Lessons in life

When I think about the things that my father taught me, two immediate pieces of wisdom come to mind:

– Never put a cork back in an open bottle

– Life is too short to stuff a mushroom

I’m sure there were others. He probably told me not to go in to hotel management (I listened), not to get married young (I didn’t listen) and not to do drugs or get a tattoo (I’m staying silent on these elements).

That’s the way we roll.

When I think about my approach to organisations, to management and leadership, however, I realise that I’ve maybe taken a little bit more on board over the years. Dad was a leader, a leader of people in some of the hardest circumstances that you can imagine. He ran prisons throughout his career, dealing with the good, the bad and the ugly.

Dad believed in trust. I know, because I heard this time and time again. He believed that people were best when they were trusted and should be trusted until they proved they couldn’t be. Dad believed in fairness, in equity and in transparency. Dad believed in building a workplace that showed respect and in turn earned respect.

My dad was a pretty awesome guy.

When I talk to people about my organisational philosophy, they often tell me that, “it won’t work in larger organisations”, or “it is fine in the creative industry”. I even hear, “that’s fine with professional people, but my staff….”

All of which are, of course, just excuses for inaction and ineptitude. Because dad was doing this years ago and in environments that would make your hair curl. Indeed, when a prison publicly melted down in 1995, they called on my dad.

Dad turns 70 today. We don’t always have a perfect relationship, we don’t always see eye to eye, we argue and say things that we don’t mean. But deep down, I’m starting to realise that so much of what I believe, so much of what I do, so much of who I am is driven by the way in which he ran, led and managed his organisations.

I hope one day to get to the top of my profession, in the way my father did. To be the exemplar, in the way he was. And when I do, I know that so much of everything that I believe is down to the early lessons I learnt as a kid. The beliefs bashed out over the dinner table.

Life IS too short to stuff a mushroom. You should NEVER put a cork back in to an open bottle. And you should lead people with dignity, respect and trust. Those are the lessons that my father taught me.

You can’t ask for more than that as a son.


  1. ethicalcompanies · January 20, 2014

    “Dad believed in fairness, in equity and in transparency. Dad believed in building a workplace that showed respect and in turn earned respect.”

    He’d have made a lousy recruitment consultant or HR manager then 🙂

    • Neil · February 23, 2014

      Indeed……he taught me everything I know!!

  2. helenjamery · January 20, 2014

    Great post Neil and what an amazing guy your dad sounds! Hope he has a very happy birthday!

  3. Michael Carty · January 20, 2014

    Many happy returns to Mr Morrison, Sr!

    I love the lesson trust: “[P]eople were best when they were trusted and should be trusted until they proved they couldn’t be.”

    Everyone can and should learn from that one.

    • Neil · February 23, 2014

      Indeed, it shouldn’t be about earning trust. It should be about giving trust until it isn’t deserved.

  4. Izabella Sikora · January 20, 2014

    Neil, beautiful message and great story:) thank you!

  5. nzlead · January 20, 2014

    You’re very lucky to have a great father who set a good example for you. Can I ask why you don’t put a cork in an open bottle of wine?

    • Neil · February 23, 2014

      Because you should always finish it!!

  6. dougshaw · January 21, 2014

    Hi Neil – and belated birthday good wishes to your Dad. When you invited us to London a couple of months ago I was fortunate to spend some time talking with your Dad, and on the basis of that conversation I’d say you’ve done him proud here. Nice work.

    • Neil · February 23, 2014

      I forgot that you’d had that conversation with him!

  7. Ben Morton · January 21, 2014

    Hi Neil, what a great, heartfelt, genuine and insightful blog. Thank you for sharing it.

  8. Asmi · January 24, 2014

    Thank you for sharing these lessons; truly inspiring. What a great role model. Best wishes to your Dad.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s