Haulage, Highwire and Holiday

Cornish Riviera

You may have noticed I’ve been away on holiday. The gorgeous silence emanating from here plus the profusion of holiday snaps on Instagram were two helpful clues. We’ve had a super time in Cornwall, helped along by some fabulous warm sunny summer weather. As I collect my thoughts and prepare to depart for Chicago to speak at Illinois SHRM 2013 in a couple of days time, I would like to share a random bunch of thoughts that percolated to the top of my mind while we were away.


We decided to travel without a car this year. Cornwall is not known for its abundance of public transport links but we figured we could make it work and if all else failed, we’d hire a car for a day or two. In the end, no car was necessary, as with just a smidgen of planning we managed to get everywhere we wanted by train, bus and ferry boat. We first took the train to Penzance (lovely) from where we visited Lands End, Sennen Cove, St Ives, St Michael’s Mount and enjoyed frequent trips to neighbouring Newlyn. We mostly used buses to get about plus a couple of good long walks and a short train journey. We next caught a train to St Austell (not lovely, sorry but that’s how it is) from where we visited The Eden Project, Mevagissey and Fowey. This leg of the journey was covered using buses and a ferry.

I guess the reason I wanted to scribble this note down is that here in the UK, every summer we hear about nightmare traffic jams into and out of Cornwall, as holiday makers pour into an increasingly narrow strip of land. Maybe next time you head off on holiday, take a look and see what other transport alternatives are available instead of defaulting to the car? When you’re not driving, you experience things at a different pace, and the trips themselves become a part of the holiday rather than simply getting from A to B. We did make one big mistake, and that was to cram all our stuff into two biiiig suitcases. Lugging those from London – Penzance – St Austell – London was not fun, shoulder massage please.


On arrival at the Eden Project Keira immediately wanted to ride the zip wire. The wire is about 500 metres long and 90 metres high as it whizzes you right over the Eden Project domes. The holiday was full of enthusiasm so we all agreed to try it and hopped on the bus to take us to the jump off point. During the safety briefing Carole and I exchanged a coupe of nervous glances and laughs, then we climbed the tower to the jump off point. I’m OK (ish) with heights but to see the whole of the Eden Project laid out at your feet while peering at a thumbnail sized landing spot way off in the distance is quite the sight to behold. Somehow I ended up being the first of the three of us to jump. In that instant at the edge of the platform my stomach knotted and a million reasons why I should not do this crazy thing filled my head.

Quickly, before I got to reason number one million and one, I jumped and flew across the Eden Project. About halfway across I relaxed my grip a little and a few seconds later it was all over. Keira followed, arms waving, enjoying every second, and I managed to get to my phone (they pack up and transport all your stuff separately so nothing falls out of pockets etc) and film Carole’s journey. If you watch the video below (it’s only 48 seconds) you get a sense of the scale of the ride. For most of the film, Carole is a barely discernable teeny pinpoint in the distance. The ride was a great experience for three reasons. The initial step off the platform was a great ‘overcoming your fear’ moment, the ride and the view itself was breathtaking, and watching Carole manage to take the leap, and seeing Keira attack the ride with such enthusiasm was hugely affirming.


I hadn’t appreciated how much we needed a break until the train pulled out of Paddington and we all began to relax. Keira’s had another successful and busy year at school, Carole works really hard on planning and delivering her swimming teaching, and since last year we’ve all rallied round to sort out the mound of paperwork involved in finalising Dad’s affairs, and keep What Goes Around, going around. I have nothing to gain from constructing some false life-veneer that shines with artificial brightness, so I’m not going to. As enjoyable as work and life can be, it is also tough, and you need to change, the pace, the place and the purpose periodically to really feel alive.

Seth Godin is attributed with this quote. “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Now, I think a little of what Seth has to say is of interest, but not this. In fact this quote is my reason number 72 in the ongoing series, ‘Why Seth Godin ain’t so smart’. Thanks but no thanks Seth, I love my life; humps, bumps, ascents, descents, peaks, troughs, losses, loves and escapes.

Here’s a quick Flipagram to give you a feel for what we’ve enjoyed these past twelve days or so. Next stop, Chicago!

photo credit

Tiffany’s Message

Tiffanys Message

I was invited to speak at Morgan Lovell’s Economics of Workplace Wellbeing event last week. It was great fun and I will share some slides and thoughts from the session on here soon. For now I want to focus on one small and important thing. On the day I spoke about my belief that flow beats work life balance. Neither are achievable all the time and I think that a state of flow is preferable as it truly aids presence, your ability to be fully engaged in what you are doing, right here, right now.

One of the key ingredients for flow, is confidence. Confidence that you don’t need to be worrying about what’s happening elsewhere because you and your team have got it covered, to the extent that anyone can have. So why worry?

During the talk, I asked the audience a question, ‘How many of you take your work laptop or crackberry away with you on holiday?’ There was a gentle buzz of mildly embarrassed laughter from the crowd as we learned that 70% of the people in the room do just that. Next, I read out a beautiful example of an ‘out of office’ message I had received just a few days earlier from Tiffany:

I am out of the office on vacation. To ensure my laptop and Blackberry are not damaged by salt water, beach sand, shrimp tails and crab leg shells, they have been left at home. Therefore, I will not be checking email nor will I be answering the phone.

I return to the office Tuesday February 5 and will respond to your inquiry at my earliest opportunity.

Thank you, 


Underneath Tiffany’s name was an email address for her team, so if you really couldn’t wait for her to get back from holiday and help, you had a simple way of making contact.

As I read Tiffany’s message, smiles broke out everywhere. Her note is engaging, funny and clear, and it subtly points the way toward further assistance should it be required. I think the main reasons for the smiles was a realisation that for most of us, Tiffany’s message could be our message if we wanted it to be. Let’s face it, in the overall scheme of things you’re really not that important. Except maybe to that group of people you’ve gone on holiday with, so why not be with them.

photo credit

Flamenco – 2012 Holiday Postcard #6

This is the last card in my 2012 holiday set. Through our time in Spain I attempted to sketch and draw and paint something to do with flamenco. I was inspired by a group of ladies who just started to dance spontaneously in a Malaga street on the s…

This is the last card in my 2012 holiday set. Through our time in Spain I attempted to sketch and draw and paint something to do with flamenco. I was inspired by a group of ladies who just started to dance spontaneously in a Malaga street on the second day of our visit.

I didn’t try and recapture what I saw in Malaga, but the harder I tried to make something happen the quicker I got nowhere – save for the odd line and swish swoosh I couldn’t get to grips with how to show flamenco at all. I got stuck and temporarily abandoned the idea. Towards the end of our break I was playing with one of my favourite colours, Windsor Violet, and something took shape. This wasn’t what I’d originally set out to achieve but there is something about it I like. I hope you can find something in it for you too.