Not too shabby a venue for a presentation!
It was great to deliver a talk in this beautiful building. What a stunning campus. Cambridge is the absolute pinnacle for academic achievers. Thank goodness they didn’t ask for my qualifications 😉
Not too shabby a venue for a presentation!
It was great to deliver a talk in this beautiful building. What a stunning campus. Cambridge is the absolute pinnacle for academic achievers. Thank goodness they didn’t ask for my qualifications 😉
My thoughts and prayers for the victims of the attacks on #London and #Manchester. I am rapidly losing patience with people who naively theorise that the perpetrators act for any reason other than Fundamentalism and Radicalisation. Attempts to hypothesise that it is all because of foreign policy or some other spurious theory that does not directly relate to the Indoctrination of Abhorrence for our Western Culture and values, including eight-year-old girls at pop concerts and foodies sampling ostrich burgers at famous markets is foolish and actually irresponsible.
The erroneous belief that our policies have brought this on ourselves is like saying a rape victim asked for it because she wore a short skirt. Or a suicidal schoolboy deserved to be bullied because he was fat.
It’s too simplistic to blame terrorist attacks on Western ideology because it doesn’t explain the actions of extreme violence in countries outside of its control; for example, the Boko Haram kidnapping and killings in Nigeria, the murder of Coptic Christians in Egypt, the multiple bombings in India or the terrorism in the Phillippines.
We need to stop applying our sophisticated logic to barbarism and concentrate on finding ways to prevent the growth and operation of terror cells in our midst.
The evil assault in Manchester was intended to cause maximum impact because of the singer’s popularity with children and teenagers, particularly, but not exclusively, female. Targetting such innocence is absolutely the most grotesque and cowardly act.
The attack in London was hideous in the way it was aimed at innocent people enjoying a warm evening out in our capital. My fifteen-year-old son often skateboards around the city and travels on the tube alone. My family loves to walk along the river.
As a Londoner, a mother and a live music fan, my world has been rocked. I reminisced with my sister the concerts that we were dropped off to attend without parental accompaniment; embarrassingly, Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Shalimar, Frankie Goes To Hollywood and too many more to name, but the point was: we went alone. I remember waving my daughter off when she went with our neighbour’s little girl and her dad to see the Spice Girls. My son’s thirteenth birthday treat was a V.I.P. ticket to see our shared favourite band, Black Sabbath. Tony Iommi spotted little Alex in the audience he waved at him and got a roadie to hand my boy their playlist. They played Hyde Park, where incidentally, Sound Garden was supporting; Chris Cornell, now no longer with us. My youngest hasn’t yet even been to a concert…
I do not pretend to understand how the bereaved must feel right now, but I hope as a nation, we are not cowed by this evil. I hope we do not succumb to our initial instincts of holding our children too close, attempting to keep them so safe so that they never feel the joy of freedom that only a few years ago, we took for granted as our right of passage.
My deepest and heartfelt sympathies go out to all the bereaved, injured or affected in any way by these monstrous atrocities.
Charlie Chaplin would put on a disguise and sneak into the movie theatre where his latest blockbuster was playing. He would find a place in the back of the house and watch for the reaction of the audience. He was already successful; he had made a fortune. By the time he walked into the cinema, the picture had already been released, so at that point of retrospect, there was, in fact, nothing more he could actually do. When asked why the master of imposture did such a thing, his simple response was; “Because I care.”
How many of us feel the same way? How many of us make a point of going back to our customers or clients in an anonymous way to find out what they really think?
For those of us who do not, is it because we simply don’t care? Is it because of time constraints? Or maybe, is it because we have become inflexible and unwilling to change what we have created? Do we consider the product we offer as standard and fair; some people like it, and some do not, and there is no pleasing everybody?
