Author Archives: drnicko

About drnicko

Cultural Architect

Out now on iBooks! The ideal Christmas present for the aspiring entrepreneur in your life!

Starting a business is much like working an allotment. You have a seed of an idea; you nurture it in a little clay pot until it struggles into the daylight; you stress about providing it with enough manure in the form of funding so that you can eventually transplant it into the wicked, wider world of the adult vegetable patch with all its attendant predators, parasites and pitfalls. With any luck your seed of an idea makes the journey from an innocuous looking seed into a strapping begonia which flowers annually with the minimum attention from you, allowing you to tend to other seeds or sit back and bask in the glory of your potato crop.

Often though, that process of business incubation is all too fraught and too many seeds of business ideas fall on the rough ground of customer disinterest or are devoured by the foxes of enterprises which are faster and more cunning than you when it comes to protecting the febrile business that is struggling into the daylight.

This book introduces various tips and tricks which are designed to help you start and protect that business of yours. It’s an allotment because your business – anyone’s business – cannot survive alone but needs other businesses of different shapes, types and flavours to flourish. An allotment allows for cross trading, cross fertilisation, mutual collaboration and the sharing of ideas in ways which might sound misplaced in the context of a cut and thrust, capitalist market place: but one thing all entrepreneurs know deep down is that they can’t do what they do alone.

They need the input of others, whether this be in the form of shovelling up the shite, digging protective trenches against the voracious slug or simply holding an umbrella over you as the sun burns down on your life long desires. They need manure – obviously – but also need a collection of sharp and blunt tools, good quality soil, an
absence of wasps nests and a good supply of that magical ingredient, water. So simple, so obvious and yet so mysterious – water is to the allotment what vision is to the business.

There’s no guarantee these tips and tricks will work; but if at the very least you can see your business start up as your very own allotment – and not your own private back garden – there is every chance your business will make it through the winter and be around next summer for you to sit in and admire your burgeoning brassicas.

Of course, starting up your business is also very much like trying to steer your life, irrespective of whether you’re in business or not. So, I hope this book helps you navigate your life as much as they are intended to help you tend your beautiful business idea.


Happy Allotmenteering!

The Business Allotment: Forget the Clichés!

Carla slumped into the chair at the end of a  miserable day and looked despondently into her mirror. Her unique make up offer (Stickless Lipstick) was looking distinctly unimpressive: sales had slumped, her website designer had started to resemble the Jurassic Park Fat Controller and her overseas supplier had clearly decided to up sticks and move to the Himalayas for all the communication skills he was demonstrating. She wondered, not for the first time this week, this month or indeed this year, whether this new  business start up business was all it was cracked up to be.

But this is all in a day’s work for the aspiring entrepreneur. There will be many days when sales  suck, profits revert to losses and your products look pathetic. There’ll be days when the cliches fly thick and fast as you attempt to hold onto any motivational cliché you can summon up at two in the morning when the kids aren’t sleeping, your partner’s out boozing and the cash flow is freezing before your very eyes. ‘Dream It Large‘; ‘No Sleep Till Christmas; ‘Pull Out Your Hair Until Your Head Bleeds‘: will all come flooding into your consciousness and add to your general feelings of inadequacy and defeat.

But this is all fine and should be welcomed by the aspiring entrepreneur because after all, you’re allowed to have bad days: very bad days in fact. You’re allowed to feel a failure and not step up to other people’s plates and you’re allowed to disappoint as many people as  you can before breakfast. Building your business is not about pleasing  others but looking at yourself in that mirror and accepting yourself,  warts, beauty spots and peculiar skin blemishes and all.

After a long days night of trawling around the internet, Carla subsequently found her own source of aspirational aphorisms to slow her to sleep and face the next day with renewed vigour and purpose in the form of Brian Eno’s Oblique Strategies.

‘Imagine a caterpillar moving‘ rekindled her internal locus of control; ‘Repetition is a form of change’ was a comforting reassurance that even  the biggest thinkers of the era aka Albert Einstein can sometimes get it disastrously wrong; ‘Pay attention to distractions’ allowed her to stop obsessing with the orthodoxy that expects obsession: and ‘Disconnect  from Desire’ jolted her into remembering that having a desire for your  business is one thing but that sometimes desire can get in the way of  allowing things to happen of their own volition.

