Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Kreativ Blogger

Well, what can I say! It's not every day that you get honoured with a coveted award. I'm a bit overwhelmed by it all and hopefully I'm suitably attired to receive the award, though I have a feeling my girlfriend might want her black dress back. I gratefully accept the Kreativ Blogger award kindly given by Sandi K on her blog Freedom of Thought http://sandi-k.blogspot.com/ . This also gives me an incentive to keep trying to evolve the blog thing (e.g. learn how to add pics easily - I'm so technically challenged it's taken me days just to add the Kreativ Blogger pic!).
In keeping with the spirit of the award, firstly I need to list a few (well, seven, in fact) of my favourite things:

* Travel - I've lived in a few different countries and have travelled to a few dozen others but have still only managed page one of most foreign language phrasebooks. Thank goodness for the MTV generation and learning English through the poetry of Madonna.

* My guitar - It looks really good in the corner of my room. Trouble is, it lets out a scary shriek any time I get near it.

* Sport - Years ago, I could have been 'a contender'. I'm convinced. In what sport, I don't really know but I can always talk a good game.

* Tony Robbins - The man with the fromage smile and unfathomably large hands. Actually, it's not him, per se, that is a favourite thing but the message that his ilk is seeking to put across - positivity.

* Friday afternoons - Friday night is just around the corner and Monday morning feels like weeks away.

* Music - I love Bacharach and David, jazz, acoustic instruments, soulful voices, classics... I could go on.

* Writing - I don't apply myself as much as I used to or would like to. But having come 23rd out of a class of 24 in art when I was 12, it didn't take me long to figure out that the pen was mightier than the paintbrush.

I'm going pass the mantle on to seven other deserving specimens - a mix of the real world, the irreverent and the inspirational. Definitely have a peek and well done all:

David at Authorblog: http://david-mcmahon.blogspot.com/

Ian at Or so I Thought: http://ian-lidster.blogspot.com/

Monday, 27 April 2009

Finding stuff

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes" - Marcel Proust.

You know when you're fiddling about, minding your own business and you fall upon something that makes you remember yourself - a phrase in a book, a line of a song, a simple saying. Well, I kind of had one of those moments when I came upon the above comment. When I was far younger and less wise (though wouldn't have admitted it at the time), I went through a period of pretty deep introspection. I couldn't come to terms with my mum's religious zeal, I couldn't come to terms with the parental separation, I couldn't come to terms with the poverty-laden upbringing that I was exposed to, I couldn't get comfortable in my own skin. As a result, I did a lot of searching - searching for meaning, searching for guidance, searching for that pot of gold or magic wand that would make this all go away. Fast forward to now and time and experience have smoothed out a few kinks. Don't get me wrong, I still have my moments of searching for answers to questions that were never asked in the first place or on the look out for the next new toy or experience. But generally speaking, I'm glad that my world has moved on. I like to see myself more as a finder or discoverer of things rather than someone in search of answers. It's so much better for your peace of mind.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Nothing in particular

I've been thinking over the last few days about what next to write about in the blog. Okay, it hasn't been keeping me awake at night but it's been enough to get me thinking about what I'm thinking about. The trouble was, I couldn't come up with anything. In fact, that's not the real problem. The problem is thinking that I always have to come up with something. Analysing and re-analysing what I'm meant to be pontificating about has really got me nowhere. I need to remind myself that I'm allowed to just be me, without needing to get results all the time and just let things flow. My viewpoints aren't always going to be earth-shatteringly original or inspired. People may not even read them. But that's okay. When I remember, I'll just be myself and have a bit of fun. And the less pressure I put on myself the more thoughts can flow. So there you go. I couldn't really think of anything much today but I'm all cool and the gang about that.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Having a Plan B

I just bumped into a friend of mine while I was out hunting for some lunch. We both work in financial services industry so it didn't take long before we got onto discussing the poor state of morale at respective employers. To be fair, neither of us are in a position to cry "woe is me" as we're both working and neither have any dependents to think about. But that didn't stop us thinking about what we would do next if the brown stuff hit the proverbial fan.

