Thursday, September 30, 2010

Revision Syndrome

(I didn't write anything yesterday here, as it turned into my most recent "Deck Chair Diary" on my tortoiseknowsbest site)

It's odd. I hated working in an office, stuck at a computer, typing away all day. Now I work for myself, I generally spend most of my day sat at a computer, typing away...

This has brought on a syndrome I call "revision syndrome", any of you that has had to study for an exam (which I am guessing is most of you), should easily recognise this malady?

You sit there staring at you computer screen/notes/book/etc, not reading, not working, not doing anything, but you know you SHOULD be doing something, so instead of walking away and doing something else, something more useful, or something you actually want to do, you sit there staring at the screen/book/notes/etc, not actually doing anything at all...

So, to break that habit, I am off to read a book, bye for now


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Tilting at Windmills

A friend of mine text me all in a fluster the other day, utterly irate about the government spending cuts here in the UK. He is thoroughly apposed to them and thinks it is just an excuse for a regime change.

This got me thinking of 2 things:

1) I have come to the firm conclusion with politics that I know just enough to know I don't know anything. I am bundle of contradictions. On the one hand I want a light touch, low bureaucracy, small government, less tax, more personal liberty, on the other I baulk when civic amenities like libraries, free buses, post offices, local swimming pools etc are shut down and streets are dirty and badly repaired...

And, more importantly:

2) You have got to pick your battles, it is all well and good disagreeing and railing against things you find abhorrent, but you have to focus your anger. There is no point in just ranting and raving about something, you will just make yourself ill. You have to ask yourself what you can practically do about it and then do it.

It reminds of the old idiom "Tilting at windmills" from the Don Quixote novel (a book I have never completed reading and am very tempted to go back and give it another go), where the hero of the novel thinks that the windmills are in fact giants and attacks them just to be caught up in the sails and flung away. It basically means fighting unwinnable or futile battles.

I used to spend a long time tilting at windmills and getting wound up and angry about all sorts of things. Then I realized it did no good whatsoever, all it did was make me edgy and angry and really not very nice to be around.

Not that I am saying I don't wander off into a good rant occasionally...

Monday, September 27, 2010

Saint Monday

I am a very strong advocate of Saint Monday, which was the tradition during the Industrial Revolution for skilled workers to skive off the Monday. It was in response to regimented working hours (brought on by factories and mainly the spread of the dreaded clock). Before then workers would be paid for the amount of work that they did, not the hours they worked and would work when they wanted and stop when they think they had earned enough money. They held leisure time in higher regard than working (you can read more about it on my slow blog here).

It was only the onset of the greedy puritanical factories owners who valued money over all else and forced their workers to work fixed (and much longer) hours.

I am always deeply suspicious of people who work too hard. I have had the honour to work with people in hospices for the terminally ill and you know what? Not one of them ever turned round to me and said, as their dying thought, "I wish I had spent more time at the office...".

When did working become more important that anything else? This odd and (if you think about it for a minute) very strange belief system is really fairly recent, what 200 years old at best? People destroy their families due to the expectations of them at work. It is utterly ridiculous!

And Benjamin Franklin was wrong, very wrong, time does NOT equal money and this insidious belief has twisted our working life ever since.

I think we could easily move towards a 4-day work week (and have done for a long time before I came across the slow movement), who decide on the 5-day week anyway?!

Not that I am saying we should all be lazy shirkers, not at all. I firmly believe we should be responsible for our own lives and our own destiny and we should not bludge or sponge off other people. But there is a balance here that is not being observed. We have tipped the scales too much the other way, too much to "useless toil" (as William Morris called it) and away from leisure, enjoyment and fun. I "work" hard, but I don't consider it work as I enjoy what I do (even if it stresses me out big time occasionally!), as Confucius said "Choose a job you love and you will have to work again". Everyone should strive to find a way of making a living that does the same for them.


Friday, September 24, 2010


I started the entry today and, half way through the third paragraph, I totally forgot the word I wanted to use. In a fit of utter frustration I lost my temper and gave up.

Hopefully the word will come back to me over the weekend and I can continue on Monday.

That is all.

Thank you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

NOT a Diary

The problem with trying to do a daily "diary" and the reason this isn't one is that I don't really have that interesting a life. When I am not out and about doing trainings, I am generally sat in my office trying to do some work. This can be anything from replying to enquiries, putting quotes together, doing some marketing for my upcoming courses or products, to speculating a bit by planning and designing future courses, products and books, etc.

It is the last one on that list that I am hoping this blog will help me with, as it is the one that takes up most of my time and the one I am most rubbish at!

I have even starting doing coaching sessions predominantly via Skype, after experimenting with it over the last year and half, I have found it an equally effective and more flexible (and cheaper, which means I can charge a little less), but it means I leave house even less than I did before!

This all means there are days I won't leave the house other than to walk the dogs or go for a run. I like it that way. I prefer the quiet life, that's why I do what I do. Darwin rarely left his house after the age of 35!

But it does mean the idea of a "daily diary" would fast become desperately dull, how often can I write "spent most of the day staring at a blank word document, sweating blood in the effort to write something, gave up and wasted hours doing nothing useful on the internet"...

That is why this is NOT a diary, but would prefer the title "Thoughts" like the late great Robert Anton Wilson.

Ironically, if this experiment works then I will spend less time staring at a computer screen and more time doing exciting things, which may give me more to write about here.

I spend so much of my time wishing that I was capable of just sitting down at my desk each day and work solidly for a good few hours (say as little as two or three), I could then relax and enjoying the rest of my day. If I could simply do that four or five days a week then I would get about ten times as much work done as I do now, but I can't and thus the work sneaks into my leisure time and eats up my day and allows me very little respite (and even then I am thinking about work).

