Learnings from a Welsh goalkeeper

A top flight goal keeper and (1) Learning from failure (2) the primary voice of stories not told (3) Mixing (mingle!) with people and views you otherwise would not.

This profile of former top flight Everton goalkeeper, Neville Southall, touches upon the 3 above ideas I am interested in. (It's also a good argument for why when I have time, I flick and read through all sections of a newspaper from News to Arts to Sport...)

On (1) he notes goal keepers often fail but it is how they react to that failure which will mark them out. He still remembers some painful goals scored against him and reflects on the Liverpool goal keeper's mistakes in the recent Champions League Final.

My Mum is a big Liverpool fan, my Dad supported Arsenal - I’ve always been fascinated about what sport and teams and fans tells us about what it means to be human.

This is currently also of note as my work team recently failed in two big pitches / proposals. How we improve from failure will be a mark of how good (or not) our processes and culture are. I hear a lot of talk about learning from failure but it is hard. It is also difficult to teach to children. What makes one child pick themselves up and throw themselves at a problem again and another to shy away....

On (2) Neville Southall talks about giving a platform to unheard voices and genuinely listen to what they say - I like this for several reasons  (i) I like to rely more on more on primary source voices not filtered too many times by tropes or media reporters - the primary voices are often more nuanced, complex and fascinating than the filtered reflection of such voices. Good journalism can bring those voices out (but the medium and long form art of that is under pressure)

This increasingly is how I do company research as well, constructive skepticism is practiced by all good business and company analysts - but how do you research what is really happening ? The famous fund manager Peter Lynch suggested you could learn a lot by observing the world. I concur but would also add speaking to people - experts or customers - can also add insights.

It intersects with a primary force behind why some are involved in theatre - to tell the stories / listen to the stories from the voices that are not often heard. And listening to those primary voices is important.

It is an important thread for why I share autistic voice narratives (see here for E Price and here for Naoki Higashida). It’s important to hear from the people themselves.

Finally this idea that twitter is a place where you can meet people you would not usually meet - while I think that’s true of social media I do believe that bringing it to a real life mingle is also useful. Hence the mingle event idea.

A thoughtful read you can find here

The current Arts blog, cross-over, the current Investing blog.  Cross fertilise, some thoughts on autism.  Discover what the last arts/business mingle was all about (sign up for invites to the next event in the list below).

My Op-Ed in the Financial Times  (My Financial Times opinion article) about asking long-term questions surrounding sustainability and ESG.

Some popular posts:   the commencement address;  by Nassim Taleb (Black Swan author, risk management philosopher),  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes;  JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.  Charlie Munger on always inverting;  Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.

How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.

A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.

Eddo-Lodge: Why I am no longer talking to white people about race

Reni Eddo-Lodge published a blog post  ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People about Race’ in 2014. 

It read: I’m no longer engaging with white people on the topic of race. Not all white people, just the vast majority who refuse to accept the legitimacy of structural racism and its symptoms. I can no longer engage with the gulf of an emotional disconnect that white people display when a person of colour articulates their experience. You can see their eyes shut down and harden. It’s like treacle is poured into their ears, blocking up their ear canals. It’s like they can no longer hear us. This emotional disconnect is the conclusion of living a life oblivious to the fact that their skin colour is the norm and all others deviate from it. At best, white people have been taught not to mention that people of colour are ‘different’ in case it offends us. They truly believe that the experiences of their life as a result of their skin colour can and should be universal. I just can’t engage with the bewilderment and the defensiveness as they try to grapple with the fact that not everyone experiences the world in the way that they do. They’ve never had to think about what it means, in power terms, to be white, so any time they’re vaguely reminded of this fact, they interpret it as an affront. Their eyes glaze over in boredom or widen in indignation. Their mouths start twitching as they get defensive. Their throats open up as they try to interrupt, itching to talk over you but not really listen, because they need to let you know that you’ve got it wrong. The journey towards understanding structural racism still requires people of colour to prioritise white feelings. Even if they can hear you, they’re not really listening. It’s like something happens to the words as they leave our mouths and reach their ears. The words hit a barrier of denial and they don’t get any further. That’s the emotional disconnect. It’s not really surprising, because they’ve never known what it means to embrace a person of colour as a true equal, with thoughts and feelings that are as valid as their own.  


