Saturday, 31 December 2011

So, 2011, see ya

The end of year review.  I've been putting this off like the good procrastinator I can be.  It's been a year of learning, delaying and then getting on with it and ultimately I'm in a good place to launch into 2012.

The achievements log goes something like this:
Worked with one of the most creative theatre companies and artistic directors, taking a show to an international festival in the summer, and leaving it in very capable hands as I exit.
Two new part-time jobs lined up for 2012, working in very different organisations - visual art and career strategy.
A Psychology qualification.
Set up a regular monthly event/workshop on the theme of Fulfilling Work with a friend.
Made new friends and contacts and deepened my existing friendships.
Started dating.

The behind the scenes story:
Really struggled to find my way until after the summer.
Still find it difficult to let go of my control freak tendencies.
I'd like to think I've become a softer and warmer person, but others may disagree!

The learnings:
Forgiveness, acceptance and gratitude are the way to go.
Learn by doing.
Keep the ego under control.
Let go to let in.
I'm not responsible for everything.

I've been rehearsing a version of the end of year review over the last week or so as I've seen a lot of people I haven't seen for a while - I've spun a very positive story.  Of course it's true but it isn't quite the tidy (smug?) story I've presented.  The old adage of pride coming before a fall proved oh-so-true and just as the year is ending, a couple of slaps have reminded me to reign in a little. Not to play small, but to pay attention to how I am behaving.  To slow down and settle for a bit.  To get off the adrenaline speed boat.
To be still.  And to listen.
Not a bad place to be at the end of 2011.  I'm happier, wiser, more comfortable in my skin and less worried about finding my way.  I'm looking forward to next year.

Happy 2012.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Interviews and dating - similarities

I've noticed this before and it's fresh in my mind after a couple of days of interviewing.

The employer wants the candidate to be the one.
The candidate wants the employer to be the one.
The employer wants the candidate but the candidate picks another job or doesn't like the employer and turns them down.
The candidate was just checking out the employer.
The employer was testing the market as they didn't really know what they wanted.
The candidate wants the job and thinks the employer likes them but they don't.
The chemistry in the room can be palpable and misleading.
The employer persuades themself to employ someone who doesn't quite fit because they need to fill the role.
The candidate needs a job so takes one they don't really like.
Compromising on key values rarely works out.

I think that's enough, you get the point.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Touch and space invaders

On Monday I helped out with host training for Nightstop.  We talked about how to be with vulnerable young people.  The trainer walked over to one of the trainee hosts, touched her on the leg and said, "When I touch you, something changes.  I become your friend'.  A boundary is crossed.

Last week I touched a man on the arm when I asked him a question.  I thought I was being friendly but really I was flirting.  I wanted to touch him, to test the water.

Today a woman fell in the road in front of me.  She held up her bare hand for help.  I took it, pulled her to her feet and held it until she was ready to let go.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

This seems to be a month about endings

and false starts.  I've said goodbye to a lovely friend who died far too young.  The sadness keeps welling up in me.  It's a bitter sweet sadness that reminds me how precious life is and how much I have to be grateful for.  How life is for living and taking our opportunities, for asking for what we want.  For asking in hope without demanding.  Around me I see others trapped in their wanting and I'm not immune. Unable to sleep last night I listened to a This American Life podcast about Break Ups and torch songs, about that aching pain we feel when we are left by someone we love.  In all its painful wallowing unprotected grief.  So familiar.  And so uncomfortable when we know we have given that pain to someone we used to love.

The thing about seizing the moment is that you have to get the timing absolutely right.  It's exciting and there's no way to know when that right moment is.  Timing timing timing.  I've never been patient and I've spent a lot of time living with the consequences of some bad choices so it's hard to let things come to me now.

Other job will be finished soon.  We're interviewing this week.  It's right to leave and I'm pleased by the prospect of a new project in 2012.  Yet there's always that knowledge of what I'm giving up and so I'm enjoying the last few weeks of the good parts.  The clouds of starlings swooping over the pier in the late afternoon light.  The people I've come to know and like that are part of my day.

I hope December will be about beginnings.  I hope and I intend December to be about rest, then new beginnings.


Sunday, 13 November 2011

Some words on Love

Love seems to have been a theme this week.  Friends around me are enjoying it, falling into it, pining for it, wishing it were reciprocated.  At a literary evening a Caribbean poet complained that we overused the word and cheapened it in the process.  I understood what he was saying but disagree.  Too much energy is spent on witholding or not expressing love.

