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Author: Ms Bella St John

Bella St John is a fascinating woman whose journey from overcoming adversity, including finding herself homeless as a teenager, to becoming a celebrated figure in business development, coaching, and writing, exemplifies the power of aligning passion with purpose. Her innovative leadership and mentoring methods, especially in virtual settings, and her expertise in cutting-edge technology like Artificial Intelligence  (a topic in which she is a published author), have made her a sought-after advisor among top companies globally. Bella's diverse experiences, reflected in her insightful writings and her amazing lifestyle as a "Luxurious Nomad," showcase her dedication to personal growth and helping others achieve success. Through her work, Bella encourages people to understand how aligning one’s inner values with their goals can lead to a life of abundance and fulfillment.
✨ Freedom ✨
✨ Keeping History Alive ✨
✨ Bringing Elegance Back To Life ✨
These are Bella’s guiding ideals.  She has built for herself a life of relaxed luxury – and has done so primarily by being true to herself, finding the “wonderful” in every situation, and by helping others do the same along the way.

new gender laws

The New Gender Identity Laws

Scotland’s and Russia’s Opposing Gender Identity Laws

In recent weeks, two seemingly complete opposite laws have been passed in two very different countries – each believe they are right and the other is wrong…

Could both new gender laws be right?

The Scottish Parliament, in a move that sent shockwaves through the land, has decreed it a crime to refer to a man as a man if he identified as a woman. This law, born from a desire to protect and respect the chosen identities of individuals, ignited fierce debates in both Scotland and around the globe.

Halfway across the world, in the vast expanse of Russia, a contrasting edict has been passed. The Russian government, has declared anything related to the LGBT community illegal. This law, rooted in traditional values and a desire to preserve what they perceived as the natural order, had cast a shadow over the rainbow-hued dreams of many.

Two totally contradictory gender laws

Two nations, two laws, two seemingly opposing perspectives – yet both claimed to be correct in their own right. The Scottish law, considered by many a beacon of progressive thought, suggests it seeks to honour the inner truth of each individual. It recognizes that gender identity is not merely a physical construct but a deeply personal and spiritual journey.

The ancient Greek philosophers, in their infinite wisdom, have grappled with the nature of identity and the self. Plato’s allegory of the cave suggests that our perceived reality is but a shadow of a higher truth. Could it be that gender, too, is a mere shadow, a projection of a deeper, more authentic self?

Quantum physics, with its mind-bending theories of entanglement and superposition, hints at the fluidity and malleability of reality. If particles can exist in multiple states simultaneously, why can’t a person embody both masculine and feminine energies?

Yet, the Russian law, a bastion of traditional values, argues that the natural order must be preserved.

They see the LGBT community as a threat to the very fabric of society, a deviation from the time-honoured roles of men and women.  It looks to wisdom, passed down through the ages, and speaks of the sacred balance between masculine and feminine, a balance that must be maintained for harmony – and the physical continuation of the human species – to prevail.

Let’s make this fictional

So, just like people did in times gone by, let’s create a fictional story to see if we can shine some light on additional perspectives – because if the Scots believe they are right, and the Russians believe they are right – and they are diametrically opposed – is there a way that the viewpoints of all parties can be honoured?

First, we have Angus McTavish, a true Scottish lad through and through. He’s the kind of guy you’d expect to see chopping wood and downing pints at the local pub.

But Angus has always known that deep down, he’s not quite like other men. It’s like there’s this little voice inside him, whispering that maybe, just maybe, he’s meant to be something else – some ONE else – entirely.

So, when Scotland passes this law that says you can’t call a man a man if he identifies as a woman, Angus sees it as his chance to finally be true to himself. He takes the leap and becomes Aila, legally leaving behind the name Angus and everything that comes with it.

Now, let’s hop over to Moscow and meet Nikolai Volkov. He’s a family man, deeply rooted in tradition and the belief that men and women have their own roles to play in society.

For Nikolai, the idea of blurring those lines is like a threat to everything he holds dear – and with Russia’s new law against anything LGBT, Nikolai feels more convinced than ever that he’s on the right side of history.

But then, as fate would have it (and this story, to do its job, demands it), Aila and Nikolai cross paths at this global conference on gender rights. It’s like watching two worlds collide, with each of them passionately defending their own beliefs. They go back and forth, trading arguments.

As they dive deeper into their debate, something unexpected happens—they start to see that maybe, just maybe, there’s some truth to what the other is saying.

Although Aila makes a case for living authentically and having the freedom to be who you truly are, Aila begins to appreciate Nikolai’s views on the importance of preserving tradition and maintaining a stable society – and Nikolai starts to acknowledge there are times when he would like the freedom to more authentically express himself – not in a gender-related fashion, but in other ways, and so begins to see Aila’s arguments as having some validity.

But, neither is prepared to say the other is ‘right’.

They both have valid points, and it becomes clear that there’s no easy answer to the whole gender identity subject. It’s like trying to solve a Rubik’s cube blindfolded—you twist and turn, but the solution always seems just out of reach.

In the end, Aila and Nikolai agree to disagree; but as they go their separate ways, Aila and Nikolai can’t help but feel as though they’ve been changed by their encounter. It’s like they’ve discovered a secret truth that the world isn’t just as black and white, right or wrong as they once considered.

So, I leave you with these questions:

Imagine you are faced with a belief that challenges your own convictions.

Do you have the courage to listen with an open mind, to engage in honest dialogue, and to recognize the validity of different perspectives?

Are you willing to find a middle ground, to understand that the complexities of life cannot always be reduced to a single truth?

My viewpoint on the new gender laws?

What I find sadly missing in society today even more so than tolerance in differing perspectives is the simply art of open and honest discussion.

We have become so politically correct that it is no longer permissible to even debate such subjects – BUT without debate and discussion, nether Aila or Nikolai could ever see there is even another way to think about the subject.

Without open and honest discussion, it is impossible to progress where everyone feels ‘heard’.

Without open and honest discussion, each side will continue to see themselves as ‘right’ and the other as ‘wrong’.

