Exactly what it says on the tin… or not.

Brexit or no Brexit?

Dice Roll Brexit European Union
Brexit or not?

The term ‘Brexit’ is the friendly or tedious new name for what we are about to do as in Britain by exiting the EU. When I say ‘about’ to do, it now seems like years ago and we are all tired of this unknown.

The Brexit Referendum

Our once in a lifetime (so they say) opportunity to vote on whether we would like to remain a member country of the European Union was held on 23 June 2016. To be honest, did anyone really know what it meant? It felt like a bungling attempt to be popular with the people before the real implications were understood. Were we all desperately eager to jump on this new alternative power to vote or voting because we knew what was right? Did we know how hard it would be to actually do? There were many incredible promise tactics used by ‘Leave’ supporters (Brexiteers). Including vast sums of additional money saved given to the NHS. And Remoaners (Remain) did their fair share of defence scaremongering as well.

Never as a citizen have I felt and still feel my country so divided, tired and angry.


With all change, there is uncertainty, however, not all change is bad. I remember when we joined the EU back in 1973. I remember ‘decimalisation’ in 1971, how we all wondered how we would manage with only 10 pence and not 12 pennies in a shilling? And how about Litres instead of Pints/Gallons? Inches and Centimetres?

We adapted very well as you can see. Now, we worry about the future again. Decimal currency was simple enough as we knew what it meant in the long term. When we joined the EU, we actually gained many benefits in trading, travelling and education (Eramus+). Human rights gained an extra level of protection and Justice.

Brexit as a change feels far more concerning. It is all the things we do not know, alongside all the things we are trying to hold onto – the Northern Ireland border and Good Friday (or Belfast) Agreement of 1998 after the years of ‘Troubles’ in the 70’s.

A Brexit Deal for Deal’s Sake

This week’s news is astonishing. Reading one of the latest Brexit articles on Business Insider it appears that the deal on the table could well be the only deal available. We see protesting and resignations by Conservative MPs on the terms laid out, and the calls for a leadership challenge. There is the notion that Labour MPs could vote for this deal, despite not being in agreement. And this is to avoid no deal, no exit or another referendum!

Further turmoil is read in an update ‘Brexit Won’t Be Easier If I’m Ousted‘. The ‘backstop’ deal on offer could keep things running as normal now, but could it indefinitely mean we have no say when this stops or if it stops?

Is Jeremy Corbyn in favour of a second referendum, another election or does he have another plan? What is it? Jeremy remains honest, he doesn’t know what he would vote if there was a second referendum tomorrow. However, by now we would hope that the leader of the opposition party would act as a leader and have a clearer view. He says the current draft is ‘vague’ and yet he is non-committal.

Would it really be so terrible if a ‘remain’ vote was the decision of a second referendum? A remain could be a stopgap until real insight is available about the benefits. Other than kneejerk proposed control of immigration. That control also having blurred lines.

Originally we were told, ‘No deal is better than a bad deal‘, now we are told, ‘A deal is better than no deal, a second referendum or no Brexit!’

Change Management – Empowering Brexit?

Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Model – And the missing parts

Burnes (2004) says, Kurt Lewin believed “only by resolving social conflict, whether it be religious, racial, marital or industrial, could the human condition be improved”. Brexit has unearthed great social conflict along with religious intolerance and racial prejudice.

So far with Brexit, we see a simplistic theoretical use of Kurt Lewin’s 3-Step Model. You ‘unfreeze, change and refreeze’, Voilà! Apply that to anything and Bob’s your Uncle!  We’ve seen ‘unfreeze’ with limited scope – the vote. We want the ‘change’ but we’re not sure what the change should be. With positive change not determined and players not empowered, at this stage, there is no hope of a satisfactory ‘refreeze’.

Lewin’s 3-Step Model was designed to be incorporated as part of 4 steps within a plan consisting of “Field Theory, Group Dynamics, Action Research, and the 3-Step model” (Burnes 2004). If you miss out the other steps you fail to understand why and how people act the way they do. The dynamics of Brexit mean you must understand how all groups work.

So, what is Field Theory – or Why we do things the way we do?

Lewin illustrates field theory as the need for a group with a certain set of values to maintain and protect a ‘status quo’ experience in order to survive (Burnes 2004). Therefore, any attempt to change an element will provoke defensiveness and criticism. The modern-day political arena in worldwide debate both on the news and in social media show this. The group’s behaviour can manipulate or modify individual behaviour so that any change attempted on an individual level can be undone/reversed by group peer pressure. It is important that the whole group acts as one with a positive influence upon each other.

Group Dynamics

With Brexit, in the UK., we have two colliding parties, each with divisions that attack their leader.  We also have the SNP and the DUP who all play a significant part in the whole decision. For the SNP the Scottish Electorate voted 68% remain, 32% to leave. The DUP’s interest (55.8% voted remain) lies over the Irish Border. They formed a coalition with the Conservatives giving them the vital majority in the last General Election in 2017. Arlene Foster, the DUP Leader already threatened to vote against the October budget over Brexit. This morning we learn that ‘DUP abstains on government Finance Bill votes‘.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland, (SNP) ponders over the possibility of a second Independence Referendum (Sturgeon Marr interview – The Guardian Politics Live 18 November 2018).

Outside of the UK., there are 27 other countries with a vested interest.

Theresa May continually says she will deliver Brexit, but her party and the opposition have no confidence in her. Likewise, they have no confidence in their own role.