Giving and receiving love are what it's all about.

Saturday, 29 October 2011

What a week

I haven't posted for a couple of weeks.  It's been busy and at times a bit overwhelming.

Fulfilling Work has occupied a lot of time and energy as we get the events up and running.  It's been good and a big learning curve.  Being in action feels wonderful, if a bit exhausting.  I know myself well enough to ride the energy wave when it comes.

Two young people have stayed with me as a volunteer host under the Nightstop scheme.  Two different people with different stories.  I hope life is kind to them.  It's an old cliche but worth repeating that in giving we receive.  I've felt blessed to have a secure place to live and moved by the courage of the young people making their way in a difficult world.

Finally, there is Nikki, who died last weekend - too young and too unexpectedly.  It's still a shock and the sadness will linger.  She will be terribly missed and very fondly remembered.


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Working Identity

One of the frustrating aspects of career change can be knowing that you don't want to continue in the work path you are on but not knowing which path to take forward. There's a lot of talk about finding your unique purpose, and I suspect many career changers spend a fair bit of time in introspection, trying to dig out this imagined gold that must be in there somewhere. Of course a degree of self awareness is useful and valid. The best book I have read on career change, however, takes a different tack and I have found it useful where conventional approaches have failed miserably. The book is called 'Working Identity' by Herminia Ibarra, a Professor of Organisational Behaviour who has taught at both INSEAD and Harvard Business School.
The quote below is from the chapter 'becoming yourself'
"If we knew from the start what it means to be fully ourselves, finding a new career would be so much easier. But because we are growing and changing all the time, the oft-cited key to a better working life, "knowing yourself", turns out to be the prize at the end of the journey rather than the light at its beginning.....We don't find ourselves in a blinding flash of insight, and neither do we change overnight. We learn by doing, and each new experience is part answer and part question".
This is what I am trying to do. Learn by doing.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

An illustration of the Inner Pessimist at work

Our first Fulfilling Work event was great, a success beyond the criteria we'd set ourselves.  I was on a high.  The content of the workshop had been, in part, about our critical, pessimistic selves and how to manage and soothe that protective, frightened part of us.  Sitting in the bar afterwards celebrating, I was aware of a warning voice in my head going "Yes, but this fabulous working relationship and developing friendship won't last, we're bound to p*** each other off, and then what will we do?".  I pushed it aside.

The following day, this pessimistic voice took hold and I started to fall into catastrophising - how I might end up doing all the work and resenting it (based, I hasten to add, on zero evidence).  And, without going into the detail, I then proceeded to sabotage and damage a good thing.

Now I can see more clearly what was going on.

My limiting beliefs:
Good things don't last.
Things that matter to me don't work out.
You won't like me if you really know me.

I didn't realise it in time to stop myself acting out the Inner Pessimist's view.  Next time I'll be quicker to catch it. Time for a little soothing of Nervous Nellie (<- it helps to personify!).

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Anthem for anxious career changers - Stevie Wonder

"Don't You Worry 'Bout A Thing"

Everybody's got a thing 
But some don't know how to handle it 
Always reachin' out in vain 
Accepting the things not worth having but 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, mama 
Cause I'll be standing on the side 
When you check it out 

They say your style of life's a drag 
And that you must go other places 
But just don't you feel too bad 
When you get fooled by smiling faces but 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, mama 
Cause I'll be standing on the side 
When you check it out...Yeah 
When you get it off...your trip 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing...Yeah 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing...Yeah 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, mama 
Cause I'll be standing on the side 
When you check it out... 
When you get it off...your trip 

Everybody needs a change 
A chance to check out the new 
But you're the only one to see 
The changes you take yourself through 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 
Don't you worry 'bout a thing, pretty mama 
Cause I'll be standing in the wings 
When you check it out 

Don't you worry 'bout a thing 

It works for me every time......

Maybe that's my fun

I was recently talking to a friend about Fulfilling Work events and how excited I was about the ideas and working on it with friend Catherine.  How much I was learning, how stressful it sometimes was, and what we hoped it could do.  I also shared my Nightstop experience and that it was a way for me to test out whether I wanted to go deeper and have a young person in my house for longer, perhaps even fostering.  As we talked about our lives and hopes I realised that mine were all quite 'serious' and started to laugh and apologise that there wasn't much fun in what I was talking about.

