Thursday, February 20, 2020

What Are You Watching?

Some TV/movies from the road.

Western Stars – Bruce Springsteen.  I recommended the album a while back.  The cinematic film version is even better.  Live songs from his barn on his New Jersey farm – interspersed with dramatic footage of the West and The Boss himself in full narrative flow – love and loss, the passage of time, growing older and Family.  Vintage.  (Amazon Prime)

Escape at Dannemora – based on a real life 2015 story.  Brilliant seven part mini-series from Showtime – available on Amazon Prime.  Award winning performances from Patricia Arquette, and a tour de force from Benicio del Toro.  Outstanding work from Director Ben Stiller (who knew?!).  Slow, measured, intense, authentic.

Succession – OK, you’ve probably already seen this.  I’m deep into Series Two, courtesy of iTunes.  I don’t like any of the characters – oh, except for Greg, but that’s what makes it compelling.  Starts slow but picks up speed.

Wild District – I’ve just been to Colombia twice in as many months – to Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota – and got caught up in the history, the culture, the art, the struggle and the people.  Watched the two series of Wild District (Distrito Salvaje) – the reintegration (or not!) of a guerilla fighter following the Colombian Peace Agreements.  A charismatic character – JJ – looking to reconnect with his family whilst being pulled in all kinds of directions.  Fascinating.  (Netflix)

Giri/Haji – (Netflix).  Duty/Shame.  A BBC series just out – a soulful, complex thriller set in Tokyo and London exploring the butterfly effect of a single act across these two cities.  Dark, witty and cross-cultural in very innovative ways.

We Are The Wave – A Netflix series from Germany.  Totally Today.  A group of idealistic teenagers (the best kind!) revolt against the rising tide of extreme nationalism – but it gets darker.

Wild Wild Country – I missed this when it came out last year but Sparky put me right and Netflix obliged.  A docuseries chronicling the largely forgotten relocation of guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh’s ashram from India to Oregon in 1981 with the incredible resultant first ever bioterror attack in the US, along with all kinds of illegal Government interventions.  Fascinating.

City on a Hill – Showtime (and Amazon Prime).  Produced by Ben Affleck, starring a charismatic Kevin Bacon – Boston in the 1990’s.  Corruption, violence and racism to be battled. “It’s hard to be a Saint in the City.”

And two must-watch shows from my friends at Fremantle:

The Windermere Children – aired on BBC on January 27.  The true story of 300 youngsters taken to the beautiful Lake District – at the end of the Second World War – transported from the concentration camp of Theresienstadt.  A story that hasn’t been told before.  Stark, stomach-churning, impossible to ignore.

The New Pope on Sky Atlantic.  Series Two.  Even better than Jude Law’s Series One.  Slick, stylish, sensual and driven by Jude Law’s successor – The New Pope – John Malkovich being John Malkovich with everything great and offbeat that that entails.

Happy Viewing.


Monday, February 17, 2020

From the Mouse House to the All Blacks

I read three books around Winning, Leadership, Values, Beliefs and Success over the Christmas break in our home in Carefree, Arizona (a brilliantly named town!!).

The first was by Disney CEO Bob Iger – I wrote about this on January 7.  I was a fan of his predecessor Michael Eisner – a creative powerhouse who ultimately fell victim to his own insecurities, but his more balanced, more thoughtful and more open successor Bob Iger has delivered in spades.

‘The Ride of a Lifetime’ – is just that.  A captivating blockbuster of deals, characters, choices and stars – all written around leadership lessons he learned the hard way and all of which are relevant to businesses/companies no matter how big or how small everywhere.

I was recommended the second book by a Finnish TV Producer friend of mine who is driven by the transformation happening in his industry – TV – at every level.  It’s a dry delivery of a powerful story.  ‘Transforming Nokia’ by their Chairman Risto Siilasmaa.  If you’re faced with Apple, Samsung and co and the Barbarians are at the gate, then this book is for you.  And even if you’re not today, you will be soon.  So this book is worth a look.

In 2008 Nokia owned 50% of the global smart-phone business.  In 2012 they had less than 10% and were virtually bankrupt.  Risto took the helm, re-imagined the Company through the power of ‘Paranoid Optimism’ and saved and reframed the Company into a sustainable, global leader in a new industry.

This is a reminder to all of us that in a VUCA world, leaders must constantly challenge assumptions, look for new opportunities and lead with an entrepreneurial mindset – no matter how successful the Company might be.

Who can resist chapter headings like:
·        On the Brink
·        Dazzled by the Sparkle
·        Reality Bites
·        Jumping off a Burning Platform
·        Plan B, and C and D
·        Can this marriage be saved
·        Hitting Restart – Again, Again
·        Creating your own luck.

And finally on to the third book.  ‘The Jersey: The Secrets Behind the World’s Most Successful Team’, written by Peter Bills.  Despite England’s well-deserved Semi-Final win in Japan, the All Blacks are the greatest sporting team on the planet.  They have a superior win record to any other team in any sport in history.  Bills was given unprecedented access to all the key figures in NZ Rugby as he set out to understand the secrets behind the AB’s sustained success.  I wrote about this in Peak Performance – Lessons from the World’s Greatest Sporting Teams 20 years ago in 2000, and James Kerr wrote about it in Legacy in 2013.  Peter’s book lays out the principles and values that drive winning and success in a way relevant to all of us.

