Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Some days

you wake up and you've slept funny.  That's not an idea of mine; I read it on someone else's blog.  There are just some days when you wake up knowing the day is a write off for no other reason than you slept funny.  Today was one of those days.  I was unproductive, unhelpful and unimaginative.  Roll on tomorrow.

Monday, 30 August 2010

On restlessness

"Dear Vasco,

What is worth doing and what is worth having?
I would like to say simply this. It is worth doing nothing and having a rest; in spite of all the difficulty it may cause you must rest Vasco –otherwise you will become restless!

I believe the world is sick with exhaustion and dying of restlessness. While it is true that periods of weariness help the spirit to grow, the prolonged ongoing state of fatigue to which our world seems to be rapidly adopting is ultimately soul destroying as well as earth destroying. The ecology of evil flourishes and love cannot take root in this sad situation. Tiredness is one of our strongest, most noble and instructive feelings. It is an important aspect of our conscience and must be heeded or else we will not survive. When you are tired you must act upon it sensibly – you must rest like the trees and animals do.

Yet tiredness has become a matter of shame! This is a dangerous development. Tiredness has become the most suppressed feeling in the world. Everywhere we see people overcoming their exhaustion and pushing on with intensity—cultivating the great mass mania which all around is making life so hard and ugly—so cruel and meaningless—so utterly graceless—and being congratulated for overcoming it and pushing it deep down inside themselves as if it were a virtue to do this. And of course Vasco, you know what happens when such strong and natural feelings are denied—they turn into the most powerful and bitter poisons with dreadful consequences. We live in a world of these consequences and then wonder why we are so unhappy.

So I gently urge you Vasco, do as we do in Curly Flat—learn to curl up and rest—feel your noble tiredness—learn about it and make a generous place for it in your life and enjoyment will surely follow. I repeat it’s worth doing nothing and having a rest.

Yours Sleepily, Mr. Curly XXX

Letter from Mr. Curly to Vasco Pyjama in “The Curly Pajama Letters” by Michael Leunig

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Get OVER yourself!

Overwhelmed, over-anxious, over-earnest, overwrought?
Time to lighten up.  


Resistance is futile

What you resist, persists.  So goes one of the oft repeated sayings of the self-help movement.

I have resisted writing for quite some time now.  I wrote a few pieces for a student magazine but didn't give my name or get involved with the magazine.  I went to a creative writing class, but stopped when I felt I couldn't generate good enough material.

And now, when I'm about to leave my job, I still say "I don't know" when asked what I will do next.

But finally I have admitted to myself that not only do I want to write, I will write - regularly and until it's any good.  Hold me to it.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The 4 Pillars of Happiness

I watched this presentation by Tony Hsieh - CEO of online retailer Zappos.com (link below). It's about perfect customer service but it also talks about about using the core building blocks of personal happiness to help companies and teams perform.

It's very simple; what makes people happy is to have the following 4 "pillars" in place:
Perceived Control
Perceived Progress


Tuesday, 24 August 2010

What's in a title?

"It's a fact that most accountants would not admit to their job at a party - you may as well be wearing a Gordon Brown mask while reciting from the phone book as you watch people slowly sidle away" *

I've often felt uncomfortable answering the what do you do question in social settings for two reasons. (1) I wasn't entirely happy in the job, and (2) the degree of prejudice attached to the label. People are always more than what they do for a living and it used to drive me a little nuts when I saw that instant look of dismissal on a face. It's a particular problem in funky Brighton where I live. But putting that aside for a moment, I do have an interesting label dilemma coming up. What do I call myself in November when I'm no longer an accountant and haven't yet settled on my new identity? Here are some of my options:

I don't know - flat and boring, not an option
Seeker - too new agey
Career changer - hmmmm
I'm taking some time out to find out - true, but a bit long

I'd be grateful for suggestions.

* Quote is from a colleague in my current job (and he's not boring either)

Sunday, 22 August 2010


"Everything comes to us that belongs to us if we create the capacity to receive it" Rabindranath Tagore.

How do we open our minds to what is possible?  In the world of hyperactivity and hyper distraction it can be difficult.  Like me, you probably think you are very good at multi-tasking.  Taking calls, reading and responding to emails, talking to colleagues, preparing spreadsheets (or whatever the equivalent is for you). We think we're getting it all done and done well.  But are we?  Or are we just doing each of these tasks to a basic "good enough" level.  Is good enough good enough?  Is it satisfying? Does it deliver great results or are we just scurrying from task to task? The theory goes that there is no such thing as multi tasking, only fast switching between tasks.  Fast switching has its uses - it allows us to get things done and we become expert at rapid decision making.  But it is superficial. Our "aha" moments come from a deeper part of the brain and we need to nurture this part if we want to receive meaningful and useful ideas and insights.