"Maybe", he said "that is your fun".  

I think he's right and what's important to me is connecting with other people, creating a sense of family and home, and sharing experiences and learning.  It is part of what what drives me.  I don't need to feel embarrassed about it.  

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Learn by doing

I knew this before but now I really know it:

Working with a good partner is better than working alone.
Most cock ups can be fixed.
Some people are snipers; they'll snipe anyway so you might as well get on with it.
Friends are kind, but if you ask them to tell you the truth, they will.
Admitting your fears and ugly traits disempowers them.
The energy surge of an idea you're excited by will carry you a long way.
There will be moments of doubt and "Oh Lord, what was I thinking?"
These moments pass.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Following through

A while ago I signed up as a volunteer host for a scheme that involves putting up homeless young people in your home on a night by night basis.  There was an initial assessment, then a period of training, fire checks, social worker checks and CRB checks.  By the time all this was complete, my life had got busier and I no longer had a spare room.  Finally, though, the room was free and I awaited the call for my first Nightstop young person.

Last night a 16 year old girl stayed.  She wasn't in a hostel or on the street; she was safe in my home.  When I took the call yesterday afternoon I was tired and the last thing I felt like doing was staying in, cooking dinner and providing a listening ear to a stranger in distress - but I wanted to deliver on my promise.

It was a small thing to give I now realise.  I hope it made a difference.  I'm glad I followed through.

Sussex Nightstop



Monday, 12 September 2011

Shift Happens

Recently I arranged to meet a fellow rejector of corporate/professional life for a catch up and comparing notes session.  It turned out that we were both suffering from change fatigue and dysfunctional independence (<- Robert Holden's Shift Happens book has a handy check list for this.  Oh dear).

It only took about 5 minutes of conversation for us to realise that what we needed to do was buddy up and start making things happen together.

So Fulfilling Work was born.  An afternoon of brainstorming and we were off.  This was an idea I've been talking about doing since last autumn!  Any coach will tell you - don't do change alone.  Elicit support.  I got the part about surrounding myself with inspiring and supportive people; it took nearly a year for me to finally understand that working with other people gets things done, is fun, and more productive.

I'm slow but I get there in the end.

If anyone reading this lives in Sussex, is dissatisfied in their job (or non-job) and looking for a more fulfilling way to work, join us on the first Tuesday of every month 7-9pm in Brighton & Hove.  We have Suzy Greaves of The Big Leap ( as the speaker for our first meeting on October 11th.  Each meeting will have a inspirational speaker, practical pragmatic advice, and networking.

The Meet Up group (Fulfilling Work) is now live for booking your place.  Click link below.
Fulfilling Work Meet Up Group

Monday, 5 September 2011

Yuck and doh!

Ha!  I post a link about pushing through fear and counsel friends on their opportunities and achievements.  Days later I'm deep in fear's grip, feeling powerless.  At a workshop this weekend I found myself in a familiar place and one I thought I'd left behind.  A place of panic and powerlessness.  An embarrassing public freezing, with my face flushed, my voice quavery and tears threatening to strike at any moment.  Followed by a hollow feeling of recognition at this weaker part of myself which I haven't yet shaken.

I set myself up for it.  I really wanted it to go well and yet when we introduced ourselves at the start I said I expected to find it difficult.


Monday, 8 August 2011

I'll show you mine if you show me yours

Humanity that is.  Or vulnerability. Or just being a human being without a mask.
Actually it's best to go first and it doesn't matter if it isn't reciprocated.
It makes life a lot simpler, more sane and more fun.
Who knew?

Friday, 29 July 2011

The dog done bit me

I have a yellow dog called Jealousy.  Usually she sleeps quietly in the corner in a patch of sunlight, no problem to anyone.  Yesterday she bit me in the stomach while I wasn't looking, so quick I didn't see her coming.  In the middle of a conversation with a friend.



Friday, 15 July 2011

Hello....has anyone seen my career?

At an event last night I got chatting to a man seated near me.  He was a coach and he asked me what I did.  I explained that I was in transition from a career in Finance via theatre management to...well I wasn't sure yet.  Apart from saying (as they all infuriatingly seem to) "you do know what you want to do", he also questioned my approach.  It seemed to him that trying out different areas, experimenting and experiencing different possible options meant that I was likely to just become lost.  He also questioned my ability to network if I didn't have a ready elevator pitch and a title to put on my business cards.

