Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Viewed from the other side

I received an email yesterday which in a round about way talked about looking at the world through another pair of eyes. The email itself ended with the story recorded below. It’s one I vaguely remember reading some time ago but it was good to be reminded about learning to see things slightly differently:

There is a wonderful little story about a minister who, one Saturday morning, was trying to prepare his sermon under difficult conditions. His wife was out shopping. It was a rainy day and his young son was restless and bored, with nothing to do. Finally, in desperation, the minister picked up an old magazine and thumbed through it until he came to a large brightly colored picutre. It showed a map of the world. He tore the page from the magazine, ripped it into little bits and threw the scraps all over the living room floor with the words: “Johnny, if you can put this all together, I’ll give you a quarter.”The preacher thought this would take Johnny most of the morning. But within ten minutes there was a knock on his study door. It was his son with the completed puzzle. The minister was amazed to see Johnny finished so soon, with the pieces of paper neatly arranged and the map of the world back in order.“Son, how did you get that done so fast?” the preacer asked.“Oh,” said Johnny, it was easy.

On the other side there was a picture of a man. I just put a piece of paper on the bottom, put the picture of the man together, put a piece of paper on top, and then turned it over. I figured that if I got the man right, the world would be right.”The minister smiled, and handed his son a quarter.

“And you’ve given me my sermon for tomorrow, too,” he said. “If a man is right, his world is right.”There’s a great lesson in this idea.
If you are unhappy with your world and want to change it, the place to start is with yourself. If you are right, you world will be right.

Napoleon Hill

Friday, 24 July 2009

Waste Management

Time, money, energy – the fun we have trying to save a little bit here and a little bit there. Look after the pennies and the pounds will look after themselves, and all that. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being conscious and conscientious about these areas. In fact, that’s what it should be all about – taking control. But I do sometimes wonder about the context. Thrift has its place in this world, certainly. Hell, there’s enough plastic, excessive living to last a good few lifetimes. And the culture of the daily time-devouring commute has destroyed many a balanced family life. But, still, I think there’s something to be said for how we view our savings.

In relation to time, for example, you don’t actually save time as such – as far as I can tell there are still 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and the rest. It’s more to do with how you spend that time. You can halve your journey home from work but if you then walk through the door earlier only to have a good old moan at your better half then I’m not sure whether that’s time well spent. You may have saved a couple of pennies here and there, which is great, but if you literally or metaphorically just stick it under your bed out of sheer fear of living a bit, where’s the value in that? And that’s what it’s about. Value. Oversimplified? Perhaps. It is true that sometimes some of us need to save something, anything simply to get us to the start line. And I'm not saying saving is wrong. But looking at the whole caboodle as all about how you spend/invest your time, money and energy to create value changes the dynamic. So if you’re going to do some saving, at least do it with some purpose, and hopefully that purpose will somewhere along the line have some bearing on enjoying life. Otherwise all that saving might actually turn out to be more about waste.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

It's all in the mind

I fell upon this cool take on how we should manage our minds:

“How do you manage the unending stream of thoughts that flow through your mind? Do you put a comma, an exclamation mark or a queue of questions? Why not apply a full-stop and begin to master your mind.”

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Making it big

I used to be in a band. Well, strictly speaking we never actually got to perform, but the original line sounds far better when in female company. Some context to the statement: one night I met this random guy in a pub, and after a few drinks had loosened the senses he decided that myself, him and his mate should start a band. I would be lead singer because I had “the look”, he was to be our guitar axe man and his friend would bash some drums. I thought, “This is it.”

So the following Wednesday this guy, Bob, turned up at my student digs with his 4-stringed battered guitar and we just jammed away. There was me just howling away to ‘Eleanor Rigby’ or whatever song it was in that “Play the Beatles with Four Chords” type of book, with Bob making a fist of his tonally-challenged broken strummer. In the next room my housemates politely turned up the TV, drowning out any desire to hear ‘the next big thing’ just yet.

But the great dream of performing at Carnegie Hall, or a step down, the Frog & Firkin at the end of our road, took a sudden turn. Bob decided that he would try and make a few extra pennies as a window cleaner, on account that his conviction for grievous bodily harm tended to work against him at job interviews (wrongful conviction as it was, he adamantly insisted). Sadly, his dexterity with a busted guitar wasn’t the same as trying to move his 6ft 8 inches bulk and he fell off his ladder on day one and broke his leg. At least that was the story he retold when he resurfaced 2-months after our first few sessions. Soon after that, Bob and the dream just disappeared, vanishing as randomly as its arrival. I bet Garfunkel never had this kind of bother with Simon. But it was fun daydreaming while it lasted. Ahh, what could have been…

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Learning to live...off the wall

When the world is on your shoulder
Gotta straighten up your act and boogie down
If you can't hang with the feeling
Then there ain't no room for you this part of town
'Cause we're the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
Groove, let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall
Life ain't so bad at all (live life off the wall)
Live your life off the wall (live it off the wall)

You can shout out all you want to
'Cause there ain't no sin in folks all getting loud
If you take the chance and do it
Then there ain't no one who's gonna put you down
'Cause we're the party people night and day
Livin' crazy that's the only way

So tonight gotta leave that nine to five upon the shelf
And just enjoy yourself
C'mon and groove, and let the madness in the music get to you
Life ain't so bad at all
If you live it off the wall....

Amen to that, MJ. Amen to that.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Going on holiday

I've been on holiday recently. Nowhere fancy, mind you. In fact, I found myself back in my old stomping ground in London catching up with friends and family that it had been too long in not seeing. It totally did the job. I stepped away from the noise and fog of my current day-to-day existence and stepped into London’s own melee, only in the latter's case reconnecting with a lifetime of familiarity - the cancellations on the London Underground because of the wrong kind of sun; the crazily busy shopping districts stuffed full of people not really shopping; the cardiac arrest-inducing pounding of the pocket; the choice of drizzle or a sheet of grey sky at the click of a switch. But that’s what made it all fine. It was bizarrely reassuring.

I know, I know we’re meant to look forward and avoid living too much in the past, and many of my memories are so very rose tinted. The fact is we all move on. But it was a world I know and had partly forgotten and one that was oddly comforting. And it wasn’t about, as those boys at Oasis may say, looking back in anger. It was just nice. After all, life doesn’t always have to be new, fresh and exciting, does it?

Thursday, 2 July 2009


What’s it all about? Dunno, to be honest. The great questions and answers of our existence aren’t normal dinner table conversation in my circles. And that’s fine. But there’s one thing I certainly do believe: Life’s all about what you choose to focus on. Minute to minute, hour by hour, year after year. If you see life as an adventure or an education or a trial or a game or half-empty or half-full, then that’s how your reality is shaped. If you believe the moon is made of cream cheese then fair enough. Let that shape your reality if you choose. I guess it’s all about attitude. If you want your perception of life to be different then change it. Sometimes you may be able to do it at the click of your fingers. Sometimes it may feel like you’re turning round a slow and cumbersome oil tanker. But for me focus is the key. I’ve had a couple of weeks of distraction, goodness knows what I've actually been doing, and have struggled to get back into the groove. But now that I’m aware of this , I realise that the main thing that has been missing is focus on the inside and on the outside. So I’m practicing the habit of getting back my focus and, hopefully, the moon will be made of cream cheese once again.