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The Art of Brilliance Blog

Welcome to our random musings. If Carlsberg could write blogs...

New Year’s revolution

Everyone needs a HUGG.

If you want to be like everyone else, set yourself a ‘SMART’ New Year’s resolution. I doubt there isn’t anyone who hasn’t had SMART objectives hammered into them. Specific, measurable, achievable (yawn), realistic, (head lolling in near slumber) and time-bound (snore).

If you’re a 2%er you’ll want to avoid slipping into a world of mediocrity and blandness – so we’re recommending a New Year’s HUGG. Set yourself a Huge Unbelievable Great Goal that stretches and inspires you. HUGGs are eye-wateringly exciting and can only be achieved by creativity, passion, innovative thinking and sustained action.

‘Giving up smoking’ is sooooo last millennium. ‘Using the money I’ve saved from giving up smoking to enter the New York marathon’ is where it’s at. That folks, is a HUGG!

There will of course be the naysayers, who think HUGGs are ‘too big’ or ‘directionless’ or just plain ‘unachievable’. To counter this just remind them that you’re a long time dead and let their vacant expression make your point for you.

Buzz Lightyear had it pretty much spot on folks.

Until next time


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Bored games?

Christmas in our house is summed up in three words: family, food and prezzies. I really hope you’ve managed to hang on to the religious meaning of Christmas which was lost in our family generations ago. My daughter thinks it’s an amazing coincidence that Jesus was born on Christmas day! “Amazing to think that that tiny baby grew up to be whiskery old Santa Claus.”

My top 2%er tip for Christmas is ‘enthusiasm’. Remember when you were seven? You just couldn’t wait to see what Santa had brought. And it almost didn’t matter what you received… the magic was that ‘he’d been’. And he always left a trail of evidence… few crumbs of mince pie, a half-eaten carrot, a drop of sherry left in the glass. It was all the proof you needed!

So, be as enthusiastic as you were when you were seven. Because the best thing of all is that emotions are contagious and enthusiasm will spread like wildfire. Sure, miserable Aunt Edna might be more of a slow burner, but the kids will catch it for sure! They’ll be burning brightly.

I’ve already challenged my kids to a game of Monopoly on Christmas day. And I don’t even like Monopoly (neither do my kids. Ollie calls it a ‘bored game’ which I always think it actually quite clever). Can the power of enthusiasm win over a couple of teenagers? Can I engineer just the right amount of enthusiasm to make it the best game of Monopoly ever, without overdoing it and the kids thinking I’ve been guzzling the eggnog?

One thing’s for sure, it’s going to be good fun trying!

Happy Christmas to you and yours

A x

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Standing out

If you’re of a certain age (like me) the likelihood is that your grandparents had a ‘job for life’. It’s also quite likely that this applied to your grandpa but your grandma didn’t work (not in the paid sense, at least). Work provided certainty and security in a ‘steady as you go’ kind of way.

Your parents might have had a couple of jobs? They probably both worked and the chances are they had a career change along the way. It was a bit less steady.

You’ve probably had several jobs with a career trajectory that has been slightly upwards but often (in recent times) sideways or downwards? And, right now, the ship’s not feeling very steady at all. In fact, it’s all a bit wobbly.

Your kids are born into a world where there is no career path. To stretch the sailing metaphor just a little too far, they will be white water rafting! Success will depend on constant investment in themselves and re-invention of what they do. It’s likely they’ll experience temporary contracts and/or periods of unemployment. Their career path will be haphazard at best.

So what’s this got to do with The Art of Being Brilliant? The short answer is ‘everything’. In a world of manic upheaval, everything’s changed, including the ‘rules’.

While ‘experience’ and ‘qualifications’ are still important, the modern world means that you are your own brand. In simple terms, you need to add more value than other candidates. ‘Fitting in’ is no longer the game. You absolutely have to stand out.

This is the age of the 2%er. Welcome to your world.

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Loitering outside schools

As well as delivering The Art of Being Brilliant, I also moonlight as a children’s author. That means I get to visit loads of primary schools.

I always choose to park around the corner, and walk. It’s awesome.

Because as soon as I step out of the car I can hear the buzz. And as I get closer, the noise builds. There’s excited screaming as well as peals of squealing, yelling, laughter and unbridled joy. (Let me add that the excitement’s nothing to do with me. It happens every day, in every school, author visit or no author visit.)

As I arrive at the school gates I sometimes stand and watch. (Yes, yes, I know. You’re not supposed to do that kind of thing in the modern era, but I do). The energy and excitement generated by 300 kids is something to behold. They’re playing, skipping and jumping around. There’s always an awful lot of running. And hopscotch is alive and well. I have to say, it’s a joy.

