Thursday, 5 December 2013

(Something Inside) So Strong

For some time now I've been struggling for inspiration with this blog. Idle chit-chat on day-to-day banalities, the light and dark of Christmas, the weather beyond the hedgerow and so on, were all fair game. But none floated my boat. And so I hibernated. But today was different. What finally woke me from my slumber and gave me reason for writing was the passing of Nelson Mandela.

He was already an icon, bigger than the flesh and blood that comes as standard with being human. The obituaries and tributes over the coming weeks will provide further meat to a cultural lexicon that has been generations in the making, offering better insight into his glorious life than I would ever be able to. So all I can really share is a brief snippet of what he meant in the context of my world.

I look back to that day in February 1990 when Mr. Mandela walked out of jail a free man and try to remember how things used to be; things that a 20-something year old can intellectually "get" but weren't there to experience. He was already one of my heroes by that point, not that I remember when that started really. Beyond going to a free anti-Apartheid concert on Clapham Common, grooving to the 'Free Nelson Mandela' track and giving up South African oranges for a small time, I would hardly call myself a "bra-burning" (or whatever the male equivalent is) activist. I was just a kid that observed. Observed and connected. I kind of got it. Because in the post-Bob Marley search for role models for a young black kid, like myself, there really weren't that many in the conventional sense. Beyond those that played with a ball, smacked someone around a ring, or knew how to belt out a tune, there was a bit of a void. There was nothing wrong with identifying with some of these but I wanted more. A philosophy. Mr. Mandela represented something different. To me, he was about more than simply what he did. He was about what he stood for. He stood for me. It's crazy to think how far the world has moved on in the last 25 years. More integration, less separation. More teaching the world to sing in perfect (or at least better) harmony. No Mandela = no Obama.

The day after his release I still remember reading the cover page of the UK's 'Daily Mirror' newspaper in my university common room. It coincided with the day the invincible and undefeated Mike Tyson, another hero of mine, had incredibly been knocked out by Buster Douglas in Tokyo. So 'Iron Mike' on his knees and Nelson Mandela with a fist in the air shared a split screen page. 'Down and Out' was the caption. Very powerful, and even more so given the fact that one has been in terminal decline since that day, while the other has changed the course of history.

For me, he represents the very best about being human. A man that knew his limitations, a man that had weaknesses and issues like the rest of us, but also a man that preached peace, forgiveness, reconciliation and understanding. Thank you, Madiba, for being around in my time.


Monday, 18 November 2013

Sweet Child O' Mine

And so to a comment from Innerspace from a while ago:

"When you talk to yourself in your mind, which self do you address? And how? Usually people do not talk to their divinity, but to the most superficial aspects of their everyday personality. And often its a stream of fears, complaints and mindless repetition of old things. If we talked that way to another human being, we would have to apologise. Learning to talk properly to the self is a spiritual endeavour. Thoughts from the past and worries about the future do not create good conversation. Instead learn to talk to your mind as if it were a child. Talk to it with love. If you just force a child to sit down, he won't. A good mother knows how to prompt her child into doing what she wants. Be a good mother to your mind, teach it good, positive thoughts so that when you tell it to sit quietly, it will. Love your mind. Stay happy."

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Around The World

I've been thinking quite a lot in recent weeks about the idea of goal setting and finding direction in life. I've read so many books and articles over the years about it all it's not even funny. You find yourself going round in circles and still not able to find peace with it all.

My newest insight about it all isn't new as such. It's more that I've found an approach that makes more sense to me on a personal level. The essence: life is a journey and not just a destination. Simple. A fairly trite collection of words in many ways - it all makes sense but doesn't really say anything. Well, it got me thinking about an actual journey I took and it gave me more perspective.

A long time ago and far far away, pre-Facebook and Twitter, I went backpacking. Hell, let's give it better perspective - it was the early 1990's and before the security blanket of mobile phones and email as well. Don't get me wrong, I'm no Scott of the Antarctic and many had done it before me and have since, but when I headed to Bangkok in Thailand to travel overland Denpasar in Bali, Indonesia, it did feel quite epic.

It was never really about arriving at Denpasar, which is after all a boring, dusty airport town. In fact, ending up there after 6 months of travel really did mean the end. It was all really about what went before that - the white water rafting, the elephant trekking, the full moon parties, the stolen camera, the glorious sunsets, the chilling on mountain tops, the lonely times, the rejected advances, the drunken nights out with strangers, the writing, the dancing, the getting lost, the warm smiles, the malaria tablets, the new friends, the most incredible day in Kuala Lumpur, the most incredible night in Koh Phangan, the dehydration, the goodbyes, the incredible people, the stories to take home. The memories.

So, yes, my current goal setting plans are certainly about achieving stuff at the end of my rainbow. But the glorious journey that will get me there could prove to be of bigger importance for me. 

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Simply The Best

I fell upon a few good inspirational videos in recent weeks. Norman Vincent Peale has such a way about him I thought it was worth posting one of his messages. Here's one:

Friday, 13 September 2013

Lyin' Eyes

I was thinking again about Facebook, or rather social media in general. As much as many of us love to use the medium to tell the world about when we're happy or sad or hungry, it also gives everyone an insight into the real you. Or often the "you" that you are trying to project, even if it is slightly fast and loose on the facts and detail.

