Three Things…

I have been in the Pharmaceutical industry for quite a long time. I worked in a large Pharma company for over 25 years and then have worked in a CRO for nearly 6 years. It feels safe to say that is not an accident. I don’t believe I have ever been offered an opportunity to leave our industry. I can’t imagine being interested.

I am a scientist by training. I enjoy research. Investigating things to which we don’t know the answer. Seeking answers. Learning. We do a lot of research in our work but still – there has to be more to me staying in the pharmaceutical industry than that…after all lots of other industries do research.

In truth, I know it is important to me that our industry delivers medicines that improve our health and improve our lives. Medicines that save lives…medicines that change lives for the better. I am energised by this purpose as an individual, as a patient, as a friend and as a family member. We do a wonderful thing…individually and collectively. We do it for ourselves, for people we know and for people we have never met…nor will we ever meet.

I work with exceptional people. This past week I was on the US East Coast where I met with three distinct but exceptional groups of colleagues. Leaders, colleagues, old friends and new acquaintances. I enjoyed myself. I learned so much. I laughed so much. We worked so hard. I slept too little. I asked the occasional question. I thought about situations, opportunities and challenges – both new and old.

But I was always with people – nearly always. I listened intently. To what they said and what they asked. What excited them and what concerned them. I watched in awe as ideas were created and problems were solved. New ways of looking to seize potential opportunities and solve particular situations. Great ideas for better options of how to move forward. Ideas I would never have come up with myself.

Exceptional people who asked me about me. And asked about you. People who care about me…and as much about us. People who care about what we do…and as much about how we do it. Exceptional people who give me energy and who inspire me. People like you.

I am proud and lucky to always have had opportunity to work with exceptional people. People who share a similar purpose to me. I know I work with exceptional people today. I remember vividly the exceptional people I worked with yesterday, last week, last year, 10 years ago.

Ours is a continually evolving industry and company. There is, always has been, and always will be change. Big, small, good, not so good. But change is associated – always – with opportunity. Opportunity for to reveal our true potential. As individuals. In teams. Rapidly. Gradually. Incrementally. Innovatively. Personally. Our extraordinary potential.

I don’t know what my potential is. I know I have learned so much. I hope I have helped some. But I know there is so much potential in front of me – in front of us. Extraordinary potential to help more, learn more, grow more, experience more, meet more, deliver more, believe more and enjoy more.

I know many others will help me realise that potential. Anything and everything good I’ve ever been lucky enough to be involved in, has always involved others. I am never alone.

I also know I have a role to play. I can and will change my future…today, next week, this year, next year. To help realise my potential. Our potential together.

I can’t and won’t do it alone. And anyway, I don’t want to.



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Dancing Crickets…

We still have public radio in the UK. BBC is funded by me and other taxpayers and therefore BBC still has public service duties to deliver. One of these is – amazingly enough – shipping forecast!

Every day at four very specific times, BBC radio broadcasts a shipping weather forecast advising on impending storms. It’s hard to imagine these days with satellite navigation and internet who actually listens. But a BBC public service is a BBC public service…

BBC also used to televise England’s international cricket matches. That was before satellite TV – cricket hasn’t been on BBC TV for years. But it is broadcast on BBC radio. Better yet it’s broadcast via the BBC website and smartphone App. In fact I find myself listening to cricket more on my phone than I ever used to watch when it was on TV. Even more so when England are playing overseas, as they have been this winter – in Australia.

Best news is that there is no shipping forecast on the App. I am sure it wasn’t that common, but I can still remember those times when I missed a crucial moment of play because the broadcast switched from cricket to shipping. And yes, when they came back, the play, the game, the match or even the series was over.

I used to reassure myself that this was all so English…so British…Public Service broadcast…shipping forecasts. Major sporting moments being missed by millions in the UK in the middle of the night (00:48am to be precise). Where else could you imagine this happening but in the UK?

Cricket is a complicated game. I struggle to explain cricket to anyone…and many who actually play don’t really understand all the rules. That having been said, any victory by England over Australia in Australia – like the one this morning – is as stunning as it was unexpected. I am happy!

It was a true team effort; stand out individual performance and outstanding team work. Excellent leadership and planning…vision and strategy, combined with exquisite implementation.

This winter as well, there seems to have been the customary announcements of impending retirements from the older players. When asked they plan to do next, the most common answers from retiring sporting legions seems to be sports commentary or a reality TV dancing shows.

It’s pretty obvious why a retiring sports star become a sports commentators or pundits. But why do so many appear on those dancing reality shows? And why do they tend to do so well?

