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'Nearly all the problems facing society today cannot be attacked by single disciplines.'

Dr Alexander King

This blog contains hundreds of original articles. 


And book a talk and buy my new book MICROMASTERY

"I couldn't stop telling people about this book. Wise and joyful, it genuinely changed the way I thought about learning - and it left me bursting to put it into action."  - Tim Harford, author of Fifty Things That Made The Modern Economy

"Micromastery is a triumph. A brilliant idea, utterly convincing, and superbly carried through." Philip Pullman.



Go and get it from a bookshop.

Or Buy online! Micromastery - learn small, learn fast and find the hidden path to happiness is published by Penguin books (UK) in May 2017. It will be published in China, Taiwan, USA, Germany and South Korea in the months after that.

You can get it at Wordery- click below

Or for those amazon junkies click this one:



the thief

In many mystical and traditional systems the figure of the thief comes up in teaching stories. You see it refracted in popular culture in the beguiling character Bilbo Baggins who must become a burglar to defeat Smaug and get the gold. A thief is cunning, maybe, but more than that he or she has to think on their feet, think for themselves, assess the actual situation and know when to strike- have some sense of timing.

In traditional martial arts the teacher does not 'teach'. Quite often he aims to obscure his real skills, where the real information lies. The students are enjoined 'to steal his technique'. They hang around after hours, watch him very very closely and sometimes get it. (But in the modern world they are then tempted to go public, franchise the product and retire on the proceeds...)

One reason for 'not teaching' is the very good one that the teacher may not know himself how he does something. And by trying to communicate it verbally may hinder your efforts to learn. You need to see for yourself and frame it in your own terms. Though of course this is fraught with further difficulties if you have tendency to project onto what you see.

The key, or one, lies in looking carefuly. This means looking with a 'transparent head' on. A mind that is all eyes and no running dialogue. Never mind the whirling arms, the shouts, what is really going on?

The thief plans a heist. He scopes out the joint, he sees what is just part of the furniture and what is valuable. he sees which window is vulnerable and which is alarmed. Now take that metaphor and see how you approach those who have something you admire, some truth seeking ability and truth dealing ability and disregard what they say, or take it as just one more ingredient. Really look at what they do. Pay especial attention to the moves made to distract you, then look elsewhere. Usually it is closer to home, and on the surface quite mundane, even old fashioned...


ego puncturing

How many times have you read or heard your ego is your worst enemy, that you block your own light, that your self is getting in your own way?

But how to do something about it?

There are a number of traditional solutions: practising gratitude is one.

Then there is pushing your own sense of tolerance. Note the things you just won't or can't tolerate. Then experiment for a while tolerating them.

These are shortcuts. If you don't use them, over time- maybe years- life will deal you an ego blow. It is of course, up to you how you react to it, but it'll come.


changing yourself

If you want to change yourself, change your environment.

If you can't change your environment go with your limitations- use them to your advantage. Acknowledge your weaknesses and program stuff to fill in the time and space when you are 'at risk'. 


good advice if you'll take it

Some people are faffers. Mucking about, wasting time, doing all the taks except the one you have to. If you are one of life's faffers then it's OK to faff about before a big project or trip because the percentage of time faffing- a few days, a week maybe is nothing compared to the months or years of a big task. But if you do small things of shorter duration faffing takes over and becomes what you do. So you end up doing nothing with your life. Of course if the big thing has little momentum and is really a sequence of little things the same faffing incursions occur and you end up failing to complete. So, do big things that have their own momentum. if you're a faffer.


who benefits from complexity?

In modern urban culture finance and the law become increasingly complex. The way to make money in both these areas is to find loopholes in the regulations. Those with a better tolerance of complexity will succeed. They will regard increasing complexity as a benefit as it sorts out the players from the amateurs. By business-evolutionary pressure the peculiar aspergery/dedicated/creative combination needed to flourish in complex regulatory environments will further encourage complexity in that area. The complexity handlers will be vastly well rewarded, the rest will get little. A priestly caste will emerge, albeit one which is not hugely difficult to join if you have the right mindset. 

But since this is a positive feedback situation the only brake on complexity increasing will come from outside. A Gordian knot solution (Alexander didn't bother to try an unravel the impossible knot, he cut it). In this case someone with a gun takes over the land and resources of the complexity masters.

Or is there another ending?


patience and intuition

Patience is a virtue- how many times have you heard that and dismissed it? Old school, not relevant in this fast paced world. Things DEMAND to be done NOW don' t they?

Maybe not.

A virtue is a self-training tool that has been observed and eventually shorn of its connection to higher understanding. It has some 'worldly' value- patient people are generally happier and more contented than those in a constant and demanding hurry- but not always. Patience, like any other virtue, has been 'seen through' in these challenging times. The problem with this cleverness is that masks the bridge that patience provides.

Patience is how you learn to be intuitive about timing, about the right time to act. 

You can hone your intuition about WHAT to do as much as you like, but if you miss out WHEN, then you are like someone running past bus stops and hoping a bus will just turn up as you approach (which does sometimes happen of course- just not very often).

By practising patience you learn the texture of time, you get a feel for the moment to act by learning how to bide your time. To learn this you need to allow a patient approach into every area of your life. Look at how you do things and ask- am I simply being a bit impatient here?




Don't drop the Clangers

Clanger creator Oliver Postgate's wonderful autobiography 'Seeing Things' contains many interesting insights. One that struck me forcibly was what he said after talking to animation students at the Royal College of Art, 'They taught me more than I realy wanted to know about how our simple direct craft had been inflated into a manic pretentious pseudo-art....They wanted me to see how visually stunning their work was and how well it fitted into the current state-of-the-art fashion, in fact how 'good' it was....[But] you can't really ask how 'good' a piece of work is by itself. You can only ask how well it does what it is setting out to do.'

I meet people all the time obsessed with whether their work is 'good' enough. Instead they would be far more productive by asking the simple question: does it achieve what it sets out to do? And, therefore, what is it setting out to achieve?