Some years ago I was having lunch with my family at a good restaurant in London; the sort with a celebrity chef’s name above the door. Everything was a little too rich for my then six-year-old daughter. Instead we asked for some plain chicken and they were happy to oblige. When it arrived, my little girl asked for ketchup. The unsophisticated request turned the maître d’s face from looks of bemusement to utter repulsion, but in fairness, he summoned and immediately dispatched a flunky to purchase a bottle before the meal went cold.
Did the anointing of Heinz’s best condiment dilute the chef’s reputation? Did he come flying out the kitchen, cleaver in hand, and expel my child, throwing her tomato-soused dish after her? Of course not! And because of that we returned; many and several times over. Incidentally, now my little girl is twenty-four and she has learned to live without the dreaded sauce, although she still enjoys it as a dip for cucumber. Bonkers but true.
SO – how often do we go the extra mile to satisfy our clients? Should we consider this as responding to customer’s needs, or do we see it as a dilution of our brand?
Next time we think about standardizing our offering, perhaps we should take some time to reconsider the “One Size Fits All” mentality. It may well be easy to buy an off-the-peg suit, especially if you are of average build. Indeed, it is far cheaper and instantly gratifying. Certainly, in our age of Amazon Prime, we simply don’t like waiting for much anymore. But the experience of a personal tailor creating your made to measure suit, with the fabric, the lining and the cut of your choice, and preferably made on Savile Row, is infinitely preferable and a much more satisfying long term experience, especially in the wearing. The fact is, following classic lines, but to have them adjusted just for you, cannot fail to make you feel special.
How ironic that in order to demonstrate the idea of aiming for bespoke we should remember the work ethic of a man dressed as a tramp; arguably the first screen actor who so beautifully defined the art of bittersweet comedy, and who demonstrated with tear-jerking empathy the human condition: the late and very great Charlie Chaplin.
Here’s a snap of me delivering a workshop at the Imperial College Business School for some amazing strong survivors of trafficking. It’s one of the most prestigious universities in the UK. We covered positivity, confidence, and self-esteem. Straight away, I was invited to lecture at another university. Also feeling proud of the presentation skills work last week at Claims Consortium Group because it’s just been voted the 46th in the Sunday Times Top 100 Companies to work for and just back from an Intensive VIP coaching session in Barcelona. Love my work x
I was trying to summon up the courage to dispose of a dead shrew-mouse-vole-thing (couldn’t focus long enough to tell) that the cat brought into the sitting room via the cat-flap. I threw a saucepan over it and ran from the room shrieking, then posted as much on my Facebook page, saying,
“PLEASE don’t tell me it’s only natural or she was bringing me a gift Just tell me what scares you so that I can feel less ridiculous OR send me fortifying encouragement OR offer to come over and get rid of the rigor-mortis-rodent that lies in repose on my particularly nice Oriental carpet…” words to that effect.
I was lucky enough to receive all sorts of fortifying comments, but one in particular from a dear friend in London via Australia really struck a chord with me.
We had joked about all the terrifying insects and beasties that render most people useless except Aussies because they grow up getting used to dealing with them.
Karen pointed out that I get up and speak with ease but although I think she’s pretty good at presenting already, she said she was petrified of it and still learning to do it; “so we all have our own “Mouse Moments.”
She reminded me to take that fearlessness that I have when I stand up in front of an audience of thousands and direct that to one little mouse.
Earlier I helped someone see that they need to spend more time on their fitness or end up finding the time to spend away from work and family when they fall seriously ill. The fear was very real about taking time out but I helped them to see that they would be likely to lose far more than time if their health failed.
Your personal Mouse Moment might be the immediacy of birds, heights or things that go bump in the night. Your mouse moment might be the longer-term fear of not being good enough, your partner’s infidelity, or heart failure.
So what did I do about the shrew-mouse-vole-thing? Well, naturally as is fitting for this age of social media, I took a photo. Then, after a (reasonable) amount of fuss making and an (unreasonable) amount of nigh-on hysterical laughter at the absurdity of my behavior, on went the disposable gloves; out came the fire tongs and the poor little creature was flung under a bush. Of course, I felt like an incredibly triumphant She-Rah Warrior Princess of Power as a result.
