An investment in joy

We feel better, and perform better, when we create joy.

Joyful experiences are enlivening, encouraging and energising. They are like rocket fuel for us to express ourselves fully as we really are.

During a pandemic, though, we have a couple of obstacles between us and the generation of joyful feelings:

1. We are swamped with negative inputs: the news is bad, our lives are restricted, much of what we love to do is unavailable – it’s like gravity has been ‘turned up’ and everything feels heavier.

2. We feel guilty if we’re joyful while others are suffering. “How can I feel good when my friend is in hospital?”, “How can I enjoy my job when many have lost theirs?”, “How can you laugh when the news is so grim?”

So, it isn’t easy. But, finding joy has never been more important.

If we allow circumstances to diminish us, or choose to disable our own responses, then we are committing to a lesser version of ourselves.

Investing in joy delivers a high return in happiness and performance.

For me, simple things like dancing with my daughter, going for a run or spending some peaceful moments in nature can make a massive difference to how I spend the subsequent hours.

We all have different tendencies and passions but we can find joy in the mundane, the simple and the inexpensive. It’s an investment worth making.


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

The counter-cyclical utility of mood

When it comes to our professional performance, our mood doesn’t always help.

After a good day, or a run of good days, our mood can become so high that it tends towards giddiness, which can lead to delusion and over-extension.

At the other end of the spectrum, when results are going against us, it can be hard to shake off of the negative emotions that ultimately impair our performance.

The key here is to realise that our mood is often most useful when it runs counter-cyclical to the rhythm of our performances.

It turns out the time we most need to “feel good” is when the challenge seems greatest, and maybe the best time to be more level and reasoned is when the metaphorical champagne corks are popping (not in a joy-sucking way, mind).

Armed with this wisdom, we can help ourselves by preparing for the inevitable ups and downs by building the means to tap into a certain mood when we most require it. Knowing who to involve or what to do, or what to not do, to stimulate the most useful mood is the kind of intelligence worth investing in.


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Remembering Veronica Kenneally

This summer we lost a very special person.

Veronica Kenneally was a vibrant presence in Smarter Egg Peer Circles and Offsites over the past five years or so. In the safe environment where open conversations are possible, she had a significant impact on dozens of colleagues.

Veronica was born with superpowers, which came to light a few years back when melanoma developed to a life-threatening level. Faced with impending doom, and discouraging news, she got to work. She challenged the prognoses and direction given, she doubled down on the activities that gave her the best physical and mental health and she sought to align how she spent her time with the things that meant most to her.

By tapping into the courage that was within her all along, she fought the disease that would eventually take her life and she wrestled it into submission, buying priceless years to spend with her young family and to make progress on her business projects.

If you haven’t spent time with Veronica, you might think that I’m overdoing the praise just because I’ve lost a valued friend. Those who’ve worked with her will possibly suggest I’m under-doing it.

You can see for yourself, and I’d actually encourage you to do so.

Exhibit A – Veronica at The White Horse

This talk is a masterclass in persistence, sharing her experiences of setting up her successful Veronica’s Snacks business.

What no one else knew that night in a packed White Horse was that Veronica had just traveled from a cancer treatment in Dublin. She was due on stage ten minutes earlier than her eventual arrival, and as I stood at the back of the venue, worriedly checking the latest text messages, she came in, took a deep breath and took to the stage. This was what she said.

When Veronica began to respond positively to new treatments, she started to share her cancer story more widely. I had the privilege of a front row seat on multiple occasions as she inspired many others, and she herself drew courage from their reactions.

Rather than hiding, Veronica dug deep, tapped into her bravery and began to craft her experiences into a message that others found to be uplifting and motivating. Which resulted in…

Exhibit B – Be Bold

This was Veronica’s final project, and one for which we had great plans. Alas, her illness re-emerged recently and denied her the opportunity to reach more people.

I’d love it if you spent some time on Be Bold and read a little more about Veronica, and think about the messages she felt were important for us.

Here’s the thing: we too have many of her superpowers but most of the time we’re either too scared or too distracted to access them. We often underestimate the power of our choices.

We can craft a better life for ourselves. Being bolder is a good place to start.

The practice of being yourself

The biggest shift in opinion that I’ve noticed in my eleven years of executive coaching practice is our attitudes to the concept of mental health.

Back in the day, most of the non-useful attitudes and judgements fell into two main categories: weirdness and weakness.

The diversity movement has encouraged us to celebrate that which is different, but we’re still prone to harshness when noticing a struggle in one of our colleagues (and we’re absolutely our own harshest critic when we’re struggling ourselves).

So, despite significant progress, we’re not there yet. As an example, in my work, and this is also true of many of my colleagues, I tend to refer to mental fitness and mental strength rather than mental health. This is for a variety of reasons, mostly to lower our resistance to self-examination and to making progress without unhelpful judgement.

My favourite mental fitness/strength/health quote is from Canadian author Mark Freeman:

Mental health is the practice of being yourself.

Of course, the key word here is practice. Acting in alignment with who we are and who we want to be is useful in the moment and allows us to build strength in different arenas.

The opposite is also true: acting out of alignment with who we are creates greater suffering for ourselves and others.

Mark’s book is called You Are Not A Rock and I’ve given this to many clients, and recommended it in talks, since it came out.

