For those of you interested in the concept of Perfect Imperfectionism (the freedom to be effective 80% of the time and a mess the other 20%) you might like to download a copy of my e-book on the subject, updated and revised for a third edition in January 2016.



The Perfect Imperfectionist

All proceeds from my e-book sales go to dental charity Bridge2Aid.

These “letters” are the personal observations of me, Chris Barrow and are not intended to reflect the views of Extreme Business and its team members or any of my family, they just give me permission to publish here on the basis that they can keep an eye on me, a bit like a mad relative at a wedding reception. I’m likely to upset the sensitive and outrage the sensible – if you fall into either of those camps then read at your peril.

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I don’t like religious or political fanatics. They cause more harm than perhaps any other humans.

I love work fanatics.

They make every day a blast.

great energy or enthusiasm in pursuit of a cause or an objective

a person filled with excessive and single-minded zeal

I use the following quote a lot. It’s on the wall next to my desk and I’d be quite happy with this as a eulogy:

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both. ”

James A Michener

I hope that people think of me as a work fanatic (and you can still have balance – that’s called planning, organisation and delegation).

Here’s a question for you.

Is there such a thing as a part-time work fanatic?

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Before the bandwagon

It was the 60’s and 70’s British financier Sir James Goldsmith (one of my more controversial personal heroes) who coined the phrase:

If you can see a bandwagon, it’s too late

I know that we cannot spend all of our time innovating but it’s a good idea to spend some of our time at the innovation end of the adoption cycle.

In dentistry it’s the tech enthusiasts described in the above visual that are leading the race in innovation and the visionaries who are applying the tech in more creative ways, not just in clinical delivery but in the patient experience as well.

Visiting a practice that haven’t embraced digital dentistry, social media marketing, blogs, vlogs and podcasts, email newsletters, TCO-led triaging, visual treatment planning and end of treatment reviews is now beginning to feel like a trip to a tired House of Fraser store.

In the small business sector, we have to get ahead of the bandwagon to maintain our competitive edge.

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Is Britain going back to work?

I find myself working for the third consecutive weekend this month and it’s not making me happy.

The first two weekends I worked on Sunday, preferring to run Park Run and spend time with Annie on the Saturday.

As I flew home from Belfast on Friday evening I knew very well that “Sunday only” wouldn’t cut it this time, so 06:30 to 13:00 Saturday was my first session in The Bunker and 06:30 to “when I have had enough” will be my second session today.

No Park Run for me and Jack in danger of becoming a dull boy.

Ironic indeed that the last week on the Get Your Year in Gear email coaching programme has been about time and task management – physician heal thyself.

What’s going on?

The real danger for any service business is taking on too many clients and thus “overtrading” as the experts call it.

Many years ago I suggested to a client that his accountant was possibly overtrading as calls were not being answered – the accountant called me and threatened to sue if I didn’t retract my statement. It indicates how sensitive an issue it can be – if the word were to get around that a freelancer had, in fact, taken on too many clients, that could be very bad for business.

I did apologise and retract by the way.

In this case, I’m sure I haven’t taken on too many clients but I do sense that there is another factor at work here.

Now that Brexit has been replaced by Megxit and we don’t have to swallow a nightly diet of verbose self-serving politicians and the drone of electioneering, I actually think that the small business sector has returned from the holiday break, determined to work both ON and IN their businesses.

My clients are booming and blossoming. January 2020 will be my best month for sales since before the 2008 banking collapse. I’m working with clients who are also celebrating record sales months.

I like to think that Britain might just be going back to work and that small businesses with no imports or exports don’t really care too much whether we are in or out of the EU post 31st January.

So my clients being busy is making me busier than I’ve been for a long time.

If this carries on I’m going to have to rethink the way I organise my time and my workload – so I’m going to keep a careful eye on things in Q1.

In the meantime, my balance is out of the window – and I really do have to do something about my nutrition and consumption of alcohol – I’m having a fat, wet January, my jeans feel tight nd I’m working too hard.

Some coach.