A school friend posted news on Facebook of him starting a new job as headmaster at a school in the west of England. In the midst of the back patting and congratulations, I fell upon a comment from one of his friends saying how much he had liked the photo and biography posted on the school website. Ever the curious one, I thought it was worth a look.

His bio did look pretty impressive. But as I sifted through the many achievements and successes, I felt a little put out by what he had recorded as sporting prowess at school. Oddly my memory serves me very well on the silly little things, and in the seven years we were at school together I'm certain he played no more than twice for a ragtag reserve team (as opposed to the 15-20 times I played each year for the senior teams). As for the rowing, I recall he coxed a couple of times for a junior team but that was it. At the end of the day, maybe it's a petty thing to pick up on. Strictly speaking it wasn't false - semantics and all that. But if you're going to put information like that out there, be ready to defend yourself, Mr L...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)

I'm not really sure whether I should call Facebook a guilty pleasure. I've killed many days of precious human existence trawling through cartloads of pictures offering up brunches, boozing and banality, only to drag myself away feeling drained and deflated. I'd always assumed living vicariously would be quite exciting and liberating. Unfortunately, 'Faceboast' doesn't always offer the best filter system. Sometimes it's like sifting through the cutting room floor of a bad fly-on-the-wall documentary. You're living passively, and not the passive part of life you really care for.

But then there are the other times. Real world experiences. Stuff you might not hear about (or at least not for some time) without the power of social media. You lose touch on a personal basis, yet there's still a front row seat as their lives unfold. Four weddings and a funeral, a child is born, the godfather. All manner of things. These are the stories that keep me connected. I still plan to undertake periodic detoxes of social media (too much of a good thing, and all that), and I must be more discerning. But, at the end of the day, it's here to stay - so embrace it.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Live Like You Were Dying

We all have choices. Some are easy, some are torturous, some are fun, some are painful, some go right, some go wrong.
But at the end of the day, and in the words of a line from the Shawshank Redemption: 
“It always comes down to two choices. Get busy living, or get busy dying”

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Do It Again

Reading back over some previous blogs it's interesting how some things go full circle. A few years back I had mentioned that I'd met up with a friend that had left my the company I was working for and was taking the massive step of trying out private enterprise. At the time I had praised his guts and vicariously felt the excitement of him taking this massive step. He was at complete peace and, as he put it, held no fear "for the first time in my life."

Well, fast forward to now and I'm in that said same space - out of the company, trying something new, and naturally stuck somewhere between a little hesitant meets excited. Before I was able to appreciate as an observer - but that's nothing like being fully in the mix yourself. Circumstance pushed the situation but it was an idea that had stewed in my mind for a while. And I was once told that any new insight that doesn't lead to action to help the quality of your life is just a waste. My friend seems to have gone from strength to strength. So hopefully I'll be able to chart a similar trajectory over time and note it in this blog.


Friday, 21 June 2013

Life's What You Make It

"Life is like a game of snakes and ladders. There are going to be good times and bad times, but you have to keep throwing the dice to stay in the game."

That's what you get to hear when you're sitting in a coffee shop, reading the paper and earwigging the table next to you. Well, at least that's what happened to me the other day. Two people chewing the fat about life, love and soap operas. And it seemed quite apt for me to hear it as well.

Things have taken a bit of a turn in recent months. I recently left my job, broadly by "mutual agreement", and I'm taking some time out to find some new direction and get some head space.

I've been thinking about it for some time and I provisioned accordingly for time away from the workforce. Still, it is pretty scary. I know there will be ups and downs along the way, but hopefully at the end of this crazy journey I'll be able to say "at least I tried", regardless of the outcome.

So I'm just going to have to keep throwing the dice and live the life I'm destined to live. That's the plan anyway. And at least I get to spend time in a few more coffee shops in coming months as well...

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Wishing On A Star

“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are still alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger for them.” 

- George Eliot

Tuesday, 19 February 2013

We Don't Need Another Hero

So often we look for inspiration from those that have done amazing things, yet your only connection with them is through the TV or the words written in some glossy magazine. We could be talking about Oprah, Mariah, Madonna - any number of individuals you'll never actually get to meet.

And looking outside for guidance is only right as we all have limitations and many of these exceptional individuals have achieved all sorts of crazy things from the hardest of upbringings. But at the same time, let's not get sucked into the cult of celebrity. These people are as human as the rest of us and, let's face it, a fair few Lance Armstrong posters have been thrown into the bin in recent months.

So rather than idolising complete strangers and placing them on pedestals, sometimes it's worth looking a bit closer to home. I'm inspired by my older sister's thirst for learning and goal of continually stretching herself academically; my younger sister's focus, drive and continued commitment to her calling in lay preaching and writing; my nephew's commitment from a young age to be his own boss, developing enterprises and passive income initiatives. I could go on. These are everyday folk that we can all readily relate to - and, in my case, actually be related to - and that can only be a good thing.