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July 2019

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The Do Lectures is an annual occurrence in Wales.

And it is the only truly 100% World Class event I have ever attended.

So when I was there this year.

Why did I find myself stirring coffee with a dirty spoon?

Coffee.

Coffee at Do is Extract Coffee.

It is excellent coffee.

Every bean roasted just for Do.

Your beans ground – just for you – while you wait.

In a Do farm outhouse.

And very often just as the sun is rising.

Morning 3.

On morning 3 of 3, I got my mug – and a hug – from the barista.

It was great to see him.

He knew what I wanted to drink by now.

And he knew the colour of the enamel mug I chose each day.

So he carefully crafted my first coffee of the day in front of me.

In a shiny, red enamel mug.

And laid it down – gently – in front of me.

File right.

Silently.

Sleepily.

With a smile.

I file right.

And at the end of the bench there is sugar.

And there are spoons.

I plop one lump of brown sugar into the foamy flat white.

And I pause.

Dirty Spoons.

I look down and in front of me and I see two white mugs sat side by side.

Both mugs contain spoons.

One labelled ‘Clean’.

One labelled ‘Dirty’.

I stand perfectly still.

And I pause some more.

Until – after 15 seconds or so.

I decide.

I reach for a dirty spoon and – with a satisfying clink, clink, clink – I stir my coffee in the sunshine before smiling and popping the spoon back into the mug from where it came.

And I shuffle away.

Decisions.

When something truly affects you.

When an experience is truly world class.

Relevant.

And real.

It changes how you see things.

And your behaviour.

And your decision making.

Instantly.

You see; these spoons weren’t dirty.

They had just been chosen by some of the most excellent people in the world.

To stir some of the most excellent coffee in the world.

And considering what we had all shared over those days in Wales, sharing a spoon seemed fine to me.

And, of course, it’s less washing up for the superb volunteers that drive this event.

Change.

I pondered this part.

The ‘less washing up’ part.

As I sipped my coffee.

I wondered if it really would make a difference.

Me choosing one solitary dirty spoon.

The answer is – I have absolutely no hesitation in telling you – yes.

Anything you or I or anyone does makes a difference.

Because from every tiny spoon decision.

Will spring much bigger decisions.

Do 12

I don’t know how deep Do goes with people.

I don’t know if, at Do 12 next year we will see one mug packed to the brim with ‘Clean’ spoons.

And in the other mug – a single solitary ‘Dirty’ one.

But because of one simple truth.

That little actions really can change the world.

Maybe we will.

If you are reading this story in your email.

Pop to this link because there’s an image you need to see for it to make most sense: https://www.50odd.co.uk/echoes/.

This House. 

This house makes me feel funny.

Honestly.

It makes me feel tingly.

Backstory.

I was brought up on Manchester in a small semi-detached.

My dad cleared off when I was 11.

So my mum brought up me, my sister and my brother – alone.

We were always a bit skint, I suppose.

But we were OK.

I had many paper rounds and retail jobs and bar jobs so I was fine financially.

But I was lazy academically back then.

Quite childish, actually.

So I came out of Northumbria University with a very ordinary 2:2 result.

Graduation.

Between the age of 20 and 40 I worked hard.

I loved my work.

I was so naive, young, inexperienced, fearlessly creative and blind to what was risky and what wasn’t risky in business – that I was brilliant at running businesses.

I built 4 of them in this time.

Businesses that turned over seven figures for a few years at their peak.

And Lisa and I bought this house.

The one in the picture.

Hirst Head Farm.

Seeing a photo of Hirst Head Farm still makes me feel excited.

It was – and probably still is – beautiful.

In every single detail.

We made it palatial and characterful and deeply experiential as a place as well as a home.

Lisa, Colin the dog and I had everything.

In our ‘forever house’.

Yet, as sometimes happens in life.

Surprises come.

And after just one full year in our forever house.

Maybe a little longer.

Lisa and I separated.

Echoes.

There are echoes of this house in my life even today.

8 years later.

Echoes of regret, mostly.

And confusion.

Because even though I know regret is a fruitless emotion.

And even thought I know the house was the right home at the wrong time.

It still hurts a bit.

Because it is a great source of regret for me that we are no longer there.

Yet it also reminds me of my sadness.

My loneliness.

My bad behaviour.

