If you want to change the world, stop

Do you think people are rational decision‑makers?

That is: you put facts in front of them about problems and solutions, have a reasoned debate, persuade them of a different point of view, then they change their position and their behaviour.

Head leaf graphicIf so, you have to let go of that idea.

Seriously. Do you want to make progress? That set of assumptions, conscious or unconscious, will keep you stuck for years.

It’s what we were doing in the environmental movement in the 1990s. Back then we didn’t know any different. Psychology and marketing weren’t mass-accessible in the way they are now.

Here’s the thing. Humans have the capacity to be rational decision-making creatures. But for most of us, most of the time, we’re not. We run on habits, worldviews, prejudices, emotions.

If you’re a person biased toward rational problem-solving, like I am and many of my friends in environmental groups were, this is confusing and frustrating. But no less true.

You still see it all the time. People have presented arguments to a government, company or individual and encountered what seems to be a stubborn refusal to shift. They’re treating it as a debating society, and wondering why it didn’t work.

From that frame of reference the main explanation available is that the other side has not understood – either because they’re stupid or because you haven’t explained it properly. So you try again (and again).

But if you step back you can see that what’s really going on is messy psychology at work, and plugging away in rational explainer mode will never succeed.

I’m not saying you should stop opposing bad things and presenting arguments. It’s important to have that out there where people can see it. It’s important that people doing bad things don’t get it all their own way, and that people inclined to question can see they’re not alone.

But in most cases winning a debate is not the point where friction is stopping you moving forward.

That is rooted in people’s conditioning, personal identity, tribal connections, how they’re used to things being done, what they value, how they suppress those values to fit in socially, and all that sort of stuff.

Welcome to the frontier of the 21st century.


Want to read more? This post became the first section of my book Planet of the Bubble People.



Is scar tissue stopping you finding your treasure?

Ivy covering door

Have you ever been reflecting on your life, and had an experience like going into a room and realising there’s a door that’s been wallpapered over?

Physical scar tissue comes from injuries that heal imperfectly. I’ve adopted the term as an allegory for something that happens in our inner lives.

We have different kinds of pain as we go along. We might react by taking a long time to work it through. At the other end of the scale we might try to act as if everything’s fine and carry on as normal.

But then what can often happen is that we cover it up to protect ourselves. It hasn’t healed fully, but it’s superficially workable. As a raw wound it was hard to bear, but now it’s out of sight, out of mind.  Read more »

Facing the barricades kindly: the mental inflammation epidemic

It sometimes seems like people are queueing up to reject attempts to make the world better.

Brain conflictWhen I’ve been thinking about barriers to change, worldview bubbles and all that, there seems to be one thing at the base of it all.

Our brains have a directive to keep their processing workload down. They use all sorts of tricks to protect themselves.

There’s a marketing principle I came across for the first time recently: “The confused mind says no.”

When too much thinking is required, we reject the whole thing rather than working through it. But how does the level of ‘too much’ get set, and how do different people react?

One way to look at it is inflammation that’s built up over time.

Inflammation-type processes

Do you know what a panic attack is? I experienced it a couple of times several years ago, and responded in typical fashion by getting a book and learning more about it. (Panic Attacks by Christine Ingham – recommended if you’re interested.)

A panic attack happens when something that’s not actually that serious triggers your system into a fight or flight response. Adrenaline is released, heartbeat and breathing increase, senses heighten, etc – the things your body would need to fight bears or run away from them.  Read more »

6 ways you block yourself from communicating your message

Headwall pic

If you have a message to share and an audience to engage, your website and documents and social media need to do that as well as possible, right? But we are humans with unruly brains, so it’s not that straightforward.

A lot of people have resistance around communication. This post is about shining a light on some of the internal blocks that might be holding you back. Do any of them seem familiar? If so, can you reduce their hold so you can do more for your message?

Of course there are lots of legitimate reasons why people might not want to work on their message right now. But I’ve found that most often people draw back from it without giving reasons, and I have to read between the lines. There are clearly internal stories going on like:

  • “I’m busy with more important things”
  • “That’s not for people like me”
  • “I already know all about that”
  • “I’m uncomfortable with that stuff so I’m fending it off.”

Here are a few things that I think are behind that. You might notice they’re interconnected.   Read more »

Agents of S.T.O.R.Y.

Stories at sea graphicWe’re living in a time when old stories of the world are breaking down.