Carla’s current fave track is Pharell’s HAPPY is fantastically infectious and a great incitement to keep your spirits up: but sometimes its OK to realise that there are very good reasons to be miserable about the state of your business. It won’t be the end of the world and it won’t be the end of your business, or indeed your life.

More tales from The Business Allotment here!

Publish and Be Damned! Write your most damning review and win a prize!

“And there it is… the stupidest fucking thing I’ve read all day” says a reviewer of Confessions of An Ageing Tennis Player recently.

So as Christmas is fast approaching, we’re delighted to run our seasonal promotion campaign where you get the chance to win not one, not two but three – yes three! – signed copies of Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player. The really unlucky winner will also receive a copy of the un-illustrated version of Confessions of an Ageing Football Player! now available on Amazon.

All you have to do is send in your most negative, critical or damning review of Confessions of An Ageing Tennis Player to this website by midnight on Wednesday 1 December to be in with a chance of winning our top Christmas Confessions Prizes!

1st Prize: one signed copy of Confessions of an Ageing Tennis Player plus one signed copy of Confessions of Ageing Football Player

2nd Prize: two signed copies of Tennis Player!

3rd Prize: three signed copies of Tennis Player!

To qualify, please post your review on this site and add your name and contact email address. The judges retain the right to remove your post if it’s offensiveness is based on racist, misogynistic, homophobic, disablist or any other forms of hatred. (Yes, you may feel you can publish what you like – but not on this site).

Prize winners will be announced on Saturday 4 December on this website and on all the usual social media channels.

The judges decision will be final and not open to appeal.

“I put it all down to Lord Andrew!” Cameron Norrie bares his soul to Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch.

Cameron Norrie, one of the best men’s tennis player in the world, produced one of the most predictable Masters 1000 triumphs in recent memory last night. From a set and a break deficit, Norrie recovered to comprehensively thrash Nikoloz Basilashvili and become the first British man to win the prestigious Indian Wells title. Ever.

In a NOP exclusive, Norrie gives a unique insight into his playing style and why he puts his entire success down to the hard wrought experience and wisdom of Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch, currently being Pleasured by Her Majesty at a secret location somewhere in the depths of the Californian desert.

“When I was two years old, I used to watch the tennis on the TV and especially the guys like McEnroe, Borg and Nastase” confessed Norrie to Lord Andrew over a steaming mug of gruel.

“Round about Wimbledon time, my brother Decameron and I would play a kind of tennis out on our grandfather’s lawn. I would take on the role of John McEnroe and he would enact Jimmy Connors.  I would invariably win as I was two and he was just beginning to get to grips with being swaddled.  It was all done to the fact that I had a proper tennis racket and knew how to score properly.  He had nothing and knew even less.

As I’ve gotten older, it’s become clearer that proficiency in tennis is not all about age but all about who you know and what inspirational illustrated comic guide books on how to play tennis you can read before breakfast. Your book, Lord Andy, if I may call you that…?”

At this point, Lord Andrew JPGRM of Kirkintilloch nodded sagely, giving the young buck licence to bare his soul, prostrated at his master’s bare feet.

“Your book, Lord Andy, offered me a veritable cornucopia of playing tips and tricks which helped me deal with all sorts of opponents of all sorts of sizes and shapes, playing all kind of strange shots in the oddest of circumstances.  The Californian desert being one of them.

Part two showed me how to apply those skills and strategies to go on and win a major international tennis tournament.  Last night of all nights!”

At this point, Lord Andrew’s security advisor arrived and informed the visitor that his time was up and there could be no more advice and guidance from the oracle.  Cameron Norrie however refused to leave the company of Lord Andrew and protested vigorously at his imminent ejection.

“But I need some excellent advice on how to deal with the media interest and the furore around becoming an international tennis superstar and Sports Personality of the Year!  Which is surely mine now that Emma has disappeared in a Transylvanian smog of her own making?” shrieked Norrie as the security advisor doubled in size and number.”

Lord Andrew of Kirkintilloch took pity on the young tennis buck and offered him these words of peace and harmony.

“My book, Cameron, is for everyone who has suffered at the hands of pomposity or institutional inertia and feels that the traditional English values of fair play, a stiff upper lip and self-deprecation are lacking in many areas of our public life. 

With this in mind, part four offers some hard-fought wisdom about how to deal with the Machiavellian politics of the sports club and by extension our Great British society as a whole; something you have just witnessed firsthand. And for that ignominy, I am truly apologetic.  Ours is not to reason but just to sit back and take it on our substantial Roger Federer inspired chins.”

