A Letter to My Father

Like many people, I have mixed feelings about the whole Father’s Day thing. I don’t need a particular day for Keira to acknowledge me, every day we let each other know about the love we have for one another, and I’ll readily admit there’s something fun about a little fuss being made too. This year, we are off on a long walk this Father’s Day with some good friends, I’m really looking forward to it.

I was tidying up some papers yesterday and I came across an old letter I wrote to Dad, shortly after Carole and I got married back in August 1992. By way of context, after Mum died in 1984 my relationship with Dad deteriorated…a lot. We were frequently horrible to each other and there were times I was sure we’d never reconcile things. As is often the case, I was wrong, and Dad and I started to get it back together a little while before this letter was written. Reading the letter for the first time since I wrote it almost twenty two years ago, I sense a clunkiness and awkwardness to it at times. Nevertheless, I’d like to share it with you, and if Father’s Day works for you, I hope it’s a happy one.

Dear Dad

Carole and I have been married for over a month! Time flies when you’re having fun. After all the excitement of the last few weeks, life seems to be returning to some sort of normality, if there is such a thing. We would both like to say how very grateful we are for all your help towards our big day, and the rest of our life! Not only for the invaluable financial generosity but also for everything else.

I think I now have some understanding of the importance of the reliability and guidance of parents. That is not to say that you and Mum have seen eye to eye with everything that I have done or tried to do. Despite the fact that shortcomings in my life have given you justifiable cause for concern, upset and other feelings I’m sure you’d ideally not wish to experience, I can now stand back and look at my life which is basically happy and sane, I think! I owe no small part of this to you and Mum and I’m truly grateful.

As you know, it is unfortunately all too difficult to talk frankly and openly, especially to those closest to you and though I’m just as hopeless as the next person in this department, I want you to know that it is with the greatest sincerity that I tell you how proud I am that I was able to share our wedding day with you, and Helen and Moira.

I take a great deal of pleasure from the music I listen to, I know you do as well. People who you have no personal knowledge of can write words which make you think ‘I really know what you mean’. The following few lines sum that sense up for me.

Good work is the key to good fortune
Winners take that praise
Losers seldom take that blame
But sometimes the winner takes nothing
We go out in the world and take our chances
Fate is just the weight of circumstances
That’s the way that lady luck dances
Why are we here? Because we’re here
Roll the bones

Cheers Dad, take it easy and thanks again

Love – Doug

Mama Weer All Krazee Now

The office is closed today. London awaits, and an evening with Rush beckons. I know many people who have never heard of Rush and many people who have, and wish they hadn’t. They are different. They’re not everyone’s cup of tea and that’s great – difference makes the world go round. By way of something else a little different, a little crazy, I just thought I’d share with you a few of the search terms that have led people to the blog this week.

‘Zombie HR’ – a personal fave 🙂

‘What a Load of Rubbish’ – Thanks for your feedback. Or does this relate to Rush, who knows…?

‘What is love?’ – the eternal question

‘Why losing is good for you’ – I wish I knew!

‘Rocket from a bottle’ – Hmmmm, Xtc?

‘Is fun a corporate value?’ – No, no it bloody isn’t!

‘Tell your own story’ – Absolutely.

Not a bad little list eh? Proof, if it were needed, that we’re heading in a good direction. Have a great bank holiday weekend folks.

Nobody Said It Was Easy

I wrote this post as part of Alison Chisnell‘s excellent advent blog series. I expect a lot of you have read it already, and the main reason I am reposting it is simply so that I have a record of it here, under my roof as well as Alison’s.

2012 started in a burst of optimism. I’d set a goal of winning and delivering more ambitious, stretching work projects and I was hoping to forge some new associations to help make this goal a reality. Two really interesting ideas were taking shape, the first a piece of business development and marketing work, the second a project around smart use of social media to drive more colleague and customer collaboration. We had also lined up an Unchristmas lunch for a few people who had supported the business over the past year or so.