The thing is we all have Mouse Moments. So the question is what are you going to do about yours?
According to Dr. Maria Montessori, one of the ways children can discover and develop their independence is through regular participation in household chores. I’ve just seen a guide for age appropriate tasks, like putting toys in a box (age 2/3) raking leaves and emptying the dishwasher (age 6/7) all the way to shopping for groceries from a list and baking bread/cakes by age 12.
Sadly, conventionally schooled, I missed out on this groundbreaking alternative education; I am now about a hundred-and-four but still quite hopelessly trying to master the art of actually following a relatively simple and straightforward shopping list…
Now I totally agree that getting your kids to help around the house is for their own good. But apparently, this is not so that you can flick on the Nespresso machine, recline on your Le Corbusier chaise longue, and flick through Elle Decoration, while giving the housekeeper an hour off. Or would it be closer to say, flick on the kettle, sigh over a cup of instant coffee (you ran out of capsules last week, and there’s no sign of George Clooney), slump on the sofa, and read the You Magazine you didn’t get time for last Sunday, while taking a guilty half hour off all the stuff you know you need to do, cheerfully reminding yourself that self-employed shouldn’t mean fitting your advertising campaign around the spin cycles of a flipping incessant washing machine. Either. Neither. Both. Whatever.
Help around the house, particularly the picking up of toys, is of great benefit to my boys, especially the important development of their delicate eardrums. Are you aware of the strange nocturnal sound emitted by a sleepy and barefooted grown up, who has gone to check their little angel at night, and trodden on a small but strategically placed collection of Lego Mini Figures?
The problem with children and chores is that being a teeny weeny tiny bit of a control freak, I am really quite specific about how things are done. Call me fussy…
I’ve concluded that most of the time, things are better done yourself. Apart from cups of tea. That’s always best when someone makes it for you. And that includes a Hobnob, preferably chocolate.
The boys promised to clean the litter tray of our two little Siamese members of the family, but two easily distracted boys and cat poo? No thank you.
The eldest is a whizz with the hoover. However, he clearly watched the cyclone vortex doo dah commercial far too often and believes our appliance has the suction powers of a UFO about to beam up Captain Kirk. Witness one mildly frustrated mother extracting almost half a tree from the not quite so flexible hose (yep, I kid you not).
And your obliging kid running the dishwasher with three plates is not all that helpful* Sorry to be a killjoy. I do sincerely hope I won’t be the cause of arrested development. I am quite sure the pediatric psychologists reading this are currently rolling their eyes and looking at their calendars for availability in the latter part of 2020.
The truth is, I loathe having to spend hours over household chores as much as my boys. I’d rather leave pots to soak in the sink than stand and scrub (far less labour intensive) and in shame, I can sort of see that Quentin Crisp may not have been joking when he pointed out that after the third year, the dust doesn’t get any worse. Besides, we’d rather go out for a walk, watch a movie or play Monopoly.
So, in conclusion, there is only one thing for it.
I need a wife.**
A Nobel Peace Prize should be awarded to the person who finally invents a dishwasher with an integral waste disposer. Think of all the arguments they will save about scraping and or rinsing before stacking…
**Bugger off. As a woman and a mother, I’m being ironic. Get over it.
My idea of perfection is not your idea of perfection. It is alarmingly easy to find yourself stressed out at this time of year.
This is probably all based around that rather annoying concept of – expectation.
In fact, the perfect Christmas only exists in your imagination, because everyone’s ideas are different!
We all have an idea of how we want the holidays to be; from who should be involved in them to where we should be having them, and that’s long before we get down to the detail of what we eat, what we give, what we wear and even how we decorate!