Posted in business, Health, money, perfect imperfection, time | 2 Comments

Researching how best to deliver 2021

It has been very humbling to read the daily submissions of those enjoying our Get Your Year in Gear (GYYIG) programme this month.

I have written in the business blog about the frequent examples of “Imposter Syndrome” that have emerged and how comforting it is to know that we all suffer in that way (me included).

I know it sounds paradoxical but I feel sorry for the GYYIG clients, who are having to find time every day in January to “keep up” and I’ve made it very clear in my supporting emails and videos that they can take as long as they like to work through the extensive material.

I haven’t completed the exercises simply because I did most of the work in the months leading up to the year end, starting with allocating Free, Focus and Bunker Days in my 2020 calendar as far back as May 2019 and including a full day in July 2019 with my business coach Rachel Turner and Team CB to work on my 2020 business plan (as well as our marketing campaign for the year).

The crazy thing is that I’m already working on my 2021 business plan, after just two weeks of the new year.

A conversation with Rachel Turner on 6th January made me realise that, in order to hit my ambitious sales target for ’21, I would have to redesign my business model; what the folks at Strategic Coach call “creative destruction” a.k.a. knock it down and rebuild it, knowing what you know now.

My existing business model and my 2021 targets don’t fit very well into the calendar, so I have to open my mind to new ways of doing things.

One of my goals for Q1 of this year is to research other top global coaches and take a look at what they are doing to help their clients, searching for innovation in delivery that can generate more profit in less time.

I haven’t started that yet as I’ve been too busy with preparation and delivery for this quarter. As always with the “important but not urgent” things, they don’t get done until you allocate the time in the calendar.

Note to self – book a 2-hour meeting with myself to research top coaching models.

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On Brain Pickings, Steinbeck and self-doubt

I’m a huge fan and regular reader of Maria Popova’s weekly email newsletter “Brain Pickings”.

To quote Maria, “Brain Pickings has a free Sunday digest of the week’s most interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children’s books, and other strands of our search for truth, beauty, and meaning.”

Sometimes I skim articles that don’t appeal to me – other times I pause to read and digest her commentaries on great people and great works. I even order and read some of the books that she recommends (including my first read of 2020 “Underland” by Robert Macfarlane).

Last week’s newsletter was a compendium of New Year’s resolutions from great thinkers over the years.

One article that caught my eye in particular was about author John Steinbeck and his struggles to overcome his own imposter syndrome as a writer.

I reproduce her article here in it’s entirety as a metaphor for all of us who suffer from self-doubt in any area of our lives – just as Steinbeck did.

I urge you to add “Brain Pickings” to your reading list – it really is quite excellent.


Many celebrated writers have championed the creative benefits of keeping a diary, but no one has put the diary to more impressive practical use in the creative process than John Steinbeck (February 27, 1902–December 20, 1968).

In the spring of 1938, he embarked on the most intense writing experience of his life. The public fruit of this labor would become the 1939 masterwork The Grapes of Wrath, which earned Steinbeck the Pulitzer Prize in 1940 and was a cornerstone for his Nobel Prize two decades later. But its private rewards are at least as important and morally instructive: Alongside the novel, Steinbeck also began keeping a diary, eventually published as Working Days: The Journals of The Grapes of Wrath — a living record of his creative journey, in which this extraordinary writer tussles with excruciating self-doubt (exactly the kind Virginia Woolf so memorably described) but plows forward anyway, with equal parts gusto and grist, determined to do his best with the gift he has despite his limitations.

His journal, which became for him a practice both redemptive and transcendent, stands as a supreme testament to the fact that the essential substance of genius is the daily act of showing up. Steinbeck captures this perfectly in an entry that applies just as well to any field of creative endeavour:

In writing, habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration. Consequently there must be some little quality of fierceness until the habit pattern of a certain number of words is established. There is no possibility, in me at least, of saying, “I’ll do it if I feel like it.” One never feels like awaking day after day. In fact, given the smallest excuse, one will not work at all. The rest is nonsense. Perhaps there are people who can work that way, but I cannot. I must get my words down every day whether they are any good or not.