..So I can’t talk to white people about race any more because of the consequent denials, awkward cartwheels and mental acrobatics that they display when this is brought to their attention. Who really wants to be alerted to a structural system that benefits them at the expense of others? I can no longer have this conversation, because we’re often coming at it from completely different places. I can’t have a conversation with them about the details of a problem if they don’t even recognise that the problem exists. Worse still is the white person who might be willing to entertain the possibility of said racism, but who thinks we enter this conversation as equals. We don’t. Not to mention that entering into conversation with defiant white people is a frankly dangerous task for me. As the heckles rise and the defiance grows, I have to tread incredibly carefully, because if I express frustration, anger or exasperation at their refusal to understand, they will tap into their pre-subscribed racist tropes about angry black people who are a threat to them and their safety. It’s very likely that they’ll then paint me as a bully or an abuser. It’s also likely that their white friends will rally round them, rewrite history and make the lies the truth. Trying to engage with them and navigate their racism is not worth that. Amid every conversation about Nice White People feeling silenced by conversations about race, there is a sort of ironic and glaring lack of understanding or empathy for those of us who have been visibly marked out as different for our entire lives, and live the consequences. It’s truly a lifetime of self-censorship that people of colour have to live. The options are: speak your truth and face the reprisal, or bite your tongue and get ahead in life. It must be a strange life, always having permission to speak and feeling indignant when you’re finally asked to listen. It stems from white people’s never-questioned entitlement, I suppose. I cannot continue to emotionally exhaust myself trying to get this message across, while also toeing a very precarious line that tries not to implicate any one white person in their role of perpetuating structural racism, lest they character assassinate me. So I’m no longer talking to white people about race. I don’t have a huge amount of power to change the way the world works, but I can set boundaries. I can halt the entitlement they feel towards me and I’ll start that by stopping the conversation. The balance is too far swung in their favour. Their intent is often not to listen or learn, but to exert their power, to prove me wrong, to emotionally drain me, and to rebalance the status quo. I’m not talking to white people about race unless I absolutely have to. … “ 

In her book she writes: 

……  It was never written with the intention of prompting guilt in white people, or to provoke any kind of epiphany. I didn’t know at the time that I had inadvertently written a break-up letter to whiteness. And I didn’t expect white readers to do the Internet equivalent of standing outside my bedroom window with a boom box and a bunch of flowers, confessing their flaws and mistakes, begging me not to leave. This all seemed strange and slightly uncomfortable to me. Because, in writing that blog post, all I had felt I was saying was that I had had enough. It wasn’t a cry for help, or a grovelling plea for white people’s understanding and compassion. It wasn’t an invitation for white people to indulge in self-flagellation. I stopped talking to white people about race because I don’t think giving up is a sign of weakness. Sometimes it’s about self-preservation. I’ve turned ‘Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race’ into a book –paradoxically –to continue the conversation. Since I set my boundary, I’ve done almost nothing but speak about race…. 


Reni Eddo-Lodge’s book then proceeds to talk about race particularly through a black British lens but perhaps more in the tradition of Black American writing (eg Coates, Baldwin, West)

It makes a good companion read to Afrua Hirsch  and the lens of female black hair (blog here - Black America female hair) and is a good chime with This is America (the recent Gambino music video) and Coates on the back American experience. (Ta-Nehisi Coates on the Black American)  


Guardian book review here by Colin Grant.   


I do think there are lessons from Martin Luther King, Jr here on loving your enemy – although Grant quotes other lessons. 


It’s his sermon on “Loving your Enemies”. 

“A … thing that an individual must do in seeking to love his enemy is to discover the element of good in his enemy, and every time you begin to hate that person and think of hating that person, realize that there is some good there and look at those good points which will over-balance the bad points. 

If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try:  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.  Or Charlie Munger on always inverting;  Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude or investor Ray Dalio  on Principles.

Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.

More thoughts:  My Financial Times opinion article on the importance of long-term questions to management teams and Environment, Social and Governance capital.

How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man.

Theatre Critics. Lyn Gardner axed from Guardian.

Lyn Gardner, the second theatre critic at the Guardian, known for seeing off-mainstream work, is not having her contract renewed. Michael Billington remains. The Guardian claim it will be looking for fresh new voices.

Andy Field, an off-mainstream theatre maker, provides an impassioned defence of her role as a critic in the theatre eco-system - particularly the off-mainstream ecology.

I note that minority theatre makers such as black british practitioners, LGBQT and other off-mainstream artists discuss about the lack of a strong black critic (/other critic) that can engage with work on a sophisticated level but also with empathy and understanding. Similar arguments are made in the world of curating.

There is also a tradition of critics being writer themselves. Perhaps most famously Bernard Shaw, although modern critics have also written and been performed.

I'm not going to add further opinion but comment in remembrance.

In 2003,  Lyn Gardner gave one of my first performed plays, LOST IN PERU, 2 stars a poor review but with the parting hopeful words of "But, goodness, it is great to see a young writer reaching out beyond his own experience." I did meet my future wife at the play, so there's that (and why else write except to find life mates?)