I do understand that it's much easier to sell a product if you're clear what the offer is.  However, I defend this period of uncertainty, of ambiguity, and yes, of being lost.

Being lost and seeking is infinitely preferable to being lost and miserable in a well paid soul destroying job.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Power of Language

I posted something recently on Facebook about the pleasure I was finding in my job now that I've decided long term it's not for me.  Once the decision was made, I started enjoying it more.  I relaxed into it.  It wasn't so important and laden with meaning so I performed better and had fun with it.  Yegads, I even became more creative.  Why, I lamented, was it only when I've decided to let something go, that I start firing on all cylinders?  Wouldn't it be wonderful to experience that sense of freedom and fun without leaving jobs, relationships and even, in my case, countries?

For decades people have been telling me to "relax, stop being so uptight/intense, let go".  Do you know how unhelpful this is for an uptight person?  Does it help?  Of course it doesn't.  We know we need to relax and let go; what we we don't know is how.  And being self-critical souls, we flagellate ourselves and get more uptight because we know we should let go and we can't.

I have been working on this (note working on, not relaxing into) for much of the last year and I am getting better at it.  But I am still a words person.  And language is important.

John Purkiss (he of Brand You fame) posted this in response to my FB rant "Sounds like letting go to me. Much more fun than clinging/attachment. :-)"

Bingo!  Clinging.  Now isn't that the most unappealing word for describing attachment, hanging on, not letting go and generally being an uptight so and so?

I only have to think of the word and I loosen my grip.  Not on reality, folks.  On whatever I've been attaching inordinate amounts of meaning to.

Clinging - my new antidote word.

Sunday, 3 July 2011


OK, so I'm now at stage whatever (I've lost count) of my change process.  I really want to know what to do next, as my savings slowly deplete and a new career in arts administration is not a long term option.  I can satisfy my love of dance and quirky theatre by going to the shows; I don't get a big enough kick from being part of the support system to stay.

I've been toying with the idea of training in psychology/counselling and spent this weekend at a free coaching weekend designed to fire up attendees and sign us up for coach training.  It was fun and interesting and I met some great people.  The spark, the buzz, the "ooh, that's for me" wasn't there.  I could do it and almost feel I should do it because I need an income and I enjoy facilitating.  The relentless focus on goals and the "rah, rah" chirpiness of the trainers left me cold and I couldn't see myself in their shoes and being delighted by it.  I was disappointed and a little frustrated that another potential door seemed to be closing.

As part of this afternoon's session, we did a visualisation excercise.  As always, I was able to picture my environment, my partner, the views, the pets, the company.  The "work" wasn't there.  So, it seems, what I want to be is a rich hippy, living in a place in the country big enough for a few waifs and strays.

Is this a goal?  Is it achievable?  What steps can I take today to make it a reality?  Does it matter?

On the train home I opened John Parkin's "F**k It - the ultimate spiritual way".  The book fell open to a section called Say Fuck It to Plans and Goals.  I read it, then looked out of the window at the glorious Sussex countryside the rest of the way home.

F**k It
      F**k It
           F**k It


Thursday, 16 June 2011

The veil is lifting

My original reason for studying psychology (apart from a fascination with the human mind) was to get the qualifications for becoming an Occupational Psychologist.  I could use all my experience of working in both the corporate and not for profit sectors to go back into all those broken, dysfunctional parts of organisations and change them, fix them.  Ta da!

It wasn't entirely my own plan but it was the sole sensible suggestion I'd been given out of all the suggestions I'd sought from various career 'experts', friends, colleagues and family.

All was going swimmingly until we reached the point in the course where professionals from various branches of psychology started to present their areas of expertise as job paths.  The Occupational Psychology one was a revelation.  It reminded me of everything I loathed about corporate life - the poor leadership, the skewed values, the over-worked and under-valued staff.  Because these are the organisations that are broken, that need help.

Oh.  Now what?  So I've parked the occupational pysch path for now.

I know I still have an underlying interest in leadership, mentoring, training, coaching etc but am not sure which route to take.  Change and facilitating change are still a big draw and it is what I always ended up doing in each of my previous jobs.

Finally, thanks to the wise words of a recent houseguest and my cousin, I've come to realise that the reason I'm always butting heads is that I expect things to be difficult and that I tend to pick the most knotty challenges.

How's this for an idea?  Why not work with people I like, delivering what is needed to a receptive and willing audience who share my values?