In many ways, of course, it’s not that surprising – sportspeople tend to be physically fit and strong, both of which help. And in addition their whole careers will have aligned with these sorts of scenarios – long periods of detailed preparation and training in advance of crucial performances in the spotlight.

But is that all? How do they seem to learn the necessary skills and abilities so readily…skills that they have never had before, let alone used or shown?

Well this – I wonder – is where the sportsperson’s psyche plays a crucial role – in particular the details of their training. Sure, a significant part of any training is fitness, but professional sportswomen and men will only have succeeded at the highest level because they are willing – and able – to listen to instruction and advice from their coach detailing strategy and tactics for the team/individual. And then they train to execute as instructed…to execute flawlessly.

And there we have it. It doesn’t actually matter whether a coach is describing how to succeed at dancing, cricket, business…or even life.

Vision, strategy and flawless execution – will tend to work every time…and everywhere.



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Extreme Focus…

I have back-to-back global meetings in a few weeks’ time. I am travelling, attending, presenting and participating. It’s a long way to go for quite a long time – I want to get as much value as I can from the meetings and add as much value to the meetings as possible. Being actively engaged and involved is always a good plan.

Last week I was in mainland Europe…and in the UK. I found myself on several teleconferences and multiple emails planning for and discussing these forthcoming meetings – meetings where I really want to be actively engaged and involved.

It struck me, whilst sitting at a European airport waiting for my connection late Wednesday evening, that any time I am focussed on making sure I am actively engaged and involved in future meetings…then presumably I can’t be actively engaged and involved in what is happening around me today?

It amazes me these days how quickly time seems to fly by. Maybe it’s because I am older than I used to be and so time feels more precious? Or maybe not. Maybe it’s just that feeling that there is always another meeting at the end of the month that we have to prepare for?

Moreover, most businesses also have monthly figures to review – recruitment, retention, sales, revenue, profit, productivity, quality. Figures for which we will always have goals and objectives. Figures that are always of significance and importance.

Inevitably I find myself in discussions about how we think this month will end. How near or how far we will be to (or from) the forecasted figures. For the month. For the quarter. What will our performance be or mean? What opportunities or issues will it create?

Maybe it’s not that surprising then…with us spending so much of our time focussed on the end of the month…that weeks seem to fly by and months end so soon. And any time I am focussing on month end results…then surely the same risk applies – I can’t be actively engaged and involved in what is happening today?

And yet…today is the most important time and the most significant moment. Ever. What I do today. Selections I take. What decisions I make today. About what to do. Or what not to do. These choices will directly impact today and tomorrow and every tomorrow to the end of the month.

If I make the right – or best – decision about what to do now…today…then I position myself to be most happy, most engaged, and most successful (however I choice to define all three). And to make the best decision today I have to be actively engaged and involved in what is happening today…what is happening now.

I know it sounds obvious. But it is not easy. But it should be easy.  But we all always have things going on for and around us that will play out over a longer time frame. The opportunity…our challenge…is to stay focussed.

My best tactic? I don’t multitask. Multitasking has benefits I know, but I also know that total focus on many things at one time is simply not possible. And amazingly enough, when I totally focus on the task in hand, I feel more confident…I feel like I am doing my best work…and I feel like I am achieving much more.

A colleague I worked with gifted me his advice – apply ‘extreme focus’ on each activity…but only for short periods of time. Move forward in incremental steps. See and feel good about progress you make.

Not multitasking is really hard. I don’t succeed as much as I would like.  I do like…

…extreme focus…



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Little Celebrations…

One week in. Fifty one more to go. 2018 started with a freezing cold, four day week for many. I was in the UK all week. The closest I got to the US ‘weather bomb’ was on TV each evening, and by logging onto my weather App as my first caffeine fuelled activity each morning.

I was asked several times during last week about resolutions for the New Year. I even asked several people the same question myself! I didn’t have a good response when I was asked. I was moved and amused…amazed and inspired by some of the responses I heard.

My four day work week felt like a good thing when the week started – but I rapidly realised I had no idea what day it was most of the time and worse still I felt I was just playing catch up all week. Trying to work out what was happening, what was being said, requested, responded…or not. Trying to decide what I thought…or wanted…or desired…or not.

I have decided that this feeling is simply (and beautifully) a reflection of having enjoyed the time I was able to have with my family over the Christmas Holidays and New Year. I recognise that it may not be this. I may just be a year older and more tired. But this latter concept is neither simple nor particularly beautiful.

I made it to the weekend. More good news. Opportunity to take stock. Focus on the calendar so I do know what day it is. Catch up on some of those questions and answers I was chasing all week. Reflecting more on the New Year and whether I can come up with a better New Year Resolution or – better yet – a better answer to the New Year Resolution question.