In the end, whether we believe more in one perspective or the other, at this point in our human history and evolution I can see only one way forward:  regardless of our personal belief, it is our willingness to embrace the diversity of ideas and to find unity in our shared humanity – progressive AND traditional.

~ Bella

Ms Bella St John

(who, yes, very happily calls herself ‘Ms’ and is very happy to be a woman in every sense – and who is also happy to discuss this and any other subject because she feels no one viewpoint is ever totally ‘right’ nor totally ‘wrong’)

The Danger of Computer-Made Data for AI Training: Lessons from Captain Sullenberger’s Heroic Landing

Computer-made data for AI training is now the norm in many industries.

We have all heard of platforms like ChatGPT that are trained on massive ‘real world’ data – but did you know that there is a growing trend for training AI using data that has itself been computer-made?

I don’t know about you, but that feels like being stuck in an infinite loop that gets more and more ‘not real’ as it goes along…

[If this concept is completely new to you, you might like to read this post first:  https://bellastjohn.com/harnessing-synthetic-data-advancing-ai-training-while-navigating-challenges/]

What “Miracle on the Hudson” taught us about relying on computer-made data for AI training

In the world of aviation, Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger became a household name for his miraculous emergency landing of US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River in 2009, saving the lives of all 155 people on board. His exceptional skills and quick decision-making showcased the vital role of human judgment in critical situations. However, an often-overlooked aspect of this remarkable incident lies in the lessons it offers about the potential pitfalls of relying too heavily on computer-made data to train AI models.

In the aftermath of the “Miracle on the Hudson,” investigators conducted simulations to understand the events leading up to the water landing. While these simulations provided valuable insights into the sequence of events and the performance of the aircraft systems, they failed to accurately capture the human element—the split-second decisions, instincts, and experience that Sullenberger and his co-pilot, Jeffrey Skiles, brought to the table.

This critical omission underscores a fundamental challenge in the development and training of AI models: the danger of overlooking human reactions and response times when relying on computer-made data. Here are some important lessons we can draw from this incident:

1. The Complexity of Human Decision-Making: The quick thinking and sound judgment exhibited by Captain Sullenberger and his crew in an emergency situation like Flight 1549 cannot be replicated solely through computer-generated scenarios. Human decision-making involves intuition, experience, and a deep understanding of context—a complexity that is challenging to simulate accurately.

2. Real-World Factors and Uncertainty: Simulations are typically based on known variables and data, but real-life emergencies often involve unexpected factors and uncertainties. Human operators have the ability to adapt and make critical decisions in response to evolving situations, which is difficult to capture in a controlled synthetic environment.

3. The Role of Stress and Pressure: In high-stress situations, human performance can be significantly affected. Stress and pressure can lead to heightened awareness and focus, but they can also impair decision-making. Understanding how humans react under pressure is essential for designing AI systems that can complement human actions effectively.

4. The Need for Hybrid Models: The limitations of computer-made data in replicating human decision-making suggest the importance of hybrid models that integrate both synthetic and real-world data. Such models can better prepare AI systems for handling complex, high-stakes scenarios by accounting for the unpredictable nature of human responses.

5. Ethical Considerations: The reliance on computer-made data alone can have ethical implications, especially in fields like aviation, healthcare, and autonomous vehicles, where human lives are at stake. Ensuring that AI systems are trained to make ethical decisions in critical situations requires a nuanced understanding of human values and moral judgment.

Why use computer-made data?

I get that training AI models takes a huge amount of data, and it is obvious how using ‘fake data’ to test the security systems of financial institutions, for instance, might make sense.

…but it is not stopping there.

Examples of computer-made data for AI training

I asked ChatGPT to provide a list of 20, along with some concerns:

  1. “Healthcare Technology Companies:
    • Concern: Privacy and security concerns when generating synthetic medical data to protect patient information.
  2. Financial Services and Banking Institutions:
    • Concern: Ensuring that synthetic data for fraud detection and risk assessment doesn’t introduce biases or ethical issues.
  3. Autonomous Vehicle Manufacturers:
    • Concern: The accuracy of synthetic data in simulating real-world driving scenarios and safety implications.
  4. Insurance Companies:
    • Concern: The fairness and accuracy of synthetic data used for pricing, underwriting, and claims assessment.
  5. Retail and E-commerce Platforms:
    • Concern: The potential for synthetic data to affect personalized recommendations and customer profiling.
  6. Manufacturing and Supply Chain Management Companies:
    • Concern: The reliability of synthetic data for optimizing production processes and logistics.
  7. Agriculture Technology Firms:
    • Concern: The effectiveness of synthetic data in modeling crop yield predictions and pest management.
  8. Energy and Utilities Providers:
    • Concern: The accuracy of synthetic data for grid optimization and energy demand forecasting.
  9. Aerospace and Defense Contractors:
    • Concern: The realism of synthetic data for simulating aircraft performance and military scenarios.
  10. Environmental Monitoring Organizations:
    • Concern: The validity of synthetic data in climate modeling and predicting environmental changes.
  11. Education Technology Startups:
    • Concern: Ensuring the relevance and fairness of synthetic data for personalized learning and educational assessments.
  12. Entertainment and Gaming Companies:
    • Concern: The authenticity of synthetic data used in video game environments and virtual reality experiences.
  13. Human Resources and Talent Management Firms:
    • Concern: Bias and fairness issues in synthetic data used for recruitment and workforce analytics.
  14. Real Estate and Property Management Companies:
    • Concern: The reliability of synthetic data for property valuation and market analysis.
  15. Telecommunications Providers:
    • Concern: Privacy considerations when generating synthetic data for network optimization and customer behavior analysis.
  16. Government Agencies (e.g., Census Bureau):
    • Concern: Ensuring the accuracy and fairness of synthetic data for policy-making and resource allocation.
  17. Logistics and Delivery Services:
    • Concern: The realism of synthetic data used to optimize delivery routes and predict package delivery times.
  18. Social Media Platforms:
    • Concern: The potential impact of synthetic data on content recommendation algorithms and user experiences.
  19. Pharmaceutical and Biotech Companies:
    • Concern: Ethical and regulatory issues when using synthetic data in drug discovery and clinical trials.
  20. Legal Services and LegalTech Startups:
    • Concern: Ensuring the validity and fairness of synthetic data used for legal research and predictive analytics.”