Do we keep gatherings small, do we go traditional or modern, do we go with turkey, do we stick to a budget with gifts or say it’s only for the kids? Do we have your mother, my mother, everyone’s mother, eggnog or mulled wine, bread sauce or cranberry relish, Christmas pudding or chocolate fondue? The decisions are endless!o
The idea of a perfect Christmas in the perfect house with perfect decorations and the perfect relationship with a perfect dinner and perfect presents and just the right amount of perfect snow outside is going to make you crazy with disappointment if even one of the elements is not right. It’s also just a little bit Stepford…
I recently had a chat with someone who spent a considerable amount of time deliberating stamps. If she got the Christmas ones, would they be too frivolous, and would she be considered a spendthrift if she used first class or perhaps mean if she sent her greeting cards second? I was actually amazed that this young girl was bothering at all, as it seems everyone is using email greetings these days.
The point is, there simply isn’t a right way or a wrong way. There is only what makes you feel comfortable and provided it causes no offense, you should really do what you like. Stop focussing on how you think things are MEANT to be and just enjoy how they are right now, in the moment you have.
Savour the brief moments that bring us all cheer; the brass band playing at my local supermarket was a perfect example! It was so lovely to hear some festive music as I bought my brussels and cranberries…
Just don’t expect anyone else to take responsibility for your ultimate Christmas. One of the girls at my gym has told me she’s dropped several hints to her partner that she would like to be given a ticket to the January Bootcamp sessions. She is quite sure it won’t happen. Maybe, she should tell her partner that she’ll be signing up for the sessions anyway, and compromising on something else. That way, she won’t get frustrated on the morning of the 25th when she opens up her gift of socks/fragrance/breadmaker (you get my point)
Anyway, don’t forget that we are never far away from someone who is struggling, and whatever you can do to help at this time will make you feel much better than you do right now, so have a think about what more you might be able to do at this time of year. People are in vulnerable positions everywhere. It’s not exclusive to the elderly, the children, the poor or even the better-off. Do what you can x
Accept that although you cannot change what is in the past, you absolutely can change your personal feelings towards it.
This applies to anything and everything and all circumstances; any time frame, whether the source of your discomfort was long ago or happened just this morning. It also applies to whoever is in your past, and whatever action has taken place. Of course, you are not responsible for someone else’s deeds; indeed this is a hugely important part – you are, however – completely responsible for how you choose to react to whatever is bothering you.
This is a complex topic and something in which I have a great deal of interest. Before reading the short essay here, the simplest terms are to always take responsibility. Obviously, it goes a lot deeper than that.
I did not choose for my father to leave and never to return when I was just a few weeks old. You could say that I was perfectly entitled to carry feelings of abandonment. When, at the age of twenty-two, I finally found my father, he was quite sanguine about the whole thing; believing I would come and search him out one day, and how very nice it was to finally meet me. He actually told me that my parents should never have had me, as the marriage was already over, and my arrival tipped things over the edge.
All that emotion I had invested in my long-lost father seemed almost indulgent at that point, as I connected with what was tantamount to a stranger. After only a dozen or so perfectly pleasant meetings he died. It was a heart attack, and he went instantly. I went to see him at the chapel of rest. When I looked at his face closely, I saw our physical likeness, and felt the strange irony of sharing similar features with a man I hardly knew.
My mind ran through almost every emotion; obvious sadness, regret at not making enough effort and seeing him more often, anger at his laissez-faire attitude; a throw-back of the seventies and his “Cool Hippie Ibiza Vibe,” anger at him being snatched away before I had a chance to develop any sense of a truly meaningful relationship and a guilty sense of disloyalty toward my mother who had assumed complete responsibility for me and my sister emotionally, physically, and financially.