It might even be fun.

Friday, 10 June 2011

Why can't I be more straightforward?

Favourite stone - Opal: gives you its shimmer and depth back if you catch it at the right angle, surprises and rewards with glimpses of brilliant colour.  Shatters easily.

Jewellery - if at all, two contrasting metals in the same piece

I won't go on, but it does seem to be a bit of a recurring theme in my life that I'm attracted by the non mainstream.  In a new city I'm off the main drag at the first sight of an intriguing alley.  Don't talk to me about S***bucks.  I like things with a quirk, a twist, a reward for effort or a different approach. 

Would my life be easier if I approached life more directly?  Am I just making things more difficult for myself? 

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Ambivalence, schlambivalence

Home vs Travel
Town vs Country
Security vs Adventure
Same vs Different
Now vs Tomorrow
Let it be vs Change it
Be vs Do
Accept vs Reject

What next?

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Envy, projection (and crushes)

Envy is useful because it tells me, when I have the wit to notice, what I am longing for and what I want.  I've noticed in recent months a tendency to over admire a certain type of person.  These people are usually teachers or facilitators of some kind with a particular heartfelt skill at the centre of it.  Sometimes they write books, sometimes they give talks and workshops.  Sometimes I find the cute male ones attractive.  I over imbue them with the qualities I want for myself - compassion, social ease, ferocious skill and competence, knowing what they want in life (ha!) and success.

Unpicking recent crushes (and the reverse, people I find myself criticising) it seems that what I want is:

- to impart knowledge
- to express myself
- to write
- to speak/present
- to travel
- to be respected in my field

And for all of this to bring me a degree of financial and emotional security.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Toothbrush Teachings

Twitter, Facebook, email...all ways to seemingly connect with others.  Very tempting for those of us who like to distract ourselves.  I know that meditation will help me.  Being quiet.  Being still. Being with myself.  The science, philosophy and spiritual practices of our times all tell me so.

I had two toothbrushes. The usual basic bristly one and a sonic one.  The sonic one works best.  The trouble, I discovered, with the sonic one is that it runs for two minutes and, apart from moving it around your mouth, you don't do much with it.  Two. Whole.  Minutes.

Faced with those two minutes I usually grabbed the regular one.  Hah, I can control you! I can brush and I can do it for as long or as little as I like.

I've finally accepted that this is not clever.  It's gone in the bin.

Now I have two minutes of enforced quiet not doing twice a day.

And my teeth feel fantastic.

Guardian article on Meditation

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Saturday, 7 May 2011

What a brilliant idea (stolen from my boss)

An argument robot.  One you can take out all your frustration and angst on when you get home from a crappy day and just need to express it.  And the best part - you always win whatever the argument is.  Then you go on with your daily life all sweetness and light and kind and loving to your partner, co-workers etc.

In the meantime I am going to have to learn to find a release for my own stresses and frustrations with myself so that those around me don't (completely unfairly) bear the brunt of it.

It's always a sign that I'm avoiding a fundamental truth or difficulty when I go into bolshy 12 year old mode.  Very unattractive.

robot post fight

Sunday, 1 May 2011

On Time

I'm a slow learner when it comes to the important things in life.  It takes a lot of repetition and experience for me to really 'get it'.  So I'm not entirely sure what the lessons of the last six months are.  I do know that I'm a happier person.  I also know that, as with any journey, I've taken myself with me on my inward journey.  I'm still carrying a lot of baggage.

I'm starting to feel more comfortable with not knowing.  Not entirely comfortable, as evidenced by the way I have overfilled my time, but at least now I can recognise what I'm doing and have taken steps to free up my diary. After all, the purpose of making the change was to slow down a little and explore other avenues of interest, to take more risks.

Old work habits have crept into my new job; it occupies more of my thinking time than I would like.  So I need strategies to shake this off.  One new(ish) hobby is harmony singing.  The reason I love this so much is that it gets me out of my head and into my body, into the moment.  So part of the solution is to be more physical.  Not too hard in the Spring when being outdoors, and walking in nature are such a pleasure.

The other part of the solution is meditation.  And yet I have not yet made this a habit.  Until I do I suspect I will continue to burn through energy on over thinking.