Everything is rigid and obscured. Instead of delivering a positive trade deal, all parties fight among themselves.

Enlightening today, we read Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘sense of urgency’, and ‘it is important to understand why people voted as they did, and to put forward proposals that bring society together.‘ (17.26.) Personally, there you have it. And we have a fairly good idea now with the demographics analysed after the voting. The group has to be extended to the ‘people’, why they voted and does Brexit solve the reasons why they voted? Those reasons, some of them misled will continue after Brexit unless they are tackled now.

Brexit’s Action Research

Only by intense research, feedback and analysis can we find a way forward with the intended split that is Brexit! The Referendum vote was speculative. It is hard to judge the complexities of an outcome without a plan. The first draft has just been made.

However, the complexity that Jeremy Corbyn and Nicola Sturgeon see and agree make offering alternative plans/Independence calls unclear. Therefore, wouldn’t it make sense that this is not a simple Yes/No Leave/Remain, poll? The main bullet points of any proposed plan need putting forward with an itemised Yes/No. Giving a little bit more understanding, it might equally produce a yes where there was a no.

Research being gathered by BMG on behalf of the National/Scottish Government over the last 3 years among SMEs holds vital information on how Brexit will affect services and products. Even though they want to run another year until October, why not use this now? Empower businesses by an additional vote on vital issues this agreement will raise. Consult and empower all voices. Then a workable plan will emerge.

A Sense of Urgency?

How about using John Kotter’s 8 step model to look at Brexit? Creating a sense of urgency to deliver a required outcome. Theresa May is now creating ‘urgency’ to push through a deal. However, the deal being pushed is not necessarily one that will deliver what the United Kingdom requested or needs.

Jeremy Corbyn has never really presented a sense of urgency. As can be seen from the article above regarding the question of a second referendum, ‘it is not an option for today‘. This is probably wise considering he does not know what the question is, nor have an answer. Nicola Sturgeon needs to recognise the majority of Scotland voted to remain. But her hands are tied regarding a second Independence Referendum. She is ‘waiting for the dust to settle‘.

There is a sense of urgency to ‘get out’, but not a sense of urgency to plan, accommodate, and empower.

Building a Team has been exasperating! Admittedly the party in government gets the first chance. Far better would be to involve all parties with key talents and unique voices from the beginning in a non-partisan team. As a group with all views represented, they would then take ownership of the task; ‘focus’. Instead of sitting back waiting to build a wall on offerings. Deliberation on that first offering has taken forever, meaning time is running out for any other. Theresa May seems adamant that it is this or nothing whilst key members of her cabinet ‘feel sure they can get her to make amendments’. There have been numerous resignations within the Conservative party. Including Brexit Secretaries unable to provide adequate communication. The calls for a leadership challenge provide a further distraction for the job at hand.

Vision and Strategy of Brexit

The vision following the vote on 23 June 2016 is to leave the European Union and take back control. The strategy of Brexit, looking at the above is vague at best and falling apart with constant disagreement and lack of commitment. There are complex issues to consider such as the Northern Ireland border – the customs union and single market. This was never going to be an easy task and nobody in honesty would have wanted to oversee it. There are hardliners who want a total break, and those who want to keep single market access. People are not happy or empowered.

It is clear that the draft 585 pages rest uneasily with the UK MPs. Yet it will be voted upon on 25 November by the 27 European Countries on the other side of the table. They may say yes, and then we say no. The feeling at the moment is that the United Kingdom will be giving away more and taking back less in terms of control. A ‘no deal’ result would be catastrophic for Northern Ireland. There needs to be a deal that honours this agreement or no Brexit. There is no clarity in the backstop offered for the United Kingdom having control on deliverance or total withdrawal. In effect, not the Brexit voted for.


Communication has not been a strong point throughout this whole fiasco. During David Cameron’s years as Prime Minister, he did not manage to a) negotiate with the EU what the United Kingdom wished from membership, and b) on a whim he came up with the notion of offering a Referendum in exchange for election popularity. Hoping to call the UK citizens bluff. The outcome was a shock. Communication since then has down spiralled. People feel hopeless – including those who were for the option of leaving.  Earlier today an update read that Theresa May’s speech with the CBI gave concern that ‘she’s listening but not hearing‘.

If you were to apply the Kübler-Ross Change Curve to the UK’s present situation evident is ‘Denial, Avoidance, Confusion and Fear’. You will still see ‘Anger, Frustration and Anxiety’. There is very little bargaining to be done. Although I’m sure we all feel, if only we could turn back time? The people are powerless and struggling to find meaning and you find ‘Overwhelm’ with depressive inclination after years of austerity.  We feel a long way from removing barriers and acceptance. March 2019 will still shock those in denial.

We often get the ‘carrot of hope’ on a final agreement ‘vote’ before the opportunity is taken away. Then we get confirmation, no. We will do this anyhow. Why aren’t we building on a positive side of either leaving or remaining? We need to build a new culture of acceptance and determination. It feels like a stressful relationship ending; the one who leaves can ultimately end up paying a hefty price. The one left behind will miss you for a while but will rebuild.


The Referendum resulted in a very small margin, 51.9% for and 48.1% against. And that was with skewed advice. ‘This was the decision of the People, we will do what the People wished’. However, is this what the People wish for now? A final vote given to the People on the final deal would be the right choice. An informed decision provides clarity. If the choice to leave the EU was a mistake, then people need the right to recognise this before it is too late.

