Feel The Fear : And Do It Anyway

The Brook is a lovely community arts venue, bar and restaurant, owned by Andy and Thea Brook. As a family we started visiting The Brook about two and a half years ago. Since then Keira has had a birthday party there, I’ve hidden free art there several times, and we’ve enjoyed food, drink and music more times than I can remember.

On June 1st 2017 – having dithered over the idea of performing live there for several weeks, I delivered my first faltering open mic night performance at The Brook. I survived week one, and came back again, and again, and again, having resolved to persist, and over time, to experiment with an ever expanding body of songs.

Since that first performance in June, there have been 32 open mic nights, and I’ve only missed four of them. Despite being a nervous performer, I’ve persisted with this project largely because of the welcoming atmosphere, nurtured by everyone in the room, and led chiefly by Dan Smith. Dan takes care of sound and set up – and is a master cajon player, regularly providing the beats for numerous acts. The crowd offers encouragement, any criticism is left to the performer. As the weeks progressed I noticed I became more accepting  of this encouragement and began to use it as building blocks for more adventurous work.

Life has been pretty up and down (in some ways much more down than up) over the past year or so, and open mic night has served me well as a safe and encouraging place, sometimes just to relax, other times to go nuts. I’ve enjoyed the experience enormously, and while I felt sad when hearing the news of the closure – I quickly decided to make the most of the time left, rather than mourn the passing of something I’ve grown to love.

On December 28th 2017, I and many others, played there for one last time. After serving the local community for five years, The Brook in Wallington closes its doors tonight (Dec 31st) – before reopening in Hackney in January 2018.

This has been an excellent adventure. I’ve grown to enjoy performing, I’ve made some good friends and listened to lots of amazing live music, thanks everyone. This chapter now closes, and we are looking forward to what promises to be one hell of a New Year’s Eve party.

Photo above by Peter Ball

Footnote: Songs I can Remember Playing.

  • When I Grow Up* : Tim Minchin
  • Where In The Hell Did You Go With My Toothbrush* : Reverend Horton Heat
  • Bankrobber *: The Clash
  • Wreck Of The Old 97* : G B Grayson, Henry Whitter
  • I Met A Man : Various Artists
  • Midnight Special* : Traditional (I played guitar, accompanying Keira)
  • Royals : Lorde (I played guitar, accompanying Keira
  • Sound of The Suburbs : The Members
  • Does Your Chewing Gum Lose It’s Flavour : Lonnie Donegan
  • Watching The Detectives* : Elvis Costello
  • Speed of The Sound of Loneliness : John Prine
  • Pretty in Pink : Psychedelic Furs
  • Green Green Grass of Home : Curly Putman
  • City of New Orleans* : Steve Goodman
  • Good Year For The Roses* : Jerry Chesnut
  • Down In The Tube Station : Paul Weller
  • Bela Lugosi’s Dead : Bauhaus
  • Top Of The Pops : The Rezillos
  • Wallington Prison Blues* : Johnny Cash
  • Highway To Hell : Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott
  • It’s A Long Way To The Top : Angus Young, Malcolm Young, Bon Scott
  • Pablo Picasso : Writer Unknown (I played as guest guitarist on this one)
  • Disco Man : The Damned
  • Dozen Girls : The Damned
  • Sound of The Suburbs : The Members
  • Peter Pumpkinhead : Xtc
  • Ever Fallen In Love : The Buzzcocks
  • Wait For The Blackout : The Damned
  • There Ain’t No Sanity Clause : The Damned
  • White Christmas : Irving Berlin
  • Sign Of The Times : Harry Styles and others (I played guitar, accompanying Keira)
  • Stay Free : The Clash

* indicates a song played on multiple separate occasions over the seven month period.


Rewarding Through Development

Neil Morrison raised an interesting question this week on his blog, why is there so little talk about reward? He gave me the opportunity to rant (again?!) about pay secrecy and why I think it sucks, and Lee Haury chipped in too with a great point about balanced scorecards, performance management and the twisted way they link to pay and screw up team performance at the same time. Well worth a read.

