Thursday, November 8, 2018

Forever Young

Three recent experiences that made me feel young again.

1)   October 20th.  I celebrated my birthday with a divinely decadent lunch with Trudy at a favourite restaurant, Alain Llorca in St Paul de Vence.  Chef Alain at the helm, wife Virginie lighting up front of house, a table on the terrasse overlooking the village – courgette flowers, sea bass, lobster washed down with a chilled Les Pucelles Puligny-Montrachet – after an hour wandering around Antibes market.  Felt half my age.

2)   Spent two weeks in my old stomping ground – the Middle East – touring and speaking to YPO (Young President’s Organisation) in Tunis, Cairo, Beirut, Kuwait, Doha, Dubai and Muscat.  Highlights included a three hour session with 12 teenagers (YPO members’ children) in Oman, a meeting with an old friend  I hadn’t seen for 35 years, a lunch in one of Cairo’s oldest restaurants – Al Saeed – with a Middle East advertising legend, Tarek Nour, an insightful, private dinner with six eminent Doha leaders as the Khasshoggi scandal broke and renewing old friendships in Beirut with Maya Es-Said.
Reminded me of my Middle East days with Gillette, Procter & Gamble and Pepsico (1972 – 1987).  I felt 30 again.

3)   And then – forever young indeed – I remembered 1964 – as a teenager completely besotted with Joan Baez – an early (and lifelong) heroine.  We had front row seats last Saturday at Phoenix’s 2600 intimate theatre in the round (opened in 1963) – Phoenix Celebrity Theatre – for an evening with Joan Baez.  We sang Amazing Grace together – all of us.  Don’t think twice, it’s alright, There but for fortune, It’s all over now Baby Blue – and she closed her encore with Forever Young – after firing us all up with a poem she’s still writing – urging us to Stand Up and Fight.
77 years young and still urging us Onwards.

‘May you always be courageous,
Stand upright and be strong,
And may you stay
Forever Young’.
    Bob Dylan


Sunday, November 4, 2018


The All Blacks are constantly searching for ways to improve, to keep winning, and to stay ahead of the competition.

And that’s exactly what successful businesses must do too.  There are three kinds of change:
-       Incremental;
-       Transformational;
-       Disruptive.

Great teams, great companies use all three approaches.  The Leader’s job is to ensure the right kind of change is implemented at the right time for the right reasons.

And implemented like this:
1)        Make the case for change and decide what kind of change is needed.
2)        Provide an inspirational, compelling picture of the future to the entire Company.
3)        Ensure you have the people to drive and sustain the change relentlessly.
4)        Create a credible, detailed plan.
5)        Execute it with belief and courage.

And remember, knowing what not to change is the most important part of any successful change programme.


Monday, October 29, 2018

Binge Viewing

Have been flying all over the place recently (including Europe / Africa / Middle East – Tunis / Rome / Kuwait in a day last week!!) and have been media bingeing on flights.  Have been enjoying:
·       Cardinal
    A gritty detective series set in Algonquin Bay, Canada.  Two series so far, a third being shot.
·       Goliath
    Via Amazon Prime.  Two series with one of my favourites – Billy Bob Thornton, enjoying himself as burnt out LA lawyer Billy McBride.  Shot in one of my favourite Santa Monica dive bars – Chez Jay.
·       Bancroft
    A four-part ITV drama, a bit of a poor man’s Line of Duty (but worth the effort).  Series One a cliff-hanger.  Season Two in production.
·       Strike
        Cormoran Strike, an injured war veteran turned P.I. in London.  Complex and clever.

And the best movie I’ve seen this year, on Netflix, Operation Finale.  Ben Kingsley – the true story of Israel’s capture of Adolf Eichmann.


Monday, October 22, 2018

We are Winning the War.

With all the moaning and angst in the media around Trump, Brexit, Party Conferences, Khashoggi – it’s not always easy to remain optimistic and positive.  It seems fashionable to be a finger pointing, aggressive BMW (Bitcher, Moaner, Whinger) instead of the Perpetual Optimist pursuing hope, change and ambition.  The world needs positive leadership – it needs people with Ambition, Belief and Courage.

And recently I was heartened to read that, despite all odds, all distractions, and all second-hand commentary, we are actually making progress in the global battle against poverty.

For the first time, more than half the world’s population is now middle-class – 3.6 billion vs 630 million who live in poverty (3.1 billion are considered ‘economically vulnerable’ with 200 million classified as rich).

By 2030 the outlook is even more positive.

                                  June 2018     Forecast 2030 *
Poor                            630 million        450 million
Financially Vulnerable    3.1 billion           2.3 billion
Middle Class                 3.6 billion           5.3 billion
Rich                            200 million         300 million

Rising incomes in China, India and South Asia are the major contributors to the rise.

Much still needs to be done in Africa.

This is the first time in history that the majority of the world’s population does not live in considerable poverty.

Hope Springs Eternal.


* Source – World Data Lab, Austria.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Aloha from Honolulu

I’ve always enjoyed Hawaii – the Aloha Spirit of Love, the fusion of Native, Japanese and American cultures, the surfing vibe epitomised by an old hero of mine, Duke Kahanamoku, the mountains, the Halekulani, and the year round feeling of Fun, Freedom and Family.

But one thing that Honolulu has never really had is interesting food – it’s mainly been driven by high traffic, volume, fast and furious, big portions, steak burgers and ribs.