So perhaps these are my lessons of the last six months:

Sing, Meditate, Walk
Be in nature
Take risks
Be a beginner
Make mistakes
Be honest
Celebrate successes
Be kind

Friday, 29 April 2011


What happens when I stop?
The tinnitus rings
The words run around my head
I slob out
I waste time
I worry about my present
And my future
Even the cat is bored

Friday, 22 April 2011

Going under the hood

If you can get past the dodgy leather jacket, here is another cracking Sunday Sermon from the School of Life on the unconscious.  Enjoy!

David Eagleman on Being Yourselves

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Nearly 6 month review

My plan when I started this adventure was to set an intention (find my work) and see what happened in the space I created.  To avoid too scary a void and in a spirit of exploration I embarked on a number of different strands that interested me.  What actually happened is that I filled my time, albeit with much more rewarding activity, almost as much as when I was in a job I hated.  And that sense of being open to possibility and exploring slowly started to fade away and the 'what is my work?' question kept creeping back.  The idea that we each have a vocation if only we can discover it is incredibly appealing.  Chasing it doesn't work.  I've tried (too hard, no doubt) a lot of different approaches to find the answer.  None of them have worked in any meaningful way.  So it's back to my original plan.  Stop trying so hard.  Relax - the hardest of all, and the most necessary to open and receive.

I've recently discovered the work of David Whyte.  He talks about developing a relationship, a conversation, with the unknown.  I find this really helpful.  To understand that all will not reveal itself fully formed but that we need to allow for the unknown and proceed anyway, trying to take that first small step, close in, to continue the conversation.       

START CLOSE IN (by David Whyte)
Start close in,
don't take the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.
Start with
the ground
you know,
the pale ground
beneath your feet,
your own
way of starting
the conversation.
Start with your own
give up on other
people's questions,
don't let them
smother something
To find
another's voice,
your own voice,
wait until
that voice
becomes a
private ear
to another.
Start right now
take a small step
you can call your own
don't follow
someone else's
heroics, be humble
and focused,
start close in,
don't mistake
that other
for your own.
Start close in,
don't take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

On top of Mulhacen

On top of Mulhacen me by benandhomer
On top of Mulhacen me, a photo by benandhomer on Flickr.

This was taken over 5 years ago. I want another moment like this. Before the year is out.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

A poet's view

Start close in,
don't take
the second step
or the third,
start with the first
close in,
the step
you don't want to take.

(David Whyte - extract from "Start Close In")

Cardiff not Cornwall

Janet Cardiff's sound installation 40 Part Motet is at Brighton's Fabrica Gallery until the end of May.  I have started to go every time I'm in town; after a singing workshop, on my lunch break.  There's something very moving at a gut level in hearing 40 beautiful human voices in a piece of such purity and wonder.  There are 40 speakers arranged around the space, each carrying a separate voice.  You can stand in the middle or walk around or stand close to one voice, or two.  Between 'performances' Cardiff has recorded the background chat of the performers.  My favourite is two choir boys talking about their watches.

I'm not a religious person but when I hear sounds like these I'm both humbled and proud to be a human being, to belong to a species capable of creating work of profound joy and wonder.


Thursday, 7 April 2011

A Gratitude List

My black cat Ben
Unexpected blossom
Warm tufty grass
The promise of a glass or two
A day off

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

U turn if you want to...

No sooner do I decide I'm not going back to my old life and write it down, and along come those familiar doubts:

1. You're being ridiculous.  What makes you think you can do anything else?
2. And, tell me, how are you going to support yourself?  You know you hate being skint.
3. Why can't you just get on with it like the rest of us?  Why this drama?
4. What makes you so special that you'll find your ideal groove?
5. You don't have the balls to really go for it

etc, etc, etc.

Wake up call or a temptation to be overcome?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Turning Point

Maybe it was the lack of sleep.  Maybe it was singing 'Don't Stop Me Now' as the closing hymn at Ken Robinson's School of Life's secular sermon on Passion.  Maybe it was his funny, witty and wise sermon.
Maybe it was the fact I went to a talk on finding your passion after deciding it was an unhelpful quest.

Regardless, today in Conway Hall in Holborn I realised that I was never going back to the work I was good at but which did not nourish me.  The "well, I can always go back" backstop is no longer an option.  The bridge has burned.

It's an exhilarating, freeing and terrifying thought. There were tears.

The only direction available to me now is forward.