As Lord Andrew has shown many times before, Britain is not as ‘Great’ as it might like to think it is and the treatment of Cameron Norrie is yet another example of how mighty empires rise and fall.

You too can become an international tennis superstar and be inspired by Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch by joining him in a rare attendance at Westfields Tennis Club at 21 Eastfield Rd, Leicester LE3 6FE on Thursday 21 October from  7pm.

“It’s never too late to leave your mark on the tennis court of life” as he sagely remarks here.

My name is not Russell Crowe. Lord AJPGR Murray dispenses advice to Emma Raducanu.

My dear Emma,

To say I was hugely disappointed at your news this morning that you had fallen at the first fence of the BNP Paribas Open in Indiana Wells in such a miserable fashion would be an understatement.

I was devastated, distraught and filled with remorse that I was unable to guide you through those early baby steps outside the hustle and bustle of the Grand Slams.

I realised too late that I should accepted your request to be your coach once you had dispensed with the services of that previous no-hoper you employed. Tim did his tiny best I am sure but it should have been me on that aeroplane with you to California.

Too late, too little: such are the risks facing eponymous tennis champions and their coaches and failure is a tough lesson to learn for both of us.

But never-mind Emma: now is not the time to crow or wallow in self doubt and recrimination.

We will return in style and I will make it my number one priority to be court-side with you (albeit via a Zoom call as my current location doesn’t allow for personal visits) on Monday morning to pick you up off the floor, put that determined little smile back on your chubby cheeks and get that forehand swishing again properly.

Indian Wells will be but a distant memory on Monday afternoon as we prepare for your next great challenge: Frinton on Sea Lawn Tennis Club in November.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Mmm peachy. Lord AJPGR Murray confesses.

I’m not a little relieved that my impersonator has been reunited with his plimsolls over night.

The accusatory looks I was getting from my so called neighbours was all getting a bit too much.

“The scent of peach around your legs is a bit of a give away” remarked one local wag, as his dogs kept on sniffing sniffing sniffing around my nether regions.

Just cheap aftershave I explained, trying to shoo them away in the process. The dogs weren’ t listening though and it soon became clear that I would have to take drastic action.

Fetch! I threw my trainers over the railway crossing as the gates came down, hoping those infuriating hounds would leap on to the railway track about the same time that the 15.47 Liverpool train was passing.

Jump they did, fetch they did but true to British Rail form, the 15.47 was 2 minutes late and they were able to bring me back the trainers intact, albeit covered in a slime of dog slobber. I held them up, scrutinised them and held them to my nose. Mmm, still peachy.

I put them back on my feet and marvelled at their perfect fit. My impersonator had clearly done his homework. Quite how he had found out about my size 16 feet is anyone guess – and quite how he thinks he can get around a tennis court carrying those barges at the end of his legs is quite beyond me too but I have to admit, they felt comfortable, well worn in and clearly had many tales to tell about their owners trials and tribulations on the world’s tennis courts.

I luxuriated in them for a bit longer before reconciling myself to the fact that they would need to be returned to their rightful owner, even if he was unwilling to return the title of Wimbledon champion and Sports Personality of the Year to me.

Timing is everything I mused as I posted them through the outsize postbox on the front door of his bungalow. I rang the doorbell and scarpered away as fast as I could back home. I wasn’t in the mood to confront my imposter, even if his plimsolls reminded me of the Algarve.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Imposter alert! Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch puts the record straight.

The news that some two bit tennis player who calls himself ‘Andy Murray’ has had his wedding ring stolen whilst attached to his plimsolls has led to various accusations that yours truly is implicated in some way in this heinous crime.

I would like to assure my many fans that these rumours are unfounded, untrue and unnerving in the sense that they suggest that one’s private life is not as private as one would like it to be.

The proposition that I would somehow have the capability to track down the location of this so-called ‘Andy Murray’, then be the slightest bit interested in his plimsolls – even if they did reek of a rather pleasant peach like odour – or even be a bit remotely bothered by the wedding ring which was probably carelessly entwined around the aforesaid plimsoll laces without any consideration of the poor woman who had foolishly pledged her life to follow in his footsteps (I warned her, I really did) – is just plain ludicrous.

Quite where these spurious allegations have arisen is a complete mystery and unfortunately, given my current circumstances, somewhat difficult to contest.