You can't blame the tabloids for trying to sell newspapers and generically grouping anyone that works for such financial institutions as "bankers". Neither can you blame the public indigation over the huge excesses and losses that a number of individuals were party to (hell, I'm majorly peeved and I'm meant to be aware of some of this stuff). But at the same time, it would be equally misleading to group Harley Street surgeon with your village GP or dental nurse, for that matter. "Bankers" is way too wide a label. The vast, vast majority of us can't just walk away from our jobs and retire in our thirties, as did the 'hero' in the semi-autobiographical account "Citiboy - Fear and Loathing in the City" (http://www.cityboy.biz/). No, we need to still plan for our futures. And plan for the future is what I'm going to do. I've a few ideas about a change in career direction and as long as apply a bit more intent to these thoughts then I'm heading in the right direction - any direction is the right direction. Plan B, you're in my sights.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The Doc

As much as I'd like to pretend that I come up with a lot of my thinking out of nowhere, the fact is I get my inspirations from a whole array of sources - be it, highly spiritual scripture or highly cheesy Hollywood. In actual fact I wouldn't like to pretend that all my thinkings were created by little old me, as credit deserves to be given where credit is due.

One of my very favourite gurus, mentors, smart chaps is the 'Barefoot Doctor'. He explains the principals of Taoism in easy to digest and apply ways. While sometimes his commentary can come across so left-field it may as well be off the pitch, other times he's so on the money he makes me shiver. I've read his stuff for years, so indeed credit where credit is due.

Anyway, don't take my word for it, have a perusal of the website from time to time. You might see something that works for you.


Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Nothing in particular

It's amazing how easy it is to take your foot off the gas. When I started my detox a few weeks back, part of the grand plan was to write more of my blog in a more creative, carefree and erudite manner. I'd feed my mind with inspiring thoughts and I'd advance my cause towards wherever I need and intend to go.

Well, life kicked in and I didn't quite get round to all of that. In fact, only last night there I was sitting at home with the television on in the background, playing a random game on my mobile phone. I must have spent a good hour mucking about with that thing. And before I knew it, it was bedtime. As I started preparing for bed, I was (metaphorically speaking) kicking myself. It doesn't take a lot to distract me sometimes. But, hey, that's life. I had some very good periods during the detox. And in life in general, there will be the good days, there will be the grand days, and there will be the days I play a not-very-good game on my mobile phone. On balance, I think I can live with that.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Ground for Freaks

One book that had been on my to-read list for some time was 'Freakanomics' by Levitt & Dubner. It's an interesting take on how certain economic principles can be applied to understanding what's really happening under the surface of everyday life. The writers pose questions such as: "What do estate agents and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?" and "Why do drug dealers live with their mothers?". The book raises some interesting arguments, some perhaps more credible than others. There's always going to be a case for querying this on a "lies, damn lies and statistics" basis.

Anyway, the edition of the book I read included bonus material of published since the book was first released. The one that grabbed me in the context of this blog, and slightly away from the overall tone of the book, was all about self-experimentation. In a nutshell, a guy called Seth Roberts decided one day to turn personal problems into research subjects. Over 25 years, he poked and prodded, measured and recorded his way to being 160 lbs lighter with better skin. This period had seen him apply trial and error to everything from scientifically proven process to crank idea, looking for what worked best for him.

I'll let you delve into the book to find out what he discovered but it made me think about my faddish nature. At least, that's what some of my friends view me as having anyway. I'll try out a new thing, get bored and then move onto the next big thing. I guess if I had some sort of end expectation or goal in mind maybe my version of 'self-experimentation', for want of a better phrase, aimed at creating a 'better me' would create something concrete. Or maybe the experimentation is the end game from the start. Dunno. Just a few thoughts.

And as I continue to meander through this stream of consciousness, it also reminded me of the film 'Groundhog Day', where Bill Murray is trapped in a hell-on-earth of having to relive the exact same day, every day for eternity. There's a point in the film when he comes to terms with this reality and tries to work it in his favour. He meets a lady, tries a line, she bats him away. The next day, he meets the same lady, tries another line, she bats him away. And so this continues until one of the lines works and each day he builds upon it until... kaboom!...