Friday, 11 March 2011

You can't bullshit a horse

This morning I went on a taster morning of Equine Guided Creative Leadership Training.  Many moons ago I remember a fellow director showing me an advert for just such a training and giggling madly at the absurdity of it.  A few weeks later I spotted the same ad in Pseuds Corner in Private Eye.  The world and my world have moved on a little since then.

The exercises with these horses are simple and incredible effective.  They are about learning how you lead and what works.  They challenge and illuminate both your ideas of yourself and your notions of how you lead and follow.

The horse doesn't care what your job title is or how many degrees you have.  It responds only to your body language, tone of voice and energy levels.

I learned that I really didn't need to do that much for the horse to respond and follow my lead; the rope could be loose and trust could be established quickly when I was most myself.  I was reminded what a waste of time over-thinking was.  Different approaches and styles were appropriate to different horses and situations.  The discussions after each exercise among our group teased out our assumptions and difficulties with aspects of leadership.

Ultimately the power of the process is that it is experiential and non judgemental (horses might not always follow you but they won't be rude).

And it was fun.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Tired Malcontent

Since I have put some gaps back into my week (teeny but necessary ones) a strange magnetic force seems to be sucking phone calls, visits and other activity into the gaps.  All welcome in their way but it seems I am going to have to put some bigger gaps in and keep them sacrosanct if I'm to stop feeling so tired.  

Monday, 28 February 2011

A late Valentine

I declare my undying love for the brain of Daniel Pink.

Just as once again I was becoming tempted by the dark side of career change (the fruitless and joy sapping search for my passion or perfect path etc) his article popped into my inbox reminding me of an understanding I had right at the beginning of the process.  It may work for some people but a eureka moment of blinding inspiration is not what I seek or expect.  That's not how I work.  I tried for that moment for quite a long time and became frustrated and upset with myself for failing.

Anyway, read his article, it is perfect for me and anyone else in the career change process who's a bit of a pragmatist and who inwardly groans when asked that super unhelpful question "What's your passion?".

Friday, 25 February 2011

Busy, busy, lah!

It's nearly four months since I left my finance job and life feels pretty full.  So full that it would be wise to put some gaps back into my week.  After starting the year a bit blue and deflated, I seem to have tapped into Spring energy and want to keep doing more new things.   A bit of balance wouldn't go amiss.  So... more walking, less reading, less email, more stillness.  Can I do it? Yes I can.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

A nice moment

I had a massage treatment on Friday and as part of the initial consultation gave the usual details of name, age, address etc.  When it came to Occupation, I had to pause.  After a quick think I said Manager.  What was quite nice was that the old response of Accountant didn't even occur to me.  Of course I am still an accountant.  I'm also a student and a manager.  I am all these things and more.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

A reaction to criticism

Here's what I posted on my blog as my biog back in October:

"I'm a chartered accountant and MBA who has decided, after many years in the corporate world, that there's more to life than turning up to an office each day and working my socks off. Finding out what that "more to life" is, while not going broke, is my mission for the next 12 months."

Since I turned in my notice at my old job, I have started a Psychology course, sat some exams, thrown a do for my Dad's 80th, started a new part time job in a totally unrelated field, started two blogs, started an Artist's Way course and .... well, I won't go on.  The point is I've started a lot of new things and I'm adjusting.  No, I haven't found the answer to everything and, yes, sometimes it's tiring and bewildering and I do still have a habit of pushing on regardless instead of stopping and smelling the coffee.  I am getting better at it, though.  Progress is jumpy.  I have great days and awful days.  I don't regret leaving my job at all.

This may all seem very trivial stuff, but it's my life and my mission statement still holds true.

Over and out.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

"Reality" vs God Will Provide

Reality = my annual mortgage statement which plopped through my letterbox this weekend.  Cue... panic, reality check, rebudgeting (no different from the old budget, I can still last the year on part time work), the words of sceptical friends and family ringing in my ears.  The weight of responsibility.  The sucking away of joy at the thought of having to give up and go back. The pressure to find "it", the way of living and working that is satisfying and fun.

God will provide = Chapter 5 of The Artist's Way.  Isn't it a wonderfully appealing thought, that if we are willing to admit what we really want and go for it, the world will move to meet and help us on our way?

I'm going to have to stick my fingers in my ears and go "la, la, la" for a bit to recover my enthusiasm and loosen up enough to find my way again.    