In 2007, Lyn Gardner described my version of NAKAMITSU as "small but exquisitely formed" and 3 stars and a rather good review.

I'm sure she will continue reviewing somewhere and somehow (she does write still for the Stage). Perhaps, I will have a play on again and see if I can continue to increase my star count over 10 years later.

More thoughts: My Financial Times opinion article on long-term investing and how to engage with companies.

How to live a life, well lived. Thoughts from a dying man. On play and playing games.

If you'd like to feel inspired by commencement addresses and life lessons try:  Neil Gaiman on making wonderful, fabulous, brilliant mistakes; or Nassim Taleb's commencement address; or JK Rowling on the benefits of failure.  Or Charlie Munger on always inverting;  Sheryl Sandberg on grief, resilience and gratitude.

A provoking read on how to raise a feminist child.

Cross fertilise. Read about the autistic mind here.

Science Fiction Writing startling fresh ideas

"Genre" writers are often put into different buckets than their "literary" siblings. I'd like to think readers whether avid, casual, militant or connoisseur tend to put books into buckets of "good books" and "bad books" and mostly ignore the assertions of literary criticism.  

Ursula Le Guin - who I've blogged about a number of times - wrote mainly fantastical tales and I'd suggest her hooks fall into the good books category.  That connoisseur-reader Zadie Smith would agree, I believe. 

I recently came across Orson Scott Card (via Mark Lawrence) and I found what he has to say about science fiction writers paying homage to their idols not by copying but

 "In science fiction, however, the whole point is that the ideas are fresh and startling and intriguing; you imitate the great ones, not by rewriting their stories, but rather by creating stories that are just as startling and new." 

I like that notion. I copy your premise of inventing something fresh and startling.  A type of second order imitation.  

Below is an extract from his foreward to Ender's Game.  

"…I had just read Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, which was (more or less) an extrapolation of the ideas in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, applied to a galaxy-wide empire in some far future time. The novel set me not to dreaming, but to thinking, which is Asimov’s most extraordinary ability as a fiction writer.  


What would the future be like? How would things change? What would remain the same? The premise of Foundation seemed to be that even though you might change the props and the actors, the play of human history is always the same. And yet that fundamentally pessimistic premise (you mean we’ll never change?) was tempered by Asimov’s idea of a group of human beings who, not through genetic change, but through learned skills, are able to understand and heal the minds of other people.  

It was an idea that rang true with me, perhaps in part because of my Mormon upbringing and beliefs: human beings may be miserable specimens in the main, but we can learn and, through learning, become decent people. Those were some of the ideas that played through my mind as I read Foundation, curled on my bed –a thin mattress on a slab of plywood, a bed my father had made for me –in my basement bedroom in our little rambler on 650 East in Orem, Utah. And then, as so many science fiction readers have done over the years, I felt a strong desire to write stories that would do for others what Asimov’s story had done for me.  


In other genres, that desire is usually expressed by producing thinly veiled rewrites of the great work: Tolkien’s disciples far too often simply rewrite Tolkien, for example. In science fiction, however, the whole point is that the ideas are fresh and startling and intriguing; you imitate the great ones, not by rewriting their stories, but rather by creating stories that are just as startling and new.  


But new in what way? Asimov was a scientist, and approached every field of human knowledge in a scientific manner –assimilating data, combining it in new and startling ways, thinking through the implications of each new idea. I was no scientist, and unlikely ever to be one, at least not a real scientist –not a physicist, not a chemist, not a biologist, not even an engineer. I had no gift for mathematics and no great love for it either. Though I relished the study of logic and languages, and virtually inhaled histories and biographies, it never occurred to me at the time that these were just as valid sources of science fiction stories as astronomy or quantum mechanics.  

How, then, could I possibly come up with a science fiction idea? What did I actually know about anything? … " 

Kwame Kwei-Armah new season at Young Vic

I think – as I blogged about earlier – that bringing Kwame Kwei-Armah as the  Artistic Director of the Young vic is going to be important for London theatre and perhaps the wider arts.

(Behind a pay wall but) his recent interview in the FT is a good read on his vision for his first season:  

“I lived through the Brixton riots, the Southall riots, the Tottenham riots, the Wood Green riots. So I wasn’t spooked by it. What I knew through them, however, was that art can be made irrelevant during times of social upheaval, unless it engages with the pain that happens.”   


“I think this season shows the direction of travel,” says Kwei-Armah. “With Danai and The Convert, the message is that young people of colour, women of colour, the main stage is going to be for you. Twelfth Night is about joy, the love of life. Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train is a signal that I’m going to be doing great revivals of modern classics. And I wanted to bring a little bit of what I’ve learnt from America to this first season: it’s in the middle of a renaissance of new writers for theatre.”