive Psychology
  • Links to some courses on Positive Psychology I have found (in the UK)
  • Widget showing some of my Goodreads books and account

Marty Seligman

I find listening to a podcast of someone gives a fantastic flavour of the person, and whether I’m going to enjoy / like / benefit from their writings.

Marty at the RSA

Martin Seligman at the RSA in London: I've listened to his podcast, and it’s highly insightful and enjoyable. Full disclosure: I used to be a Fellow of the RSA.

MAPP programme promotion podcast

Having searched iTunes for ‘Martin Seligman’, I was also listening to another podcast, and found the early proceedings highly meaningful.

I’ve listened to a particular section a number of times, and I've (roughly) typed up a couple of minutes the proceedings of the Virtual Information Session (http://www.sas.upenn.edu/lps/graduate/mapp) from about 4mins 30secs - involving Marty Seligman:
  • "Back 8 years ago, when I found myself president of 160k psychologists, I asked myself the question "what do psychologists do well?", "what don't we do well?"
  • I thought what we did pretty well was suffering: depression, trauma, anxiety, anger, victims and the like
  • But, what psychologists didn't do well, what there was no science, no practice of, was what makes life worth living: positive energy, positive emotion, engagement
  • So, as I looked around, I decided that my initiative as president of that Association would be to cheer-lead for, raise money, do some of the science, or the possibility of a science of practice, on what makes life what worth living, the positive side of life
  • I should say that what was behind that was some of my experience as a clinical psychologist, as a therapist for many years
  • And initially, I had believed that all you needed to work on was suffering; if you got rid of suffering, you automatically got happy
  • We were astonished to find out in clinical practice that occasionally when things went really well and you were able to alleviate anxiety, depression, anger: you didn't get a happy person, you got an empty person
  • So the question was, so what are the skills that build purpose and meaning in life, they're different from relieving depression? What are the skills that build positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, engagement in life? And so that became my mission
  • [...]
  • Starting about 4 / 3 years ago, as the science was beginning to develop along, I began to become concerned about application; that is, how can we take the things we're learning about gratitude, about pleasure, about strength and virtue, about creating purpose, and bring them into the real world"
I feel the point about an 'Empty person' is incredibly powerful, certainly for my own life. I'd actually bought 'Learned Optimism' (http://amzn.to/J6djq7) a couple of weeks back, and I'm also reading 'Happier' (http://amzn.to/Jrve7w).

I feel that this will be a rich vein for investigation and learning for me. I find the description of ‘empty’ a trigger to do practical things to build my own levels of positive emotion, gratitude, optimism, purpose, and engagement in life :-D

I'd be fascinated to hear any thoughts and feedback you may have. By the way, MAPP stands for ‘Master of Applied Positive Psychology’.


For now, studying at the University of Pennsylvania, at Martin’s knee, is a bit of a long shot, so here are some closer to home:

Time document

Useful summary of Positive Psychology which puts things into a nutshell:
The New Science of Happiness

Goodreads widget

I’m whacking this in here, as it’s a useful place for me to share what I’m reading :-)

Wash up

I hope you find these materials useful and insightful. I’d love to get your feedback, and what else you’d suggest. Thanks for reading!