It is also interesting that a few days ago when I asked a couple of friends who are in real estate whether they use AI, they both replied ‘no’ due to lack of perceived reliability of data (also referenced above).

Incorporating human factors into AI training is not a straightforward task, but it is essential for creating AI systems that can operate effectively and safely in the real world. While simulations and synthetic data have their place in training models, they should complement, not replace, the rich insights gained from real-world experience.

The “Miracle on the Hudson” serves as a powerful reminder that AI, no matter how advanced, cannot entirely replace the judgment, instincts, and adaptability of humans in high-stakes situations. As we continue to develop AI systems for various applications, it is crucial that we remain cognizant of the limitations of computer-made data and strive for a more holistic approach that honours the irreplaceable role of human expertise and experience in complex decision-making processes.

~ Bella

Harnessing Synthetic Data: Advancing AI Training while Navigating Challenges

In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, the quest for data remains paramount. However, as the demand for high-quality training data outpaces its supply, a powerful alternative has emerged: computer-made data, or synthetic data. This article explores the concept of synthetic data, the concerns associated with its use in AI training, how companies employ it, and the compelling reasons behind this adoption.

What is Synthetic Data?

Synthetic data is computer-generated information designed to mimic real-world data. It is born within algorithms, mathematical models, or software systems rather than originating from actual observations or measurements. The primary goal is to create data that closely resembles real data, facilitating the training of AI models.

Concerns for Using Synthetic Data in AI Training

While synthetic data offers numerous advantages, it is not without its challenges and concerns:

  1. Quality Assurance: Ensuring the fidelity and authenticity of synthetic data can be challenging. Poor-quality synthetic data may lead to models that struggle to generalize to real-world scenarios.
  2. Overfitting: Models trained extensively on synthetic data can become overly tailored to the synthetic dataset, diminishing their ability to perform well in diverse real-world situations.
  3. Bias and Fairness: Biases embedded in the algorithms generating synthetic data can perpetuate or even introduce biases into AI models, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
  4. Privacy Risks: Although synthetic data is generated, it can still inadvertently expose sensitive information if not meticulously designed and validated.

How Companies Utilize Synthetic Data for AI Training

Companies across various industries leverage synthetic data for a multitude of purposes:

  1. Data Scarcity Mitigation: In sectors where obtaining sufficient real-world data is challenging or costly, synthetic data supplements the available dataset, enabling more robust AI training.
  2. Privacy Enhancement: Synthetic data allows organizations to create datasets that retain the statistical properties of real data without exposing sensitive or private information, crucial in fields like healthcare and finance.
  3. Robustness and Diversity: Synthetic data introduces controlled variations and edge cases to improve model robustness and adaptability to different scenarios.
  4. Cost-Efficiency: Generating synthetic data is often more cost-effective than collecting, cleaning, and annotating large volumes of real-world data.
  5. Testing and Validation: Companies create standardized testing and evaluation datasets using synthetic data to assess AI model performance in controlled environments, ensuring fair comparisons.

Why Companies Embrace Synthetic Data

Companies adopt synthetic data for several compelling reasons:

  1. Data Limitations: In many cases, real-world data is insufficient or unavailable, hindering AI model development and testing. Synthetic data addresses this data scarcity issue.
  2. Privacy Preservation: Synthetic data enables organizations to work with data while safeguarding sensitive information, ensuring compliance with data protection regulations.
  3. Robust Model Training: By introducing synthetic data alongside real data, companies enhance model robustness and resilience, leading to more reliable AI systems.
  4. Cost Savings: The cost-effective nature of synthetic data generation appeals to organizations looking to optimize their AI development budget.
  5. Ethical Considerations: Synthetic data can help organizations reduce biases in AI models and ensure fairness and equity in decision-making processes.

In summary, synthetic data has emerged as a crucial tool in the arsenal of companies seeking to train AI models effectively while navigating data limitations and privacy concerns. While challenges exist, careful validation, ethical considerations, and a thoughtful integration of synthetic and real data can result in AI systems that perform robustly and ethically in diverse real-world scenarios. As AI continues to transform industries, synthetic data is poised to play a pivotal role in its ongoing advancement.

[Please note:  this post was written by ChatGPT as an informative background and pre-reading if desired for the post written by Ms Bella St John: https://bellastjohn.com/the-danger-of-computer-made-data-for-ai-training]

Could this be the future of making mini-series?

Last night I binge-watched a truly ground-breaking series – “Undone”.

This movie, completely aside from the wonderful way it handles what can be quite sensitive subject matter of mental illness while combining it flawlessly with science-fiction, illustrates techniques that may become one of the new normals in television production by using 3D animation, oil painting, and a technique first created around 1910!

Alone, not one of these techniques is new – as I mentioned, Rotoscoping has been around since it was patented by Max Fleisher and first show in his amazing 1919 short, ‘The Tantalizing Fly’ – and we have seen live-action and animation combined, green-screen techniques, as well as a range of computer-generated applications… examples such as Avatar, Tron, Disney, Star Wars…

Why could this be a new normal?

In a post-covid world, the notion of making movies on location around the world, with large productions, hundreds of extras… that may all be a thing of the past with only a few exceptions being created.

If one considers that ‘Undone’s eight-episode miniseries isn’t a major blockbuster – it is essentially a traditional eight-episode television drama – but was shot in a way that could for the most part adhere to what today we call ‘social distancing’ – the production may be an example of what is to come as the various technologies we have at our fingertips merge according to the limitations now placed upon us.

Filming in an empty sound stage and adding in extras later is nothing new, but as the world adapts to a new way of interacting – or not interacting – with one another, ‘Undone’ may just be an example of the new ‘normal’ when it comes to making television mini-series.

…and before I hear, “the graphics and 3D took forever and would cost a fortune” – just look at how far we have come in such a short space of time…  How do we know what’s possible/impossible?

