Gathering Moss: The Natural and Cultural History of Mosses

Beautifully written lessons about more than moss. Learn how to find beauty in detail. The velue of community. How to be small and succeed.

Reciprocity. Empathy. Chance. Choices.

Kimmerer has a way with words, she is a storyteller as well as a scientist. As much bard as bryologist.

A perfect book to fall into on a rainy day.

Firewalk – your help and support needed

I’m doing a firewalk this Saturday. Where I have to walk on … fire. I’m not 100% convinced I’ve thought this through, but please read on as I’d like you to play an important part……

It’s in aid of Cambridge Rape Crisis.Centre, and takes place this Saturday 7th March.

Some blunt notes:-

1. This is a damn good cause

2. I need to raise a certain amount of money to participate

3. If you’re able and willing to sponsor me up to £25 I’d be incredibly grateful.

4. If you’re able and willing to sponsor me for an amount over £25 then I’ll work out some sort of appropriate marketing-related-advice/support deal for you as an extra thank you.

5. If you’ve had any personal value whatsoever from my emails, whether you’re a new subscriber or have read any of the hundreds of pieces of free advice I’ve sent you since 2012… treat this as an easy way of showing appreciation.

Any amount is appreciated – please just email and let me know how you’re able to help.


Aún aprendo – a shortlist for a better life

Fransisco Goya's "Aún aprendo"

Fransisco Goya’s “Aún aprendo”

“Aun aprendo” declared Goya in his 80th year with his deft pencil strokes. “Still learning”.

Although aged and ailing, he knew there was always more to discover; greater experiences to be had, perhaps even a truer person to become.

“Sight and pulse, pen and inkwell, everything fails me and only my will is to spare” he wrote to Joaquin Ferrer in 1825. It seems almost trite to summarise it as “where there’s a will there’s a way” but, if we cannot create a will, a desire to grow, to exist, to be – then the only alternative is to stagnate or regress.

Yet more contradictions, of course. You must be content with your life. Happy to be. As Brené Brown might put it: You are enough”. But this contentment can also lead to a state of growth: you can be both happy in this moment and positive about – not to mention actively developing and creating – your future.

If it sounds exhausting, it isn’t. Trust me. There is nothing more draining than stagnation. Nothing will suck you down faster than the debilitating quicksand of self-pity and regression. If you want proof, it’s everywhere. Look around. The people with the energy are the ones who are using energy in the first place. They’re learning, creating, developing, embracing life. The ‘annoying’ person who seems to get up at 6, go for a run and still get more work done, with more enthusiasm than you? That’s not a coincidence.

The drawn-out, tired-eyed giver-uppers who crowd our trains, cram our streets and fill our offices: the people whose mere presence saps your very soul… they are the ones who are neither happy with today, nor optimistic for tomorrow.

Less talk. More action.

It’s too easy for people like me to write, moralise, preach. What can you actually do? How can you take positive, specific steps to create and maintain a powerful, energetic momentum in your life?

Here’s my open-to-debate shortlist – what would you add?


You are what you eat. If you eat crap, you’ll feel crap. That’s not a tough concept, nor is it a revolutionary one. If you’ve got kids, feed them nothing but sweets and Coca Cola for a day, see how they get on. You already know, of course. So why haven’t you made the link between that and your eating/behaviour habits? Be healthy: be happy. You don’t have to be dull, or obsessive, or paranoid. Just think about how you are fuelling your body, your life.


Walk, run, cycle, swim. Go to the gym. Do some yoga or pilates. Take-up kickboxing or trampolining. It doesn’t matter. DO SOMETHING.


How much do you need? Six, seven, eight hours? It varies from person to person. Focus on a maximum as well as a minimum – I find that once I get above a certain number of hours I am actually less productive. There is a possibility that the cause of ten hours of unconsciousness could have an effect – but let’s not overanalyse. Listen to your body, learn about its habits.

Try a countdown timer instead of an alarm if you can, although you need to discipline yourself the night before – but that’s half the point. Instead of choosing a time to wake-up, choose an amount of sleep. Start the countdown on, say, eight hours and go to bed. You wake-up when you’ve had your allotted sleep.