What is at stake for our economy after Brexit? What are the deals and regulations of the global future? How many businesses are already suffering because they do not know what they will have to change to stay on top? These are all questions that still do not appear to have answers. However, we are beginning to see that Brexit especially for business, will be costly.

People who are against a second referendum call it ‘sour grapes’, but it is far more than that. Now we know more about the procedure, difficulties and potential consequences, we can accept if the majority of voters feel the deal on the table is the correct deal, we can work with this. But not having the chance to reassess when it is very clear the sitting government and shadow cabinet cannot agree is shameful.

Retrial Brexit, please?

The democratic vote in 2016 was to leave the EU.  This vote was cast on misguided and incomplete information. In the justice system, a retrial can take place when additional crucial evidence is brought forward. Surely with Brexit, we can say we didn’t know this? Can we reassess our verdict given the new knowledge we now have? After all, change is easier when you are inside the house than shouting outside the door through a letterbox!



Further Reading and Sources:

Burnes, B., (2004). Kurt Lewin and the Planned Approach to Change: A Re‐appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), pp.977–1002. [Online] Available from: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1467-6486.2004.00463.x [Accessed on 18 November 2018]

Grief.com: Kübler-Ross (The Five Stages of Grief) – information surrounding grief modified to become the Kübler-Ross Transition Curve in Change Management. [Online] Available from: https://grief.com/the-five-stages-of-grief/ [Accessed on 20 November 2018]

Harvard Business School (2008). YouTube A Sense of Urgency – John Cotter [Accessed on 20 November 2018]

Institute For Government (2018). The November Draft Withdrawal Agreement. [Online] Available from: https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/draft-brexit-withdrawal-agreement-november  [Accessed on 20 November 2018]

Kotterinc.com: (no date). Kotter – 8-Step Process. [Online] Available from: https://www.kotterinc.com/8-steps-process-for-leading-change/ [Accessed on 20 November 2018]




Please watch out for the Homeless…

I went to Edinburgh on Tuesday, it’s my favourite city. Near 7pm we dropped into McDonalds – yeah, I know. Outside sat a young homeless man, (probably around 19-20), calling out for spare change. He was very loud, to the point of awkward.

As we were just going in, I had decided, I would drop by him when I came out if still there. It is the charity most closest to my heart… and I usually do watch for one homeless person on any trip. It’s not hard to do.


When I came out, I handed him ‘a little help’. He was very quiet, and then I observed his face. I tend to like eye contact – the eyes are the windows of the soul. He was sitting, holding up a cardboard sign, his face was scrunched in pain. I’m guilty of not reading what was written. My concern was with his body language. I asked the obvious ‘stupid’ question. “Are you okay?”

He said, “not really.” I did venture to ask him what was wrong. Again, pretty stupid, but I didn’t want to leave him, because… he was crying.

His reply was, “I haven’t slept in 3 days, I’ve been here 5 hours. I just want to be able to go to a hostel and sleep. I’m sorry.” “I’m too scared to go to sleep in case I get attacked on the streets.”

His woolly hat had about £2.50 including my contribution.

I asked him how much the hostel was – £18.

Seriously, this is just so heartbreaking…

He didn’t need to apologise, and whilst our conversation wasn’t long, I felt both his fear and knew this wasn’t an act. Most of the homeless I’ve ever met, manage to mask stuff. This was sheer exhaustion and breaking point.

What we don’t notice but would if we were homeless

Earlier on, I’d spent half an hour at 2.45 sitting on a picnic bench outside a small converted garage, whilst my daughter was attending an appointment. I noticed the lovely cyclamen in containers outside the door. I managed to half-heartedly read a page or two on my phone – a kindle book. Then, my butt felt damp, my back ached, my knees pained and my hands were freezing. I had no more concentration (and inside I was screaming for warmth and time to pass). So, I escaped for a walk along a street to find a cosy gift shop full of beautiful things to gaze upon.

Back to where I was now and our young homeless

He didn’t really have that option, did he? I did what I could to help him further towards his goal. He had time to find a few extra quid. Richard, it still plays on my mind, I hope you found somewhere safe Tuesday night (and last night). And possibly a few more strangers willing to help you.

All I’m really trying to say is, please watch out for homeless folks… it’s freezing out there. It could easily be you or I.

Think on the ‘any spare change’ thing, cos honestly, you can’t buy a chocolate bar for much less than a pound these days, so 20p won’t even buy YOU a treat. If you can spare more, think on that.

That’s it really… thanks for reading.

A little information on how we might be able to help


Retracing steps finding Inspiration

Inspiration hits and excitement grows when ‘re-vision’ means opening your eyes. Not just to ‘go over’ what you have learnt, but to gain insight from a different angle.

As someone who can identify with panic and overwhelm leading to absolute procrastination and further panic, Adam Grant captures everything I wanted to hear and more. I like to play! It’s okay, the endorsement of an organisational psychologist is good.

I have to admit I have lots of ‘bad ideas’ that seem brilliant at the beginning.  My master plan for this week was, it’s a ‘holiday’! I will go back over ALL my last 5 weeks lectures/tutorials and ‘do it again’ – transcribe, re-read etc. If I break it down into ‘bite-sized chunks’, I can creatively draw a plan for each subject. Thus, giving immediate recall on content. Well, I’ve managed one lecture and it was an introduction… and it’s Friday already.