I haven’t. Yet. But there is still time. But I have made one decision. I am going to feel really good in 2018 about the little things…the good little things. We are all very busy. Lots of activities to do, opportunities to consider, issues to solve, questions to address, people to meet, teams to thank. Less caffeinated coffee to be drunk, more exercise to be had.

And with us all being so busy, I know for certain that in any one day – let alone any week – all sorts of things will happen. Little things. Little things against the backdrop of the day as a whole…or the week. But a truism is how incredibly easy it can be for me to discount rapidly the good little things…and yet to focus excessively on the bad little things…

Last week I concentrated on recognising and savouring the good little things. When they happened. Whilst they happened. And after they had happened.

I experienced good little things at work. At home. In my car. Apparently on my exercise bike. And amazingly when trying decaffeinated espresso. Good little things that people said, or did, or shared or smiled or laughed. Thanks. Kindness. Acknowledgement. Praise. Unexpected.

Bad little things still happened…but I consciously avoided any temptation to fixate on them. They weren’t that bad and they were that little. I simply drowned and dwarfed them with the good little things.

And I felt good. Very good.  At first I felt like I was doing something wrong…almost naughty. But I soon got past that moment. And just found myself enjoying the moment…the moments…when they happened. And I also found myself being pulled into feeling even better about the good little things that my colleagues, friends and family wanted to share with me.

Good little things feed off each other, multiply and grow…



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Masterful Advice…

One year ends…another one begins. 2017 is complete (just about) and 2018 is ahead of us in all its glory and excitement, hope and expectation. 2018 will be amazing and it will be wonderful.

I have managed to spend time this past week at home with my family. I worked little, thought much. Above all I enjoyed family time. It felt great…and was exactly what I needed. We did lots of things together but we also did no things together. We relaxed and rewound. Recharged and recalibrated.

We also took in a film together between Christmas and New Year. The latest Star Wars. There always seems to be a latest Star Wars over the holidays. And we always seem to go. But we always seem to enjoy! And we did.

I’m not sure why I enjoyed this movie so much. It’s definitely a big screen experience. So much better than TV. Infinitely better than a screen on the back of an airplane seat in front of you. Special effects, great sound, 3D, excellent acting and a classical Star Wars story. What more could I want?

The whole family enjoyed the movie together. Star Wars is one of those franchises you love or hate. We are lovers. And yes I know that there have been some real duds over the years. But still. Mindless escapism never harmed anyone….

Despite our enjoyment, any detailed (but satisfying) discussion of the movie tended to peter out after a few days…by which time any plot holes (in science fiction?) I managed to avoid had been filled…and key moments I managed to miss had been explained. In truth, I find there is seldom need or opportunity to consider even great movies outside those moments. Until today.

Two leading (but anonymous to avoid spoilers) Last Jedi characters were sitting and talking – well talking and listening to be more precise. It was a standout scene in the movie. Funny, emotional, significant, surprising.

‘…pass on what you have learned. Strength, mastery… but also weakness, folly, failure…yes, failure most of all…failure is the greatest teacher…’

Failure is the greatest teacher. Even though it was only a scene in a movie, and even though it was advice from a character created only for that movie franchise. Despite all that I remember that scene vividly and those words of advice clearly. Moreover I have retold that story – and quoted that advice – numerous times already. Each time trying to avoid spoiling the film for anyone yet to go…whilst trying to capture the moment accurately.

Like any good advice, it is so simple. And yet it such a good philosophy to adopt and apply.

We all do things. We all make decisions in good faith and with positive intent. But not everything we do works out in the way we want or intend. We all make mistakes in what we do. Not at the level of a galaxy far, far away I hasten to add. But stuff happens. We all experience failure.

And this is why the advice resonated so strongly with me – failure is the greatest teacher. That we fail to achieve, or to deliver what we are seeking, is never the issue. No-one I know or have come across would deliberately do something knowing it will have negative consequences. Our key to success (and to happiness) is to learn from our failures. To dispassionately and critically assess both decision and outcome. What happened that I didn’t predict or expect…what did I miss?

Never blame…only learning – learning that is personal. What we did ourselves and what we have learned.

Do. Or do not. There is no try



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Sanity Rules…

It transpires there is no clarity about who first opined that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect different results. Many attribute this wisdom to Albert Einstein, but there seems little real evidence to suggest Albert even made this statement. Some point to Benjamin Franklin…many others Rita Mae Brown. Perhaps a better definition of insanity is to try to identify whose quotation this is over and over and expect to get a result!