Move your phone away from your bed. Properly away – the other side of the room. This has two benefits:-

  1. Firstly, you can’t lie in bed checking your email / Facebook / reading the news. Seriously, what the hell’s wrong with you?
  2. You have to actually get-up to turn off your alarm. If you struggle to get-up in the mornings, this is probably the single most effective way to solve the problem.

Speaking of struggling to get-up – let’s all be grown-ups and ditch the “Oh, but I’m really not a morning person” excuse. Of course you’re not: because you keep going on about it. Shut-up, get up, and get on with your life.


Listen. Sing. Dance. It’s great.

Share & help

Make other people’s lives better, and your own will improve immeasurably. Don’t begrudge your colleague’s request, the client’s “stupid” question, the supplier’s difficulty. Don’t walk past problems on the street, don’t ignore the abundance of misery in society: change something. Help someone. It takes just a tiny gesture – a smile or a kind comment even. How much and what you do is entirely up to you and can be done as privately or as publicly as you wish.

Make someone’s world better today, and make yours better forever.

Be a busy person

This is a slight chicken-and-egg thing – because if you’re struggling with motivation then adding to your burden might be difficult. This might depend on your personality (and how you decide to develop, grow and control it), but personally I find the busier I am the more I achieve.

Parkinson’s law states that “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Whether you’re trying to send a postcard to your niece in Bognor Regis or running the country, you will use whatever time you have available.

Efficiencies are often created from necessity. Make yourself have to be efficient and organised and you will probably become so. You’d better, anyway.

Take small, positive, achievable steps

Create habits. Small habits. Work backwards. If your goal is to increase your sales by 30%, what’s the smallest thing you have to do every day to achieve that? Nobody just “increases sales”. But my overused example of phoning one old contact every day will take you in the right direction.

Don’t feel guilty about asking yourself what is the simplest way to begin solving a problem – and there already is a simplest way staring you in the face.

Useful tip here: the simplest way probably won’t involve the latest app which just happened to be released when you were thinking about the problem. It probably won’t involve installing software or setting up complex systems.

For example, if you are trying to take control of your time and task management it’s unlikely that spending a couple of days researching, testing and setting-up software is going to help you. You’re already busy, so why not do some work?

Make a commitment to yourself for tomorrow morning, say, or even do it now. Take a piece of blank paper and write down the three most important things you have to do. The fact they’re at the front of your mind means they’re important: don’t overthink this. Then either spend fifteen to thirty minutes on each, or work until they’re done. Do that every day and you’d be surprised how much you get done.

Anyway… this isn’t a time management blog post. But you get the idea – identify small steps in the simplest way and take action. Once you’ve done it once you’ll realise how easy it actually is, which will lower the barrier to starting it next time.

Give your life meaning

Well. This is an easy problem to solve in a couple of paragraphs.

Of course, there’s no single answer, nor are there forty-two answers. Giving your life meaning is not a goal or a target, it is a way of being. It’s not necessarily about creating a legacy or becoming a hero (not in the traditional sense, anyway).

It’s about being true to yourself. “Being that self which one truly is”, to return to my old friend Kierkegaard.

Don’t live a lie. Don’t exist in a bubble. Be positive. Active. Happy. Make change happen.

Get on with it.


It’s not that hard to do.


What would you add? Comment below, or email

The unselfish nature of happiness – why do you run your business?

It’s quiz time!


Q. Why do you run your business?


Think about it for a minute. What answers do you give?


I’d like to propose one which might not have crossed your mind:-


A. I run my business to make myself happy.


Frankly, if that’s not the answer, if you’re not happy or at least trying to be, you’re no use to anyone.

You might as well give-up now. Quit. Make the world a better place by shutting-up shop.


Otherwise you’re just an unmotivated. Unproductive. Un … happy. Individual.

And, let’s be honest, you’re not even an individual, because lots of people are unhappy and all the unhappy people in the world keep on unhappily, stupidly, doing things which keep making them – and everyone else in their lives – unhappy.