There's a lot of random thinking in this blog today but 'Freak' and 'Ground' do give me some food for thought - who knows what can be achieved if you consciously focus on the little and often approach to life.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Father's day

A year ago today my father past away. We had an unconventional relationship, bordering on non-existent up until a year before his death. The whys and wherefores behind the 18-year gap between conversations weren't especially complex - simply human beings being human beings. I had my reasons, which when placed under the brightest of spotlights can be properly seen as excuses. Apportioning blame is always easy. Taking responsibility, less so. The breakdown in communication wasn't the fault of either of us in particular but, in reality, we were both at fault.

Reinitiating contact with him after all those years at the time didn't seem like a courageous act or a sudden awakening. It had been stirring for a little while but just found the trigger one day. It was like that scene out of 'Forrest Gump' where Forrest has been running across the United States, seemingly forever and for no particular reason. Along his journey hundreds of individuals join him, seeking guidance and inspiration from him. One day, Forrest suddenly stops running and says it's over. No reason, no warning, just that it was time to go home. Okay, this analogy is hardly 'The Illiad' but it works for me. One day, I just thought, "it's time".

So over the next year or so we spoke. We were separated by a generation, continents and very different views on the world but we were two grown-up men talking about grown-up stuff. I struggled to use the word "dad" and he struggled to avoid taking on the role of all-knowing father. But it worked for us. In his last few weeks, when it was still unclear as to how ill he was, we managed to make our peace. A lot of it was unspoken but the fact that our skating-round-the-edges conversations were happening at all was a major breakthrough.

A year ago I didn't entirely know how I was supposed to grieve. None of my siblings did either, as we all had varying degrees of detachment from him. Still, I didn't have a Mike and The Mechanics "Living Years" moment of not getting a chance to clear the air at all. It may not have been a perfect relationship but at least now, a year on, I'm not writing a angry piece (whether towards him or towards myself) and can wonder what might have been with a positive slant.

Thursday, 2 April 2009


The great thing about this detox (or if you prefer, declutter) period is that it allows me to be less distracted by the slings and arrows of mindless TV living. Instead I get a chance to fall upon thoughts and ideas that I had previously looked at. I can be a bit of a hoarder - I blame my mother for that - and I'm a big fan of collecting newspaper and magazine cuttings. After sifting through a handful of articles warning of pending doom and gloom in the UK and US property markets (dated 2005, I'll have you know) I came across a piece talking about the search for balance in life. The article touched on a few well-oiled themes: inner peace, focus, values and so on. But what grabbed me was the part questioning how many of us truly know what our priorites, values and motivations are. We think we know, but how many of us have ever tried to articulate them? The piece then asks us to try and list them. Are these your real priorities, motivations etc or are they what you think they should be?

The killer test for priorities is for you to look at your chequebook or bank statement and your calendar or diary. Do these reflect what you have listed as your priorities? Our real priorities should ultimately show up in how we spend our time and our money. I suppose it's kind of obvious but I've never really thought in such straight-forward terms. If you want your priorities to be different to how they show up then there's a bit of an imbalance in the way you are living. It's quite easy to excuse away a lot with "I can't". Which is fine. Or "I would but...". It's your choice. But if you have five minutes to spare (and we all have five minutes to spare), it could be an interesting experiment. Give it a whirl. You might surprise yourself.

Wednesday, 1 April 2009


"When the student is ready the teacher will appear". It's one of those phrases you hear from time to time which seems to provide a message without actually explaining itself in too much detail. For me, there are often "whys" and "hows" to ask in relation to such ideas. At the same time, sometimes you've just got to be aware of its reality and accept it.

Well, I'm a couple of days into my detox programme and I've been trying out some meditation. Generally speaking, I try to do 'meditative' things on a day-to-day basis anyway, somewhere on that road between "half hearted" and "token gesture". In other words, I haven't really got to grips with the thing for a long while. But this morning, after a decent bash at some meditation, out of the blue I remembered that on the lower shelf of my coffee table was a book sitting there simply entitled 'Meditation'. The book's been there for a good year and I kind of knew it was there without ever really acknowledging it. The first page I turned to when I opened the page was all about mindfulness. I think I've found my teacher...