The journal thus becomes at once a tool of self-discipline (he vowed to write in it every single weekday, and did, declaring in one of the first entries: “Work is the only good thing.”), a pacing mechanism (he gave himself seven months to complete the book, anticipated it would actually take only 100 days, and finished it in under five months, averaging 2,000 words per day, longhand, not including the diary), and a sounding board for much-needed positive self-talk in the face of constant doubt (“I am so lazy and the thing ahead is so very difficult,” he despairs in one entry; but he assures himself in another: “My will is low. I must build my will again. And I can do it.”) Above all, it is a tool of accountability to keep him moving forward despite life’s litany of distractions and responsibilities. “Problems pile up so that this book moves like a Tide Pool snail with a shell and barnacles on its back,” he writes, and yet the essential thing is that despite the problems, despite the barnacles, it does move. He captures this in one of his most poignant entries, shortly before completing the first half of the novel:

Every book seems the struggle of a whole life. And then, when it is done — pouf. Never happened. Best thing is to get the words down every day. And it is time to start now.

A few days later, he spirals into self-doubt again:

My many weaknesses are beginning to show their heads. I simply must get this thing out of my system. I’m not a writer. I’ve been fooling myself and other people. I wish I were. This success will ruin me as sure as hell. It probably won’t last, and that will be all right. I’ll try to go on with work now. Just a stint every day does it. I keep forgetting.

And so he inches forward, day after day. As he nears the finish line, he is even more certain of this incremental reach for greatness:

I’ll get the book done if I just set one day’s work in front of the last day’s work. That’s the way it comes out. And that’s the only way it does.

And yet even as he approaches the end, his self-doubt remains as unshakable as his commitment to finish:

I only hope it is some good. I have very grave doubts sometimes. I don’t want this to seem hurried. It must be just as slow and measured as the rest but I am sure of one thing — it isn’t the great book I had hoped it would be. It’s just a run-of-the-mill book. And the awful thing is that it is absolutely the best I can do. Now to work on it.

The book, of course, was far from run-of-the-mill. In addition to earning the two highest accolades in literature, The Grapes of Wrath remained atop the bestseller list for almost a year after it was published, sold nearly 430,000 copies in its first year alone, and remains one of the most read and celebrated novels ever written.

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Easily the biggest story of 2019 was Annie taking a DNA test, simply to find out some more about her ancestory, only to discover two half-sisters and a half-brother in New York.

That paragraph is a very long story made short and it was a personal highlight of my year to simply watch events unfold, day by day, as the original biological link was discovered and tentative approaches were made from opposite sides of the Atlantic.

To transition from an only child whose father was unknown and mother vanished to the centre of a large and gregarious Irish-American community would test the emotional mettle of any of us and I’m very proud of the way that Annie took each step carefully, respectful of other’s feelings.

To be welcomed with open arms by the USA relatives was an act of random kindness that speaks volumes for the quality of the new people we are now meeting.

Today we met with Christie at Manchester Airport, who will be staying with us over the New Year and hellping us celebrate Annie’s 50th birthday on 31st December.

To say that my wife has had the best Christmas and birthday present ever would be an understatement and I’m looking forward to getting to know Christie better over the next few days and the wider family over the years ahead.

Having spoken about my own family visiting on Boxing Day, this next turn of events identifies just what an amazing few days we are having here at The Barrow home.

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Boxing Day 2019

It has been a very long time since I posted to this blog.

Time to start again perhaps?

What better time than to reflect on a superb Christmas Day with my beautiful wife, followed by a Boxing Day with 4 of my 5 children and their respective partners in life (Alex and Portia stayed over on 23rd).

Annie created a magnificent feast for us all.

There was much fun at the opening of presents, much over-indulgence on food and drink and much verbal abuse and praise thrown at the TV as we all settled down to watch Man Utd put four past Newcastle (much to the disappointment of Cal).

Later in the evening, even more food and an hilarious game of “Heads Up”.