But what about the REAL reasons?

There are, of course, many other, ‘real’ reasons (real in the sense they’re less likely to result in a raised eyebrow when you explain them at a party) you could give for running a business: to make money, create a specific sort of life, for social good, to build an empire, gain respect, share your skills and knowledge, create a legacy. And they’re all fine.

But none of those on their own mean anything if you aren’t creating a fundamentally happy life for yourself – so that seems a good place for you to start.

It’s not selfish to want to be happy.


It’s not selfish to care about your own wellbeing. It’s not selfish to put yourself into a position where you are best-placed to help others.

Frankly, it’s selfish to consider anything else. You’re not going to be at your best if you’re stressed, miserable, tired, ill. So if you want to create that legacy, build the empire, earn the money, help the world: give yourself the best possible chance and get the most important tool – yourself – functioning properly.

Why I’m doing a firewalk in March (or, rather, why I’m able to do one)


Yes, I mean the thing where you traipse barefoot across hot coals.

(Yes, I’ll be bugging you for sponsorship.)

Firewalking isn’t on my bucket list. I don’t have a bucket list, for a start. If I did, maybe I’d be doing something else on the 7th March. Maybe I’d have had to turn down the opportunity.

Instead, I’ve got a fantastic chance, on my doorstep, to do something I’ll remember (and bore people with) for the rest of my life.

Experiences aren’t about tick-lists, checkboxes and specifics. I don’t like the idea of a preconceived list of every dramatic experience I expect myself to have.

Make yourself happy by creating a life where you allow and enable yourself to simply be. That’s it, there’s no extra word in that sentence. Just allow yourself to be. To exist in the moment. This moment, right now.


More on that in a minute. Back to the original question. It’s related.


Why do you bother running your own business? What’s the point? What are you changing? What difference are you actually making?

Do you want more money? More flexibility? More free time? More holidays?

How’s that working out for you?

Maybe you want to actually change the world.

How’s that working out for you?

Without a fundamental, specific understanding of what you want to achieve, how are you going to qualify your success?

Do you need to qualify your success?

Happiness, satisfaction, contentment cannot – I believe – be measured by a bullet point in a business plan, nor by a number on a spreadsheet (nor, for that matter, by a number on a bank account).

Happiness is not a goal or a destination: it is a process. A way of being.

Happiness is planting, tending, nurturing, smelling, appreciating the rose; it is not buying one – or seven, or fourteen or three-hundred-and-sixty-five … ready-grown, ready-cut from the florist – for when you do that you’ll simply have to buy another next week when it dies or, if you lack imagination and spontaneity, next Valentine’s Day.

Happiness is about growth. It is about being.

It is about existing.

It is about looking at your life like a map, not a sat nav. There is no single route. No direct road to your destination. There are detours and diversions. Places Of Interest. Villages with exciting names and those welcome Ordnance Survey blue ‘pub’ symbols which invite exploration.

The limiting nature of specific ambitions

Let’s say you run your business purely to make as much money as possible. You have a goal of earning a certain amount a month. That’s great, and it’s important to have specific targets. But you can still achieve that with the overriding goal of happiness. The difference is in your approach.


  1. I need to earn £10,000 a month to consider myself successful
  2. I want to be happy. One aspect of becoming happy requires me to earn £10,000 a month which will enable me to do the things which will help me to become happy*

* e.g. holidays, champagne, helping charity, paying off your mortgage… it doesn’t particularly matter, and it doesn’t have to be worthy. It does have to be important to you.

If your sole goal is money then it will affect the decisions you make. Every opportunity is evaluated on its financial return: but the kicker is that not every opportunity is so clear-cut. Sometimes it’s the unprofitable things you do today which turn out to be surprisingly important tomorrow.

If your sole focus is money, then your moral stance, who you really are, what you believe in, are all in danger of becoming flexible. We’ve all seen what happens – what is happening – with individuals, companies, economies whose sole purpose is the gathering of wealth.