But all that’s changing.  Two places to check out when you’re next in Honolulu (after a flight of local blonde beers at Duke’s and a mango habanero margarita on Tommy Bahama’s rooftop), drop into Ward Village and enjoy the best of the new Farm to Table Hawaiian cuisine at Merriman’s.  Lively, whimsical, upbeat and brilliant food.  Great crowd.  Peter Merriman’s approach is ‘Throw a party every night’ – behind one of the best wine lists in town, innovative cocktails and unforgettable food using local ingredients, dirt fresh local salads, freshly caught fish and loads of imagination.  I ate the best dish I’ve had anywhere this year – Tako (octopus) served ‘a la escargot’ – looking just like a dozen classic snails washed in cognac and garlic butter – with country bread to dip into the sauce.  Visually escargots; in reality octopus.  Brilliant.  And a lobster pot pie with small kine farm mushrooms and a vermouth and corn crust.

Then, when you’re ready for another treat, head down to Chinatown to Senia.  A new spot based on sharing and crossing paths – very similar to Simon Gault’s Giraffe in Auckland.  A gathering place for great food.  Casual, highest quality, fun crowd, and a terrific Chef’s Counter experience – the tasting menu served by the two Chef / Owners (Chris Kajioka and Anthony Rush from Thomas Keller’s NYC Per Se) at a counter for eight people splitting the dining room and the open kitchen.  Pure, beautiful, seasonal ingredients – inspired presentations.

Aloha and Mahalo. 


Sunday, September 30, 2018

High Altitude.

I went into the Flux Animation Studio to shoot a free form interview with New Zealand recruitment guru John Peebles as part of his High Altitude series.  He took me back 30 years to life at Lion Nathan to see what happened as we tried to transform a couple of New Zealand institutions into world class players.  Here are the links John just sent me:


Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Old Masters

Am listening to two Old Masters today in Grasmere at the dog end of a great Summer.  Half a dozen old school friends are here for Sunday lunch – Craig and Ryan are treating us to an Old Stamp House pop-up – amazing local food – all sourced within 30 miles of Beckwood.

Back to the music.

  • Paul McCartney’s just released Egypt Station – self-composed – his 17th studio album.  His first one in five years – pop, rock, acoustic.  Funky, experimental and a nod to us seniors on ‘Happy With You’.  John may have been the most creative and rebellious, but Paul was the best musician and the most resilient.  And feel your heart strings on Confidante – the saddest song on friendship I’ve ever heard.

  • Paul Simon – In the Blue Light.  Deep cuts from the great man’s back catalogue reinterpreted.  A world weary 76 year old making sense out of songs written in his 20’s and 30’s.  He says “A new coat of paint on the walls of an old family home”.
Living Life Slow.


Sunday, September 23, 2018

Focus. Commitment. Discipline. (Part Two)

Last week we were lucky enough to join the beautiful wedding celebration of two friends – JD and Noelle, in a most amazing rural setting close to Perpignan.

The first reading was Erich Fromm’s – The Art of Loving.  And surprisingly it seemed to be all about Focus, Commitment and Discipline.

“Love is a decision, it is a judgment, it is a promise.  If love were only a feeling, there would be no basis for the promise to love each other forever.  A feeling comes and it may go.  How can I judge that it will stay forever, when my act does not involve judgment and decision.

Love isn’t just something natural.  It requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith and the overcoming of narcissism.  It isn’t a feeling, it is a promise.”


Monday, September 10, 2018

Focus. Commitment. Discipline.

I’ve written frequently about the Power of Three and man’s predilection for thinking in threes.  Three’s fit comfortably into our mind, we can remember them and focus on them – Aviate, Navigate, Communicate; Adapt, Improvise, Overcome; React, Recover, Regain; and at my own core – Focus, Commitment, Discipline.

Focusing in today’s VUCA world with our mobiles continuously interrupting our flow is increasingly difficult, with distractions – both real and self-imposed – all around us.

Canadian Chris Bailey has been studying Productivity and Focus for a few years now and has just published Hyperfocus (Pan Macmillan).  Worth a read.

A few take-outs:
-       Set yourself no more than three daily tasks.  Write ‘em down, knock ‘em off.  The Power of Three!!
-       Get on top of your phone: Put it in airplane mode; leave it in another room; store it in your (more inaccessible) laptop bag; shut off almost all notifications; decimate your apps; never take it into the bedroom; go back to watches / alarm clocks for telling the time.
-       Switch environments from messy to tidy and back again to maximise the right balance between creativity and discipline.
-       Take a mindful shower – or my version – a mindful bike ride.  And my favourite – have a glass of wine during the evening (people are 20 – 40% more creative after a small amount of alcohol).  Trick is to remember to write down what you come up with!!!


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Ritz Carlton – Probably the best customer focussed company in the world (with thanks to Carlsberg for the idea)

In Singapore for the weekend.  Granddaughters Stella and Chloe staying at The Ritz Carlton with us.  We wanted to have some fun on a rainy Saturday – so invited Professor Messy to bring his two hour interactive science show to the room.  Brilliant.  All organised by Club Manager Sheila and Concierge Rachel.

But The Ritz Carlton never gives the customer what they want, they give them what they never dreamed possible.

Here’s what Sheila and her team delivered 30 minutes before the science show – a gingerbread house, an ice-cream plate on dry ice – and two sugared up, excited grandkids.

Memories being created.  Thank you Ritz Carlton Singapore.