…and I have been thinking about writing, “The Butterfly Matrix”, that picks up where “Quantum Lace” left off, and am giving serious consideration to the possibility of using something similar to this technique to turn the entire series into a mini-series… but that’s still quite a way off yet…

The man dreamed he was a man, having a dream that he was a butterfly, that was dreaming it was a man… How do we know what’s ‘real’? Master Chuang Chou Zhuang, was a Chinese philosopher, who is supposed to have lived during the Warring States Period, corresponding to the Hundred Schools of Thought. “Once upon a time, I, Chuang Chou, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Chou. Soon I awaked, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man.”

~ Bella

What does it mean to “exist”?

When deciding what I am taking with me as I pack up the house, ready for my next adventures, I put my notes and research for the next ‘Quantum Lace‘ books into my ‘goes with me’ pile so I may work on them as I continue to travel the globe as a Luxurious Nomad.

I have been thinking about Bridgit, Markus, Charles, and Marianna (my ‘Quantum Lace’ characters) over the past few days, and contemplating an interesting question:

What does it mean to ‘exist’?

In my mind, I know both characters intimately.  My readers have come to know Bridgit (Marianna makes her debut in the next book) – but does that mean they ‘exist’?

If your immediate answer is ‘no’, consider this…

There is a passage in book one where Markus is explaining time travel and quantum physics to Bridgit:

“You know, it’s amazing. We think that reality is all ‘out there’, but consider when you go to the movies. Not only are you simply seeing one still image after the next that gives you the illusion of reality and movement and travel through time and space, but when you see a scary picture, and something happens suddenly, causing you to jump, your heart-rate goes up, your fight-or-flight reaction kicks in – but yet nothing ‘out there’ has changed at all! You are still sitting safely in your seat, eating your popcorn that is now probably scattered all over the place,” he chuckled.
Seeing Bridgit still did not appear to be amused, he asked, “So, it makes you wonder – what is reality and how do we know it exists the way we currently believe it to exist? Because ‘reality’ certainly isn’t the scary bogey-man on the screen who is coming to get you right here and right now in this moment in time – he is just a series of still pictures strung together with some words and music – but yet your mind and your body react as though he were real… So, how can we say we know what ‘reality’ is for sure?”

Does the monster on the screen ‘exist’?  If he doesn’t, why do we respond as though he does?

So, to pick up Markus’ question, what is ‘reality’?

Consider the placebo effect.  These treatments have no medical therapeutic value, but yet patients experience physiological responses as though they do.  How do we explain the ‘reality’ of the person getting better – and in very practical terms, altering matter / material reality – from taking an inert pill?  Do the health benefits of that inert pill now suddenly ‘exist’?

  • Does your fear of heights exist?
  • Does your distaste for Brussels sprouts exist?
  • What about your love of pizza – does that exist?

Do they exist?  Or did my consciousness merely create them?  …and even if it did, does that mean they do or do not exist?

Taking this another step, does memory ‘exist’?

Think of the old adage of an accident with five witnesses – each of whom gives a slightly different account of what happened.  Which one is ‘reality’?

Or, think back to one of the happiest moments of your life… really put yourself there in your mind…  How do you feel?  Neuroscience researchers have shown time and again that this type of visualisation produces physiological effects practically identical to when the event first occurred.  So, does that mean the memory ‘exists’ in the same way that the event ‘existed’ when it happened?

I read a fascinating article in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy today that discusses the topic of the nature and reality or otherwise of fictional entities – and that prompted this post, and my renewed passion in writing my Quantum Lace series.

To me, my characters are real, they exist – the places they visit, the historical events they witness – all ‘real’.

In doing my research for the book, I came across (and included) a number of fascinating elements, such as:

  • Morgan Robertson really did publish a book on the sinking of the “unsinkable ship” that hit an iceberg fourteen years before Titanic;
  • The edition of “The Time Machine” published by Holt, really did misspell Wells’ name as H.S. Wells and Wells’ address listed on the letter sent to Bridgit, was Wells’ actual address at the time;
  • Lord Brassey really did go off to Australia to become Governor of Victoria and his first wife did die on board the ‘Sunbeam’;
  • The quotes from Tesla’s presentation are actually verbatim of the words he uttered in 1892;
  • …and the quantum physics mentioned is all real scientific fact as we know it today…

“There are books out there about time travel that we’ve all read and enjoyed. But this one is so entirely plausible, so highly engaging, that one can’t help but wonder if the concept of time travel is not only possible, but is perhaps undeniably real.”  Literary Classics Book Review

‘The Measure of a Man’

For the Star Trek Next Generation fans among us, you may remember this episode as being one of the most powerful – and it almost didn’t see the light of day.  The script was written by a former attorney and it was only thanks to the 1988 writers’ strike that producers turned to a pile of spec-scripts, among them was this episode which, in my opinion, is a philosophical masterpiece.

The episode explores, among other topics, whether one can demonstrate consciousness – and if we also take that a step further and look at the scientific field of panpsychism that suggests consciousness is a quality inherent to all matter – and the likes of theoretical physicist Max Tegmark, who argue that consciousness is a state of matter…

…and we already considered earlier in this post about the role of consciousness in our fear of heights or love of pizza…

So, if consciousness is matter as Tegmark suggests, and therefore ‘exists’, do the vivid characters created by the consciousnesses of writers of fiction also ‘exist’?

Think of Sherlock Holmes…  Most people can describe him, they era in which he ‘lived’, his clothes and hat, his trusty friend, his intelligence, even his address…  So, can we honestly say Sherlock Holmes does not exist?

To me, Bridgit and Marianna exist just as vividly as does Sherlock Holmes… and so I have decided that rather than return to writing the next installment of a fictional series, I am going to approach this as though I am recounting to you my memories of their lives, their adventures, their loves, their hopes, their dreams…

History is told through stories of what people think is reality, what is real, what exists – but even many of those ‘realities’ change over time.