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Maybe it's my metaphors

There's a great article in today's Observer about the power of metaphor by James Geary.  I had noticed the language I use around my career and life change is all about hard work, struggle, warrior spirit and searching.  Journey, paths, battle, demons, break through, and a magical destination.  No wonder it's such bloody hard work.  Perhaps (ok, more than perhaps) I've set myself up for a long slog.

Dancing with demons?
Flitting through change?
Singing to bliss?

Worth a go....


Friday, 28 January 2011

Me......and my Shadow......doo be doo

I've been reading The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron and following her suggested process with a group of ten or so other people who also want to claim or reclaim their creativity.  I'm not an artist in the painting sense or an artiste in the performing sense;  I do like to write and I want to expand my thinking so that it gets more curvy, less linear and analytical.

Cameron talks about shadow artists - people who have suppressed their own creative impulses and so align themselves or get close to those who are doing the thing they most want to do.  So a frustrated writer may work for a publishing house, an unexpressed artist marry a sculptor and so on.  There's more to it than that but it struck a chord with me.

Guess who gave up her corporate job and now works for a theatre company?  I don't think I want to perform.  I did once stand on the stage at the Dome Concert Hall in Brighton (as part of a tour, I hasten to add) and it felt great.  Does that mean I want to perform?  The idea of joining a clowning workshop fills me with horror. Acting?  Nah.  Stand up comedy?  Aaargh.

Still, food for some curvy thought...


Monday, 24 January 2011


My Psychology course is assessed entirely by exams and I sat one last Monday and one this morning.  Both went fine.  What was interesting was the process of studying for these exams.  Exams, pah, I thought.  Sat hundreds of them, know how to do well in them.  What I hadn't accounted for was the huge amount of time that has passed since I learned anything truly new, as opposed to building on existing skills and knowledge.

It took several attempts to really grasp the material and be able to construct coherent arguments in essay form (or, truth be told, any form - including explaining Freud to a friend over coffee). I'd become so used to being an expert, being able to grasp problems & solutions quickly that it was a bit of a shock to discover my learning skills could do with quite a retune.

I even contemplated not completing the course because I found the exam preparation so little fun.

So, I've learned a lesson.  I can learn new stuff.  I need to keep learning new stuff, especially if I don't want to go back to my old career and I will have to work at it to pump up those learning muscles.

Oh yes, and last minute cramming really isn't clever at all.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

It's all part of the process...

Now is it Blue Monday on January 17th or 24th?  The debate rages.  Regardless I seem to have hit the bumpy panicky bit of the change process at just the same time that most of the Northern hemisphere experiences its week of gloom and doom.  Clever that.  And boy, what a trough of self pity and doubt it has been.

Thank God for wise and kind friends, tolerance, and general forgiveness all round.  I've tried to practice gratitude, giving, expressing, exercising and a whole bunch of other stuff but the truth is, I think, that in the end you just have to sit it out and know it will turn around in its own sweet time.  And that's OK.

It's all part of the process.....  

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Here be dragons

"If we only arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience. How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage."  Rilke

Somewhere in my current difficulties are dragons (princes?) waiting for me to act with courage.  Unless I rise to the challenge honestly and with an open heart I will continue to run,  feeling weaker with each step.    

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Gratitude works

It's so easy to be in bad mood.  I think I've spent most of 2011 in an uncomfortable fretting state.  Life's too short.  So what if I don't know what this year will bring?  So what if I can't see my path?

A couple of reliable routes to getting out of a mental negative rut:

Meditation, especially the mindfulness kind
Gratitude lists (top of today's is my remaining cat purring like an engine by my side)

The TED talk below is also pretty good at putting any gripes into perspective.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Calm down dear, it's only your life

There's something about imposed landmarks that brings out the resistant child in me.  For New Year for the first time, instead of half heartedly making some resolutions (typically more like wish lists than resolutions) I decided to do it "properly".  I reviewed the year past, noted its battles, celebrated its achievements and experienced profound gratitude for the events and people who helped me along my way.  That was the easy part.

How then do I take the learnings from 2010 and use them as my foundation for a great 2011?  What do I want for this year?  How will I make it happen?  This remains my sticking point.  I made a lot of positive changes last year to free myself from some of the shackles of limited and self critical thinking.  It looks like this year will be more of the same.  I am not miraculously clear headed and free just yet.  As momentous as they felt at the time, last year's changes were the beginning baby steps.  Perhaps I need to accept that the destination can be shrouded in mist so long as the journey is interesting and moving in the right direction.  Because I do know the direction if not the destination.