My selfishness.

My cruelty.

But mostly.

‘My fault.

Years.

I’ve waited years for the echoes of this chapter of my life to go away.

But I don’t think they ever will.

Life’s like that I suppose.

Confusing.

Because whilst I know that I’d never go back there.

Even if I could.

The echo remains.

PS

As a PS.

Two things quieten the echo.

  1. Remembering that what I still have, and now have, are far more precious than anything in the photograph with this story.
  2. Everything that I loved that  is in this photograph, with the right application, focus and hard work – can be won again.

There.

The echoes are a little quieter now.

Here’s someone to avoid.

In most circumstances.

It’s that one person.

That is these two things.

Both at the same time.

Two things.

The two things I refer to are:

  1. They have low self esteem.
  2. They have a big ego.

Because if you get these two things.

In one person.

Both at the same time.

It’s a bit like being with Liam Gallagher.

But without the talent.

They’re just – well – a bit Nobby.

Context.

Context is important, though.

Because on a night out.

Nobby is great fun.

Because Nobby is childlike.

Nobby is dancing before anyone else.

Singing and mouthing all the wrong words to songs.

Winking at people he (and it normally is a ‘he’) really shouldn’t be winking at.

(Actually – should anyone ever be winking at anyone?)

Nobby can be funny.

Nobby.

And you can’t help feeling a bit sorry for Nobby.

Unless Nobby is your boss of course.

Then you’re knackered.

Here’s what to do if Nobby is your boss.

  1. Laugh at his jokes.
  2. Praise him a lot.
  3. Remember his birthday and get him a card.
  4. Be there for him when his true colours show. (He’s probably a nice person really. He just forgot).
  5. Bite your tongue (a lot).

In summary, if you help raise Nobby’s self esteem.

His ego should shrink a little.

And even thought it’ll probably be temporary.

It’ll make life better.

Get to know the Nobby in your life.

And (and Nobby would love this line, I think) be careful…

Because there’s probably a little Nobby in all of us.

The other day someone asked me how I became a blogger.

On 50odd.co.uk.

A blogger that writes every day.

A blogger that – somehow – writes something every day that means something to at least one someone.

Even though I’m only really writing for myself.

The answer?

Because I decided to.

Decisions. 

It’s that Stephen Covey thing.

Habits (true decisions) form when three things are present:

  1. What to do
  2. How to do
  3. Want to do

I know what to do to create a blogging platform.

(Or I know someone that does).

I know how to blog.

(I didn’t know if I’d be good at it, of course.

But I knew how to do it).

And I wanted to do it.

I thought it would be good for me.

To get ideas out.

To make room for more.

And it has.

So I simply decided.

Decisions.

Anything you want to do.

Follow the Covey thing.

What to do.

How to do.

Want to do.

And that’s why, when anyone says to me:

Eeeh; I really want to go to the gym and lose some weight.

I reply:

No you don’t.

Because if you did.

You’d be doing it.

Now.

Decisions.

So if you really do want to do something…

Decide.

Your downtime is precious.

It’s when you recharge.

So waste it wisely.

Downtime.

What I mean is, plan your downtime.

Your time off.

As a first principle I recommend you avoid these two things:

  1. Anaesthetic.
  2. Work.

When I was ‘off’ I very often used to do one of two of these things.

They are extreme opposites.

Yet both are as fucking daft as each other.

Anaesthetic.

Anaesthetic (for me) was getting pissed.

It was binge drinking so that time disappeared.

So that all experience was dulled.

And memories were blurry.

It made me feel regretful.

And empty.

And that I’d not actually recharged at all.

Work.

The other thing that I very often did.

When I was off.

Was not be off.

I worked.

I faffed on with email.

Or phone calls.

Or I was thinking about work problems.

It made me feel regretful.

And empty.

And that I’d not actually recharged at all.

List.

The list of things you could be doing is endless.

For me it includes walking Colin the Collie and Frank the Bichon around in circles.

It’s planning and instigating taking a 3 year old Izobel to do a ‘first’.

It’s listening to an album I bought when I was in my late teens.

End-to-end.

To see what memories it evokes.

It’s cooking something I’ve never cooked before.

It’s asking Lisa what she wants to do today.

Anything.

With or without me.

Without any sneaky, subliminal persuasion towards something that I want to do.