More and more people are seeing and feeling it, as a sense of unease at the edges or a head-on reality gap collision. People are hunting for ways of making sense of the world that they can believe in.

And those of us with messages to share need to help them get there. The world we want is waiting to be made. But only if enough of us manage to make the jump.  Read more »

Why web designers suck
(and how to spot good ones)

When I talk to people about their websites, it’s surprising how often they have a story of a poor experience with their web designer.

Surprised at screen graphicSome of them feel unsatisfied with the results, or bruised by the process, but powerless to do anything about it. Granted, those stories may have another side that I don’t hear.

But there are certainly all too many examples of sites that have a design company’s name at the bottom but are doing a poor job for their owners. (Who may not even realise it, assuming the designer has done it the best way.)

It singes my stoat to see good messages getting short-changed. So this post is to help people understand the territory better, hopefully leading to better working relationships and increasingly fab message channels.   Read more »

The real reason spelling and grammar matter – video blog

To a wordnerd like me, spelling and grammar mistakes jump out and make my brain itch to fix them. And I want to do the best job I can with language.

Most people aren’t wired up like that. If you’re not, is there a real practical reason why you should worry about that stuff?

Yes there is, if you have an audience – clients, supporters, followers, peers – and you care how they see you.



(This is part of my video skills learning journey. So I apologise for the tics, like saying “you know” every twenty seconds! It was done in one take, so not bad for a learner. Onward and upward!)


How to make great word graphics for social media sharing

Word graphics image

Images like the one above are a great way to share little pieces of your message. If you get them right.

You can spread them on social media. They’re like message sweeties that people can share with their own contacts. Images like these are also good for putting in web pages, to show up when people share that page. (And you can’t share a page on Pinterest if it has no images.)

The point of these ‘word graphics’ is to be visually attractive, with a message the reader can take in quickly. Then they can have a smile, or a pause and think, and then carry on with their day. You might even change someone’s life, if they’re in the right place for your message to go in deeply.

A lot of us have discovered tools that make it easy to create these graphics: choosing from a selection of backgrounds and text styles and outputting the final image, without having to use full-blown graphics software. I use an iOS app called Wordswag that someone introduced me to. There are lots of other apps too. Some people use Canva, an online design tool.

But just because it’s easy doesn’t mean the software will automatically make good graphics. That’s down to you.

Remember: attractive, and easy to absorb. If the reader’s brain decides that processing your text will be too much like hard work – or if it threatens to hurt their eyes! – they’ll move on to the next thing and never absorb your little nugget of wisdom.

So here are some tips.   Read more »

The upward path – video blog

It’s an old metaphor. The fork in the road. The point of choice. Do we take the upward path to the world we want to see, or the downward path of fear and short-term convenience?

From personal development work helping individuals to campaigning to influence governments, if you are helping to make things better you are part of the same big picture. And you need to get better at broadcasting your messages over the noise.



I wanted to ‘nudge’ myself into doing some video work, and I thought the best place to start was with this.

‘The upward path’ started as a bit of a placeholder concept while I was working on other things. But I’ve come to realise it’s a pretty good label for the big picture that is my ‘why’ – and that it’s important to talk about in its own right as part of my own body of messages.

(I’ve also been sharing word-graphics on Twitter under #upwardpath – and Facebook with the tag used less consistently!)

There was a false start with uncooperative technology, and a surprising amount of resistance around being visible, but I think it’s turned out pretty well. Do leave feedback about the content or cinematography in the comments!


Election 2015: voting for the upward path

No need to be confused any longer! Now you will understand exactly how you should vote. ;) Post may contain satire and bias. I also talk about trends and likely results.

It’s UK election week on the blog – check out my previous post on The election 2015 communication circus. (And the previous two are relevant as well, on social change and personal development and worldviews and persuasion.)

The quick guide to voting in England

Vote UKIP if you are threatened by our fluid, interconnected world due to a deep psychological aversion to change.

Vote Conservative if you are threatened by our fluid, interconnected world due to fear of losing wealth and status.

Vote Labour if you are uncomfortable with our fluid, interconnected world and have a nub of social conscience.

Vote Liberal Democrat if you are uncomfortable with our fluid, interconnected world and don’t want to be those guys.

Vote Green if you see opportunities in our fluid, interconnected world and want society to reflect authentic human values.

Slightly flippant, perhaps, but not far wrong.

Voters elsewhere also have access to the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru, and there may be other smaller parties in your area, like National Health Action. Check those out too.

This election we are not buying fear - the price is too high
Read more »