Fortune magazine’s “Books to help you think big…”

Fortune magazine kicked off 2015 with a list of six books to help readers to “think bigger or start smaller”

The Little Book of Thinking Big  was included even though it hasn’t hit the US yet. Fortune wrote:

“A hit in the U.K., Newton’s book tells readers to “beware the preoccupation of narrow thinking.” His advice: Map out big priorities, and don’t be derailed by the modern-day “cult of busyness.” Work expands to fill the time available, the adage goes, and since smartphones and the like have made us available all the time, we’re always working. Try to focus on the big stuff. “When you deliberately put your energy in a single direction you generate momentum and then you make progress,” Newton writes.”

The other recommended books are:

Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth, and Impact the World by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler

Small Move, Big Change: Using Microresolutions to Transform Your Life Permanently by Caroline L. Arnold

The Small Big: Small Changes That Spark Big Influence by Steve J. Martin, Noah J. Goldstein, and Robert B. Cialdini

Playing Big: Find Your Voice, Your Mission, Your Message by Tara Mohr

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown

Newton_Little book

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The full Fortune article is here:



The Wild Pigs of the Okefenokee Swamp

Okefenokee Medium

A stranger halts his horse and wagon alongside a general store on the fringe of the untamed Okefenokee Swamp.

He calls over: “I’m here to catch pigs.”

The locals burst out laughing. “Those wild, dangerous beasts? No chance.”

“The most powerful guns won’t stop them. Go home”

“I lost my leg escaping the pigs, stranger. Turn around.”

“I wanted to buy some corn, actually”, he says. So the old timers sell him the corn and he goes on his way. And every week he passes by the store to buy more corn on his way to the swamp.

And every time the hunters shake their heads, tap their guns and the months pass until one day the stranger says: “Gentlemen, I need help to take 600 pigs to market.”

To stunned silence he explains how he did it: “First I put some corn on the edge of a clearing. Each week I led the trail closer to the center.”

First, the young pigs but eventually even the largest, fiercest pigs could not resist the lure of easy food.

“They stopped fearing me and one yard at a time I built a pen. Eyes on the corn — they never even noticed the fence going up.“

“It’s not possible!” gasped the old-timers. “That’s not hunting!”

“Oh it is”, he said. “And this morning I shut the gate.”

This fable, which I first came across in an article written by Steve Washam, is a two sided morality tale. Both sides beg one thing: Use your mind.

1. The stranger challenges old methods of catching pigs and thus triumphs.

2. The pigs cease thinking and fail to see that gradually (and helpfully) they are being fenced in.

Misty windows on the 55 Bus to Oxford Circus

I try not to litter this wordpress blog with too many of my pictures of pavements. There’s tumblr* and instagram and facebook for all of that. But every now and then – just to break up the growing layer upon layer  of words one or two might sneak past the censor. Like this one.

This is called:

Misty windows on the top deck of the 55 Bus to Oxford Circus as the first snow of winter starts to fall.

Misty windows final


It’s the original ideas inside you that people want

“The danger with Margaret is that when she speaks without thinking she says what she thinks.”

Climbing the greasy pole – in business as in politics – is a middle of the road sort of occupation. Make mistakes, say the wrong thing, and you get knocked off the pole.

Alas, this means the best and most creative ideas are kept at bay.

Professional politicians fight for the middle ground. Meanwhile the politicians inside the corporation dare not move off  course for fear of being the one that makes a mistake. If a big decision has to be made then responsibility is carefully managed; An expensive consultancy firm may even be hired to put a “conditional“ buffer between a decision and responsibility. The condition is that if it it’s a great success the consultancy firm doesn’t need to take responsibility.

So smart thinking gets squeezed for space.  A bigger effort goes into hiding these ideas rather than developing them. It was said of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, by Lord St John of Fawsley:

“The danger with Margaret is that when she speaks without thinking she says what she thinks.”

It’s a great line. If you can breathe past any knee-jerk Thatcher-baggage and see what he’s saying you realise that he is articulating precisely the culture that produces beige, bland thinking. Yet it’s only when politicians or anyone says what they really think (instead of shaving off the edges and bashing the corners to fit the average) that things get interesting.

The trouble with being scared of big ideas is that your middle of road thoughts produce middle of the road results.

It’s the smart ideas inside that people want

Should you prioritize individuality or the group?

creativity or the group








We’re born with weak claws, not much fur, and we like going to the cinema. But in the days before movies and while there were still marauding Vikings, dinosaurs and minotaurs then we humans couldn’t survive without co-operating. The need to be part of a community is deeply ingrained in our psychological makeup. We are programmed to want to be socially accepted.

Yet at the same time we have an innate desire to be creative and there’s a strong relationship between being creative and being socially excluded.

The causal relationship is uncertain. Are creative people drawn to sit outside social norms or is it the other way round; does being excluded by the group makes us reach inward to be creative and explore our own ideas?

The need to demonstrate you’re an individual is as strong  for some people as  the need to belong to a group is strong for others.

Consequently social rejection can be creatively crippling or empowering depending on your personality type.

Probably each of us is drawn more strongly to one side or the other. For your own decision-making and peace of mind it helps to know which side you’re on.

If you see yourself as an individual, independent person- characterized as nfu (need for uniqueness) then being outside the group will free you of the structures of group thinking, social norms and accepted solutions. You will look deeper and further for your ideas. This will be your happy place.

If on the other hand you are an interdependent person you’ll achieve greater self esteem by belonging to a group or tribe. The rewards of fitting in and avoiding social rejection may be greater happiness; The downside could be that you lose the sense of independence that is optimal for creativity and innovation.

To think different, change your labels

The world famous creative chefs of El Bulli know that one way to see the world with fresh eyes and find inspiration is to lose your baggage.

One way to do this is to label things differently. Labels are a necessary part of communication and thinking  but they come loaded with biases and narrow thinking. “Reality TV” for example is a useful label for a genre of entertainment but it is preloaded with  your personal prejudices.

A new label helps you look at an existing problem from a different angle and imagine new possibilities.

In their book, Modern Gastronomy A to Z: Scientific and Gastronomic Lexicon,  the chefs of El Bulli describe:

 “A colloidal dispersion of two immiscible liquids”

But you and I would just call this mayonnaise.

Be warned, there is a fine line between using verbosity to inspire creativity and letting it get in the way.

Using  pretentious words and long-winded language to make your point actually makes you seem less intelligent than keeping it simple.

An academic paper by Danny Oppenheimer of Princeton that demonstrates this is called: “Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly”




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