Inspiration to roll with it

The thing is, I’m being side-tracked all the time. And not just the phone, work, life ‘things’, it’s discoveries like this. There is just so much out there to be explored.

Earlier today I was drawn in by Edward de Bono and the Marmite tale I had heard in class (and I had forgotten). So, I researched a little more –  De Bono’s Marmite plan for peace in Middle Yeast  (and other snippets). Ended up getting yet another two books for my Kindle – Six Thinking Hats and How to have Creative Ideas… more reading??? I need six thinking heads to multi-task books!

Adam Grant and this TED talk has really made my evening. Watching this little gem has given me another strategy. And courage to keep on plodding and probing innovative ideas to make it all ‘sticky’.

and so, the key to being original is just a simple thing of avoiding the leap from step three to step four. Instead of saying, “I’m crap,” you say, “The first few drafts are always crap, and I’m not just there yet.” “…the greatest originals are the ones who fail the most, because they’re the ones that try the most.” … “If we want to be more original, we have to generate more ideas.

I will cut out the ‘I am crap’ thoughts (for at least the next hour) and recognise that even if ‘I am crap’ it doesn’t matter. Concentrate on being an original and creative thinker by not admonishing my creativity sparks! And instead, follow positive inspiration. Enjoy the journey… even if I am under tall in a forest of overgrown green things with no idea how to be left handed and swing a billhook in the right direction, the pathway IS in there somewhere.

General Election, 8 June 2017 – Vote!

Image "Vote" wood blocks - General Election 2017
“image by Wokandapix – Pixabay.com”
General Election! Please vote 8th June, 2017

Please Vote!

Good Morning, UK!  I hope you wake up greeted with more glorious sunshine wherever you are. It doesn’t seem that long ago we were voting on local council elections. Prior to that, we were asked to vote ‘remain’ or ‘leave’ for BREXIT. Before this, the last General Election and just before then, the Scottish Referendum for those of us in Scotland. Many people rightly feel, it’s all too much. However, I can’t emphasise strongly enough, your vote is important!

What’s the point?

I want more than ever to appeal to our younger voters.  You may already feel the frustration of your voice not being heard. You are our future, this election looks to be closing in by the polls and you could very well swing it to ‘all change’.   Never feel you can’t make a difference so why bother? Those who fought to give us the right to vote, could have felt the same. But they didn’t give up! They gave us a democratic right to express our ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The trouble is when we don’t all come out and use it. We can’t blame anyone other than ourselves.

‘You have to be in it to win it’

Someone I once worked for used this phrase about winning the lottery. ‘You have to be in it to win it’. In other words, if you don’t buy the ticket you can’t expect to win.  Yes, it’s not quite the same satisfaction or as life changing overnight, but, it still can mean quite a lot.  If you are not happy with the way things are now, don’t be complacent, join in, be heard – support those who are standing for what you would wish to see done both locally and nationally. If you think the party you really like does not have a chance where you live, no one standing, vote tactfully, choose the next best.

Tactical Voting Guide – The Guardian

By not voting you give those whom you are not happy with the ‘go ahead’ to stay right there. So, please vote! It takes very little time out of your day and even if you don’t feel anything, the rest of us will be grateful that you tried.

At the end of the day, we are all accountable for the way things turn out. And blaming is not the intention, it is about being aware, becoming more involved in your community – the more you join in, the more you gain a sense of belonging.

I’m looking forward to watching the results come in!

Finishing School… Pondering Thoughts

Photo of OwlBecause I’ve had a little more time to ponder today, I realise I’ve had some very strange ones this afternoon.

I was reading an article about crime rates in Scotland – Most crime in Scotland is property related, 11,500 people survey reveals – BBC Scotland News It was interesting in relating how we imagine crime to the actual statistics.

This in turn strangely led me to thinking about very successful companies and individuals – top marketing, top entrepreneurs – and it’s a strange thought I admit it, but it occurred to me, criminals probably have an untapped wariness/eye equal to those of Entrepreneurs. Both are successful when they know the loopholes, the way people think, what people need and want, and how to exploit the market.

Just to balance those books, earlier today, on waking I was reading an article about entrepreneurs 8 Things Entrepreneurial People Do Differently – Huffington Post Now, the reason I say ‘balance the books’. I have been privileged enough to work for some very inspiringly people during my own very small contribution to the world of being an entrepreneur. I’m not raking in the millions and I don’t have that totally unique niche in the market, but, I do aspire to provide the very best service – one that looks at the client’s needs and not my own. One that responds in as many ways as possible to make others lives better – and this I am proud to say I continue within my life outside of work. I like to ‘serve’ and make others smile, it makes me feel accomplished and whole. These values I am sure were instilled in me by my parents and I thank them for that.

I am aware that I am adding a fair few links here relating to my thoughts, and I would urge you, if you have time to visit any, the above Huffington Post one I recommend. I would quote so many things from this if time permitted. I know these things to be true in the people I have admired in my business world. Maybe the strongest I want to bring out is the sense of inclusiveness and enabling services those at the very top reach out in spirit to others no matter their status. They want a better world for us as they know the generations that follow will succeed and grow through this inheritance to be all they can and look out equally for their fellow citizens in life. They will be inspired. Inspiration brings with it gratitude, comfort, strength, hope, teamwork, encouragement, and dare I say ‘love’? This is what I feel and see through their eyes. Yes, many are rich, but they don’t use this to bring others down. They use it to create wealth for all – many philanthropic acts are quiet but create huge opportunities, and I feel a sense of real gratitude for these people and how they use their own success.