It’s far more useful for us to realise that all of us are on a continuum of mental health, just like physical health. So, rather than wasting time creating judgements about good or bad, strong or weak, we shouldn’t lose sight of our ability to improve our mental fitness through our own choices and actions.

Go practice being yourself. ❤️


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. This extract is part of a summer series sharing great quotes from great books. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Online registration open for Evening Offsite

The long summer evenings offer a chance to press pause and take stock, without using up a full working day.

On the evening of Thursday, July 11th, we’re hosting a special Smarter Egg Offsite that provides the magical elements of a regular offsite day, but over the course of an evening.

This is designed for those who just can’t afford to take a day off right now, but know that they need this kind of in-depth reflection to ensure they are giving themselves the very best chance of making progress in their working lives.

This event includes a light dinner on arrival and registration fee includes all materials as well as our ‘Book of the Quarter’, which provides ongoing inspiration for participants as the conversations continue after the offsite.




If selected

If you ever listen to sports people with a humble disposition, they’ll often qualify a preview of a forthcoming contest with the words, “if selected”.

Not everyone can be picked on the team. There are only so many spots. So, all dreams are contingent on being selected.

But you and I don’t have that dilemma. We can select ourselves. We can stand up, and enter the arena.

We can choose our own path, we can pick our sport, we can change our team. The full expression of who we are requires us to select ourselves.

It might feel more comfortable to hide and tell yourself that the rules of the game mean you have first to be selected to play.

Do you want to be the person who looks back and says, “I coulda been somebody, if selected”?


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.


Extra places available for Summer Offsites

“Life cannot blossom into its true potential until you embrace the challenge of paying attention to what is in front of you right now.”

We’ve designed our Smarter Egg Offsites as an antidote to this challenge of overwhelm in this age of busyness and always-on connection, and to give ourselves the opportunity to slow down and see more clearly.

When it comes to ‘big picture’ work, we often prioritise our businesses or departments or projects over our own needs as professionals, who also happen to be human beings. But this isn’t in our interest, and doesn’t help us at all in the medium to long term.

We’ve developed a proven process that reduces overwhelm and brings greater clarity, focus and purpose to those who participate.

Summer is an ideal time to invest in yourself in this way. A little more space opens up in our calendars, many activities slow down and everything seems that bit more possible.

We have a programme of Offsites over the next couple of months that will gather professionals from many different lines of work in an environment carefully designed to provide the kind of quality reflection time we struggle to find day-to-day.

Our available Offsites this summer are:

To register your interest, just send us your details, and we’ll guide you through the process.

On giving up

“Never Give Up” was the slogan of the week in the football world recently.

It turns out, though, that giving up is often a wise strategy.

Sometimes we realise that we should have given up sooner. Think of dysfunctional projects that dragged on too long, jobs that didn’t fit, toxic relationships, habits that suited a younger version of ourselves (the list is longer than you think) – for all of these we clung on a bit too tight. Shoulda given up.

Here’s the twist: never give up on yourself.

By all means, let go of activities and beliefs and involvements that are past their ‘Best Before’ date, but never give up on the project that is you.

You deserve your own backing. You deserve the best chance you can give yourself. You deserve your own compassion when it might be in short supply elsewhere.

When it comes to being the best version of you, never, ever give up.


This post was adapted from one of Aodan’s Sunday morning newsletters, eagerly anticipated by hundreds of readers. Give yourself the gift of that weekly wisdom by signing up here.

Maximum vs Optimum

Much of what drives us points towards the maximum. We’re looking for more, and acting to get the most.

But sometimes we notice that maximising isn’t always in our best interest. 

As it happens, a lot of the coaching work I do is to help people untangle knots that have arisen from prioritising maximum over optimum.

Often, we chase the maximum based on external (unhelpful) influences, largely unconsciously. This also can work in tandem with primal motivation, driven by fear or greed (again, unconsciously).

When we assess our options from a wiser perspective, we almost always reset the pointer towards the optimum.

It’s worth spending more time finding that wiser perspective.

Optimising for what?

The good news: we’ve never been more capable, never had more resources available to us, never before had so many platforms to go do great work.

The bad news: we’re tripping over ourselves with opportunity.

We can do this, or that, or this other very cool thing. Or we can do all of that and this new latest shiny thing over there.

When it comes to activities and aspirations, we have become experts in addition (it’s fun, makes us feel good, less mortal) but we tend to avoid subtraction (it’s painful, requires tough choices, reminds us of our vulnerability).

This tendency manifests in what is known as ‘priority creep’, where our list of priorities grows over time, thus negating the value of the concept of a priority.

Faced with this bountiful overwhelm, a question I often ask in coaching is “For what are you optimising?” Put another way, what one value stands above all others?

We’ve learned from science that it’s near impossible to optimise for multiple variables i.e. you can change the formula to optimise either x or y, but not both. Sometimes you can improve both (sometimes a rising tide *does* lift all boats) but you can only optimise for one.

So, that’s the hard question for us: what do we optimise for?

Is it health? Is it wealth? Is it security? Is it status? Is it impact? Is it power?

There may well be no one ‘right’ answer for you here, but there is an answer if you’re willing to be brave enough to ask.

Every decision and action you take is positively or negatively impacting every one of the above variables. Only when we’re clear on what we’re optimising for can those decisions and actions align most effectively.

What are you optimising for?