Posh or Poor? Reactions please!


I’m writing this in the humble little’ Cafe Roma’, opposite the grand main entrance to The Royal Marsden Hospital in South Kensington, London. (I’m looking after my sister who is recovering across the road from a nasty cancer operation.) ‘South Ken’ one of the poshest areas of London. Two weeks ago I was riding my motorbike in the Balkans, one of the poorest areas of Europe. It’s been a bit of a culture shock.

In Bosnia my three course dinner, coffee, two carafes of wine, ensuite double room, secure parking and breakfast cost £20. Here a carafe of wine will cost that – forget the dinner, the bed and the breakfast. Secure parking? You wish.

In the Balkans I needed a new tyre for my well-worn motorbike. “Follow me!” the man said, and generously led me 30 miles to a different country – literally! – to get me to the right supplier, and gave me an engraved lighter as a goodbye present. That won’t happen here in ‘South Ken’. (Old motorbike? This is stunning sports car and black limo country. Blacked out, exclusive, custom-built £200,000 limos, Range Rovers and Ferraris abound. The main Lamborghini dealership is just up the road.)

In Albania ‘poor’ is normal, yet people don’t think of themselves as poor. Just normal. I did see one reference to the poor in South Kensington: “Don’t give them money” the poster warned, “they will use it to kill themselves with drugs and alcohol.” So giving becomes murder. Hmmm.

Clothes? Every possible fashion house is here, from Stella McCartney and Prada to Versace and YSL, with a pair of jeans costing … 550. Pounds, that is. (850€). In Montenegro it is likely to be 550 too. £5.50. 100 times less.

My new friend in Serbia earns in a day about the same as the basic wage in the UK for an hour, yet he STILL gave me a gift to take back to Britain worth a day’s wages for him.

I saw a three bedroom apartment advertised for rental today. £2,800 (4,000€) a week. A WEEK! A year’s wages just 1500 kilometres south of here.

Mother Teresa of Calcutta said “The more you have, the less you can give.”  (Jesus Christ pointed out a little lady who gave a tiny coin. “It is all she has,” he said. When it comes to generosity, it’s what you have left after you’ve given that seems to be the measure.)

How comfortable in your skin are you? What does rich mean? Are you rich?

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Posted in Bike, Personal development, Uncategorized

Brighter … greener … bluer… ??


Ready for take off. There are 12 people in that basket!

Jenny (not her real name) came out of her second session recently describing what she felt like as she came out of her first. “It was as if the whole world was brighter. The colours were brighter, the greens greener, the sky bluer.”   That’s a key motivator in my coaching. I can turn the light on for my clients – and giving others a brighter future is a JOY. 

This week I’ve had several life-brightening comments like that – two from people who I coached over fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!  And they BOTH called this week, with real, deep, kind, oh-so-rewarding things to say. Completely out of the blue.

I stopped to think of how much they would have missed if they had not connected up.  They both have children in their teens and twenties now, whose lives also are brighter (greener, bluer?) because these two men – their dads – chose to take action on the tough challenges they were facing.

Although it is impossible to guarantee results from coaching (no coach can do that) the long-term effect can be massive. The whole world can come alive in a way you have not noticed before. It is like hitting the Enhance button on your photo app, only to realise what you now see is how life actually is, the real deal, not an ‘enhanced’ version at all. It is just that yesterday was duller, a faded (tarnished, darker) version of how life is, and you hadn’t noticed.

Or perhaps you have.  You’ve known a time when you were happier than you are now.  You suspect there are dark shadows in your life that you want to get rid of.

And if I’ve coached you in the past, and you’ve not been in touch for a while, I’d love to know what happened and what you’re doing now.  Sharing your joys with others multiplies them.

Either way, call me on my mobile 07771631945 (or email me a few lines at andrew@powerchange.com) and multiply the benefit for both our lives.  I’m itching to hear what happened to you.

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Posted in Personal development, Uncategorized

Davey’s Redemption

Davey was frightened. He had made all sorts of mistakes in life, and now it had come to this, he thought to himself as he gazed fixedly into the putrid black water.

IMGA0060Thinking all the usual thoughts  that people think in Davey’s position – he was practiced at them by now – he contemplated the ordinary bleakness of the future and what he might do next. After all the comings and goings of the last few months, he was low. Very low.

One thing was for sure, he had no more ideas.  His energies for life were all used up on the efforts he had made throughout his life’s journey and, here, in this decade of his life, he had finally come to a standstill. He had run out. In more ways than one. 

The black water looked menacing and cold. It flowed slowly and silently round and round, yet if he stopped to listen he could hear it’s siren song calling him towards its clammy waters. It was all he could do to resist the water’s damning message.