And the following day, I’m booted and suited, for a meeting in a company. It feels all business-like and professional. There’s no screaming or excitement. Nobody’s ever invited me to play hopscotch. There’s hardly any skipping and, if I’m being honest, very little unbridled joy.

Children (particularly of primary school age) are a wonderful example of our natural state of being – playful, delirious, curious, fun, joyful and excitable.

So what happened? At what point did we become dull, grumpy and negative? At what point did we stop jumping in puddles? When did hopscotch become a bad idea?

Maybe it’s ‘life’? Maybe it’s ‘responsibility’? Or ‘stress’ or ‘routine’ or the ‘dullness’ that life can become? But here’s a thought. Could it be that we’re happy, positive and curious by default, but somehow we just… forgot?

In which case, please think of our workshops and booksas a gentle reminder.

Andy C

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Gazing lovingly

The Art of Being Brilliant trainers are happiness ninjas. And to keep in tip top ninja mode, we have to read loads of books. It comes with the territory.

A particular fave of mine is ‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Ruben. It’s simple, honest and brill. And, rather like The Art of Being Brilliant, it isn’t really about work. It’s about home.

Here’s a lovely top tip for busy parents. Gretchen suggests that plenty of households are a bit crazy at bedtime. The kids have been tucked up but there still plenty to do… packing lunchboxes, organising their bags, ironing school shirts, etc.

Instead of rushing around, headless chicken style, before you go to bed, treat yourself to a bit of what Gretchen calls ‘gazing lovingly’. It was Gretchen’s husband who first suggested it. ‘Gazing lovingly’ is when you go and peek at your sleeping children.

It’s so simple. And such a treat.

Just a couple of words of advice from the Art of Brill team:

  • Firstly, make sure you only do this with your own kids (breaking into the house next door and ‘gazing lovingly’ at their kids is never a good idea).
  • And secondly, don’t enter your 14-year-old son’s bedroom and expect to do this. In fact, probably best not to enter his bedroom at all, at least not after dark.

Until next time…

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Teenagers call to action

Not so much a blog, more of a quote. Get your kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces to read it…

“Always we hear the cry from teenagers, “Where can we go, what can we do?”

“My answer is this: go home, mow the lawn, wash the windows, learn to cook, build a raft, get a job, visit the sick, study your lessons and after you’ve finished, read a book.

“Your town does not owe you recreational facilities and your parents do not owe you fun. The world does not owe you a living. You owe the world something. You owe it your time, energy and talent…

“In other words, grow-up, stop being a cry baby, get out of your dream world and develop a backbone instead of a wishbone. Start behaving like a responsible person. You are important and you are needed. It’s too late to sit around and wait for somebody to do something, someday. Someday is now and that somebody is you.”

John Tepene

And then ask them what it means.

Have a fab day


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Being of a certain age, LWT stands for ‘London Weekend Television’. I’ve been reading Robin Sharma’s book, based on the concept of ‘Leadership Without a Title’ so I’m grappling with my perception of LWT.

Sharma’s LWT tunes in brilliantly to the 2%ers ethos of ‘being your best self’. Not all of us have ‘leader’ or ‘manager’ in our job title. Indeed, one of the 2%ers approached me at the last do and basically said, “This is all well and good, but I’m only an IT technician. I’m not sure I can apply it.” Which perplexed me a little. Cue lots of rubbing of chin and quizzical pondering. I have obviously been pitching it wrong.

Sharma’s LWT nailed it for me in an ‘it’s-so-obvious-how-can-I-have-not-seen-it-before’ kind of way. Being brilliant is about you, not your job title. The question is, I guess, what does the best IT technician look, sound and feel like? I’m assuming that all of you reading this are already technically competent at doing your job. That’s a given. The 2% ethos asks the question, what attitude and approach makes me world class? What do I have to do to inspire people? It goes way beyond job competence. In fact, it’s not really about work at all. It’s about being the best version of yourself that you can muster.

During the summer hols we were delighted to tell you about the launch of our Personal Leadership Programme.

Now that for many of us the holidays are a dim and distant memory, we thought we would be kind and remind you of our brilliant oasis of three days development, focusing on you and the impact that you have on those around you.

Our first session is running in the Birmingham area on 19-20 November and 10 December 2013 and there are currently only three spaces left!

If you were inspired by the The Art of Being Brilliant then this programme will make you think – and then help you to make it happen!

For further details, email Peter on

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A superhero for the modern world

I grew up in the 1970s.

In those days we didn’t have many TV channels (just three in fact, BBC1, BBC2 and ITV). But we had some really cool superheroes on the telly. The Hulk. And Superman. And Spidey. And, best of all, Wonder Woman (what an outfit!).

The thing is that 1970s superheroes actually looked like superheroes. Turning green or wearing your undies on the outside was de rigeur for 1970s superheroes.