Another thing that is key and again quoted in the article is that “they never stop learning” – they are open to new and old ideas and evolving. They scrutinise what works and what doesn’t work – I have to say I haven’t learnt to embrace failure yet but, these people turn failure into success. They move the goal posts, they change the team tactics.

Of course, there are some people who reach the top of the food chain via other methods, they are not criminals, but they are very clever on marketing techniques, reading the minds of the people and adding to wealth, they know how to exploit loopholes and evade taxes legitimately. They know how to use people to their best advantage ie increase their profit margin, reduce their overheads, do their ‘spin’. They offer ‘false promises’. They pull you in taking advantage of your disadvantage with words that make you think there is a ‘quick fix’. They don’t appear to have a ‘social conscience’.

In our political world, it’s quite easy to see this in action as well – so the next time you go to vote, bear this in mind – whether it be a Referendum as we in Europe face, or a top Presidential Election as our friends over the seas will soon see and are already making decisions towards. Will the people or yes/no decision you face make a better world for all at the end of the day? Are they offering you their responsible hand on heart stewardship or are they buying your frustrations and insecurity?

I know this is long, but my closing thoughts are on another article I read on our BBC News A look inside China’s first finishing school – BBC News I admit that the BBC lured me in with that wonderful photo they have of ‘The ‘polite’ way to eat an orange’. This had me smiling and I can honestly say I’m not sure I can look at an orange the same way ever again. All my life I’ve been doing it wrong! Although, I confess to knowing that wonderful skill of scouring the skin with a knife across the middle and then from top down in to four segments to make them very easy to peel.

Why am I sharing this? Surely finishing school is for the elite and a bit snobby? I believe not only in ‘serving’ but also in ‘elegance’. It does not hurt for a woman to know etiquette. Although, I think whilst it is important to keep eye contact with those you come through a door to, I would worry deeply about closing it behind me without looking. What if someone else was about to enter? So many times in shopping centres I’ve seen doors swung with no regard to who is behind. It doesn’t hurt to acknowledge a 360° awareness of your surroundings. And that 360° awareness applies to all aspects of your life. Do not close the door for others, because you failed to look behind you once you have successfully navigated your own way through.

What I like about this article is the sense of empowerment for women, as well as wanting to better their environment of being a wife, mother etc. “It’s about your character, and the feeling you give to others,” “You should make people feel you are confident – a person you can trust.” – these sort of statements tie in with leadership thoughts earlier on. Service and leadership go hand in hand.

My last thought was one of intrigue. I couldn’t help noticing at this school of elegance a white board. Now, I’d love to be a fly on the wall and know what they are teaching here? What I did notice in my fly’s eye is that there appears to be some awkwardness in the writing on the wall. Obama has a line drawn to Michelle, she is a woman in her own right and not shown to have a subservient status – but what about Mrs Trump? Wouldn’t she also be a woman worthy of equality and a first name? I leave you with a smile. You can make up your own mind on that one!

As to the title of my blog article – you never finish school, there is always something to be learnt! So continue to be open, continue to grow and continue to share your wisdom for the better of all mankind.

How do successful people spend the first hour of their day? Eating Frogs!

Green Frog - cc Stephen Michael Barnett
Green Tree Frog – Creative Commons
Stephen M Barnett

Mark Twain quote:

Eat a live frog first thing in the morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.



A business forum I belong to (Quora) allows people to post and answer questions.  Some are amusing, some are very helpful/insightful and people are encouraged to use their expertise and experience to help others.  I confess I haven’t visited it as often as I had hoped I would but have recently been taking the odd look.

The title to this article is based on a question I found there.  I guess one of the first things we must ask ourselves is ‘what is considered success?’ To me it comes in several measures and it isn’t all financial, although many would argue, that’s the main reason we do what we do.

So, presuming ‘success’ can be related to any one of us, I thought it interesting to see how we can relate or put into action things in our lives that help us get the most out of our working/creative/living day.

I don’t know about you, but eating the above fella to me is not something I desire.  One he is far too cute, and two, er.  I’d rather not – frogs are an acquired taste, as I supposed ‘success’ can be!

I have to confess I haven’t heard of this term before – but as laid out in one of the answers

“In the morning, right after getting up, you complete the most unwanted task you can think of for that day (= the frog). Ideally you’ve defined this task in the evening of the previous day.

Completing an uncomfortable or difficult task not only moves it out of your way, but it gives you great energy because you get the feeling you’ve accomplished something worthwhile.”


The thought of doing ‘unwanted tasks’ often make me procrastinate. But I have mentioned making lists before and I can see I certainly have a few frogs that could be had for breakfast!  I do know this also makes sense as I had a session of doing just this the other day, and completing just two ‘put off’ tasks before my working day did make me feel good. And work light-heartedly (some stress removal) and focused.

I’m interested though, what do you do to help you become in tune and ready for action?


Sometimes when you think the chips are down…

Photo of pond and scenery between Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath
Marked on Google Maps as… ‘Unknown Pond’ between Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath

Ever had days/weeks when absolutely everything you think you are getting on top of suddenly turns belly-up? You can start to feel panic and a creeping sense of how on earth can I change all this? When are things ever going to improve?