Yet the stranger had definitely said that it was possible for good things to come out of bad, or even to actively turn bad things into good. “There is always a way” he had said, if you are patient and reach for it.

In despair and the deepest disappoint in himself he had ever known, Davey had finally given up the fight, declaring himself hopeless and the stranger’s words deceptive rubbish. The guy clearly had no idea of how bad bad can be. Bad things into good things? That could only be a platitude. There was no way forward from here. Yet the stranger had said that one day he would find out for himself.

Davey reviewed his life for a few moments.  Had he not become a respected scientist? Was he not indeed a competent entrepreneur? So how had it come to this? He had the finest of university educations and been taught by world class professors. He had a caring family, who even now we’re grieving for him in his sadness.

He felt overwhelmed by self pity. As he stared into the black sludgy polluted water he felt hopeless seep through his clothes and into his heart. Good out of bad?  This bad?  It was all a meaningless cruel joke, and now he would indeed take the next step that would… that would … that … would…

He stopped. A flash of moonlight on something in the water caught his attention. Swirling innocently in the incessant gurgling flow was a little glass bottle complete with its stopper.

In some strange way, it floated clean and sparkling on the surface of the blackness.  He felt it was waiting for him, a last chance perhaps, and he knew without doubt he must have it.

It was a long way down to the waters edge, but something in Davey’s heart came alive sufficiently to prompt him to action.  Stepping back for a moment from his precarious position (and his self pity) he climbed down to the bank of the putrid pool and reached out. He would need to reach out much further than what was safe for him to rescue the bottle (and maybe himself) from the fate that called them both, but driven by his sudden inexplicable change of mood, he was determined. That little fragile bottle might change his life he thought irrationally. Perhaps it already had. He must have it at all costs.

He reached out, accepting the risks of his new passion, no longer afraid, no longer obsessing about his failings and fortunes, risking being carried away, or sucked into the sludge.

No, it was beyond him. It was out of reach, but for the first time in his life he threw aside his inhibitions and looked around for help.

That was when he saw the stranger just a few yards away who had been quietly watching his efforts all the while, and seemed to read his mind. Unselfconsciously he asked, “Can you help me please? I need that bottle.” The stranger stepped forward and anchoring himself into the bank, grasped Davey’s outstretched hand. 

Trusting his weight to this Kind Stranger made the difference.  Davey felt the bottle at his finger tips, and with one last stretch, grasped it firmly in his hand. It was his. Looking up he saw, in the moonlight, a glimpse of a smile on the stranger’s shadowed face.

Davey sat for several minutes, still and quiet at the water’s edge, reliving the last few minutes of what had seemed an impossibly challenging day (and the last few years of what felt like an impossibly challenging life.)  He took a deep breath, and as he exhaled said to himself, “This moment is a turning point for me.  I know it. Life will never be the same again.”

For the first time, in a single moment he had reached out for help, and it was as if all the struggles to achieve, all his efforts to be accepted and loved, all the disappointment and inadequacy no longer mattered.

The magic words had been “help me” and he knew it. He had never asked so blatantly for help before. He had always tried to make it on his own, brought up with the expectation that he should be independent, self sufficient, stand on his own two feet and manage his own affairs.

The very walls he had built to keep himself safe had imprisoned him.  He felt a deep sense of love filtering its way into the rocky caverns of his heart; a strange lightness beaming it’s mellow rays into its grey shadows.

And the little glass bottle was here in his hand, rescued from the very waters that he, just a few minutes before … He preferred not to think about that.

It was many years later he told me this story. He was now a wealthy man, with a loving family around him. Things had turned out well.  Reaching into his coat, he drew out the little glass bottle, complete with its stopper…

…and a crumpled, stained, scrap of paper.

“This is what was in the bottle” he said, passing it to me. “I just accepted what it says, and that has made all the difference”.

I smoothed out the paper and felt my own heart leap. There on the paper were the very words I had so longed to hear as a child – and actually through all these demanding and challenging years of life.  As I read them over and over, I could feel them washing me too, cleansing and healing me to the very core.

And I accepted them.

And that has made all the difference.

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Posted in Personal development, The Kind Stranger, Uncategorized

“I AM HERE” What on earth …

The latest Sercombe motorbike adventure was to the Outer Hebrides.  Just me, my big BMW R1200GS and my red tent.  In case you’ve never been there – and few people round West Sussex have as it’s 730 miles away –  this string of islands is off the northwest coast of Scotland, windy, rainy and cold.

