People have verbally asked, "So what did you do?" and I'm still struggling to formulate an acceptable answer: an answer that I can accept because it accurately portrays my visit will be too wordy and one that you can accept because you can grasp it will be too convoluted and require pre-explanations.
I, naively, thought I was going on a standard summer-church-trip-to-the-Third-world, to engage in worthy and practical activities, like building houses or running youth events, both of which I am reasonably prerequisitely skilled. I didn't really.
Anyway, as part of me having to process the experience and feedback to donors, I have written a list of lots of things I never did.
I thought we would build houses; our church has been funding this for years and we expected to help practically. We didn't. However we did get involved in the dedication of the most recent houses, formally handing them over to the first proud occupants, gifting typically Scottish items and praying over them.
Our programme said we would also get involved in repairing some of the houses that have become ravaged by weather and time. We didn't. Although we did carry bags of sand from one end of a village 300m to the other, to the house of a man who was about to start rebuilding. Not big bags but heavy enough to make it tiring in the heat. It did however give us practise at carrying stuff on our heads; I even managed no hands. Once. Then it got too tiring on my neck.
However, I was taken to make mud bricks to build some new houses. But I didn't touch a morsel of mud all day. Instead I was deputed to donkey the water up the hill from the locked pump. Tiring.
There were big ideas of doing youthwork, playing organised games and running precise craft activities. We did turn up for these activities but none of them ran in a neat and structured way as I prefer. Instead, we vaguely oversaw joyful chaos, talked in halting English and shared stories.
We carted case loads of medical supplies from Scotland which I thought we were distributing. We kind of did, but to people in the Congo, not Rwanda - that was a side-trip that I had no visa for, so I didn't get involved.
There were baby clothes donated which we took to Kigali to give to new mothers. I didn't do that either, more from an awkwardness at being one of very few men hanging around on the fringes of a very female-focussed event.
We were also promised long hours of sitting listening to speeches, from dignatories, preachers, mothers, survivors, widows, friends, community workers. We did that! In a pineapple field, on a hillside, at someone's home, in newly-built houses, in church, in a kids' home. Much listening with occasional inputs. But on every occasion it was inspiring. So many different stories of surviving the genocide, of forgiving the perpetrators and moving on together, of hope for the future.
And we were told to expect to meet lots of Rwandese and hug them three times. Left right left or RLR, I never quite worked out which was correct, but I got away with only a few awkward face-on-face moments. But we certainly did this. In fact Ben, one of the Rwandese guys organising us, said that often this is the biggest impact we can have, just meeting and hugging and listening. When you hear the history of how the western world walked away in 1994, leaving them to be slaughtered (read the details of history if you think I exaggerate), it's no surprise that a group of Europeans returning is a point of note. Particularly, the fact that there a large group of us and that many in my group were on their 2nd or 3rd visit, a message was apparently being received that they were no longer abandoned.
I don't know what lasting benefit there will be from our visit in Rwanda, if any. But I'm trusting that Ben was right that just being there and showing we care was enough to make an impact for individuals. Certainly it's the people that I will remember. Patricia, Mathilde, Gershom, David, Ben, Clement, the girl supervising me drawing water, the toothless smiley old lady in the red woolly hat, the mayor shovelling sand into my bag, Claude driving the rickety bus, the unnamed ex-perpetrator who has been accepted by his ex-victims. I took no photos but their faces are burned into my memory. What they said, what they did, how they made me feel; that's where the lifelong impact remains.
I've just come back from a trip to Rwanda and am now processing some of what I have seen, heard and done, and the strongest memory tells me the Beatles were wrong. I know that this is sacrilege for some of you (even though they had hits before your mothers were born) but let me describe what I saw.
I was taken to Nyamata church. It's a genocide memorial, no longer a place of worship. People came there seeking shelter from the killers in April 1994. The tactic had worked during previous killing sprees. It didn't this time. The soldiers threw in grenades and then killed the survivors with machetes and other implements. 10,000 people died.
They've left the place as it was. There are shrapnel holes in the ceiling, bullet holes in walls, even a chip on the statue of Caucasian Mary's shoulder - she was shot because her long nose implied she was a Tutsi. The clothes of the dead line the benches where they would have been sitting.
It's not a sanitised memorial with long historical narrative, paeans to the dead and condemnations of the killers. It is simple, stark and sombre. And very, very real.