Fast forward to the late 90s. I’ve grown up and have kids of my own. My youngest got addicted to Bob the Builder. And I used to have a downer about Bob because he isn’t a superhero. He’s just a builder. He fixes stuff. What’s the point of watching DVDs about a builder? There’s nothing special about Bob. It’s not even as if he’d had an accident with a rivet gun when he was six and became the “contractor of choice”. He’s just a builder!

Until one day I sat down and watched an episode of Bob the Builder. It blew me away. Bob (bearing in mind all the builders you know) never turns up at a job and grimaces, shakes his head and complains, “Who did your plumbing love? I don’t like the look of that.” No siree. Bob always approaches his work with a positive mental attitude. And he doesn’t turn up on his tod. Oh no. He turns up with a high performance team (Scoop, Muck, Dizzy, Wendy, Roly, Spud and Lofty) and they sing and dance while they work. And, of course, when the challenge seems insurmountable Bob always shouts to his team, “can we fix it?” and his team always shouts back, “yes we can!”

Know what? I think Bob’s got himself an empowered team. He’s not a bad role model. He’s certainly ‘not just a builder’. His extra-ordinarily positive attitude marks him out as being the best builder in the world.

Maybe Bob’s a superhero for the modern times?

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The top joke from the Edinburgh Fringe (according to the Independent anyway) was awarded this year to Joe Lycett: “What do we want!? More research into a cure for ADHD! When do we want it!? Let’s play swingball!”

I don’t know who invented ‘Swingball’ – but the slightly leaning pole surrounded by holes in the ground is an important part of our back garden. We recently had to replace ours because someone hit the ball so hard it came off the string and disappeared into the hedge!

Although life can spiral up and down – and up again, I suspect “life is like a game of Swingball” is a quote that will never catch on! Generally speaking we want to go somewhere with our lives, rather than just hanging on tight and going round in circles.

So, where do you want to go? Do you know? For those who are leaders it falls on you to help your team develop a clear vision of the future. But without a vision for your own life and personal development you could find yourself going round in circles – and it’s no use expecting your team to build a vision of the future unless you lead by example.

So for this blog, our challenge to you is:

  • Where are you going?
  • Who do you want to be?
  • What impact do you want to have?
  • And above all, why?

We’ve been running programmes that make you think for, well, quite a while, and we’ve been asked many times what else we can do to take our principles a step further? How can we build them into the way we develop our leaders to transform our organisations?

Well, the answer is finally here. In November and December 2013 we are running, in conjunction with ‘The Living Leader’, a three day Personal Leadership Programme that does all this and more.

If you were inspired by The Art of Being Brilliant then this programme will make you think and then help you to make it happen!

For further details email

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Happy families

If you remember, I left you on a cliff hanger? What do you mean you don’t care? Or you can’t remember?

To recap, I’d suggested we need an alien invasion to bring us humans together as one big happy family. And it’s ‘happy families’ that I want to continue with.

Because some families don’t get on. I mean, how on earth are we going to reconcile the ills of the world when families are at war?

So, in true 2%er style, I’ve decided to do my bit for humanity. For the rest of my life I’m going to treat everyone as if they are family. I’m so excited about it! Once ‘everyone’ is family, the world seems such a nicer place.

My first opportunity to heal the world came as I was checking into one of Lenny’s purple hotels (in Romford – rock ‘n’ roll baby). I waited patiently as a couple tried to check in. I couldn’t help noticing that the middle aged woman had a dragon tattooed on her back and the guy looked rather like Steptoe. And it was weird that they only wanted the room for an hour? The Jeremy Kyle episode ‘I got my sister pregnant in a Premier Inn’ flickered momentarily across my mind. But, hey, they’re family, so I blew that thought away.

Anyway their credit card didn’t work and Premier Inn don’t take cash so after a few minutes of them pleading with reception and me desperately needing a wee, it hit me that this was an opportunity. I had just committed to treating everyone as family. Would I treat my family like this?

Of course not. So I stepped forward and paid for their room on my credit card. Ta da!

The lady with the dragon tattoo seemed really grateful and I walked down the corridor towards my room thinking, ‘This changing the world is going to cost me a bloody fortune.’ But, I have to be honest, I did have a warm glow on the inside.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the full amount was waiting for me (in cash) behind reception in the morning. I tucked into my morning croissant, my faith in humanity peeking through in a wry smile. I glanced at the headline of the local paper, ‘Mugging at Premier Inn by Dragon Lady and Steptoe accomplice.’

And I marvelled at the coincidence. Fancy that happening, here in Romford. Amazing!

Andy W @artofbrillandyw

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Alien invasion

I was driving home from a session all about ‘leading change’. To be honest I steer away from delivering the standard ‘change’ material. All that ‘unfreeze – change – refreeze’ stuff leaves me cold.

