I’m fascinated by ideas.

I was born in the North of England and always loved both the arts and the sciences, so I continued studying both until university, where I graduated with a degree in philosophy, with a heavy focus on philosophy of language and mathematical logic. Philosophy is hard. At the time I didn’t know exactly what I’d do with it, but fortunately, in the UK, your studies aren’t explicitly tied to your career. I’ve written a separate tab on philosophy: check it out if you’re interested on why I think it’s important.

After university I worked as a language teacher for a few years in Japan and Malaysia, earning a postgraduate diploma in language teaching. The diploma taught me how to teach, or rather, how to help others learn in an engaging and interactive way. I also moved from language teaching into training, and this experience has been invaluable ever since.

During my time in Asia I set up a photography business on the side, eventually quitting teaching/training so I could pursue photography full-time. I returned to Europe just as the financial crisis of 2008 was kicking in, so I learned some tough lessons about building a bootstrapped business.

Throughout my career as a professional photographer, I was constantly aware of the transformational impact of digital technology. I cut my teeth in photography when film was still the norm, but after a few years, the industry had been completely ”disrupted” by digital cameras and smartphones. I knew my business had to adapt to survive, but I also developed a keen interest in tech itself, and focused my attention on the tech sector. I hired some people and began offering other digital services, including video production and animation, and the business became an agency.

I also began to realise that whilst I loved photography and creativity, I wanted to do other things, and apply the same analytical rigour I used to enjoy when I was studying philosophy and maths.

I found that much of the hard-won experience I’d gained in building my creative business, my teaching and training skills, plus my knack for analytical thinking was all transferable to tech, and I’ve been working mostly in the tech sector ever since.

My team and I now offer an end-to-end service. Essentially we help businesses clarify their ideas and get them off the ground, and then communicate what they are doing to the world.

In my spare time, my big loves are judo, which has its own tab in my bio, and languages (I speak seven, to varying levels of proficiency from fluent to just-about-getting-by). In the last couple of years I’ve also got into Brazilian jiu-jitsu.

My vision is to empower businesses and individuals by helping them clarify their ideas and communicate them to the world. I help bring ideas to life.

Having worked with thousands of people over the last 15 years or so, I truly believe that everyone has something unique to offer. But this value often gets lost through unnecessary complexity, muddled thinking, and communication problems. And sometimes the value isn’t where you think it is: we all have our blind spots.

Philosophy has two meanings. From the OED:

1) The study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence, especially when considered as an academic discipline.

2) A theory or attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.

I studied philosophy at university and it was hard. It’s often misconceived as kinda wishy-washy; a “soft” subject. I won’t attempt to disprove that view: but if you hold it, I’d encourage you to have a look here or here and get back to me 😉

It IS true that philosophy doesn’t directly relate to any specific career, unless you become an academic. But in an indirect way it relates to almost everything. Studying philosophy brought me four main practical benefits, which have been useful throughout my career:

1) Questioning assumptions: first and foremost, my own

2) An ability to think through tough problems in a broad array of fields from first principles

3) Open mindedness to consider points of view I strongly disagree with

4) An ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple and relatable way

I’ve been doing judo most of my life.

I love judo not just for its physical benefits (it’s one of the most physically demanding sports out there) but because it fosters mental toughness, which transfers to life in general.

After training for a few years as a child and young adult, I then spent two years training in Japan, where I gained my black belt. Training in Japan was a really special experience not just because it is the birthplace of judo, but because I learned a few very important things about training:

1) It’s better to be very good at one or two techniques rather than sucking at lots of them. I remember being advised to work on two techniques a year, to make sure I really understood them!

2) Repetition with correct form is key to unconscious competence. The Japanese are crazy about ”uchi-komi”: which is a form of drilling where you perform the entry for a throw over and over and over again, focusing on correct form. In the West, I have observed that we tend to pay lip service to this kind of training, because it’s kinda boring. However, if you look at the speed, precision and beauty with with Japanese judoka execute their throws, you can see it pays off.

3) Relaxing makes you stronger. Attacking helps you defend. Paradoxical though it may seem, a judoka who moves around with relaxed posture is generally much more difficult to throw than someone who is stiff as a board. And attacking keeps your opponent on the defensive: so it’s a great way to defend yourself.

4) Competition (shiai) is a key part of judo, but randori (free practice) is more important. To progress through the dan (black belt) ranks in Japan, you have to compete. I think this is generally a good thing, as you have to ”road test” your skills under pressure against a resisting opponent. However, in randori, which the Japanese do a lot of, an overly competitive mindset is generally frowned upon. This is because in competition, you’re trying to win at all costs (within the rules!). So you’re unlikely to take risks or try new things. In Japanese randori, you need to adopt an upright posture, fluid movement, and try to do your best judo. If you get thrown, it doesn’t matter- you just get up and try again. The distinction between shiai and randori is vital to good judo.

5) Judo is for life. I saw judoka in their 70s and 80s who were still coming on the mats every day. This is a rare sight in the West, but something I would like to aspire to!  As you get older, injuries creep in, but it’s also an opportunity to adapt your game, rely less on power, and resist the march of time! This year, coming off the back of an injury, I decided to mix up my game and compete at a lighter weight than I had ever competed at before. This gave me a fresh challenge, and I am happy to say it went very well!

6) There is always someone better. Always. Even if you’re a world champion, sooner or later, you won’t be. Adapt. Change. Learn. Be humble.

All of the above points translate to everyday life.

A couple of years ago I started practising Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ): a form of grappling that branched off from judo, with an emphasis on groundwork.

I like to see BJJ and judo as sister arts. In judo, the emphasis is on throwing, with less emphasis on groundwork (fighting on the ground). In BJJ it’s the other way round. So if practised for long enough (this qualification is important), the two can complement each other.

Having done judo for many years, I was very familiar with the core concepts of grappling, but I felt that my groundwork could be a lot better. So I initially set out to ”cross-train” in BJJ to improve this hole in my game.

I ended up falling in love with BJJ in its own right, and as I was battling with injury, I found it was possible to continue training hard in BJJ even when I couldn’t do much judo. This is because most BJJ training takes place on the ground, with little or no heavy throwing/ impact.

BJJ has taught me to think more strategically. Sometimes it’s referred to as ”chess on the mat”, because as you progress, you learn to build a kind of ”decision tree” (if X works, do Y… if X doesn’t work, try Z….) for solving different kind of problems. This applies in judo too, but in a different way, because in judo, generally speaking things move a lot faster (as you are on your feet).

I have also made some great friends. BJJ is infused with Brazilian values of camaraderie and there is always a warm atmosphere in training. Judo is generally a little more austere, and I enjoy the contrast.

There is much debate in the judo and BJJ communities as to whether training in one helps the other. I can only really speak for my own case: I would say that it’s important to treat them as separate, but related disciplines, and not try to cherry pick from one for the sake of the other. It takes a lot of time and effort to weave them together on one’s own game effectively, not least because they have different rules. And although I initially came to BJJ for the purposes of cross-training, I now do it simply because I like it.