When you add in the ‘limiting’ factor of happiness you challenge yourself to make your moral compass a key factor in the direction your business takes.

See? It’s like the bucket list thing. It’s like the sat nav thing. If you are totally focused on a specific direction then you will miss out on so much. You’ll end up taking the articulated lorry of your life down the narrow country lane of unfulfilment.

Goals or processes?

So we have a slight contradiction: on the one hand I’m suggesting your reason for running your business, your goal, is to make yourself happy. But I’m also saying happiness isn’t a specific goal you can achieve.




Processes, systems, ways of being and existing, whatever you want to call them, are about happiness. They’ll create results. Get the habits right and the rest will follow. Speak to people. Send emails every day. Tweet. Connect. Help.

You could find an hour of your time to help one struggling business for free every week. You could introduce two people every week who you think might get on, even though they’ve not asked you to. You could actually reply to that person in your Twitter feed who’s reaching out for help. And you could help them. Go for a walk. Get some fresh air. Write down five positive things about your business, why you’re running it, who you’re helping.

This won’t earn you money. It won’t build your empire, although it’ll all help in some way. It’ll make people talk about you. It’ll make people remember you. It’ll make you feel good. And that’s the important bit.


You can help to create a happy life for yourself by running a good business. A positive business. An honest business. Do a good job at a fair price (fair can mean high, by the way, just so long as everyone’s happy). Look after your staff, look after your customers, look after your community, the world around you. There isn’t an end-goal, it’s not a zero sum game. That’s the beauty of happiness: it benefits everyone.

You don’t become happy and then stop, just like you don’t get to 70mph on the motorway and take your foot off the accelerator. You keep things going.

Charity begins at home

Back to the question, or rather the answer. Let’s start with what appears – on the surface – to be a selfish thing to do. Make yourself happy. Charity begins at home, if you like.

Life can be pretty simple on the surface.

It makes me happy when I buy the Big Issue from Ed – the guy on New Square Park who always says hello whether I cycle past him or stop for copy. But … I have to earn the money to buy it. That’s not a lot, but it has to happen.

But not just the money: and it almost sounds pathetic to type it, but I have to be happy enough to not cycle past, not just ignore the problem he represents (even in his positive way) … I have to create a life where I’m not simply drowning in woe but am in a position to pause, even just for a moment, even for just two pounds fifty.

Whether you want to create a life which enables you to buy a copy of the Big Issue every week, take yourself off on holiday every year (and seriously, there’s nothing wrong with that – do it.), build the empire, empower the staff. Whatever. You have to create the motivation, the confidence, the happiness to put yourself out there on the frankly terrifying pedestal of public display which is the inevitable result of creating your own business: of exposing your vulnerability.

Of creating your own life.

If you’re going to risk all that, you might as well enjoy it.

Good on you – stay happy, won’t you?


If you’ve got any thoughts, comment below or email me –

The Six Mistakes of People

Marcus Tullius Cicero was a Roman philosopher, among other things (he was a politician too, but we won’t hold it against him).

Among his writing includes ‘The Six Mistakes Of Man’, which roughly translate as follows:-

  1. Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others;
  2. Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected;
  3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it;
  4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences;
  5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind;
  6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do

(It applies to women, too, by the way…)

1. Believing that personal gain is made by crushing others

I’ve talked before about my dislike of the idea of ‘winning’ business, as if it’s a battle, a war where there is a victor and a loser.

You don’t build good businesses by crushing your customers. You might make a decent profit in the short term, but I’m not convinced it’s worth it.

You don’t build good businesses by exploiting your staff, undermining your colleagues or misleading your boss.

You build a good business by understanding, sharing, helping, working together.

It’s hard to see this point becoming any less fundamental in the future as populations grow, as everyone has to start living – and working, and functioning – even closer together than they do now.

There are difficulties: firstly it can be a hard line to take when you can see the ‘crushers’ are ‘winning’. That can be hard to deal with, even if you understand you’re taking the long-term view.