Instead, I decided to speak about what was really on my mind. I suggested that, as the human race, we are still very new to this planet. If we play our cards right, we’ve got a few million years left on the lease.

I then explained, in our trademark non-academic way, that a lot of the world’s current thinking is quite ‘medieval’. And by ‘medieval’ I mean ‘medieval’. For example, we still fight about money, territory and Gods.

And my mind flashed back to an article I’d read many years ago about how astronauts feel when they view Earth from a million miles away. Many of them comment on the tranquillity and beauty of our blue planet when viewed from afar.

And yet, here we are at ground level saying things like, ‘My God’s better than your God. Bang bang, you’re dead!’

Here’s a local and petty example. People from Liverpool (‘Scousers’) tend to have a general dislike of people from Manchester (‘Mancs’). It’s partly a football rivalry and probably a man thing, but stick with me, there’s a great point on the way. They hate each other so much that, famously, when there was a scarcity of maternity wards, expectant parents had to use the local veterinary hospital.

One night a Scouser and Manc turned up with their pregnant wives, along with a German Shepherd bitch called Lucy. Confused? So was the vet!

All were rushed into the delivery room and the men listened while there was a lot of panting, screaming and yelping from behind the door.

After a nervous couple of hours the vet emerged into the waiting room and explained there had been complications but not to worry as all the new born where fit and healthy. Phew! The only problem was during the turmoil of three females giving birth at once he hadn’t had time to tag the infants. “However,” he reassured them, “this shouldn’t cause too much of a problem because as their fathers you should find it very easy to recognise your own offspring.”

The Manc jumped up at the speed of a thousand gazelles and ran into the delivery room returning with the German Shepherd puppy lovingly cradled in his arms.

The vet looked confused. “That one can’t be yours sir,” he explained.

And the Manc said, “Up yours doc! I’m taking no chances. One of those babies in there is a Scouser!”

That is a lot of hatred!

However, consider this – if that very same Manc and Scouser went on a trip to London, they wouldn’t be a ‘Manc’ and ‘Scouser’ any more. They would unite as ‘northerners’, joining forces in the battle against ‘shandy-drinking southerners’.

Then if the northerner and southerner went on holiday to Spain, they would become ‘English’ and join forces against the Spanish. Being ‘English’ they would have too much sun, too many beers and chant racial slurs before drowning in their own sick.

However if ever the English and Spanish went on holiday to the USA they would then become ‘European’ and begin to hate the Americans. Then the Europeans and Americans go on holiday to somewhere in the Middle East… and I think you can see where this is going?

So the way I see it, what we need to bring the people of the world together in harmony and peace is… an alien invasion!

Think about it?

Then all the Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and ginger people… in fact all the ethnic and minority groups would stand together in unity as one and shout:

“Come on you little green b*****s, we’ll have ya!”

For the members of my audience left awake, my point was, why wait for an alien invasion? Let’s unite now. Let’s forgive the mistakes of the past and understand we probably didn’t know any better and live out the remainder of our lease with positivity, harmony and happiness. Sounds awesome, right?

So, in part two of this blog, I’ll reveal what I’m doing to save the world.

Until next time

Andy W @artofbrillandyw

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We’re wired for struggle

According to my esteemed co-author, Andy Whittaker, we’re all born perfect. But of course, in the interests of generating some debate, I totally disagree. We’re born completely and utterly flawed. You pop out into the world, someone slaps your backside (nice welcome!), you open your lungs and the starting pistol of life signals that you’re off…

You are you. You just don’t know it yet! And, eventually you get used to being you. You work out what works and doesn’t work for you. You suss the system.

But which bit is ‘you’?

Is it the body bit? Grab your ear lobe and feel the smoothness of it. The little hairs. That’s a bit of ‘you’, right? Or bite your lip. Ouch, that’s definitely ‘you’. Pull your hair. That’s attached (unless you’re wearing a syrup, in which case you’d probably best not pull it too hard) so that’s ‘you’ too. So there’s a physical ‘you’. That version of ‘you’ that’s basically a bunch of trillions of cells stuck together. And the physical ‘you’ is very important.

But ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’ is less about the ‘you’ that you see when you stand naked in front of the mirror. Yes, yes, we know there are a load of lumps, bumps and imperfections. But herein lies the clue to you number two. Who’s the one noticing your reflection? Who’s the one saying, ‘Best suck your belly in mate’? Who’s the one imagining how good you’d look if you actually put some effort into getting fit?

We reckon this is the real you. The lumpy, visible bunch of cells is just the mechanism you use to transport yourself around. The one in your head is the most important. The one that feels and connects. Some call it your spirit, or personality or inner voice.

If I ask you, ‘Do you talk to yourself’? The real you is the one who says, ‘I don’t know, do I?’

And that’s the version of ‘you’ that we want to engage. Because if we can get through to the realyou, our job is done.

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