“Can you fly like a bird in this reality?” Markus asked.
“Of course not,” replied Bridgit, shuffling uncomfortably on her seat.
“Actually, what if you can,” said Markus with a smirk, “but the reason you don’t is that you think it is impossible. Think about it…” he said leaning forward toward Bridgit. “Once upon a time it was thought impossible to sail around the world. Once upon a time it was thought physically impossible to run a four-minute mile. Once upon a time it was thought impossible to put a man on the moon. Now we know they are not only possible, but we have actually done them, all of them, and more.”

So, what does it mean to exist?

I’ll ask Markus and Bridgit and get back to you…

~ Bella

Reinventing my life…

I am no stranger to reinvention.  On more than one occasion, I have had challenges that have all meant a reinvention of my life, how I earn a living, how I physically show up in the world, how I travel, and how I, on a very fundamental level, even get from A to B.

Recently – actually very recently – I have been in a position where I have reinvented yet again…

A couple of months ago, I decided to close out all my online businesses that were generating money but not really adding ‘value’ to the world; and therefore not in alignment with who I am at my core…

I launched a new online platform to support primarily coaches and consultants, but extending to small- to medium-sized business owners.  My intention was to launch fully back into the online world – a world I have barely visited for several years – where I still have the remains of a decent-sized platform, and to use that to promote and grow the new business platform.

I also launched what was to be a new weekly online show aimed to inspire and provide uplifting and positive stories.

Then I enrolled to do a three-year MBA in Entrepreneurship and Innovation at York University (that I could do online) with additional studies at Harvard, MIT, and Babson (plus a few others) – and to complete it all in one year.  Not exactly an easy option no matter which way one looks at it – but it means that when I finally have those pieces of paper, I might have a greater chance of applying for permanent residency in the UK at some point…

My intention was to fully immerse myself into the online world again – to rebuild and reengage all my social media platforms, and to build a solid online brand from which I could promote both the business platform and the online show, as well as launch other initiatives over time.

…then on Facebook yesterday, I was on the end of such hurtful comments for saying that ‘all lives matter’, I decided to totally re-evaluate what I want in my world – and as a result to reinvent and fine-tune my life…

While I am not going to go into detail – and I am only publishing this here as a reference point to give you some context for my decision, not to start a new debate nor conversation about the topic – here is my final Facebook post:

When my comment that ‘all lives matter’ not only apparently makes me a racist and someone who doesn’t care about the ‘black lives matter’ cause, but apparently is akin to me standing up at someone else’s child’s funeral, grabbing the mic from the mother and saying all children matter… (just one of the replies below)… my goodness… There really are no words…
I think it is time for me to simply retire from this space because I very obviously don’t belong – and frankly, nor do I want to.
I do wish you all love and happiness, and I do still believe that all lives matter. ❤️


So here, written and developed for ‘me’ but happy to make public for whoever happens to read this just in case it might help, support or inspire even one other person…


  •  When I leave this holiday home in Scotland in a few weeks, I will have four cases with me and that will be my ‘life’ – everything else will be in long-term storage – and I have sold my cars here in the UK, including my beloved classic convertible Baby Jaguar
  • While I do not have a ‘home’ anywhere on the planet, my desire is to find lovely, unique, and interesting places to stay in various countries, for a couple of months at a time – places that make me smile


  • I have physical challenges, but I have put together a wonderful set of physio equipment that can travel with me


  • After the Facebook fiasco yesterday – that really was just the latest example illustrating why I feel I do not fit in this world – I will finish the existing activities I have undertaken, such as publishing the results of a survey I conducted, and then I will not be reengaging in those platforms
  • To grow the business, rather than me actively engaging in marketing and advertising myself, I will do everything in my power to support the members to enable them to grow and develop significant income streams for each of them, and that in turn will bring me residual income
  • I have also decided to produce the segments I have already recorded for the show and, to honour my guests, put them on YouTube, but not to continue with the program – I really do not want to continue to live in the online space


  • My study-load means sixteen text and reference books, not to mention notepads, folders, sticky-notes…  All of that now needs to travel the world with me (plus I always tend to travel with about six to eight of my favourite books anyway – life is not life without books…)


  • I am a geek – and I love that technology allows me to support others, do what I do, and to stay connected to those I love
  • While I would love to love and be loved, currently there is no man in my life, so I focus on being happy by myself – one day he will turn up
  • I am also a woman who is most comfortable with the manners of a time gone by…  I believe in respect, honour, and dignity.  I dress in long skirts, I write with a gold fountain pen, I send hand-written notes secured with wax and marked with my personal seal…
  • I can hold my own with the best of them in the online world – I have just made the decision today that choose not to
  • It’s all good – I just choose where to place my focus – and the online world of hatred, bigotry, and the like is not what I choose to observe, so I am simply removing myself.

Who is the ‘reinvented’ Bella?  The same one she was before, only even more attuned to her core values.

Abundance Thinking = Believe it even when you can’t see it

What is Abundance Thinking and what does it have to do with a foggy day?

This morning I walked outside and the other side of the Loch was gone, disappeared, vanished.

No matter how hard I looked, no matter what I did, I just could not see the other side of the Loch.  For all intents and purposes, it wasn’t there… Logic told me that it was simply obscured by the foggy mist that had descended – but if I hadn’t seen it before, how would I know for sure?  How would I know the other side of the Loch didn’t simply disappear into nothingness?

knew that on the other side of the Loch there was a mountain, and a couple of houses, and trees… but at that moment, I couldn’t see them.  All I had was my memory of them.

It was easy for me to keep my faith that at some point they would reappear because, after all, I had already seen them and knew they were there…

But, what if you’ve never seen what you want?  What if you have never even seen anyone else achieve what you want?  How do you keep the faith when you look out and all you see is foggy mist?

Imagine it!  See your goal, your dream, so clearly in your mind that you just know it is there – like I knew the other side of the Loch was there even though I couldn’t see it at that moment.

“What is now proved was once only imagined.” – William Blake.  Blake was a poet born in 1757, and his statement is just as true now as it was then.

“Imagination is more important that knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.” – Albert Einstein

Former Navy SEAL commander, Mark Divine, is quoted as saying, “before we win in reality, we need to win in our minds. We should visualize winning with all the details as if it were happening for real.”