For me the final straw was the wooden praying cross placed in abandonment on the altar. I've got one at home, a personal family memory, which made it all the more poignant. And real. Real people, really cut down in their prime.
And having started just seeing the holes in the roof that weren't fixed (not that it was raining much in Rwanda when I was there), my mind then wandered all over the place. And I realised that it does matter if we're wrong or right; all people need to be able to simply belong. Edmund Burke was right when he said that all it takes for evil to triumph is for a good man to do nothing.
The stories I heard from survivors were powerful but the image that will stay with me and impact my future is the little wooden cross that will keep my mind wandering in useful directions. And I'll never listen to Sgt Pepper's LHCB in the same way again.
In the last few years I have sponsored a number of young people doing foreign trips in their summer holidays to places like Malawi and Romania. Read some more details here.
Whilst these trips always have an altruistic aim of helping the visited communities, I firmly believe that the main benefits are bestowed on the visitors. The young people gain all sorts, in terms of new skills and experiences but also through expanding their comfort zones. Often the most valuable, at least in terms of the kind of work that I do, is that they come to know themselves better; they know what they are capable of, prove their skills in a new arena, and understand more about how they interact with a wide variety of the world's people.
This year I am not planning to sponsor anyone except myself. Having heard the stories and suffered experiencing the excitements and learning second hand, I am using my money this year to join others from my church on a trip to Rwanda on Saturday.
What am I going to do?
Good question really and I'm not entirely sure what the answer is. I'm reasonably sure that we'll do some housebuilding stuff - it's a project we have been involved in raising money for over several years. It's also clear that there will be some youth work in the mix too. Beyond that, it's a little murky and the itinerary is still in flux.
What will the challenges be?
There's not just the 9 folks from my own church but another 17 from a couple of other places. Getting a team that big to work effectively when we barely know each other, and are quite diverse people, will not come easily. Being one of the most junior team members in terms of specifically Rwanda experience will not sit easily with me either.
What will I learn?
I don' think I can answer that fully either. I'm a big believer that when it comes to experience, we can expect or engineer some lessons but there will always be others that pop out unexpectedly. Already though I have been learning about being patient with different timescales and ways of doing business and I expect that to continue in a cross cultural way. On top of that, my knowledge of recent Rwandan history will definitely be augmented. I'm also hoping to see how Amy Edmondson's ideas on teaming translate to a non-western environment and non-business context.
Now that I'm fully focussed on the trip I'm starting to get excited. It will be challenging but definitely fun. I'll let you know how I get on and what the learning is to come from it, and there will hopefully be pictures to illuminate the stories too.
Today I discovered a large office building in London practicing something I have realised is anathema to me.
Something that I have learned about myself this year is that I like consistency and I really, strongly dislike inconsistency. It annoys me in people, organisations and in processes. This has made me re-examine myself though to work out where there inconsistencies endemic in my thinking and actions. I suppose it also closely relates to authenticity which is something I have been teaching and coaching for ages.
With that in the back of your mind then, picture me on a course in London. I have come here to become a Certified Scrum Master, part of the growth for this year that I was talking about in the most recent newsletter (read it here if you don't already subscribe). Yesterday when I walked in I dutifully approached the reception desk, signed in and was then ushered through the electronic gate by a rather bored-looking security man. Every time I entered or exited the training companies floor, I took the lift to the ground floor, retracing my steps past the guard. Use the picture below to pay I-Spy and spot the different barriers I have mentioned.
This morning, with an unfettered fitness fanaticism, I took the stairs when I came down from the eighth floor (and I went all the way back up. Twice), to get coffee in the corner of the foyer (behind the red chairs). I popped out just by the big Z for Zing sign that you can see.
The stairs have no security on them.
The building is quite new and tenant companies are not fully bedded in. However, I also discovered that not only did the stairwell grant me access to every other floor, none of which are controlled by the training company I was a client of, but also allowed me the chance to wander around Floor 7 which is completely empty. It's not just lacking people but everything, without so much as a partition wall to separate the vast floor into cubicles or rooms. Imagine an episode of Hustle where they set up an office on the fly and then, after the event, the connee goes back to look for them and everything has been disappeared. Some green tape marked where the corridors will eventually appear but that was it.