But more than anything, there was a deep sadness for the little girl who never knew what it was to be a daddy’s girl and a little princess; scooped up, held tight, and unconditionally loved. I felt such sorrow for her; the dreams she had of having her own daddy; her own knight in shining armour. Her hopes that one day he would arrive at her door, declare he was her long lost father, and would never again leave her side. I saw the scene in The Railway Children, when the steam from the train finally clears to reveal the children’s father; finally home. I always wished that one day my own might do the same, and I would run towards him with his arms ready to envelop me. I saw memories dance about before my eyes, of school plays attended always by one, not two, of my friend’s father returning from foreign business trips with exotic gifts, of all my little friends’ innate confidence that they were the most special and that theirs was the best, tallest and strongest daddy.
I told that little girl, that heart-broken junior version of myself, that although I couldn’t change anything and that regrettably, there would always be a part of her that would feel a sense of abandonment, she need not be despondent, she was very much loved and by exactly the right people, and her wonderful mummy had enough love to give, even for two.
I looked at my father, in peaceful repose. My anger and frustration subsided. I realised in that moment that all I could do was let go of manufactured dreams, of idealised scenarios and ultimately, of disappointment.
In truth, I really felt a great deal of pity for the man; after all, he never knew the joy of raising two little girls. He never experienced their tiny hands in his, or the simple pleasure of reading a bedtime story and a kiss goodnight. He missed so much and now it was too late.
I forgave him.
When he was lowered into the ground, I forgave him again, but more than that, a little part of me was released, and finally free.
The eminent psychiatrist and survivor of the horrors of Auschwitz, Viktor Frankl authored the greatest book I have ever read; “Man’s Search For Meaning.” He said; “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
If this post has brought up feelings you might like to discuss, do please get in touch x
Last week’s episode of the Apprentice saw Lord Sugar summon the candidates to the National Portrait Gallery in order to receive their instructions. It’s my favourite place to while away some quality Me-Time, and the programme reminded me that I really must go and look at the Van Dyck, now it has been expensively wrested from private ownership and bought by the public to be proudly displayed before it goes on tour around the country.
But the painting did indeed cost a small fortune, and in order to promote an entirely worthy campaign to raise ten million pounds for the purchase of Van Dyck’s self-portrait, the National Portrait Gallery got down with the people, and on the website called this seminal work of art a “Selfie.” I think the word is rather fun, although slightly misleading. Much thought, energy, and originality has gone into this particular Old Master, and indeed, all my favourite artist’s Selfies. I am particularly fond of the wig-free Hogarth, the delicate charm of Élisabeth Vigée Le-Brun, and the directness of Frida Kahlo. But these works were poured over, all time and talent concentrated to the canvas, to present a story to the viewer, a presentation of the self, to show not a mirror-image likeness, but instead an attempt to show how one would wish to be seen.
So how do we present ourselves? Are we, like the artists, always as we “wish to be seen?” Is it clear what we stand for? Do we show what is important and what we value? Our image should be consistent with how we choose to be thought about. We know that authenticity is key to establishing trust and rapport. This is essential, not just in our photographs, but every time we show up live, in front of our connections. Remember, it might not be you taking the photograph. It’s not just the stars who get “papped” these days, and now there is video to take into account; and goodness me, we’ve all got smart phones now…
But couldn’t we argue that perhaps too much emphasis is placed on authenticity, and not enough on creating and maintaining a professional image?
After all, the Old Masters showed only what they wished us to see. Oh yes, they were the original Masters of Spin; expert at using costume and props to portray themselves as they saw fit. I may be going against the grain here, but careful editing is not dishonesty; it is about choosing what we should or should not reveal to the public about ourselves. We do not have to tell everyone everything. This is not about concealment; it is more about being selective and allowing the audience to focus on the image of our choosing, rather than dilute our core message with excessive and unnecessary information.