And in the middle of a mile-long deserted pristine beach I saw this:

Version 2

No footprints anywhere near, except mine, and by the time I left my idyllic wild campsite overlooking the sea, the engraving was no more – washed away by the waves.

Of course it was me. In a moment of spontaneous inspiration I carved “I AM HERE” with my foot in the sand – and the thought dominated my week, as I contemplated my life, my business, God, the universe, and my future. Today I’ve been thinking about it again as I camped out last night in the wilds of the South Downs catching up with some reading.  A bit existentialist I know, but the truth is, I am here, and I will be ‘here’ for a while yet.  Wherever I am, I AM.  It’s the inescapable truth, and on the basis that the truth frees us, I’m enjoying the freedom.

Yep, I’m here, and it is up to me to make of it what I will.

I’m not on that beach any more. I am here instead, writing this blog.  I moved on, came back to Sussex, and I’m two weeks older, and although I have a camera full of Hebridean photos – Butt of Lewis lighthouse, the rocky hillsides of Harris, Benbecula, Eriskay, and a welcoming pink roofed cafe in Lochmaddy – I can never, ever, recapture that moment on the beach.

In times of quiet solitude I become particularly aware of the presence of God ‘here’, where I am, with me.  It is as if He has said, not written in sand but whispered as a permanent statement deep within, “Andrew, I am here” – wherever I am, always. Regardless of the ups and downs of my life, I’m never actually alone. The Divine Presence, the Creator, present in the world He created.  With me. Here. Now. For ever.

And today that is sufficient for me.  In fact overwhelmingly more so.  Far more important than success, or money. God is here.

And He is where you are too – such is the omnipresent nature of the Holy Spirit.  Unhampered by the limitations of time and space, God is with you as you read this on your screen – closer, actually.

3000 years ago a gifted young shepherd on the run from his tormentors wrote about it. Stunningly poetic, he wrapped it up in a way I’ll never be able to.  I’ve put a few key bits of his poem for you to read quietly before you move on into the rest of your week. Take a few moments – ten minutes? – to stop and reconnect. And whilst you’ll already know that I am here for you today (yes, me, Andrew. Just a phone or Skype call or email away), far more importantly, He is too.


E:  andrew@powerchange.com   M: 07771631945  Skype: andrewsercombe  Website: www.powerchange.com

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Posted in My Faith, Personal development, Poetry, The Kind Stranger

Three Courages of a Leader

You’re a leader – every single person in the world has leadership responsibility. Not least, it is up to you to decide how you’re going to live.  And lead.

Courage Card

From earliest childhood we are taught the imperative of self control, the need to have boundaries and live within them. And we also learn that others want power over us, and will do all sorts of things to get it. 

In civil societies we are not so free to do just what we like. We are taught that conforming is the way. We find the desires, boundaries and expectations of others impacting on our own and are expected to make room for them.

We learn about influence and competition, and eventually discover that others want to take control of us – teachers, neighbours, managers, doctors, advertisers, journalists, police, politicians, and all manner of other people. Some have the intention of helping us, others have the intention, not of helping us but of helping themselves to us — to our potential, our time, our love, our money — intent on the control of our resources and the leadership of our life. We lose, they win.  That’s if we let them.


1. Their number one weapon is often fear – what will happen if we don’t surrender our power to them.  They play on our deeply rooted need to be loved and accepted, on our desire to minimise the discomforts of normal life as well as the sometimes excruciating emotional or physical pain that may be just round the corner.  They will even play on the desire to stay alive (and free from coercion) for a full span of life.  They demand submission, or maybe a cross in their box on a ballot paper, or else… They will do whatever they can, say whatever they want,  to MAKE us play life their way.

Just for the record, stress due to coercion – being made to do something you don’t want to do – is the third greatest cause of Chronic Heart Disease (heart attack) in the UK.  Interesting, isn’t it?

Unsatisfied desire.

2. And the number two weapon? Desire, greed even. Your longing for more – bigger, faster, posher, more noticeable, more successful, a millimetre closer to perfection. More power – often a desperate attempt to close the gap on your perceived inadequacies and weaknesses. Or someone else’s.

So what do I need in order to stand strong, to ensure that my life remains in my control? How do I remain the captain of my ship on the sea of life, of my community, of my business, yet still stay connected to those with whom I need to collaborate in order to live with a minimum of discomfort and a maximum of contentment, but may not be as trustworthy as I’d like? Pirates, even.

Just one deep thing – Courage.

Courage to Stand.