My point; either have security and enforce it, for whatever (mis) guided reason. But don't have such a huge loophole that it makes the security guard totally lacking in any purpose. Be consistent in what you present to the world. Otherwise I'll get annoyed.
Finally, in tips for building Mojo, we have acceptance. Here the suggestion is to name the issue or situation; literally give it a name that you can use to refer to it. In The Only Pirate at the Party, Lindsey Stirling talks about doing this with her eating disorder and it's a widely-used, well-proven tool. It might be an action of ours or of someone else, an environment we encounter or a tactic that we see used regularly.
By referring to it by name, let's call it Bob, we aid our understanding of the world as well as giving our brain a better chance of dealing with this more concrete event or action. It's no longer that-thing-that-we-can't-talk-about-because-we-don't-even-know-what-to-call-it. We can quickly retrieve information related to other instances of Bob and better deal with today's Bob. Things are harder to get out of proportion because 'it's only Bob again' and cease to have such a hold over us, so we can become more accepting. This is the element that liberates you from toxic emotions and naming the hard, annoying, tiresome, repetitive stuff allows you to get more of the acceptance in.
It maybe sounds a bit weird but it can be a first step in ridding yourself of that which is killing your mojo. If you want more from life and acceptance is what's currently letting you down, because you keep going round and round and wanting it to go away, then try it.
It's not about magically making things disappear. Acceptance is more about getting a handle on the things that we are powerless to change, for whatever reason. In fact acceptance is a major part of resilience as well. Read more about that in my article explaining it.
Reputation can have a big impact on your mojo; how we think others perceive us will affect how we feel about ourselves. One of the suggestions in this area is to record some personal metrics.
We can easily measure our weight as adults, like we measured our height when we were younger. Other things like money, that naturally fall into the field of quantitative analysis, are easy to keep track of. Are these what are most useful to you though? What is going wrong and how could you keep track of how bad it is, and is it getting better or worse.
This can be quite hard to get your head around but with some creative thinking you can find things to measure. For example, the number of times someone talks to you can be counted, whether it is a a customer or a teenage son, and over time will give you a picture of where things are going. The number of attempts it takes you to get a response from a client might be important too
Ask yourself, what bad news is affecting your mojo at the moment and when you answer that, find what you can measure. Notice the trends and then take action on it.
It sounds easy when you read Marshall Goldsmith's book about mojo. However, I know trying to find these qualitative parameters that can be quantified is quite hard. However, it is also something that can become clearer as you talk to someone. If you know this is an area you want to work on to improve the way you feel about yourself then get in touch now, by email or phone, through the contact page, and I'll happily help you to work out what metrics you want to keep an eye on, to build something new and exciting.
Achievements are another part of our Mojo, as defined by Marshall Goldsmith's book. They affect how we think of ourselves, how other people see us, and so are knitted into our identity. What is the next big thing you want to achieve and is it so big that you don't know where to start?
We've probably all been there at some stage, standing on the starting line wondering how on earth we'll get to the finish and getting discouraged as a result. This feeling then permeates other areas and it is easy to gently spiral downwards. We need to get going and start making inroads into achieving stuff again.
The tip is to work one brick at a time. Don't look at the wall needing to be built. Instead break it into small building blocks. I often ask the question 'what's your next smallest step?' as you set out towards your goal. It doesn't need to be anything big but stepping over the start line will give you the momentum whic feels good.
There are things to avoid that will help you in this process.
New achievement, that you and others can easily acknowledge, will boost your mojo so get on with it today. Maybe the first step is as simple as getting in touch to enlist my help.
Identity is about making sense of who you are. Part of boosting that is to find out where you are inhabiting on a graph of happiness versus meaning. In order to keep our mojo, everything you do should be contributing either to short-term happiness or longer-term meaning and benefit. If an activity fulfils neither, then why are we doing it? To that end you want to find out which area on the graph you are living in and, if it's not in the top corner where you are succeeding, then it's time to take steps to move there.
If both happiness and meaning are low, you will feel that you are only surviving and you probably already know you need to change something. Get in touch if you want help taking the next step.
If happiness is actually high but meaning is still low, life is probably quite stimulating and you are excited in the moment. However, any time you stop and look at where life is going or what it is all about, you may have misgivings.