…and for me, ‘winning’ is living your best life, realising your dreams, being your best you, and as Joseph Campbell said, following your ‘bliss’.

Abundance Thinking is about focusing on what you want – the big goals, the little goals, the simple life moments that bring you joy – and nothing else.

Yes, bills will come in – but focus on how wonderful it was to have whatever it is for which you are now paying.

Yes, it may appear to others that you are so far from achieving your goals that it looks to them as though it will never happen… but stay focused on your imagined reality… stay focused on your image of the other side of the Loch…

One day – and perhaps sooner than you might expect – something will happen and the fog will lift and your goal will be right there in front of you…

…this photo was taken a mere 11 minutes after the first…

~ Bella

Who would you be if you could be anyone?

Yesterday evening, a conversation that suggested I had come from a privileged background prompted me to recall an experiment I conducted several years ago…

Some time ago, just out of curiosity, I asked a group of students with whom I was working to see if they could correctly guess a number of things about me:

  1. Where I grew up?
  2. Whether I came from money?
  3. Whether I am an introvert or extrovert (to recharge my internal batteries and/or seek consolation and guidance, whether I prefer my own company or the company of many)?
  4. Whether my family were all/mostly high achievers?

For number one, most correctly guessed Australia, but several thought me to be British, and a small number thought I grew up in the States but spent my adult life in Britain.

For number two, without exception they all agreed I had come from a family who was abundant financially – the complete antithesis is true.

For number three, all but one thought me to be an extrovert, with most citing my public career as justification for their assessment – actually, I am a strong introvert.

For number four, they were split between yes and no – by this stage, however, thinking this to be a trick question.  When prompted further, most agreed I had come from a family of high achievers – again, the opposite is true.  I had to go back to my great-grandparent’s grandparents to find anyone in my family who I would consider a high-achiever.

What is interesting, is that their answers were based essentially on the ‘me’ I have designed.  The ‘me’ I have become… the ‘me’ I decided to become – and am still becoming.

We are each essentially our own block of clay from which we can mould whoever and whatever we choose.

I decided decades ago I wanted to be someone who wasn’t defined by my past.

I am constantly working on myself, on how I show up in the world, on the person I am at my core…

…and when it comes down to what really matters – who you were, where you grew up, whether you had money…  That is all irrelevant to who you are today unless you wish it to be so.

What matters is NOW – how you show up NOW – what you do NOW.

I may have come from a poor, abusive, and underachieving family – but I have chosen to create a wonderful life for myself of abundance in all areas – and not because I didn’t want what they had – or because I did want what someone else had…

I chose to build a wonderfully abundant life full of the things that I want for me – I am my own clay, my own masterpiece – and every single day, I fine-tune my sculpture… it is never done.

Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.  ~ Wayne Dyer

So, the question is, what do you want your sculpture to look like, sound like, be like..?

The only one standing in your way from that happening – is you.

“Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”  ~ Michael Landon


Is Integrity Dead?

That’s a question I found I was asking myself recently, “Is integrity dead?  Does anyone actually value keeping their word, and doing what they say they will do?

While consulting to various organisations recently, I have been coming across a surprisingly large number of truly lovely people who simply lack integrity – not just in one organisation, but in them all.  These people are not openly dishonest, nor are they  unscrupulous, nor corrupt.

They truly are exceedingly lovely individuals…

(you can hear the ‘but’ coming, can’t you?)


  • Some think very little of turning up late (and for some ‘late’ has become the norm)…
  • Some fudge and/or avoid the truth (lie) so as not to have to confront a difficult situation…
  • Some participate in negative conversations about people, often not knowing all the facts – and even if they did know all the facts, participate in conversations that frankly have nothing to do with them…

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know whether you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

While we would all like to think of ourselves as honourable people, have you ever asked yourself, “am I a person who lives with integrity?  Can people trust me?

…and I don’t mean that you won’t steal the family silver.  I mean:

  • Do you keep your commitments?
  • Do you turn up to meetings on time?
  • Do you meet deadlines?
  • Do you judge others?
  • Do people feel they can count on you?
  • Do you gossip about people behind their back?
  • Can people trust you if you say you will do something or be somewhere on or by a certain time/date?

It seems fewer and fewer people realise the importance of living a life of integrity, not just when it is convenient, but always.  Many also seem to either be oblivious to or simply ignore the negative ripple effect a lack of integrity and trustworthiness can have on relationships, families, and corporations.

What does integrity look like?

While certainly not all, many of the attributes of a person who lives with integrity are the same as one who lives with an abundance mindset:

Abundance thinkers: Scarcity thinkers:
Believe in positive possibilities Are pessimistic about the future
Think big Think small
Encourage others Find fault in others
Understand that everything that happens in their world (positive and negative) is of their creation Blame others for their circumstances
Believe there is always more Believe there is never enough and one needs to fight for more
Willingly share their knowledge and contacts with others Carefully guard their knowledge and contacts, only sharing when they feel they will directly behefit
Withhold judgement Judge others regularly
Trust people until proven untrustworthy Distrust until proven trustworthy
Are inwardly confident, self-assured and appreciative Lack self-confidence and display ‘entitled’ and often selfish behaviour
Welcome competition as a means to grow, develop and expand See competition as a necessary evil and seek to destroy the
Are open, honest, warm and welcoming May appear warm and welcoming, but often undermining those in their acquaintence
Believes collaboration is the way forward Believes competition is the only way
Has no fear of being replaced because they focus on what is best for all, not just themselves Afraid of being replaced
Embraces change Fears and disrupts change
Inspire others Condescend others
Know failure is a step toward success Fear failure
Do not engage in gossip, or complaining about people to others Talk negatively about people to others, often thinking they are being constructive
Ask themselves, ‘how can I be of service?’ Ask themselves, ‘what’s in it for me?’

“Integrity is not something you show others. It is how you behave behind their back.” Anonymous

In addition, those with integrity:

  • Keep their word, their promises, and their commitments
  • Practice non-judgement
  • Communicate honestly
  • Give credit where due
  • Are respectful – and as a consequence, are usually respected.