What DO I stand for? What brings me to my feet? (Or, like Rosa Parks in 1955, would keep my sitting down on an Alabama bus when those around me conform and stand up?) What would you die for – bearing in mind that in many situations across the world, standing DOES mean dying. In Rosa Parks’ case, staying seated led to prison – before becoming a heroine of the anti segregation movement.  What do YOU stand for?

Courage to Lead.

… to be a leader.  The truth is, you lead people every day.  People are watching you.  You are influencing others in what you say, how you act, what you wear, the attitudes you take. Me too.  

And who? Well, if you want to know how much of a leader you are, look around, check who’s following. Who is in your ‘world’ right now? This isn’t some statistical statement about social media although it may include them – most of those people don’t care that much about you.  But who do you meet every day,  people who are watching your life and deciding they like what they see (or not) and want to imitate it – have some of it even – be like you?   Friends, clients, family, managers, the woman at Sainsburys, the other drivers on the road. 

And where will you lead them TO? On a trip to social conformity? A wild adventure holiday?  Here’s something much more worthwhile and long-lasting:

Show them courage –  the courage to change. Maybe an attitude, or a life-path. Courage to do right.  To stand out. to be different. Ask yourself what attitudes you model for others to see, what life-path you are on. Are those congruent with the deepest roots of your life? What do you REALLY believe is a key, worthwhile horizon to head towards, worth sacrificing to reach? Would you be proud for others to follow you there?  A bigger house?  More money? Probably not. 

Courage to Let go.

Time and again this is the Big One. You may not even be aware of those incredibly strong ‘invisible’ spider’s webs that anchor you to the past, those bungee elastics that tug you back to the status-quo whenever you seek to pull away. They are little undermining beliefs – things you think about the world, about how you’ve supposed the world is all these years, that you’ve ‘proved’ to yourself are true, but actually are not. Those determined little beliefs that keep you anchored to your safe and comfy status quo – even when you secretly want to be somewhere (or someone) else entirely.  Ready to let them go?  Now?

Leadership is ultimately about courage. The courage to walk past your fears into an unknown future – and because it’s unknown there is no guarantee that it will necessarily be better – but a future you have the faith to choose.

The courage to reject rejection and accept acceptance. Or maybe accept rejection and reject acceptance?

The courage to say No, when everyone is pressing you to say Yes, because NO is the Right thing to say right now. To vote differently.

And who will come with you?  I don’t know.  Nor do you.  But you’ll be surprised.

Some will come because you love them.  Others because they love you.  Some will come because they admire you, or you persuaded them. Or none of those reasons. Just make sure they are following for good reasons.  

I love honest humble leaders. True leaders are brave inspiring people. They say the unsayable, live the unliveable and think the unthinkable. They swim across the stream of public opinion. Often inconspicuous, they act on their convictions. I’ve met many as I have been working in leader development over the last 40 years. The best sort are those who are more concerned about influence for good than personal fame or prominence.  They are ‘servant leaders’ who know how to love people, honour those around them, have others stand on their shoulders and reach higher than they themselves will ever be able to reach. Humble caring determined men and women who have chosen to live their lives with courage, and have had the faith to step forward. Men and women of whom the world is not worthy.

My invitation to you today is to invade the impossible. To choose Courage. To influence with a Servant Heart. To go for the higher goals, the greater victory – perhaps a victory you’ll not live to see. Better to lead your life with courage and deep passion, complete with it’s inevitable experiences of failing, falling, and frustration, than live a life of superficial joy and shallow success – a life you are no longer proud to own.

It’s HOW you choose to live this next phase of your life that matters.

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Enter the Whistleblower…

This must be a creative season for Powerchange. So much is happening and it is great to be able to follow the trail. Synchronicity? Walking by faith? God? We’ll all have our individual views on how these things happen. For me, most of our techniques come out of creative work with my clients as I coach them. Ideas arrive and get developed and …ADO+Den+Haag+v+FC+Twente+Eredivisie+QCjXHIaexZQl

… Well, it started this time with me casually saying to a client something I’ve said hundreds of times, “Life is a game, not a war. It can sometimes be a messy game, and sometimes noisy, and we may get the occasional injury or two. A bit like rugby.” But then we followed the theme a step further. “When it starts getting ugly, less of a game and more of a war, well, you’re the ref, blow the whistle and stop it.”

We were discussing how … we’ll call her Fay (and she is a really lovely person, by the way!) … found herself getting furious because of something her partner had innocently said. Really angry, she told me. “At which moment,” I replied, ”the game has got out of hand. Stop it. Blow the whistle. Take the offending player off the field, and when things have calmed down, continue the game if you want to, or not.”