When happiness is low and meaning is high, you will possibly be living a sacrifical life and feel at times that you are always doing things for someone else, never having time for yourself. Happiness needs to be ramped up a bit; finding stuff that is pleasurable, whatever that looks like for you, will help you feel more at home in your own skin, increasing your Mojo.
Finally the middle ground where both happiness and meaning are at mid-levels is what Goldsmith describes as sustaining, somewhere between survival and success. There's not much to complain about but nothing much to write home about either. There could be more.
Research has discovered that to increase overall satisfaction with our lives, we need to increase both the happiness levels in the short-term and the benefits that will accrue in the longer term (either for ourselves or others); an increase in Mojo that looks like success.
If you want a chat about this then contact me and we can talk it through or if you want we can walk it through with some coaching outside.
You could be happier. Probably. Okay, so it's a guess on my part, but if there's even a grain of truth in that then it's worth reading on.
How satisfied are you with your life? Or maybe a better question might, 'how much happier might it be possible to be?' Whilst I'm not saying that you can get infinite happiness and nothing bad will ever happen to you, it is definitely worth stopping to evaluate where you are.
I've just read Marshall Goldsmith's book about getting and keeping your Mojo, which he defines as 'that positive spirit towards what we are doing now that starts from the inside and radiates to the outside.' It's about being comfortable with who you are and what you're doing; being happy in your job and home life in such a way that this oozes out to other people around you. It's not blindly ignoring the bad bits, but more about taking the rough with the smooth, confident that the latter comfortably outweighs the former.
The book says your Mojo is made up of four components: your identity and how you see yourself; your achievements and how realistically you rate them; your reputation and what other people think of you; acceptance and how well you are reconciled to where you are, and make the most of that place.
In order to build your Mojo, depending on which aspect you think is lacking, Goldsmith suggests a number of tools to use. There are 14 in total, of which I will look at 4 in the next few days. He also lists a number of Mojo killers - actions and thinking to avoid to keep your satisfaction levels higher. I'll talk about those later.
For now, wait and read my next post about a tip for working on your identity. Alternatively, if you already are interested in having me work with you and want to know more, then get in touch and we can have a chat about how that would look.
Alternatively, go onto Marshall Goldsmith's site to download the Mojo Tracker Questionnaire as well as other useful free resources.
I was watching Derren Brown's show last week in which he was experimenting with social compliance. Basically he used people's willingness to go along with things to get them to a point where they chose (but in an inner-conflicted way) to push someone to their death.
It was compelling, if somewhat disturbing, viewing and proved an interesting point. We, you and I, humans everywhere, are susceptible to being influenced by what we think is expected of us, by peer pressure. We know it and we maybe think we deal with it okay and wouldn't be pushed too far. If you're in the UK you can watch the whole programme here.
This show tends to imply that's not true. 3 out of 4 subjects in the experiment went along with what was asked of them and pushed the (stunt)man off the roof of a building. All a little depressing since I can imagine they are reasonably representative of the population at large and, hoping for a sound moral core, I'd like to think we are better than that. It does tend to ratify the related idea that a lot of people would commit a crime if there were no consequences for themselves. Worrying.
But back to the programme which I said promoted growth. the bit I really liked was at the end, after three 'murders' had been committed, listening to the accuseds talking about how they would be dialling up their watchfulness and taking more control of their own lives. I like it when people aim for this and not the slough of lazily being controlled by someone else. Derren Brown was spoken of in terms of 'manipulation' and one tweet suggested how powerful he could be if he used his powers for evil, but I suspect there are already lots more nameless folks out there already doing just that. What else is marketing other than a (not always) subtle attempt to change how you think and therefore what you do? How many CEOs would like to be able to manipulate us to behave in a profit-making way for their companies?
Maybe like the Push3, we should take a long hard look at why we do the things that we do. How many of our actions are initiated because of deliberate desire, because it matches what is important to us and the way we live our lives - namely, our values? Where can we recognise that other people are pulling the strings, not always to our advantage? What are we doing that we are not proud of or not happy with?
Once we have identified external controls in our life, how can we cut them out? Questions to consider would include:
Even with all the questions you might be struggling to nail down what the issue is - you just know you are unhappy with the way you are behaving. If that's the case, and the suggestions on the flowchart download have still not helped, then get in touch to talk things through and if I can help you with some coaching then we can work together on whatever is bugging you.