After your initial shock and disappointment, rational thought can start to transcend and a re look at all in front of you allows some alternative options to appear. The options you wanted to choose in the first place might have needed co-operation for them to work. If life’s route changes and these options have then to be disregarded, there is always something else, another way – it’s not always one step forward, two steps back. You can’t be one step forward if it wasn’t an absolute.  And often the dancing happens because we cannot predict what lies ahead or how others will interact, or indeed how we will react, as much as we can try to plan.

Remember, you can’t really undo all the good you did, history doesn’t change, although it can easily be forgotten.  Especially when it comes to our own self-esteem. You are still moving forward, even if right now, you feel you’re not in your own eyes.

So, bearing this in mind, instead of lacking faith in you, take a sideways step, you might even need to sit on a bench for a wee while.  When feeling calmer, check the traffic – when you feel safe to cross or proceed, give yourself a break, breathe deep, move the goal posts, break up the task/fear and then, you may see the options you didn’t know were there because you were busily focused on the one direction.

Most of all, don’t punish yourself if things aren’t running smoothly, open your mind and thoughts to how you can sometimes take a scenic route and still get where you want to be at the end of the day, even if it takes a little longer. And likewise, when you reflect on scenic routes, remember that hidden cafe/view that suddenly appeared as you rounded the corner? Life is just like that. And you will find your hidden moments in these diversions you never intended to take but for a tree in the road, you needed to.

That Early Morning Moment – Writing with Intent

And so another school/college year opens after a rather sweet Summer.  I am hoping you have all enjoyed plenty of sunshine wherever you are in the world. Now we get back down to business and learning.

For me, I’m going back to the Bowhill Flexible Learning Unit, right on my doorstep to brush up and learn new skills (Access).  Last year I felt after all these years, my SHND in Secretarial Studies was a little outdated.  A self-taught Microsoft Office user since 1998, long gone are the days of using an *electronic typewriter – software is amazing! Computers are amazing!  What a great world we live in whereby we have such tools that take around 90% of the thinking out of what we do as we can now click buttons and voilà, instant calculation, spellcheck, etc. etc. No more carbon paper and Typex.  Not that Typex was ever really allowed.  Practice Perfection! Eye for detail. Dedication.

Even as I write, right now, above me I see a whole array of special ‘gifts’ to allow me to embolden, italicise, number, quote, left, centre or right adjust, link, change colour, and really handy just now, symbolize.

Where was I?  Ah yes, it seemed right for me to put my self taught skills into practice and gain certification for doing the things I love to do. And so I gained my ECDL in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Improving Productivity just studying 2 1/2 hours, 2 days per week last academic year. I enjoyed the small class, learning at my own rate, meeting new people, atmosphere. I do want to do the Advanced Level but sadly funding isn’t available and this course isn’t run anywhere in Fife, although, I now know where I can obtain the training materials to home study.

Now, I am not a morning person of a natural nature.  I love my nights and can often be found working through them.  I am at peace with the world and the phone doesn’t ring. So, getting up with my daughter for her induction day at college was a bit of a shock to the system. And my thinking head isn’t quite on.

At these points I have random images and sentences as I look out of my window sipping coffee on a sunny day.  Today it was, “I can’t believe it’s not butter…” Nothing wrong with that? Only I wasn’t sure, should it be ‘it’s’ or does the butter belong to itself? I ask myself, a moment of self doubt.  And indeed moments like that have me searching online to check, because I care.

So often I see the Grammar Nazis on Facebook, as they are endearingly termed pointing out mistakes, and mistooks ‘appen.  I find mistakes funny, but of course professionally, it is important to write well, and proof read.

To me though, I never like a condescending attitude towards those who have problems with spelling and grammar. I believe in a world of communication and equality, and for whatever reasons people have, sometimes writing and spelling isn’t the best of their talents due to learning difficulties and missed opportunities, but they can tell a good story and run a business.

So today, for me, finding this website is something I want to share. Instead of pointing out how wrong it is when people get confused with its/it’s, they’re, their, and there, why not bookmark this page? Improve Your Writing. Here you will see the practice of ‘it’s and its’. To the left, a whole list of other examples and exercises to help understand when best to use words and how to correctly spell them.

Learning is fun!  At any age. Playing, as I have said before, is vital, at any age. Put the two together and you have a relaxed way of taking in things that aren’t always easy to remember/grasp.

* I still have my A3 wide format Electronic Typewriter if anyone needs a double page paper application typing out.

Challenge Everything, Question Everything, Don’t Be Afraid to Change Anything!

I read this article – in search of something interesting – in the wee hours last night, and it made a huge amount of sense to me.

8 Subconscious Mistakes Our Brains Make Every Day and How to Avoid Them

Two very important things – knowing the difference between sunk cost and restarting and changing the goals. Ie, not giving up on things you know matter and are achievable, but also paying attention to the time you take out of misplaced loyalty such as disciplining yourself to complete something you know will not achieve your maximum input or desired effect, but continuing … because you started.

I started with point number three I guess, because I realised, I’m very guilty of this.  I would be the person in the cinema seat watching the whole film.  I have such a grounding of how important money is, that it horrifies me the idea of just wasting it and getting up and walking out.  But, I also know, and can see through reading this, that TIME is important.  You do not get back time, but you could make more money.