The first time in many years that we have been able to get together like this – a real red-letter day for me.

I count my blessings at this time.

My stand out win for Xmas television this year has been the BBC’s adaptation of Christmas Carol, for which Guy Pearce must surely win a BAFTA for his portrayal of the troubled Scrooge?

My first 10km run this year on Boxing Day morning – a significant step on my long road to recovery from Achilles tendinopathy.

My route took me through Dunham Massey Deer park for the first time in a year and I had to smile as I climbed the style into the park and started my run down the long drive.

Either side of me, deer grazed slowly; a doe looked up from her feeding to stare at me, unmoved and unafraid. It was daylight, a chill Easterly breeze at my back, the silence broken only by the gentle rustle of higher branches.

To my left, from a few yards into the undergrowth, I heard quite distinctly a female voice that whispered “we missed you”.

Turning to see the source, I noted only trees and bushes – not even any deer in that direction.

My cadence unaltered, I continued on down the gentle incline to the main house with a chill down my spine.

My only thought was of the many winter runs I have made down this same track, following a cone of light from my head-torch, sometimes in rain, fog or snow, gazing occasionally sideways at the pin points of reflected light from the eyes of creatures watching from the darkness.

Will I have the nerve to do that again?

Merry Christmas.

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hehe by John Connolly

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What a great novel with which to start the year – Connolly brings the characters and their world to life with prose that flows from one year to the next, frequently making me laugh out loud or gasp with surprise.

If you ever loved the films of Laurel & Hardy but knew nothing of their lives, make this your method of discovery.

View all my reviews

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Oman 2018 – the emotion, the coaching and the tactics of the trip of a lifetime

The Emotion

I want you to imagine falling asleep under the most amazing star field you have ever seen.
After unbroken dreams of beaches, deserts and mountains, you wake as the dawn begins to break.
Emerging from your sleeping bag you look around at the desert landscape – The Empty Quarter – three times the size of the United Kingdom.
Walking a short distance away from the camp, you stand and listen – to silence.
So profound that, to quote Brian Blessed when he ascended Everest, – “the silence is so complete that you can hear the world turning.”
At the end of the day as the temperature drops, you slowly climb one of the endless and enormous dunes and, at the summit, watch the sun descend to a distant horizon, absorbing a 360 degree panorama of such beauty that your heart and soul swell………..
When all the noise of modern life is stripped away – we find ourselves – in unexpected places.
Oman 2017 was a voyage of exploration – we were discovering our 4 C’s:
  • Commitment – to the idea of creating regular experiences for our clients
  • Courage – to take the roads less travelled
  • Capability – to ensure seamless organisation and the safety of the team
  • Confidence – to repeat and expand our activities, knowing that we can do it well
Oman 2018 will be an expedition as well as an exploration.
Our focused aim will be to deliver an unforgettable experience to our new team, to ascend two very different summits and to deliver training and coaching that will make them think deeply about what matters most.
I’m absolutely thrilled to be returning to places that bring back so many inspiring memories, to sharing that journey with new friends and to assisting the 7explorers leadership team in delivering a unique coaching experience.
Oh – and once more listening to the silence.
The Coaching
The theme of our coaching programme during the Oman 2018 expedition will be:
“Beyond survival – how to thrive in your environment”
Expedition leader Sandy Sanderson and I will conduct a series of “power hours” over breakfast, in which we will take a specific topic and share top tips on how to survive and thrive – first “in the wild” and then “in the modern world”.
Sandy and I have often spoken at length about how everything that happens on expedition (and what we do about it) is a metaphor for the challenges that we face in our day to day lives, both personally and professionally.
We are going to take 6 topics (one each Power Hour Day) and look at how what we learn about wilderness survival can teach us important lessons to take home and apply every day. We will be looking at:
  1. Building camp;
  2. Creating safety;
  3. Ensuring adequate nutrition;
  4. Planning economics;
  5. Effective Leadership & Teamwork;
  6. Maintaining balance.
The “Power Hours” will contain practical and theoretical work that will stimulate your mind (and no doubt initiate conversation), before we set off on whatever mission has been chosen for the rest of that day.