Secondly, it’s tough: you might look weak in “society’s” eyes; you might even feel weak. People might not trust you – especially in some industries. I’ve worked with people before now who assume every move you make is an attempt to beat them in some way; because that was how they operated the assumption was everyone else does. Note the past tense about our relationships.

When you crush someone, you gain for a short while. Then you have to crush someone else to keep up the momentum. When you work with someone, when you both win, you have made your life better and their life better – and it’s more likely to be a long-term positive. These little ripples can, and will, spread.

I have a feeling I’m preaching to the converted a little here: but take some time today to have a look at some small steps you can make to make life better for you, your customers, staff, colleagues, bosses and anyone else you can think of.

2. Worrying about things that cannot be changed or corrected

You can’t force the country out of a recession. You can’t stop tube strikes. You can’t force down postage costs. You can’t control what your competitors are doing.

You can control which situations you worry about, and how you react to them. I’m not suggesting you attempt to eliminate empathy and emotion from your life, but try to learn which battles to pick, where to focus your limited time and energy.

Let’s say the price of a stamp doubles overnight, but direct mail is a critical part of your marketing. What do you do? You could write to the paper, moan on Facebook, complain to Royal Mail, stomp around delivering angry rants to anyone who will listen.

Or… you could work out a way of making your direct mail more effective. Spend more time sending more personalised messages. Source better data. Write better copy.

Both options will probably use similar amounts of energy. Which is more productive?

I frequently talk to people are are worrying what their competitors are doing – constantly trying to “keep-up with the Jones’s” instead of having the confidence to follow their own ideas. Take the plunge. Do what you want to do.

Linked to this is worrying about things you’ve done that are now beyond your control. Once the email is sent, it’s gone. Once the pitch has been given and the quote sent, it’s gone. Worrying about these things can not only waste your energy but be actively counterproductive: you might worry so much about the price you quoted that you follow-up with a discount, even though the client was going to accept your original price.

If you can’t do something to affect what you’re worrying about, move on. If you can do something – do it.

3. Insisting that a thing is impossible because we cannot accomplish it

“Oh, I’ve tried that, it doesn’t work.”

I’ve heard that said about just about every aspect of marketing (and many other things) I can think of. Advertising doesn’t work because we put an ad in the local paper and didn’t get any responses. Direct mail doesn’t work because we once sent some letters out and didn’t hear a thing. And so on.

It’s an interesting idea: you have convinced yourself you have done something so perfectly the first time you try it that you can make a reliable decision that the ‘thing’ is impossible, rather than you are not yet good at it.

Most people don’t apply the principle to other areas of life: otherwise everyone would give-up driving a car after the first lesson; stop trying to swim after the first splashing attempts; not bother to read because the squiggles don’t make sense; throw away the tennis racket after another attempted serve goes into the net.

A desire to learn, a desire to overcome the ‘impossible’, to accomplish, achieve – this desire is what separates people who succeed from people don’t don’t, whatever measure of success (wealth, health, happiness, speed etc.) you choose to use.

Perhaps it’s more to do with the encouragement we receive when learning something ‘worthwhile’ as opposed to the occasionally lonely life of running a business. You get much more encouragement, in other words, when you try and run a marathon than when you try and run a marketing campaign.

Ultimately you can do almost anything you want to do. You can dig yourself out of the rut you’re in, add another zero to your income, reduce your working hours, make the failed advertising campaign work next time. Perhaps you just need a little help, a little encouragement?

4. Refusing to set aside trivial preferences

You’ll be familiar with this problem if any part of your work or personal life involves interacting with another human being in any way.

Most people are habit-forming by nature. They have quirks, ideologies, beliefs, preferences, whatever you want to call it. Ways they like things done. I do, and you no doubt do as well.

This is fine, and to be expected, but problems arise when these little ‘preferences’ start to hold you back.

These are often rooted in history: normally some bad experience in your past has caused the problem. From a marketing perspective I’ve come across people refusing to use, amongst other things, focus groups, SEO, Google Adwords, local advertising, telesales … actually, pretty much everything. The reason is almost always to do with something going wrong in the past.