If you have time to learn, time to invest in yourself, time to become a better leader, then take a look at whichever of these books takes your fancy.


Thursday, February 13, 2020

True Grit

I wrote this article for Cumbria Business three years ago.  It struck me as being even more relevant in 2020 than it was in 2016.

Grit, resilience and resistance to pressure are underrated qualities of leadership. They are core to winning in a crazy world. They go to the heart of mental toughness, which means always finding a way to win. More than ever, Peak Performance requires grit and guts.

“Winners never quit and quitters never win,” was how ESPN Coach of the Century, Vince Lombardi put this. The furnace of Test rugby is a good example. You need grit in elite international competition. Between winning the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, New Zealand played 54 Tests with a record of 49 wins, three defeats and two draws. The All Blacks win more than other teams because they go the full eighty. World Cup-winning All Blacks champion fly-half and All Blacks selector, Grant Fox, told me in 1991 that the key to winning test matches was to have “fire in the belly, ice in the mind.”

“The price of greatness is responsibility,” said Winston Churchill. A leader bears the scar tissue of responsibility. Leaders have been through it. They have emerged bloodied, but stronger. They decide when no one else has the guts. Pressure is a privilege. Nothing beats the feeling of the good fight and the great win. Vince Lombardi: “I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour, the greatest fulfilment of all that he holds dear, is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle — victorious.”

Killer resolve is not some mysterious X factor. Grit is a serious neuroscientific phenomenon. Check out The Power of Passion and Perseverance by University of Pennsylvania psychologist and MacArthur Fellow Angela Duckworth (Scribner, May 3). She explains how grit is a skill that can be learned and honed, regardless of IQ, innate talent, luck, or life circumstances. Churchill got this. In 1941 he delivered a speech to the students of Harrow School: “…never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense.”

Confidence is part of it, which is about self-belief based on prior achievement, knowledge, and clarity of personal purpose. It’s about feeling the thrill of the hunt, the tension, the exhilaration. It’s being able to visualise victory, in tandem with a strong sense of fear, anguish, and unrest. You’re unsettled, but excited. Confidence is positive energy that delivers an expectation of success tempered with determination to ensure success is delivered. It’s about living your life in 3D…Discipline. Desire. Determination.

Start every day with your ABCs. Ambition. Belief. Courage. To get ahead in the world, figure out what you’re good at, and then focus on becoming great at it. It’s not about where you’re from; it’s where you’re going—and how hard you’re willing to dig in to get there. Ambition, belief and courage epitomise those who succeed in the face of adversity.

Life is full of setbacks if you go for it. “Pain or damage don’t end the world. Or despair, or beatings. The world ends when you’re dead. Until then, you got more punishment in store. Stand it like a man...and give some back.” That’s Actor Ian McShane’s character, Al Swearengen in the HBO’s Shakespearean western Deadwood. If you are going through hell, pin your ears back and keep on driving right through to the other side. American baseball legend Yogi Berra said it well: “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” And if it is, go again.”


Monday, February 10, 2020

Wisdom from Nicaragua

I met a smart young man last week in Grand Cayman.  A Nicaraguan – called Fred (really)!!!  A hardworking, ambitious lad who told me about growing up in Nicaragua (and all about his love of baseball) and sharing stories of family / school / working life.

He respected and loved his Father, who had taught him many things – one thing stood out for me.  His Father told him “The son of the Tiger is born with stripes”.  Thank you Fred – and your Dad.

And cheers to my two striped ones, Ben and Dan.


Friday, February 7, 2020

Foodie Friday. A Nod to Blue.

Éric Ripert is one of the best seafood chefs on the planet.  His NYC flagship is a favourite of mine – Le Bernardin; currently ranked No. 17 in the World’s Top 50 list and a three-star Michelin since 2006.  (He was also the one who found Anthony Bourdain dead from hanging two years ago in a Strasbourg hotel.)

Éric has a partnership with The Ritz Carlton on Grand Cayman on Blue by Éric Ripert.  A decadent local seafood experience.  We ate there twice last week – our fourth visit.

Here are the two tasting menus - Éric Ripert and Blue.

The Tuna Foie Gras is one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten.  And the wine list has classic White French Burgundies to enhance the food.



Tuesday, February 4, 2020

What, Me Worry?

A new study on international happiness found that people are most miserable at 47 years of age.

And the good (well great) news, our happiest times come back – in our seventies.

The research shows happiness going into a free-fall from our peak optimism at 18 years old, via thirty, flirty and thriving to bottoming out in the late 40’s – when we realise we won’t be an All Black, an astronaut, a rock-star, a world changing philanthropist – or even a mortgage free home owner.

A midlife slump is awaiting us – and chimpanzees and orangutans also hit the same midlife slump.

Our values and our brains change.

We start out hard-wired for social competition, belief, hope and ambition.  But our ambition is a trickster – it never lets up and by midlife we feel disappointed, no matter how far we’ve come.  (And of course the sex hormones also start declining for men and women.)

But there really is hope.

With time, happiness perks back up again, according to this new research.  In fact happiness climbs back to heights seen only in our 20’s once more in our 70’s.

So no matter how dark the middle ages seem, hold on – the Happiness Curve will see you right.

As the t-shirt says “Ol’ Men Rule!”.

(Check out Jonathan Rouch’s book ‘The Happiness Curve’.)