The Tactics


Those who follow my Facebook Profile will know that Sandy Sanderson, co-founder of 7 Explorers has been creating a daily video that includes footage from my original iPhone diary of the trip, plus some of his own excellent photography.

If you have missed that and want to take a look, simply go the 7 Explorers Facebook Page HERE. Follow the Page and you will be able to see the full 2017 trip unfold.

The 2018 Oman trip is of a shorter duration (14 days) and will be a more focused journey with specific goals in mind.

We intend to revisit three areas from this years’s journey, places that impressed us, and aim for two outstanding achievements.

The three areas will be Wadi Sayq, The Empty Quarter and the Jebel Akhdar mountain range.

Wadi Sayq is in the remote south of Oman, accessible only by boat and an area of outstanding beauty for it’s long sandy beach, mountainous surroundings and a bewildering variety of flora and fauna down in the valley itself.

The Empty Quarter is the largest uninhabited desert in the world, three times the size of the UK and home to one of our two targets – to walk to the top of the highest sand dune in the world, discovered earlier this year at 435 metres above sea level.

The EQ was the highlight of my 2017 trip – a simply stunning visual experience.

Jebel Akhdar will be the final destination as our 4WD’s will head North across the desert and towards the mountains, where we aim to trek to the top of Jebel Shams, at 3,000 meters, the highest peak in Arabia.

Then it will be back to Muscat for some R&R before we fly home.

What you need to do next

You can download a PDF guide to the trip from the 7 Explorers web site HERE.

Included in the cost will be a trip to Northumberland for a training weekend in late November  2017, where the guests will meet us, meet each other and take part in basic skills training for the main event.

Whilst a reasonable level of fitness can be expected, there are no special skills required for the Oman journey – we are trekking and not technical climbing.

Candidates will, however, be interviewed to establish suitability and safety.

Amongst the many USP’s associated with this trip – the most important is that only 4 guests will be joining us, along with myself, Sandy and our expedition doctor (as well as a local Omani guide), there will be just 7 people travelling from the UK.

Do you want to join us?

Take action now and download the guide from the 7 Explorers web site home page HERE , then apply for an interview to join us in February 2018 for an experience that will change your life.

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Why we will all go back to work today

There have been two occasions in recent weeks on which I’ve woken early and arrived down in the kitchen to discover horror stories all over social media concerning events of the preceding evening.

Thank goodness that this morning, as I step out into the back garden and take in a lung full of the fresh (and somewhat damp) Manchester air, there is nothing other than the imagined echo from last night’s concert, just down the road at Old Trafford cricket ground.

I sat through the televised proceedings and, at some moments, cried for the memories of the innocent lives lost or changed. Just the simple emotions of a sentimental bloke, bewildered by the hate that exists in the world and outraged by the arrival of that hate on our local streets.

During the last 7 days I have felt insecure in public places, especially walking through Piccadilly Station up here, along the Haymarket in Newcastle and across Euston and Waterloo later in the week.

I have also feared for my children. My eldest daughter was close to Borough Market (a favourite haunt of hers) on Saturday evening and too scared to walk home by herself.

These events play beautifully into the hands of those in power (and likely to remain so) who want to move us further to The Right – the Prime Minister’s speech outside Number 10 indicates a move towards legislation against thought-crime that will, no doubt, find a receptive audience.

This week we vote to decide who will represent us at home and on the world stage. Here in Altrincham and Sale we have a hard-working constituency MP who rarely seeks publicity or national office and has served his community well for a very long time. Irrespective of his political persuasion, Graham Brady is the epitome of who an MP should be.

Today we individually vote to get up and go to work – to go about our normal business, with our hearts affected by terror but with our collective soul committed to the way of life we cherish.

I’ll be off to the airport to catch a flight to Scotland, you will be doing what you do.

That’s how we show the “haters” that they haven’t achieved anything and never will.

I pray that we will be safe.

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