Of course it might not matter too much. It’s fine to hate, say, direct mail and never touch it – as long as you do something else to promote your business instead. Sometimes, however, these trivial preferences will have a seriously negative effect on business and relationships.

When, though, does a trivial preference become a conscious decision? Example: I don’t like to travel for meetings. This could be argued as a trivial preference based on the fact I have done it in the past and didn’t like it. On the other hand it was a decision taken after thought and discussion. A rational choice, in other words. I think!

This balance between a preference and a principle is key; the difference perhaps is the amount of thought you have put into it. A preference based on a gut reaction or accidental habit can be damaging; one built around experience, knowledge and thought can be powerful.

Preferences – preferred ways of doing things – are fine, in other words. It’s the ‘trivial’ bit you’ve got to watch out for.

5. Neglecting development and refinement of the mind

My dad is a wonderful singer and guitarist – he’s been singing and playing his entire life. But he still has singing lessons.

Sports professional keep on training, keep on practising, even when they’ve reached the pinnacle of their profession.

These people push themselves further, harder, every day. Yet when it comes to the mind many people are happy to remain relatively unchallenged.

Let’s get this straight: reading something you agree with a newspaper that shares your views isn’t really developing your mind. Following people on Twitter who confirm your worldly views isn’t developing your mind.

How often do you look at something with utter incomprehension and force yourself to work it out?

Linked to my opening sentence, I’ve been dealing with this with music over the last twelve months or so, having waited until my 30s to even consider the fact it might be something I could be good at. To me the idea of playing the same song in different keys was just baffling. After a lot of reading, practising, not to mention Youtube videos, suddenly everything clicked, it all fell into place.

Here’s a rule of thumb: if you don’t regularly find yourself standing around in an utter daze because you simply cannot work out how on earth something works, or what you should do next then you’re probably not learning very much.

Challenge yourself. Learn. Read. Watch. Consume. Learn about things you think you dislike, or understand opinions you disagree with. Don’t fall into the ‘pottering’ trap where another year goes by and everything’s still the same.

6. Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do

Now this is a tricky one – for what is marketing if not an attempt to compel others to follow your lead? Believe me, it’s something I wrestle with on a daily basis but we’ll go deeper into ‘marketing morals’ another day.

Where do you draw the line? Arguably almost every time you talk you are revealing your opinions. And when you start sending letters and emails to people, when you start calling and visiting them… well, it’s clear-cut isn’t it?

Similarly it’s tough to run a business without making sure your staff work as you want them to.

The difference, I suppose, is boundaries. I give people the option to read what I write. I don’t hound ‘unsubscribers’, I don’t bully people into reading the emails. If they’re good enough, interesting enough, they get read. If not, they don’t.

Perhaps a more positive take on the ‘rule’ is “Make yourself interesting enough for people to want to find out more”.

There’s the difference: the key word, ‘compel’ … “bring about (something) by the use of force or pressure” …”force or oblige (someone) to do something”.

This is what creating a brand or a workplace culture is all about: people want to work for you, they want to be associated with your brand by purchasing from you, they believe in the success you will bring them.

To my mind, in business, ‘compel’ = ‘mislead’. Getting your way through weasel words, dishonesty, scams and so on.

Honesty and transparency are the difference. Putting across your point, selling your products and services, promoting your company in a clear, honest way is a long-term strategy (and, quite simply, the right way to do things – honesty shouldn’t be a ‘strategy’!). Fooling people into buying from you is not.

All Change

And so 2014 begins to draw to a close. It’s been quite a year – I began it pretty optimistically hiding away in Cornwall and I’m ending it incredibly optimistically by starting a brand new life in Cambridge. A new focus on the business, a new desire to meet people, join in, share, help, collaborate, work together.

It starts with a new website – or rather it started with a decision to lead blindly out of my comfort zone into something new and continues with a new website. A clearer view of how I want to be seen, what I want to offer, who I want to work with. And of course, where. I’m still happy to work with anyone around the country (/world) but my focus is going to be more on Cambridge and London in the near future.

Exciting times. Let’s see what happens next…