None among us can say we are perfect, and this is not about “throwing the first stone”, but rather highlighting the importance of valuing how we show up in the world.

Your reputation and integrity are everything. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. Your credibility can only be built over time, and it is built from the history of your words and actions.  Maria Razumich-Zec

In my own life early on, I spent decades living a life of “excuses”.  If I was late, there was an excuse…  If I missed a deadline, there was an excuse…  If I didn’t achieve something I set out to achieve, there was an excuse…

OK, yes, sometimes “stuff happens” – but if we are really honest, stuff doesn’t happen all that frequently.

Most of the time we don’t meet our commitments because we didn’t make our objective a priority, and thus we let ourselves down and compromised our integrity.

We didn’t make it a priority to be on time to that meeting – and as a result, we not only demonstrated that we cannot be trusted to do what we say we will do (essentially that our word doesn’t mean anything, and we cannot be relied upon), we showed a significant lack of respect for everyone else who did show up on time.

A friend of mine is notoriously late – so much so that many who know him became accustomed to him turning up even an hour late at times.  He was always late – EXCEPT when he met up with his father.  For those meetings, he was always 100% on time (and sometimes even early).

“I remember my mom giving me a grocery list when I was a kid. I’d have to trundle down to the store and pick it all up. An entire week’s worth. Then she’d go down on Saturday and settle up on the bill. You were your word. It was as simple as that. If you said you were going to do something, you were going to do it.”  Quote from “Blusfishing” by Steve Sims

How do we know if we are living a life of integrity?

For starters, you usually know by the way you feel.  We all know that feeling when we have said or done something we know wasn’t the best choice and was out of alignment with our integrity.

Secondly, consider asking!

I did this recently and I actually asked 50 people, selected randomly from my contact list.

(Btw, if you want to select a random group from your contact list, simply export them into a spreadsheet, insert a column, enter the random number formula =RAND() and copy the formula for all active rows, sort the column into ascending order and you can the select the top 20 or 50 or however many random contacts you wish.  Note – RAND is a volatile function, meaning that each time you refresh the spreadsheet, it will produce a new set of random numbers)

For 25 of my contacts, I asked:

If I promised you I would do something or be somewhere – & your life, &/or the lives of people you love depended upon me being there – what is your level of confidence that I would show up?

For another 25 of my contacts, I asked:

If you were to grade my integrity on a scale of 1-100 (with 1 being low), what grade would you give me and why?

For the first group, all 25 replied and the responses from everyone except two were a total 100% confidence.  One of the two exceptions responded that they had complete faith that I would, subject to natural disasters preventing it; and the other said that they had total faith I would, unless I died in the process.  Hmmmmm…  I guess that’s still a positive?  🙂

For the second group, 23 of the 25 replied and all 23 were 100.  One of the two that didn’t respond bounced back (I guess I need to find their new email address), and the other is dead so I guess they are not checking their email (I guess I need to update that list!).

For the ‘why’ the responses were almost all that in their experience I keep my word, I show up on time, and I don’t tend to judge people.  Similarly, there were several others who noted that in their experience my integrity is demonstrated by a consistency of the values I hold dear, and how I show up in the world.

I am by no means an integrity role model.  I have a truckload of character traits and behaviours that fall short in my own estimation of where I would like them to be – although I am consciously aware of staying focused on the positive, and every day ensuring that I am a better ‘me’ than I was the day before.

Can integrity (and lack of integrity) be contagious?

I was interested to see a post today by Debrett’s on the subject on kindness, and a study done by the Journal of Applied Psychology that showed rudeness is seemingly contagious.

That made me ponder whether integrity / lack of integrity could also be contagious – meaning having a significant influence on the behaviours of others.

Broken Windows Theory

Back in 1982, Wilson and Kelling proposed a theory that in essence said if someone sees a building that already has a number of broken windows, it doesn’t take a lot for them to break another one.

BUT, if there are NO broken windows to begin with, it takes far more conviction to do the wrong thing and break the FIRST window.

This theory, put into practice under the direction of NYC Police Commissioner William Bratton, was largely credited with the dramatic positive turnaround in crime in NYC during the 1990s.

Essentially, the absence of crime became contagious…

Is it possible, by extension, that the level of integrity exhibited on a daily basis by a family, a team, and/or an organisation can also be ‘contagious’?

So, perhaps you are one of those people for whom integrity isn’t yet dead, but it is on life-support.

What can we do to live a more authentic life of integrity?


Seriously – make a decision that you will not settle for less than acting with integrity, moment by moment.

Decide that you will focus on the positives, live with an abundance mindset, and be someone who demonstrates they can be trusted to do what they say they will do – not just when it is convenient, but at all times.

Every conscious action/inaction, decision/indecision is a choice.

We make a choice to turn up late or on time.

We make a choice to focus on people’s weaknesses or their strengths.

We make a choice to build people up or tear them down.

We make a choice to surround ourselves with people who have integrity.

We make a choice to respect others, even when we disagree with them.

We make a choice to get angry and upset, or to see the positives in the situation.

“No one else ‘makes us angry.’ We make ourselves angry when we surrender control of our attitude.”  Jim Rohn

We make a choice to worry and stress, or to see the positives in every situation.

We make a choice to keep our commitments.

We make a choice to lead by example.

…and we make a choice to achieve our goals, or a choice to make excuses.

In the end, it all comes back to one of my role models – Yoda:

~ Bella

What is “abundance thinking”?

When exploring any topic – in this case abundance thinking – it is always a good idea to start with a definition or at least a framework upon which to begin one’s exploration.

According to Wikipedia, in his book, ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’, Stephen “Covey coined the idea of abundance mentality or abundance mindset, a concept in which a person believes there are enough resources and successes to share with others. He contrasts it with the scarcity mindset (i.e., destructive and unnecessary competition), which is founded on the idea that, if someone else wins or is successful in a situation, that means you lose; not considering the possibility of all parties winning (in some way or another) in a given situation (see zero-sum game). Individuals with an abundance mentality reject the notion of zero-sum games and are able to celebrate the success of others rather than feel threatened by it.”