Either way, I do like the insight behind this statement. There are many things I do over and over because I want and expect the same result – which is why I repeat the activity. I am a creature of habit. I drive the same way to work each day; I park in the same place. Try to work out every day at the same time. But this is all consistent with Einstein Franklin Brown’s quotation since results are good.

It would be more bizarre if I found myself in terrible traffic on my way to work each day…and I continued to drive that same route. Or if I found a surge in fitness center membership meant there were no machines open first thing in the morning and yet I continued to try to exercise at that same time every day.

Rita Benjamin Albert’s quotation came to mind as I was working last week aware that the year was rapidly heading to close and that next week is normally much quieter than any other week of the year. I found myself thinking about what I was going to do – or not do – next week and starting to think about next year.

Next week has already started – yesterday I did something I have done (over and over) each year for twenty three years – I went ‘shopping’ with my daughter for Christmas presents. I say shopping – we don’t do much shopping really – it’s more an opportunity to spend a day out together talking and catching up. Lunch is traditionally a highlight of the day…and over the years we have migrated from McDonalds to Italian through Mexican ending up yesterday at a pulled pork bar!

Last week I found it hard not to think about the year end. December 31 is end of the month, quarter and year. All of our goals and objectives and budgets close at the end of the year….only to restart again on January 1 from zero!

Inevitably we can end up looking and relooking at where we expect to finish our year. I try to avoid any (more) signs of insanity by bringing different or updated data into each analysis. And I always remind myself of the importance of keeping at least one eye on 2018. Inevitably (and obviously) there is more scope to do more – and to do more different things – in 2018 to achieve different results than there is cope left to influence 2017.

There are many things we know we have done in 2017 that have worked well – exceptionally well in some cases. We should absolutely do these again in 2018 – maybe more of them or more often. It would be madness not to.

But those areas where outcomes – personal or professional or business – where not what we wanted, what we intended, or what was required. We should change them.

And so I will make time for myself to invest time next week identifying what I will do differently next year…and how I will make that happen. Or what I want to stop doing…and how to make sure I don’t do that any more.

Sanity rules…



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Birthday Boy…

It was my birthday on Tuesday. An unlikely alliance of snow on in the US, in the UK and in mainland Europe meant that I was at home on my birthday rather than away. I spent Tuesday with my wife – both our children are working or at college (or both). It was bitterly cold. Beautifully sunny at times. But pleasantly warm inside.

I worked during the day – and during the evening. We had a global call at 8:00p which I connected into and presented at. Good news though that I had time for a long, cold walk with my wife over lunch and a meal together in the early evening before I had to work. We even toasted my birthday with a special glass of wine later in the evening (and yes I promise it was after my call…).

My gifts were wonderful. As is often the case (yes I am that predictable) there was an emphasis on coffee. Place mates, mugs, t-shirts…and coffee. And a new toy…a new gadget. One of those desktop ‘smart speakers’ that plays music and tells jokes when you talk to it. And as ever I had as much fun setting it up as I did using it. Although I am still laughing at the joke of the day!

I received very nice birthday cards in the mail as well as many messages via social media, email and text. They were all so nice. All made me smile, or laugh even. Friends, colleagues, family.

I looked at myself in the mirror in the morning. How had I changed? Did I look any older? I saw my dad looking back at me. It was the strangest moment. One of those moments. It wasn’t my dad of course. And neither was it any sort of spiritual apparition. I just look like my father. Or more accurately I just look enough like my memory of my father.

That and of course I miss my dad. I miss him whenever I think about him. I smile as well when I think of him and my mum. I feel love and loved when I think of them. But I miss them. I don’t see my mum when I look in the mirror. Many birthdays have passed since anyone told me I look like my mother. I see my mum when I look at either of my sisters though. Or listen to them. They just look like my memory of my mum. That and of course I miss my mum.

I miss my mum and my dad when I think of them. I smile and feel love when I think of them. I missed them on my birthday.

Many years have passed since I saw my parents on my birthday. Work, family, distance, commitments.  All good reasons of course. At the time. At that time. At this time? I am not so sure.

I stopped looking in the mirror on Tuesday…out of sight and out of mind? Not so much really. I missed them when they didn’t send me a card. I missed them when they didn’t call me to talk. I even missed them when my wife sang me happy birthday and I cut my cake.

Missing them is hard to describe. Someone said it’s like losing an arm or a leg, it’s hard to breathe, part of me is no longer there. Loving them is easier to describe – parents are one of the most precious relationships in life. Tuesday…my birthday…just brought those feelings forward.

I know my parents are special. I know I am so lucky.

I miss my dad and my mum…



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