The lunch was on a Friday. It was great fun catching up with a lovely group of people and then heading off to enjoy the weekend. From my experiences lots of offices are empty on a Friday as a slew of people choose to ‘work from home’ (don’t worry – I won’t tell). For me, Friday is a good day to strengthen the social fabric that is woven throughout a great place to work; I’d like to see more people lunching together more often.

I digress.

Time Stands Still

“Summer’s going fast, Nights growing colder
Children growing up, Old friends growing older
Experience slips away”

It is late Sunday afternoon on January 22nd 2012 and my phone rings. One of my Sisters wants to know if I’ve heard from Dad, ‘he was due to pop round and he hasn’t showed’. Carole, Keira and I were just diving into a local restaurant for a family meal and I said I’d call him and check in afterwards. As we left the restaurant the phone rang again. This time it was my Brother in law, Steve. ‘Doug, I’m at your Dad’s place, sorry to have to tell you he is dead’.

Suddenly you were gone.

I took Carole and Keira home and headed off. The police came round to Dad’s to satisfy themselves there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death and then left. I encouraged Steve to head on home to be with his family and I waited for the coroner’s ambulance to come and take Dad’s body away. That was a weird few hours sitting in an empty old house, listening to it move and sigh like an old building does.

Prime Mover

“From the point of conception, To the moment of truth
At the point of surrender, To the burden of proof
From the point of ignition, To the final drive
The point of the journey is not to arrive
Anything can happen…”

Functions sometimes get in the way of feelings, and so it was as funeral and other plans were made. Dad died intestate, so I steeled myself for the mountain of paperwork that began to accumulate. The family and friends supported each other well through this time, and I had given my commitment to Dad that I would take responsibility for his affairs. This period of time was tough, I found it almost impossible to keep the business going and take care of family business to the point where I suffered a bizarre physical breakdown. My right knee stiffened and blew up like a balloon. My right arm and chest ached like I’d never felt before and for a few weeks I could barely get about. I was scared.

My physical condition was temporary and things began to improve. Through this time I took support and encouragement from many people and places. Most people aren’t aware of how important they became to me, and I want to recall one incident in particular that helped enormously.

Vital Signs

“Leave out the fiction, The fact is, this friction
Will only be worn by persistence
Leave out conditions, Courageous convictions
Will drag the dream into existence”

In November of 2011 Dad and I had talked about what the future may hold for the business. I told Dad I planned to go to America. I said I didn’t know where, to do what or how, I just knew I would.  Dad replied, ‘Go ahead and make me proud’. In March 2012 Steve Browne and I exchanged correspondence and a couple of months later I was booked to travel to Ohio for the annual state HR conference. This was pivotal for me in turning the sadness at the loss of my father into an opportunity to honour the simple exchange we had towards the end of the previous year. It also helped me get the flywheel of What Goes Around turning again.

The Big Wheel

“Wheel goes round, landing on a leap of fate
Life redirected in ways unexpected
Sometimes the odd number wins
The way the big wheel spins”

A business needs wheels to turn on. I used to think they were a little like bicycle wheels, spinning along the flat, whizzing down the hills and pushing up the other side. And they are not. The truth is that when you stop turning the business wheel, it loses momentum really quickly. And to get it started you have to put your shoulder to it and push, hard. And you need to keep going, persist, believe, persist, believe, persist. If you have the courage of your convictions, if you love people, and love who you are and why you do what you do, and if you can find a Steve Browne, you can choose to keep the big wheel turning.


“You can choose a ready guide in some celestial voice
If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice
You can choose from phantom fears and kindness that can kill
I will choose a path that’s clear
I will choose freewill”

I choose for 2013 to be a year of useful fun and support for one another when things don’t go quite according to plan. I hope we can continue to create opportunities to better ourselves and each other, and to continue to raise a well-intended challenge when we see something ain’t going quite right. Proceed until apprehended.


Alison Chisnell – for the kind invitation to write this post.

Steve Browne (aka The President of the United States of HR) – for helping me make something magnificent happen

Neil Peart – for lyrical support

Paul Shaw – for being my Dad and for showing me, through example, that it is better to be a critical friend than to strive to be liked.