Look around you…

Chances are you will see more scarcity mindset than abundance.  There are advertisements telling us that if we don’t get in now, we will miss out.  Television shows based on one person wins and the rest lost.  Commercials telling us how devastated our families will be if we don’t do this or do that, and do it now.

We have built a culture where marketers largely rely on ‘scarcity thinking’ to drive fear-based purchases and actions.

It is relatively easy to identify scarcity thinking, but what about abundance thinking..?

What is abundance thinking and how do we recognise it?

Abundance thinking is essentially looking at the strengths, successes, and possibilities that surround you – not once, but on a continual basis.

Abundance-focused leaders do not ignore weaknesses, but they put the majority of their focus on the strengths and successes of their teams.  They do not frame their challenges in terms of not having enough time, money, energy or resources to achieve their goals.  As a result their people focus on growth, new frontiers, and embracing change.

When in 1961 President Kennedy committed the nation to landing a man on the moon before 1970, NASA did not even know if it had the technology to achieve such a daring and audacious goal – but they did it!  Kennedy focused on the possibilities, not the limitations.

I recall hearing a quote by President Nixon as he was staring at a photo of Kennedy that I believe came from a movie (I don’t know if Nixon actually said it, but it resonates regardless):

“When they look at you, they see what they want to be. When they look at me, they see what they are.”

Possibly the best description I have found on applying the attributes of abundance thinking is the work of Cooperrider and Whitney in their “A Positive Revolution in Change: Appreciative Inquiry”:

Principle Summary Details
Constructionist Principle Words create worlds Reality, as we know it, is a subjective vs. objective state and is socially created through language and conversations.
Simultaneity Principle Inquiry creates change The moment we ask a question, we begin to create a change. “The questions we ask are fateful.”
Poetic Principle We can choose what we study Teams and organizations, like open books, are endless sources of study and learning. What we choose to study makes a difference. It describes – even creates – the world as we know it.
Anticipatory Principle Images inspire action Human systems move in the direction of their images of the future. The more positive and hopeful the image of the future, the more positive the present-day action.
Positive Principle Positive questions lead to positive change Momentum for [small or] large-scale change requires large amounts of positive affect and social bonding. This momentum is best generated through positive questions that amplify the positive core

Comparing scarcity vs abundance

Here is Stephen Covey’s take on the scarcity mindset:

Most people are deeply scripted in what I call the Scarcity Mentality. They see life as having only so much, as though there were only one pie out there. And if someone were to get a big piece of the pie, it would mean less for everybody else.

The Scarcity Mentality is the zero-sum paradigm of life. People with a Scarcity Mentality have a very difficult time sharing recognition and credit, power or profit – even with those who help in the production. The also have a a very hard time being genuinely happy for the success of other people.

Here is how Covey describes abundance thinking:

The Abundance Mentality, on the other hand, flows out of a deep inner sense of personal worth and security. It is the paradigm that there is plenty out there and enough to spare for everybody. It results in sharing of prestige, of recognition, of profits, of decision making. It opens possibilities, options, alternatives, and creativity.

So, what is the problem?

The problem is that we tend to only notice the things upon which we focus – and if you agreed with the earlier statement that when you look around you, you see more scarcity than abundance – you my friend are focused on scarcity.

…and thanks to how your brain works, you get more of that upon which you focus!

For instance, imagine you are buying a new car and have decided on a yellow VW Beetle since you haven’t ever seen a yellow one except in the brochures.  As you drive your brand new, very distinctive car off the lot and home, you pass five of them!

Blame your reticular activating system!

The reticular activating system, or RAS, is a part of the brain into which all of your senses except smell are wired.  Its job is to essentially be a gatekeeper and filter the massive amounts of information that are constantly bombarding your senses.

With all the literally millions of sensory inputs to which our brain is subjected, it is little wonder there is a mechanism to funnel out what is not important – but it is us who decides what is important!

The simple fact is that if we do not consciously focus upon something, we often miss it entirely.

Most people have seen the Harvard study where they showed people a video of a small basketball team passing a ball around in a circle. Participants were asked the count the number of times the ball was passed. Simple enough.

After the video, the participants were asked if they had noticed anything unusual – over half reported they had not seen anything unusual (and were a little perplexed by the question).

I won’t give it away for those who haven’t seen it:  http://www.theinvisiblegorilla.com/gorilla_experiment.html

Because the brain had been asked to focus on the passing of the ball, in more than 50% of the participants, it missed something rather extraordinary.

…and so it is in our day to day life – whether at work or at play.

We only notice that upon which we focus!

…and when you have abundance thinking, you are focused on abundance – it is that simple.  Not easy, but simple.

Abundance thinkers: Scarcity thinkers:
Believe in positive possibilities Are pessimistic about the future
Think big Think small
Encourage others Find fault in others
Understand that everything that happens in their world (positive and negative) is of their creation Blame others for their circumstances
Believe there is always more Believe there is never enough and one needs to fight for more
Willingly share their knowledge and contacts with others Carefully guard their knowledge and contacts, only sharing when they feel they will directly behefit
Withhold judgement Judge others regularly
Trust people until proven untrustworthy Distrust until proven trustworthy
Are inwardly confident, self-assured and appreciative Lack self-confidence and display ‘entitled’ and often selfish behaviour
Welcome competition as a means to grow, develop and expand See competition as a necessary evil and seek to destroy the
Are open, honest, warm and welcoming May appear warm and welcoming, but often undermining those in their acquaintence
Believes collaboration is the way forward Believes competition is the only way
Has no fear of being replaced because they focus on what is best for all, not just themselves Afraid of being replaced
Embraces change Fears and disrupts change
Inspire others Condescend others
Know failure is a step toward success Fear failure
Do not engage in gossip, or complaining about people to others Talk negatively about people to others, often thinking they are being constructive
Ask themselves, ‘how can I be of service?’ Ask themselves, ‘what’s in it for me?’

In the end, abundance thinking all comes back to one of my role models – Yoda:

~ Bella