Say I had two races to run, cross country,  they are more of a practice run but I, rather not thinking straight, put my name on both lists.  I know, I cannot gain a great placing with the first one, I took a bit of a wrong turning, and my trainer lace broke, making it a bit loose so I’m having to balance that trainer so it doesn’t fall off, and there are still a few miles to go with this, I’m plodding along at the tail end, and I know everyone else is home and dry.  I want to finish, of course I do, but, what about that second one this afternoon?  Wouldn’t I be better to conserve my energy and perhaps do better trying again later, and with a different approach?  Not sure I’ve picked very good examples there but I’m thinking out loud.

I like to play – a lot.  I do this to challenge my mental agility.  I also find it a great de-stresser and a brilliant way to start focusing.   I’m also guilty of picking games that can take a lot of time.  I see my time on the ticker going down, and I know from previous attempts, that I can do better, go faster, spot changes better or be dealt a better deal with whatever it is I am doing.  But, I am also aware again of my discipline to stay with it and complete the game at a slower time than I have managed before.  Surely this is sunk cost, I need to refresh, and be more focused instead of tiring myself – feeling my spirit lower but gritting teeth in earnest, I will finish.

Going back to my race.  If this was a marathon and I was raising money for good causes – then yes, finishing is important.  But most things in life aren’t marathons, they are ideals where we are looking to maximise our achievement in the shortest amount of time and with the least amount of effort.  That’s not to say drop the quality, but up the output.  Feeling vulnerable to losing stops us from making good, clean cut decisions.

I found myself actually reflecting on successful friends, and I know, they don’t worry about changing the goals, they stop at the right time and restart.   They are not only successful, they appear confident, happy, warm individuals, bringing leadership, encouragement and example into all they do.

This kind of makes me reflect on point number one.  For many years, more than I wish to mention, being a lady, I kept with people who had probably totally the same viewpoints, same way of doing things, and the same lifestyles, I didn’t change any of that because I was fearful, I did things, because, you just did.  I hit forty  – okay, I’m not really that much of a lady –  and suddenly, this wonderful thing called the ‘Internet’ happened.  All of a sudden, social media allowed you to mix with people who did things differently, lived in different countries, had different cultures and upbringings.  I love this.  That example of ‘feeling vulnerable to losing’ also comes from allowing status to get in the way – the status YOU give yourself.

Looking at point eight and point one together,  the stereo-typing of Jane and Linda, along with point six on the anchoring effect show me where I often go wrong again in my assumptions of how I see other people and how I think other people see me.  I cloud myself with detail that isn’t there, or even if it is, is not important.  That’s an interesting reflection that tied in with my class yesterday looking at how to present information and leaving out irrelevant other projects.

As you can see by this blog article, I’ve a long way to go with the presenting information – but – this is a rambling, so to speak.

I was also drawn to another article yesterday in The Guardian –

How To Improve Your Luck and Win the Lottery Twice (possibly)

This one compounded with the above observations of mine in that,

“…lucky and unlucky people create much of their good and bad luck by the way they think and behave. …”

My ethos these days is to

“Challenge everything, question everything, don’t be afraid to change anything!”

The people I have met over the years have allowed me to see, it was not their attitude towards me, but MY attitude towards me that held me back.   Not once have I met a successful person who has said to me, you can’t do it, more, they will see what I do, and correct me with enthusiasm, when I try to use my defeatist bent on them.  ‘I am not invincible’, they say.  That is all that was needed.

And What Percentage Of That 20 Years Has Been Spent On Forums And Social Media? :)

Yesterday, I announced to my friends on Facebook, that 01.02.2015 has me celebrating the entry of my 20th year of self-employment. I woke up to see my friend, Chris, had posed me a question as the above title. Hmm, good question, Chris, and one I am very happy to answer (and digress on slightly because I am proud of my 20 years personal growth). Only, forgive me if I do not waste time trying to work out precisely what percentage.  I would have no use for this information at the end of the day.

So, back in 1995, I had two daughters, 7 and 5 respectfully. Up until that point, I was very much a lazy butt, I mean, *cough* full-time mother. I believed totally in being there for them, every minute and watching every single step in life they made. I involved myself actively in Toddlers (Toddlers Committee (Secretary)) Playgroup (Playgroup Committee (Secretary)) PTA (Secretary) Even at school, I voluntarily went in every single Friday morning (for the whole morning) to help a Teacher I got to know when my eldest started, by tying ties and tying shoelaces after gym, sitting with children who needed extra help during the daily dozen (maths and spelling tests). Sitting with children helping them with their reading, reading stories to the class (loved doing that – because I love children’s stories) whatever and wherever ‘teach’ felt she could use me.

In 1995, even when I started up, I continued many of these practices. We didn’t have home computers back then, we didn’t have internet. I had an electronic typewriter (daisywheels) and analogue transcription equipment. Everything was done with people coming to me having read my Yellow Pages entry in the big paper bound edition. It was great and I loved it.