I also checked in over at Paul Hebert‘s place and read a good piece on why even though a lot of managers rate cash as king when it comes to incentives, it isn’t the best award, experiences are. I agree with Paul that cash is a lousy motivator beyond having enough, and for sure the sense of entitlement it creates is a biiig problem. My recent trip to the US earned me enough money – but for sure it was all the experiences I soaked up along the way that motivate me and energise and engage me.

This stuff has got me thinking about if and how development could be a more important part of the reward picture. Personal and career development opportunities, and particularly the lack of them, often comes up as a problem in employee surveys, and I don’t see much evidence of the problem being addressed. Could the idea of being given complete flexibility and choice over your some or even all of your development budget be a great way of recognising/motivating people?

I think this should go over and above the oft quoted ‘Google 20% time‘, in so far as it could extend to whatever development the individual felt would be helpful. So if someone wants to learn bookbinding, let them. If someone wants to learn to paint, let them. If someone wants to learn to cook, coach, build spreadsheets (seriously??), develop products, study law, ride a bike, let them. Can we devise a simple scheme whereby the employer provides access and investment both financially and through making time available to people, as a means of rewarding performance?

I’d like to think creative, clever people would be attracted to an employer who offered that kind of latitude around personal development in the belief that happy people with chances to self determine would be more likely to deliver better business results. How about it? And if you already see it going on, how’s it working out?

photo credit

Serious About Performance

Gareth and I have recently started working with an interesting company called Careergro. They are in the field of employee owned career development and as part of our initial working together, we’ve been discussing the similarities and differences between career development and performance appraisals.

So I’m grateful to Felix Wetzel for sharing a great talk from TEDxPortsmouth over on Google Plus. It’s called Serious About Performance, by the sports and business coach Dr Chris Shambrook. I’ve embedded the talk down below so you can take a look if the following observations from it interest you. And even if they don’t, it’s worth a watch for a fantastic sporting analogy (around five minutes into the film).

Defining Performance

Dr Chris says that in most companies, people wrongly think that performance = results. Wrong! Results are output, they are goals (usually set for you) and how you are doing against those goals. Performance is about doing the things you need to do to get out what you want. Performance is input and output. It is about understanding your potential and developing it so that you achieve the best results you can.


In the workplace, performance improvement is almost universally seen as a bad thing, as a problem. Dr Chris thinks everyone should have a performance improvement plan – that we should seek it out, demand it and use it as a way of helping us fulfil our potential. I think that’s a much healthier attitude and when practiced, quickly integrates performance and career development.

Static versus Flow

Usually, performance is appraised annually. I feel sick just writing that last sentence, performance needs evaluating all the time. The annual appraisal sucks – I know no one who looks forward to giving or receiving one. Feedback needs to be regular – and seek it out. Otherwise, Dr Chris says it’s just a euphemism for criticism.

Weakness versus Strength

Most people leave their performance reviews with a clear understanding of their inadequacies. To achieve high performance you must focus on strengths. How can I deliberately and consistently make strong into stronger. Then, and only then, should I address my weaknesses.

Money as a Motivator

Dr Chris says ‘we start incentivising people to do behaviours and start manipulating them by introducing money’. When money is used as a motivator for results in sport, it’s when corruption is present. He uses cricket and match fixing to illustrate this, and I’m reminded of Robin Schooling’s excellent blog post about the New Orleans Saints on the same subject.

Choose Your Attitude

Choosing your attitude towards high performance is critical. Choose to be the best you can be and show that attitude as a role model to others. Readers who have been with me for the long haul may recall a post I wrote back in September 2009 after meeting with Chris Boardman. He saw this as vital too.

Does your company confuse performance with results? And who is responsible for your performance?

I’d love to hear your views.

photo c/o Bertron8