I’ve always been deeply interested in what makes us human, believing that we should try to bring as much of ourselves as we possibly can into everything we do.
I’ve always been deeply interested in what makes us human, believing that we should attempt to bring as much of ourselves as we possibly can into everything we do. I also believe that essentially we are decent. But things can go wrong and, if we are not careful, we can go wrong with them.
This thinking has underpinned an unusual journey for a boy who grew up in South London. After a successful career in advertising, a committed period of hedonism and some terrible looking suits, I turned down the opportunity to run an office in New York and moved into a Buddhist Monastery. With the idea that I might achieve enlightenment (it didn’t take long for me to revise my expectations) I learned, practiced and internalised the foundation practices as well as developing some of the deeper insight meditations. I often practiced for up to 8 hours a day both in solitary and silent retreat.
Around five years later, I left the monastery and continued to practice and teach. I became a student of and personal bodyguard to his eminence the 7th Dzogchen Rinpoche, one of the highest lamas in the Buddhist tradition. Alas, it was my skills in the boxing ring that lead to this appointment rather than my dizzying level of spiritual attainment.
After a while in fundraising, I started to study for a post-graduate qualification in Psychosynthesis - a form of transpersonal psychology. The process of becoming a therapist and spending countless hours listening to and providing support to others, training therapists and holding group therapies for them, helped me to understand how we are all deeply called to be more ourselves. By learning to listen and respond to this we can grow. Leaders who can listen in this way set far better conditions for teams and cultures than leaders who can’t.
Since 2001, I set up and jointly run HOME Fundraising - one of the world’s most successful fundraising companies which has raised over £0.5 billion for some of our best-loved charities. I’ve had the opportunity to develop tens of thousands of fundraisers and have supported and developed many young people from diverse backgrounds to be leaders.
But whether it’s spending time with great spiritual teachers, fundraising or therapy, what has interested me most is how one person can have a deep effect on another; the conditions that we set up for good or poor relationships and how we relate to each other not just as individuals but also as types or even archetypes. I’ve had the good fortune to see how these relationships play out across thousands of diverse groups and organisational cultures. It’s this experience that has helped me to piece together a unique model that explains deep patterns and principles common to all of us. This is something I’ve explored further more recently in partnership with Ian and Sarah. And it is this thinking that forms the foundation for all the tools and thinking that Wisdom Fish have to offer.
I am currently a student of the lineage holding Lama Khempsar Rinpoche, attending group and solitary retreats several times a year. Over the years I’ve taught hundreds of people to meditate but more recently am focusing on supporting a handful of committed practitioners with their practice.
What I know for sure is that we don’t have to be monks or therapists to develop our deeper, more authentic selves, and that a couple of yellow sheets and a short haircut won’t get you wisdom. It might however get you a good deal on a pair of sandals.
As a wee lad, my greatest ambition - when I’d outgrown my original implausible career plan to become an apprentice Jedi knight, imagining I’d eventually lead the fight for life and freedom in the face of the dark, oppressive Imperial machine - was to be a mixture of storyteller, artist, philosopher, poet; someone who dedicated their days to delving into the deep mysteries of life, unlocking secrets in ancient texts, making connections between arcane scraps of long forgotten lore, one day discovering something akin to the Elixir of Life, to be woven into tales that would set a fire burning in the heart of humanity. The Elixir of Life has yet to reveal itself, but my office is strewn with stacks of books and creating is well under way…
Later, my ambitions evolved in more realistic directions and I became a student of theatre, writing and art in the 1990s. I wrote, produced and directed a series of theatrical experiences exploring ritual, mythology and culture. I was interested in what happens to us when we let go of or lose the mythical elements in our lives. Connecting to who we really are as humans through our stories, rites and practices has always interested me – we so easily forget and ignore the deepest parts of us in the face of the everyday, don’t we? We allow little things to blow us off course.
After graduating with a degree in Theatre Writing, I became a playwright, with work being shown at Oxford Playhouse, the Riverside Studios and on BBC Thames Valley. I then branched out into development for film, television and radio.
I met fellow Wisdom Fish Director, Neil Hope in 2000 when working for a face-to-face fundraising company. At the time Neil was talking about the impact leaders can have on groups – putting his observations into practice on groups of fundraisers and developing his approach to leadership. He left the company to study Transpersonal Psychology, something that also interested me. Neil was interested in therapeutic work; I was more hooked on how these thinkers – and others like Jung and Joseph Campbell - could help in the development of stories and creative work. How discoveries about purpose and meaning related to hero myths.
After this Neil and I lost contact for some years. This period took me in various creative directions. I was Creatives Manager for a national fundraising company, designing and writing training materials, staff engagement tools, newsletters and marketing materials during the day and writing in the evenings. I was then a freelancer - script editing, developing work and writing proposals for TV shows, filming and directing corporate content. This all gave me a strong foundation in what’s required to develop engaging content, how to lead an audience through a narrative, engage them, touch their hearts and minds.
I ran into Neil again in 2007 when I joined him at HOME Fundraising for a few months to help out. I became Head of Internal Communications and later Head of Creative, staying with HOME for over 10 years – only moving on to develop Wisdom Fish. During that time I put my art and design skills to good use, building and developing all the company’s materials from internal staff communications tools to trainings, internal films and photographic campaigns to engage and inspire. The aim was simple: to create an immersive experience of what it meant to be in the company; create a world that was rich and fulfilling, that had its own mythology and symbols and took people on a journey. I’ve created several iterations of HOME’s branding, built praise and recognition programmes, developed internal competitions and leadership training tools. Along the way, I’ve also had the privilege to work with musicians, acrobats and animators, mime-artists, illustrators and story-tellers to produce beautiful creations.
I’ve been practicing meditation and mindfulness for many years. My personal interests and the subject matter of much of my writing has always been deeply rooted in Eastern and Western philosophy, spirituality, psychology and anthropology. I’m an avid reader, cinephile, love the outdoor life and taking long walks with my dog.