Office celebrations are a bit like Christmas Day with the family - relationships get strained and we spend more time with our colleagues on a night out than we would ever choose to at any other time of the year. Christmas parties are a frequently used opportunity to unintentionally trash good working relationships. Sometimes the hangover isn't just felt the next morning but continues to sour our work long into the new year. It doesn't need to though. If we deal with it, we can claw things back and build the sense of respect again.
Sometimes it is a bit of a joke that goes wrong. Many a word is spoken in jest over a festive dinner table, but communication is often dulled at both ends, filtered through an alcoholic soup. People say things in ways they wouldn't any other time of the year and, even if it is said jokingly, the befuddled senses of the receiver can hear it wrongly as well. This can be clarified and explained in the cold light of Monday morning back in the office, bruised egos can be stroked and upsets can be dealt with and put to rest.
Some of what comes out though is bottled up emotion and bad feeling that was never dealt with in the previous twelve months. Often, like most family arguments, it started as a (perceived) minor infringement but wasn't dealt with at the time. Since then it has grown arms and legs and then jumps unannounced onto the table between the turkey and Christmas pud, at a time when no-one wants to see it or deal with it. Colleagues rally round to put it down, to bury it for the sake of having a good time.
In fact, maybe Christmas parties are just a magnified version of what happens in our workplace all year round. The beer goggles in this case bring some of the issues into painfully sharp focus.
So what can we do about it? Well, if it has just happened this week then maybe you need to let the dust settle whilst people are away, and then deal with it as soon as you start back. If you were the perpetrator you need to accept that you screwed up by voicing something the way you did; even if it was well meant and you said what you really think, you need to deal with the other people's reactions to that. An apology is a good next step. Where you go from there will depend on the level of relationship between you and the injured party as well as how deeply you agree with what you stated on the night. You can't change the words that escaped your lips, but you can change how you feel about the other person, how you respect them and act towards them, as well as your ongoing behaviours. This will need effort and probably cause you some pain in the short term but if it reclaims a working relationship, one that functions really well, it will reap rewards in the future for you, them and the organisation.
What if you were the wronged party and are now feeling aggrieved? Think through what was said, not how it was said, and check if there was any fire beneath this particular smoke. What can you do to improve yourself in that area and how can you deal with it? If you recognise that actually you have been out of line in the past, then an apology would again be a good step. From there a conversation can ensue about how you can be different in the future. Perhaps your future plan of action will take into account how you can be different so that the other person could deal with you more easily or effectively. It's always good to make yourself easier to work with and everyone can reap the rewards of that. If though you think that you are squeaky clean then perhaps an apology could be carefully sought through an intermediary, possibly a common line manager. If that's not worth it or not possible then your only recourse is to forgive and forget. Things are said in the heat of partying - it is your choice whether you ignore them and or let them damage you or your relationships.
Finally, if you were the manager and saw the conflict conversation unfurl then you already know you need to deal with it. But first ask yourself if this is something that you could have pre-empted by observing better and nipping it in the bud before it got out of hand? Is there learning for you as you go forwards into the new year? Once you've thought it through, do something about investigating the two sides and then facilitate a coming together, a discussion of different positions, a renewing of respect.
As you go into 2016, what can you do differently in terms of noticing the frictions, so that you spot the signs of a brewing conflict? How can you be more proactive in dealing with them rather than sweeping the arguments under the carpet? Hushing people up works in the short term to keep the party going, but it isn't a long term strategy. In fact, burying your head in the sand during the year may be the very reason that it all came bubbling out after too many Proseccos.
Change your strategies for dealing with people in 2016 and you can be even more successful. Perhaps you could practice on granny when she insists on turning the TV up to 11 so she can hear the Queen without her hearing aid.
If you want help with any of this (except shouting at granny) then get in touch with me.
For the first time in many months, so almost at random you might say, I picked up Thomas Merton's 'New Seeds of Contemplation' and opened it at the book mark. The root of war is fear, he declaimed. So I read, interested to see what he has to say to us in the next century.
He starts from a premise that we fear everything, which might be a bit strong, but also that not only do we not trust other people but that we don't even trust ourselves. Interestingly he goes on to introduce his idea talking about how we feel when we make a mistake as opposed to witnessing someone else do likewise, and it was this that really struck a chord.