There are a number of ways to give our brains a a break.  Doing something physical that requires our attention is a good one.  Meditation is another.  15 minutes a day sitting still focusing on the breath, a mantra, or an intention can work wonders.

Eating gooey chocolate cake while typing your blog is not multi tasking at its best. After I've cleaned the keyboard, I'm off to meditate.


Saturday, 21 August 2010

Idle Inspiration

1. Do what you love
2. Do/try a lot of small things at once

These seem to be the twin themes of the career career and life change process.  Number 1 remains a mystery so for me 2 will be my route to change.

In order to get there I am going to have to de-institutionalise myself.  My Protestant work ethic is deeply engrained and will take some shedding.  Tom Hodgkinson (of The Idler fame) describes the corporate work ethic as asking you to be the person the company wants you to be.  And when this doesn't sit well, discomfort (actually he goes further) follows.  My values are out of synch with my workplace and this is one of the reasons I'm leaving.  I also have a personal set of work ethic drivers that are out of line with how I want to live and be.     

I feel like a frog who realised what was happening in time to jump out of the boiling pan.  Unfortunately one of my legs was a bit slow in getting out so I'm now hopping around in circles.  I'm out though, and that's a start.  Part of the answer lies in hopping less; for inspiration on a new way of living and some comfort that you're not alone (or weird) in wanting it, see:          


It's wonderful stuff.

I want the fun back

Having decided to jack in the job, I'm now dancing with my old friend
Fear, who it seems has been providing quite a lot of the drive in my life to date.  The year ahead
is going to be both exciting and a bit nail biting.  One thing I've
found really helpful is the concept that I don't need to know what my
true self, life purpose, perfect job etc is but that I can take action
& try things out to find out what these might be. There is a brilliant
book for clueless career changers like me called Working Identity by
Herminia Ibarra - I can't recommend it highly enough.  The other area
for me this year will be play - doing more of what I enjoy and finding
out more about what I do enjoy.  Work, in particular, has lost all of
its fun. Intense, driven Karen needs to lighten up.  I want the fun

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The honey of overanalysis

Getting stuck. Feeling stuck. Even the word sounds ugly. The are lots of reasons I get stuck - I overanalyze, I distract myself, I panic and freeze. This doesn't happen in my day job, the one I get paid for.  It happens when I need to dig deep, when I need the answer to an important question. What am I going to do for the rest of my life? Aaargh.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

You know there's something up with your career when….

you're using the back of your business cards from 3 jobs ago for your shopping lists.  In the last 10 years, I haven't stayed long enough in a single role to use up the minimum order of business cards.  There's a very strong signal there that I'm an interim or consultant at heart.  Or perhaps not a corporate type at all.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Soulful Singing

Soulful singing is a drop-in harmony singing group.  I decided to go because I knew I wanted to use my voice in some way.  The first session gave me back something I hadn't experienced for a long time and taught me a few lessons along the way.  For it to work I have to keep that fine and perfect balance between concentrating to pick up the tune, words and rhythm of each new song and really letting go.  At first the idea of being able to sing, move and clap/click fingers all at once seems impossible.  There is something primal about a group of very different people standing in a circle creating a noise together - it's both a physical and spiritual experience - the sound vibrates through the room and the voice seems to come from the belly.  It's gospel without the baggage.  And I can't stop smiling.    

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Sea and stars

Is it true that people who enjoy getting to the edge of places and looking beyond are people who don't like looking at themselves or being happy where they are? I do hope not.  Two of my top moments this weekend have been gazing at the stars in a clear dark sky and looking out to sea from a Dorset hill!

Friday, 13 August 2010

Beware the compare

I recently started an 8 week coaching programme with 9 other malcontents and we have been sharing our histories, dreams and ambitions.  I like to think of myself as an intelligent, independent creature who doesn't need to be told by marketeers what I should have in my life - no plasma TVs or status symbol cars for me.  What I'm not quite so good at is avoiding my own inner marketeer; the one that goes "look at them, they're really clever, sorted, articulate, funny etc - why can't you be more like that?"  It's a pernicious voice and a reminder that the values I aspire to and the ones that actually drive me are out of synch.

When I compare and over admire, I make myself small.


Thursday, 12 August 2010

What this blog is for

There is a sea of information and support available for career changers. It is of hugely variable quality and it can be difficult to separate the useful from the chaff.  If you have that uncomfortable feeling of quiet (or not so quiet) desperation and know you want to change things but don't quite know how, you are in good company.

I promise to share the useful and spare you the chaff as I work my way through the change process and try out the various tools and support materials available.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010


I will be leaving my well paid, professional job on October 29th.  There was nothing intrinsically wrong with the job or the company but it had reached the point where I had to admit I really wasn't having any fun.  The turning point came when a friend I hadn't seen for a while asked if I still hated my job.  I had become one of "those" people - someone who was miserable and talked about it.  And I thought I had hidden it so well!