It’s visiting a friend’s small business to boost their cash.

And their morale.

And their confidence.

Or it’s revisiting an old talent.

Or attempting to discover a new one.

Like sketching.

Or singing.

Or baking.

Or growing a fresh herb garden.

Precious.

Your downtime is precious.

It’s when you recharge.

So waste it wisely.

There were bats in the attic of my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

Or so I was told.

When I was 9 years old in 1977.

I never actually saw them.

But they still terrified me.

This is all part of childhood, I think.

Childhood.

Another thing that was part of my childhood.

Was a problem I had with roles.

Roles were never clear for me.

My dad disappeared regularly and then permanently before I was 11.

And as I had a younger sister.

It wasn’t clear whether I was to be a brother.

Or a dad.

It wasn’t clear whether it was OK to be playful and silly and adventurous.

Or whether, instead, I had to be watchful and sensible and protective.

So when I was at my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

When my uncle Chris told me about the bats in the attic.

His wide eyes on mine as he let out a deep, shoulder-wobbling laugh.

His face close enough to mine that I could smell him.

I was unsure whether this was a childish yarn.

Meant to excite and entertain.

Or whether it was a call to arms.

To beware.

To be on guard.

Bats.

You see, a 9 year old me was scared of bats.

A 9 year old me was scared of most things I had not yet seen.

And I remember thinking to myself that – if a 9 year old me is scared of bats.

Then my seven year old sister is probably petrified of bats.

And that was a concern.

The Sentry.

That night, I lay awake.

The room pitch black.

In the top of the house.

And whilst I realised the non-sense of being afraid of these things I’d never seen.

I really was frightened.

For myself.

And for my sister.

My role as sentry was real.

50.

At 50 years old.

I still, sometimes, silently fear things that I’ve been told about but have not yet seen.

Sometimes lying awake in bed.

Imagining.

Not about bats.

But about the new threats.

The new threats that people have told me about.

Things that I have never actually seen.

But that are real to me.

This is all part of adulthood, I think.

Bats.

There were bats in the attic of my uncle Chris and auntie Helen’s house in London.

Or so I was told.

I never actually saw them.

But they still terrified me.

I am a fan of rollercoaster thinking.

Free thinking.

Creative thinking.

Unguarded thinking.

Out of control thinking that garners silly ideas and dead ends.

Thinking that does not worry about being judged.

Because it’s this kind of thinking from which the best ideas – eventually – come.

Not all the time of course.

But, sometimes, it doesn’t matter.

Because along the way there is great fun to be had.

Because it is funny, crazy thinking that keeps you going.

Thinking that makes conversation adventurous and engaging.

Children. 

The best people in the world at this kind of thinking are little people.

Children, I mean.

Children just don’t care.

Children stumble boldly between the verbal and the visual.

As happened to me yesterday.

When I told a 3 year old Izobel that the blue liquid in the bottle I was carrying was mouthwash.

There was nothing more beautiful than – thereafter – holding a straight-faced, meandering and visually-rich conversation about why – if mice do indeed wash in blue liquid – they remain white.

Or brown.

Or black.

Mousewash.

As a 50 year old man.

I had never heard of ‘mousewash’ before.

Until Izobel misheard it, harnessed it, and told me all about it.

And then explored it with me.

Her imagination whirring.

What a lovely conversation it was too.

The world is so much more magical when we just let things flow.

Imagination.

I haven’t told Izobel about mouthwash yet.

Because, well, it’s just not as interesting as mousewash.

Imagination.

Fantasy.

Story.

There’s a lot to be said for it.

And whilst mousewash may not be the next big thing commercially.

It really is the loveliest idea I’ve heard all week.

I really can’t remember who said this to me.

This little bit of business advice.

But I do know that it’s the advice that I most often give to myself.

Because it’s short, memorable and really useful when I have a dip.

And because it’s true.

Next.

It is:

The most important thing you’ll ever do in business is the thing you do next.

I like this because when I make a bad decision.

Or do a daft thing.

Or miss an opportunity.

I am reminded that, tomorrow, I can make a better decision.

Or do a better thing.

Or get – and take – another opportunity.

Tomorrow.

Dwelling in the past is daft.

Dwelling on something that happened today is dafter.

What’s done is done.

Just do it again.

Better.

Tomorrow.