In 1998, I bought my first home pc – 40Mb – yes, megabyte hard-drive. In 1999, I bought dial-up internet (expensive… slow). Towards the end of 1998/beg 99, I remember people being excited, reading over the net about time capsules etc. I decided, as a business, to put myself out there. I was still involved with my local school with all three children now there. Youngest in Nursery. I asked them how they would feel about having a book put together showcasing a piece of work from every single child who attended, including nursery? I told them, it would cost them nothing, they could sell it to fundraise, and give a percentage of the take to Rachel House and CHAS – Hospital for sick/terminally ill children – fairly local. I didn’t expect help. So, armed with my digital camera, and a permission slip from all parents that their child’s work could be included (this was near the start of data protection being tightened) I ventured into the school on an almost daily basis, scouring the corridors for beautiful displays of artwork, poetry, stories etc. Not everything could be photographed, Teachers gave me, pencil, handwritten stories and poems to be scanned.  Even photographs taken on walls needed to be sized, skewed (only photographers get to hold their cameras immaculately) rotated etc.  It was a mammoth task, and I only had Photodraw and Publisher (Office 97) back then, and Photoshop 5.5. I approached big companies to donate stuff. Hewlett Packard gave me the loan of a colour printer and tons and tons of toner cartridges, (they even finished off the job for me when I realised it was costing a bomb and only half way through?) There was a good chance even with me going as fast as I could, they might never get this printer back!  They never charged me a penny for this.  Tullis Paper donated special card to make the cover page – and HP donated even more special paper. I had a thermal binding machine and again I approached the makers to donate spines with clear perspex to complete this book. Now, I know it wasn’t like the ones you buy in the shops, but it also wasn’t a flimsy A5 stapled black and white effort. To me, it was beautiful. Sixty four pages with loads and loads of beautiful images, and yes, children’s handwriting.  No way did I want to change this to typed text.  There is beauty in our first attempts of forming words. I completed just in time for Christmas 2001 and stipulated that each book was to be sold at £10. Now, that sounds like a lot of money back then, and it was, but it was a lovely gift and memory for our community, and again, the money raised for charity and school funds. We raised approx. £800 for the school, no expenses and £48 to Rachel House on top – there was only 140 pupils in total in the whole school at that time. That to me, was my proudest moment.

Soo, onwards and upwards. In 2002, I moved house, and upgraded to broadband AOL that was not dial up! Corrrr. Still quite expensive to what we have now. I think I might have joined .net around that time – I honestly can’t remember. I loved that there were tech like people who loved playing with graphics (Photoshop comp.), where I learnt all my Photoshop skills! Those who talked about the ins and outs gubbings of the CPU – yes. I changed my first power supply by asking advice, taking photos of the inside casing, researching how to do it, posting on forums… using screwdrivers etc etc. Before that, I only ventured in to change a graphics card, memory and add sound cards. So, yeah, I played, but I also learned. I learned from .net magazine, how to do basic xhtml/css. The forums were invaluable, so that armed with my SAMS Teach Yourself in 24 hours… I built my first website. I got a huge amount of help from people like Dave and Sarah who gave their time helping others in display/coding etc. I played… and I learned. I now had a web presence. I spent time looking at the SEO forums and learnt a little about key words, important directories etc. I played and I learned.

At the same time I had joined Virtual Assistance forums – one on Yahoo, that gave me a vital networking place, helping me establish my skills and market them and often, if one of the more established members was overrun with a deadline and workload, they shared it, so, yes, income from networking on social media.

I joined Ecademy (now SunZu), LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, other working professional forums, you name it, I would be willing to explore it! On top of that, I’ve now joined quite a few online training courses, and am loving all the new skills I have gained from them, including now socially attending my local community centre and preparing for ECDL certification after being self-taught all these years. The internet absolutely is the key to so many avenues and opportunities.

As a self-employed person, it is purely like that, you are by yourself, almost 24/7. You work on your own on other people’s projects. There isn’t the office banter you get from group working. As I had moved and my children had grown up, I was alone. I don’t have any family – only one brother down in England. So, no support network. I turned to social media/forums to build myself company. I played, I learned, I acquired skills, I interacted, I became happy being alone.

By 2009, on a personal note, my family life was difficult and my family separated, even as early as 2001, there were difficulties I had no one to share with, and I kept everything to myself. However, I came online, and I had people I could call ‘friends’, who encouraged me, in my singing, my work, my coding, my designing, they gave me, a sense of being and a sense that I could turn to them for company, and they made me ‘laugh!’.

In 2013, I went through divorce and house-sale, and now, last year, I was back to having to set up again, advertise and market myself in a strange place. I am still isolated from physical friends, (probably my fault because I found it easier to live that way when my life was troubled, I didn’t want or have to burden anyone) but my online friends have been my inspiration.

I have always maintained, and people who know me from way back know, ‘the importance of play as an adult’. I stay with that. We absolutely do need time out to have fun.

As a self-employed person, hours are not restricted to 9-5, we can work whenever is best – for me, that’s often through the night.

My routine? I always, always time everything I do, even when task orientated (not on per hour payment – I also break down hours to minutes). If someone is paying me, they only pay for their work. At the beginning of my work, I note the time. If the phone rings, I note the time of the phone ringing. I then at the end of the call, note the time I recommence. If I go to make a cup of coffee, same again. Nobody is charged for my coffee drinking, online playing or anything like that. In an office people constantly put the kettle on and drink by their machines… all out of their employer’s pocket. They also use social media. If my phone rings, I don’t time the call or work it into my costs to clients, I don’t even charge for the time they come and visit me if they have to – I should do!

In summary, I probably spend a lot of time online using social media but none of it wasted, all of it, to my own personal wellbeing and benefit. Here’s to 20 years and 2015, my first post of the year and lots of interaction worldwide! Yes, from using social media and the internet – I work and am willing to work with you nationally and internationally as well as locally on my doorstep.