We do something wrong and we don't want to admit that we are bad people so we find some way of excusing it, chalking it up to an 'involuntary mistake' or blaming the 'malice of a spirit in us that is other than ourself'. Anything we can find is useful if it helps us to say it wasn't my fault (perhaps a larger male committed the act and is no longer present). We further compound this by finding (and it can be easy at times) an equal amount of evil in the actions of others. This we then build up to breaking point, which ruptures into violence in order to exorcise the demons present in our chosen scapegoat.
I particularly liked the following passage which is where the book had fallen open:
In our refusal to accept the partially good intentions of others and work with them, we are unconsciously proclaiming our own malice, our own intolerance, our own lack of realism, our own ethical and political quackery.
Perhaps in the end the first real step toward peace would be a realistic acceptance of the fact that our political ideas are perhaps to a great extent illusions and fictions to which we cling out of motives that are not always perfectly honest: that because of this we prevent ourselves from seeing any good or any practicability in the political ideals of our enemies - which may of course be even more illusory and dishonest than our own.
He goes on to say that we also shouldn't look at ourselves as being totally wrong but look realistically at the good and evil in ourselves, accepting that both are truly there, before we look at others.
I read it at first thinking how prescient it was for our modern day, despite being written during the Cold War. I immediately knew that if only David Cameron could read this, or Donald Trump or in fact any of the people I have disagreed with recently, then surely they would start to see sense.
And then I understood that instead of them, I needed to read it for myself; maybe you do too.
So I walked into an informal networking meeting this morning and comments were made about my relaxed dress sense. It seems like there's always comments. Anyway. today I made some riposte about not meeting anyone so that I didn't have to dress up and someone pointedly looked around at the rest of the people stood there. Oops.
It got me thinking though about when and why we dress the way we do. Is it about us, or the people we're going to meet? And should we be different on the outside if we are still the same on the inside - is there an authenticity issue? As I travelled home on the train I processed some thoughts as follows.
Some of it is about us. We need to dress with authenticity, to match who we are inside. If I was quiet and shy (although you know that I'm not really) and always dressed in flamboyant clothes that attracted attention that wouldn't be good - I would be giving a false impression. More than that though, I would probably not be wearing the clothes with confidence and so they very obviously wouldn't suit me, even if the colours were perfect to match my eyes, hair etc..
I was at a wedding recently with a load of kilt virgins. Some of them did not look comfortable at all because it was so foreign to them, and it showed, not least in the way they sat. But the groom had said that they had to ush in tartan and so they did it for him.
Some of it is about the people in front of us. There is an element in which we show respect for people in the way that we dress up in their presence. Perhaps too, like on a date or an interview, we want to show others our best side. I have also found though that it is about moulding the impression someone else has of you and your credibility. This is particularly important when I am teaching, training or preaching - if your listeners don't believe in your competence then they won't learn - and like it or not, we don't listen as closely to scruffy people in smarter settings.
A lot of it however is about fitting in to the environment. We talked this morning about dressing for the weather but more often the environment idea is actually connected to other people's perceptions. If I expect a room to be filled with people in suits, I will probably wear a suit too, if I want them to accept me as one of them. Does this make me dishonest? No, I don't think so because I am simply dressing in a way that I feel is an appropriate expression of who I am inside.
I was reminiscing the other day about having spent a week working at an outdoor centre dressed in a suit. It was inappropriate to the setting but okay because as a staff team we were all having fun together which matched who we were
I think it is a bit like personality - we have stuff inside us that is shown in different types of behaviour in a variety of settings. If I am at business event I will be dressed differently to a coaching walk, Likewise, I don't behave in the same way at home that I would in a formal setting somewhere like Buckingham Palace. Nor do I interact the same way with my parents and teenagers in a youthwork context. It just wouldn't work and folks wouldn't hear any messages I tried to communicate.
In a similar way, how we dress will enhance or obstruct our messages. It might be 'you can trust me because I am just like you', or alternatively 'look at me I'm different and zany and might challenge you'. Whatever our clothing says about us and others, is it a conscious message? Do we dress deliberately often enough? Or do we actually spend too much time thinking about what to wear? Whichever it is, what we choose to put on can tell us a lot about what we think of ourselves, how we feel about the people we might meet and what impression we want to be giving.