We have all seen it happen, and probably experienced it – the moment we grossly and irrationally overreact to a comparatively normal comment or behaviour from someone. We read far more into it than was intended, often amplifying it to an extreme, and then responding to the highly exaggerated version. It is the moment to blow the whistle. The trouble is, those moments can cause real damage, particularly to sensitive people, so stop the game. Call a timeout.

And it is up to YOU to do that. OK, you are one of the players, but in this case you can be the ref as well, after all, who else will do it? Your partner will have to stop if you decide not to play. The game-turned-war will stop. Send off any negative emotion (anger, fear, hate, humiliation, disappointment.) Show it the Red Card.  That way any further injury will be avoided. And when everything has cooled down, you can begin again.

So now we have two questions: How DO I ‘blow the whistle’? and How can the two of us stop the game becoming a war?

When we are coaching at a deep level we sometimes use a ’Bailout’ word in case the intervention becomes emotionally painful in some way. The same will apply here. In a time of normality, when you are both feeling fine and the relationship is doing well, take a moment together to choose a ‘Whistle Word’, a word that rings out loud and clear above the fray, that both of you recognise as the signal to simply stop. It needs to be a neutral word that is unusual, that stands out but is free from any accusatory tone. It can even be funny. It will be used to break the State of War that has developed. “Cease Fire” will not do, because it implies that one of you has been attacking and we want NO accusation or side-taking at this point. Just to stop.

“Micky Mouse!” “Hallelujah!” “Code Red!” “Jingle Bells!” “Time!”

Together choose a word in the cold light of day you both will honour as the STOP whistle when things are dark and overheated. Any one of the above will do! And blowing the whistle isn’t saying either party is right or wrong. It simply says stop. It is up to you whether you pick up the game later – or just stop playing that game from now on. (Try Trivial Pursuit instead! Or see who can sing the best. Or go read a book for the duration.)

By the way, you may have conversations going on in your OWN HEAD that each started off as a game and these days turn into a war zone. Now is the time to stop that game too. Be kind to yourself. Stop the attack.  Just stop. Call time. 

And how can you stop games becoming war in the first place? This blog is long enough already. Email me your suggestions, but here’s a starter:  it might be something to do with listening properly to the other person. And listening some more. And asking the next question. And being kind. And … well, you get the idea.

Posted in Personal development

Invasive History Syndrome. Have you experienced it?


Invasive History Syndrome respects no one, and can strike at any time. Know what I mean?

I don’t know whether the medical profession has another more technical name for this, but IHS, in Auto Response Psychology, stands for Invasive History Syndrome. You first heard about it here.

Let me give you a brief introduction, but the chances are YOU can tell ME about it…

It’s what it says on the tin – when memories, thoughts, bad experiences, pain from the past, invade your present and threaten your future.  Know what I mean?  Typically, you can be carrying on as usual when someone says or does something and the emotions and remembrances of something in your history – a comparatively minor childhood trauma, a bad experience when you were 13, the rejection of a failed relationship, an unkind word spoken in jest – simply invade you.  It sweeps in, carrying all before it, like a tidal wave, so that you can think of little (or nothing) else. It may take hours, days or weeks to get over it, for your thinking to settle down and the pain (it is usually pain, though it can be other emotions too) finally subsides and you can carry on. 

Invasive History Syndrome.  IHS. It is a killer of healthy living, can affect the children, and other members of your family and social group, and exhausts you. You may need to sit down, go to bed early, or take a shower. You may need space. Or you may just take another tablet.  Invasive History Syndrome has struck yet again.  However tough you may be, you may feel profoundly intimidated by its power and end up shaky – and fearful for next time. It is associated with guilt, abuse, PTSD, insecurity and inadequacy, eating and sleeping disorders, and depression – and can sometimes be a strong, usually negative, motivational driver of unwanted behaviours like anger and violence.

But IHS may not be overwhelming.  It may just appear above the surface like the Loch Ness Monster for a few minutes, and subside, leaving you wondering, without clarity or closure, awake at 4.00am. Where did THAT come from? Will it be back?

IHS can be treated. In fact it can be completely sorted for the most part. Gone. Finished. Most of the people who arrive in my client room come with IHS as a feature of their experience, and go away in charge of their life and future again.

No need to have your life distorted – however subtly – by your history invading the priceless quiet spaces of your day or night.

Call me. Together we make sure it doesn’t happen again.  My direct line is: 077-71-63-1945, or andrew@powerchange.com

I’m here to help,


PS:  IHS has an upside.  It can be an overwhelming sense of joy, profound excitement, a deep sense of love – anything that invades your thoughts triggered from a moment in your history and stops you in your tracks.



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