Anyway, enough of my self pity, it is such an unattractive trait and I didn't start this blog to just say "Woe is me...", things certainly aren't as bad I as I have just made out, of course not, if they were I wouldn't be doing what I am doing, but I think it is a trait of anyone who works for themselves to have high expectations of their ability, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it.

The reason for this blog was, because recently, I have been terribly prone to procrastination and need to break that pattern. So here we are. And on that not so exciting note (not the best entry I have written, but it is only my third, I am still finding my feet here, give me a chance!), I am off to do something...


Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Day One

Well, here I am, and as expected, my mind has gone blank. I imagine it is a self-fulfilling prophecy at the moment, and I know, I know, being an "NLP aficionado" I should be able to do some jiggery pokery on myself to "break through this limiting belief" and "skyrocket my creativity".

Or other such marketing rhetoric.

And it is a big problem with the "self help" field in general and the NLP field in particular; these snake oil salesmen, promising the stars with their amazing skills.

Most of which is utter nonsense, and these wild and unbelievable claims are doing the field harm, not good.

It creates too high expectations of what is possible and lot of angry people when they find out it just doesn't work that way. Which creates vehement critics of the field and a lot of negativity and bad feeling.

It has created a field of people who are utterly afraid to admit they may be having a bad day, or have some sort of fault or foible in case they are attacked by other members of the scene for not sorting themselves out (who themselves are hiding and repressing their faults). So they wander round with these false smiles plastered on their faces, having happy-off's (thanks to Owen Fitzpatrick for that phrase), with one another "I am amazingly outstandingly happy", "NO! I am more than that I out of this world happy...". It really isn't healthy!

I recall meeting a leader of one of those Anthony Robbins inspired "Yes Groups" (you think they could have put some of their passion into doing a better website, eh?), he asked me how I was and I responded (quite politely), "I am OK, thanks, you?" and he said "JUST OK?" I wanted to smack him in the face.

It has made the field horrendously inauthentic.

Not that I am saying that we should all hold hands and cry and wallow in our self pity, but a level of honesty about how we are really feeling and are really capable of would not do any harm, and I think it would do the field some good. Admitting we (And NLP) are not perfect, it is not a cure all, but it as highly effective tool for getting things done and creating change (if you put the work in).

I was reading the Barefoot Doctors excellent new book "The Man Who Drove With His Eyes Closed" and in several times in the book he laments the move in the self help field from explorers who pushed the boundaries of understanding in a genuine attempt to help change and "improve" humanity, to this commodified field of daytime TV guru's, marketing men and snake oil salesmen, who are just in it for the money.

Stop with these wild, impossible and unsubstantiated claims, this false hope of "brief therapy" (why are we obsessed with speed over substance?) and "lasting change" with little or no effort in one session. Tell the truth! The truth is as equally as remarkable (if not more so)!

Well, as a first day, I didn't expect to hit the ground running with a rant against the inauthentic self-help snake oil salesmen. But there you go, that is whole idea of this blog!

See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


Hello and welcome to my new blog (well, it is in fact my old blog, but with new content), for those of you that don't know me, I write two blogs already, one on NLP (here) and one on mindfulness, meditation, the slow movement and punk Zen (here). So why write another one? Well, it isn't really a blog as such, nor is it a daily diary. So, what is it?

Well, I am rubbish at the nuisances of written communication, it takes me an extraordinarily large amount of time to even write a simple and short blog entry (I have "issues" about such things, but won't bore you with the details). This means, even though I have half a dozen writing projects on the go (as well as regular articles, blogs and updates to my websites), I find every excuse not to do them.

Which is really starting to get to me now. After faffing around for many years, I really want to just get on with the stuff...

I am full of good intentions of writing, but often start my workday really, really badly. I do everything wrong, I check my email, twitter etc (a big "no, no" according the guru of productivity Tim Ferriss), then often mooch around the internet for an ever lengthening amount of time (not actually looking at anything relevant or useful) before finally settling down to a short burst of work, before distracting myself again with some other nonsense.

I have developed this Pavlovian response to opening a Word document; the very instant I open it my mind goes completely blank and I feel compelled to return to losing myself in the swamp of the internet. No matter how well crafted an idea was when I thought of it in the shower, or walking the dog, or washing up, the minute I come to committing it to paper my mind goes totally blank.

This blog is meant, primarily, to retrain my naughty puppy dog brain into actually thinking of what I want to write when I can actually write it! It is also here to help me improve the subtleties of my writing style; description, grammar, spelling, etc

The concept for this blog comes from an idea I have pinched wholesale from the comedian Richard Herring. On his website he writes a daily "diary" which he calls "warming up" (you can read it here), the purpose of which he explains as:

"The idea sprung up because of writer's block. I have been working hard this year and not really had a break and have been finding it hard to apply myself. This annoys me, because I know that if I just wrote solidly for three or four hours a day then I would never have to get into the mad rushes that I always do whenever a dead-line approaches.

It also makes me wonder about the stuff I could have written if I hadn't been playing Scrabble on my Gameboy"

He writes about anything on his mind for 30 minutes at the start of the day to "warm up" for his writing projects.

When I came across it, I loved the idea, so I thought I would give it a go to see if it drags me from this nadir of laziness and creative block.

Why do it as a blog, rather than just a private journal or word document? Well the reason is 2-fold.

1) By "putting it out there" (and therefore running the risk that someone may actually read it), I will do a better job (and probably stick at it longer) than if I was doing it for myself.

2) I have amassed a reasonable number of readers on my other blogs, and I thought some of them maybe interested in some of things I may ramble on about here (as it will be much broader, and will be about whatever is on my mind at the time of writing). This may of course just be hubris.

It is an experiment, it may be short lived, it may serve me for some time. We will see, please stick around for the ride.