I know I have got smarter and cleaner in the way I clothe myself since I moved to Glasgow, much to my wife's delight, but I still need to ponder what I wear and what it means to me, as well as what it says about me. So this weekend, I'll mainly be wearing a Glasgow Warriors top (as well as my woollen horned helmet, courtesy of Pauline at Sea Drift Argyll https://www.facebook.com/seadriftargyll/) and a kilt (for a ceilidh at Bishopbriggs Community Church). What will you have on?
It's listed in National Geographic'stop 20 places to visit in 2016. And it's been labelled by Lonely Planet as friendly and 'disarmingly blending sophistication and earthiness'. It has a huge history and some very famous people have been born and lived here down through the years. And so have I.
Last week I went to the State of the City Economy Conference at the Radisson and learnt a load of facts about the economics of Glasgow in the year past. There was lots of talk too about the excitement of the 12 months stretching in front of us. Yes, you'd expect the leader of the council and the head of the Chamber of Commerce to be fulsome in praise of their own place but it wasn't just them. There was a tangible feeling of pride in the room as the plaudits rained down. Or maybe that was just me.
I grew up here. I moved away and now I live here again. And like Francie and Josie, I'm glad that I was born here - it's the only place that I call home and their song goes through my head frequently. If you don't know it then listen here.
Despite the poor image that a lot of the rest of the world has of Glasgow, it's a great place to be. Just ask my mum who was only willing to move here for a year maximum. In 1969. Or the residents of Bridgeton who made the video below to counter bad impressions of their area.
I love the architecture of the city, the dear green places dotted all around, the history and most of all the people. 'People make Glasgow', you know. Their resilience and cheerfully optimistic realism. Their banter and friendliness and a willingness to help. Not just help each other but anyone they come across.
What is your town, village or city like and what do you like best about it? It's easy to grouse about what it's not, easier than moving somewhere better in fact. But as with expressing any kind of gratitude, what are you thankful for in your locale?
You can read more about Glasgow and what was said on Friday in a Scotsman article here.
I'm at the xpand Life College this week talking about potential and helping them to unearth theirs. We reached the part about motivating abilities and I was slapped in the face by the opposite of skill growth that I have been writing about recently.
As part of offering the students a chance to spend time doing something they enjoy, I had brought a number of toys, games and challenges, one of which was my powerball. I was given this when I was climbing more and used it to build up some more forearm muscle.
I took it from the box and started it rotating, assuming that my previous strengths would allow me to keep it spinning for a while. However, it is several years since I used it repeatedly since I am climbing less and my current spate of more sedentary work has miniscule muscular requirements. Imagine my upset and anguish when I could barely get it humming, never mind keep it spinning for any length of time.
"Use it or lose it", is what people say about skills of many sorts and it's true. A skill that is practised repeatedly and regularly will increase and endure but the things we neglect will atrophy and disappear.
Now, I'm not too concerned about this particular shrinking. I accept that choosing to exercise skills growth in other areas may lead to a dropping off in the level of pre-existing abilities. However, I hadn't consciously spotted this as a downside of spending my time on other new things. It's definitely a question worth asking when you start to tackle a new skill, or in fact any goal.
"What will you gain?" is a relatively obvious question and can be answered by the very achievement of the goal itself. "What will you lose?" tends to flummox people more. It has to be taken into consideration though, otherwise we are surprised when we don't have enough time or money or motivation to devote to the new project. These are finite quantities - try though we might, we will only ever be allotted the same 24 hours that Jack Bauer enjoys. How we choose to use them is the key; in order to add something new, an old item must be jettisoned.
I am willing to accept my shrinkage since I'm not climbing much and would rather spend the time at the moment (particularly with the new November weather) practising my drumming. Even as I write though, I am thinking about the importance of my arms for hitting percussion instruments. Maybe there is a renewed importance to play with my powerball - not as an end in itself but as a means to achieving a new goal.
Thinking about your skill growth:
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Nick has been writing for mass consumption ever since he was sending newsletters home from the Philippines 20+ years ago. He has carried on putting finger to keyboard, branching out into magazines, manuals and recently submitting lots of words for books. He has always aimed to be entertaining but at the same time challenging. If you like something, feel free to pass it on to someone else, but if you are challenged by it then even better - write a comment, start a debate, add to the fun.