Nowadays, we are so much more than just a picture, in fact, we are a Profile. In the past, journals and personal correspondence were written and kept, but although the enjoyable reading of them affords a tiny glimpse into a life gone by, they were written as personal commentaries, and usually in private. In this digital age, every time we write a post on social media, we add to our on-line image. Countless articles have been written about not tweeting or updating one’s Facebook status while under the influence of alcohol, (an important reminder at this time of year) but what about posting while under the influence of anger, fatigue, or infatuation? Do we really want to be known as the person who moans on a regular basis about missing the train, or who we are rooting for on X factor, or the outpouring sentiments of our romantic leanings?
So next time I’m in London I shall make sure I visit the National Portrait Gallery to gaze upon all my favourite portraits and of course, the Van Dyck Selfie. It is a beauty, a true work of art. At the same time, I love the fact that I can use my phone to capture impromptu moments in an instant and share them with my friends, however, I very much doubt anyone would want to pay around ten million pounds for a snapshot I have taken using my mobile phone in four hundred years time. Of course, I can always ask my wonderful portraitist Jonathon Xavier Coudrille what he thinks.
So there I was, sitting in the car, on yet another beach run, one son about to go surfing, and the other son about to go skateboarding.
It was perfect weekend relaxation; something for everyone, and a delicious roast to look forward to later. I had been to the gym earlier that morning and was feeling most virtuous, having completed a double whammy of Body Pump followed by Body Combat.
Those of you who are familiar with these classes will know that amazing feeling of elation and physical exhaustion in equal measure, and those of you who don’t can just take my word for it!
I had so earned my hot chocolate, and I cupped its warmth in my hands, watching the waves break on the shore, while one son slithered into neoprene and the other son checked his trucks.
In my head was a song. It was one I heard that morning at the gym, and I remembered it from some time ago too. The thing is, I am not a huge pop-music fan. That is to say, I love rock and classical music, but I’m not too keen on the stuff in between, and therefore I’m not particularly knowledgeable on all the new songs.
But that morning’s particular “earworm” was driving me nuts! I simply couldn’t figure out what the girl was singing, so I had no idea of the lyrics, and therefore couldn’t find it on google/YouTube/iTunes etc. Instead, I kept comically (well it was to my children) whining the bit I thought sounded most like the song I had heard, hoping the boys would recognize what I was attempting to sing. Of course, it was absolutely nothing like it, because I couldn’t recognize or repeat a single word, and therefore it caused much amusement, but the actual track could not be located.*
This led me to think about the fact that nobody else really knows what’s going on inside our own heads unless we perfect the art of clear communication and choose to share our thoughts.
I was reminded of a funny game show; “Never Mind The Buzzcocks” where two of the panel had to play out the rhythm and sing the guitar or keyboard melody of a song for the third panelist to guess. I always found this the most hilarious part of the show. Here’s a clip of Gareth Malone doing just the sort of thing I would, only with a slightly better voice. (That’s him, I mean, not me…)
It is extremely difficult, if not impossible to guess the song when another person is simply tapping out just the rhythm part. I think Jingle Bells, We Will Rock You and maybe Happy Birthday might be recognisable, but that’s it. God Save the Queen might work, but certainly not the Sex Pistols version.
The reason for this is that nobody else can hear the tune in your head. If you just tap out the beat, it won’t be enough to work out what the melody actually is, and therefore the song can’t be guessed, often with quite hilarious results.
This may be a great source of entertainment for a musical game, but in life, it is not quite as fun. We often make the mistake of thinking that those closest to us should know what we are thinking. We can feel hurt when we discover this is not the case.
But every time we get on a plane, the flight attendants still show us what to do in an emergency, and we are duty bound to watch, whether it is the first or the thousandth time we have traveled by air. Wouldn’t it be easier just to do the same with those around us in both our professional and our personal lives?
Of course, we don’t have to repeat ourselves constantly and indeed, that would probably be irritating, but we must never assume that someone else always knows the tune in our head. Equally, we must never assume that we know the tune in someone else’s head, even if we know him or her intimately. All AssUMe does is make an Ass of U and Me.
*The earworm was “Promises by Nero https://youtu.be/llDikI2hTtk