But contest them I shall. And Mr. so-called ‘Andy Murray’ will regret the day he attempted to brief the paparazzi against yours truly. Mr ‘Murray’: je ne regret riens but you may well do very soon.

More insights from Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray here.

Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch speaks!

We’re delighted to inform our readers that far from disappearing downstream into the morning mists of the River Mersey all those years ago, the Mighty Lord Andrew John Paul George Ringo Murray of Kirkintilloch has resurfaced ready to share his wit and wisdom with all those who care to listen to his recent forays into the steaming cauldron that is International Tennis.

This weekend saw him pull off one of the most incredible achievements in living tennis memory: the complete and utter obliteration of his opponent in the Women’s Final of the US Open Tennis Championship in New York. Whilst not a man of many words, we managed to pin him down to say a few words for our readership.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you all. I can’t believe that this has ended in such a thrilling style, with so many decisive moments, nerve tingling decisions, and life changing choices.

Fergy was an incredible opponent this afternoon, but I agree with her when she says the best woman won (i.e. me).

So, congratulations to her for putting up such a spirited fight, and congratulations to me for pulling out all the stops and astounding everyone.

While now is not the time to crow, it is worth remembering those who fell at an early stage during the competition and for the valuable contribution blah… blah… blah… they have made to the upper echelons of the tennis fraternity.

Holding the trophy aloft will stay in my memory for the rest of my life and I would like to finally thank you all, my supporters, my coach, my advocates and my enemies for the encouragement you have given me or the motivation which has spurred me on to prove you all wrong. This year’s US Open has proven to me that anything is possible, with the right attitude, guts, determination, and fertile imagination.

My club, my tennis, my world, my gender, will never be the same again.

Thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you thank you.

Lord Andrew will be available for book signings, contracts and endorsements at the usual address.

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: if in doubt, say ‘Creative’.

You’re in a meeting; it’s bumbling along; minutes are handed out and people frown and glare or pass out in the heat of the moment. There’s mutterings under breaths; there’s sighs, grunts and the occasional fart. Some bright spark says ‘what we need is a creative something something something‘ and suddenly the whole room has lit up in technicolour: the sighs become shouts, the grunts become groans of delight and the farts metamorphose into sounds of rejoicing: the whoopee cushion is something we all want to sit on now the creativity cat is out of the bag.

Because make no mistake: dropping the ‘c’ word into any business venture is bound to galvanise your workforce, impress your investors and stoke up the heat of admiration upon you. It doesn’t matter what the ‘something something something’ is (you could have equally said blahdy blahdy blah): the fact that you’ve introduced the ‘c’ word to your proposal is what’s fired up the meeting.

In the olden days we would have used the words ‘magic’ and the effect would have been the same. These days, ‘creativity’ has replaced the word for ‘magic’ (and ‘alchemy’ and ‘smoke and mirrors’ and ‘snake oil’ for that matter) and the world and it’s business offices have become far happier places as a result.

So, if in future you’re stuck in a turgid negotiation, CRM update or monitoring moment, just drop the word ‘creative’ into proceedings and see your business proposition grow wings and fly to the heavens. It may not last long up there as it gets too close to the sun, but your colleagues and customers will thank you for liberating them from their non-magical daily grinds.

More on how ‘creativity’ can influence your work and employment prospects here!

Advice from the NOP Werkshop: how to make a daily micro story funny.

Think of an incident in your life and ask the following questions:

1 How old were you and when did it happen?

2 Where were you? Be specific.

3 Who were you with?

4 What can you see and what can you hear?

5 What are you doing?

6 What are you feeling on the inside?

7 What was the outcome?

Meld and compile these separate lines into a short story of no more than 100 words.

Now do something to it that will make you laugh, chuckle, smile or guffaw. Anything that tickles your funny bones which might be anywhere in your anatomy.

Don’t worry about whether it makes anyone else laugh. It has to make you laugh first of all.

You could do all sorts of things: change perspective, modify the language, make fun of yourself, subvert cliches – the list is probably endless. There are loads of websites out there which will ask you to fork out to join a course to hear the words of wisdom from a humour expert: when the truth is, you know what makes you laugh. And you can bet your life it will make it other people laugh too. As we’re only too fond of quoting William Goldman, ‘No-one Knows Anything”. So you’re in good company!

Voila, your short funny story for the day!

Please feel free to share your stories with us here!