Sunday, 30 December 2012

Life Audit - the day before the day before!

New Year's Day is traditionally the time to make resolutions and changes for the better.  Hmm!  Experts say it takes just 21 days for people to adopt changes for good while  all the statistics show that by 18th January most of us will have failed to stick to our promises to self!

Life Auditing is all about being sure about the changes you want to make in the first place and about planning how to bring them about.  That's why the first of its three stages is about taking stock of either your whole life or one tiny part of it you want to improve.  With 2012 coming to a close why not plan to begin to audit your life in 2013.  With the brand new site offering all charts to fill in online now plus a mobile app so you keep track of what you do while on the move,  You've no excuses to be ready for whatever challenges the New Year brings. 

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Relationships - Sound-bites

When I told a friend I was going to attend a special dinner offering a "Tasting Menu" and accompanying "Flight of Wines" with seven people, of whom I knew only three, she was horrified on both counts.  Firstly the idea of an imposed menu, regardless of what you do and don't like, appalled her and secondly the thought of spending seven courses making small talk with strangers having no known conversation touchstones.   This friend, I should add has a wide, close knit perfectly formed social circle of friends who feel nurtured by her and who nurture back in turn.

The result however, of an amazing supper at The H-H restaurant near Exeter did quite the opposite to realising her fears. 

The tasting menu included scallops, steak, truffle emulsions, terrine, foie gras and artisan cheeses and without the distractions of choice the conversation became a la carte, was free-ranging and eclectic.  Religion, politics, sex, drugs and rock and roll all had their moments along with  the benefits or otherwise of NLP and the Landmark Forum, below the radar tax changes, TB and a badger cull, immersive theatre and cheese-tasting.  We discovered who, if they could, would 'channel' Elizabeth I, Kris Kristofferson, Gina Lollobrigida and Boris Johnson and what the 30 year life plan was of the birthday celebrant. (More of that tomorrow)  It was a discursive version of supper itself - still pondering the Wine Flight!

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Citizenship - Walk on by?

So -  amid all the Christmas shoppers we spotted the prone body of a young man lying in a Corporation plant bed.  He was deathly white and apparently not breathing and had no shoes on.  I called the police and an ambulance. People with me said not to give my name or address. Why?  Nobody else was stopping.  I called over a lad skate-boarding near-by to explain to the emergency services our exact location.  He looked at at the 'body' and shrugging said it looked like an overdose.  Then at last someone else did stop who had medical training and was able to detect the faintest breath.  Just as we heard the sirens, the young man's eyes fluttered open and he staggered to his feet.  Still looking like death he stumbled off despite our pleas to wait for an ambulance.  He looked at me - terrifyingly it was a stare of pure malevolence.   Some one said he had been 'acting', the skateboarder said he was a nutter, the police said we'd done the right thing and went off into the crowds to try and find him.  I was left very shaken.  
Later on the way home, after the shops were closed, we heard and then saw  a few members of the Sally Army, all uniformed off with their shiny brass instruments.    They were randomly playing carols on a deserted street corner to absolutely no one and I couldn't see a collecting tin in sight.  They shouted Merry Christmas as they moved off, still playing.  They cheered me up but of course their main mission is to help people like the lad we found.  

Monday, 3 December 2012

Time Management - On your mobile!

An often used excuse for not managing time better is that there is never enough time itself left in a day to think about how you might have used your waking hours better. Let alone then consider how you wasted any time and as a result missed any opportunities.  
Now there is no excuse because The Life Audit has launched its own Life Auditing App so you can account for what you do on the move - when, where and with whom.

It's available from iTunes and from Google Play for iPhone and Android priced just £4.99 and is the best investment you will ever make in working out how to reclaim the lost minutes and hours that could change your life for the better and make every second count. 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Home - a quart into a pint pot

    First of all what's a quart?  I thought this as I was working out how to fit necessary belongings into a one room living space that was one twelfth the size of my home.  A quart in fact doesn't come near the economies to scale I am making in terms of furnishings and belongings.  (A quart being actually 2 pints while we are having to scale down much, much more than that.)  
    However the old adage you can only sleep in one bed, cook on one stove and drive one car is so true, as coined by Duran Duran's Nick Rhodes with the up side being that lots of unnecessary clutter is being consigned to the Charity Shop or re-purposed.  
    Meanwhile that well-known Swedish home wares store is proving exemplary in its space-saving furnishing and storage ideas.  In fact the opening and closing sequence of Ikea's small spaces film has given me hope and inspiration -  turning any glass half empty feelings on their head and persuading me that I will find some creative solutions!  I will!

Relationships - Different Strokes for Different Folks

    They say walking a dog is one of the quickest ways to make friends.  Especially when it is a very beautiful black Newfoundland called Tinkerbell.  When we lived in a village she was better known than us.  
    However now she lives in the inner-city and is getting a mixed reaction.  Her new home is distinctly multi-cultural and while she still gets lots of people stopping to pat her and say hello, one group of people go out of their way to avoid her - crossing the road to walk on the pavement there rather than pass her. 
     It was explained to me that in some cultures dogs, particularly black dogs, are seen as 'Devil Dogs' or linked to 'Death.'   Tinks is blissfully unaware of this of course and tries to make friends with everyone.  She'd have an attack of another sort of 'Black Dog' if she understood! Interesting - how prejudice and culture can close down a chance for communication and friendship even at this simple level.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Mortality - Living to have a good death.....

The quote about the certainty in life of 'death and taxes' is attributed to both Daniel Defoe in 1726 and Benjamin Franklin in 1817.  Margaret Mitchell added 'childbirth' to the list in Gone with the Wind in 1936.  Maybe not childbirth, but tax is much on the mind at the moment with this the time when dreaded returns are either late or in train.  And death too seems to be in the air this November with friends and auditors.  
Its so hard to find the right words to give comfort but being in the midst of sadness of both strangers and intimates several condolence poems, thoughts and prayers have been passed on and recycled.  One that has really hit the spot is the wise words attributed to a senior Master at Ampleforth, a Catholic British public school.  When asked what was the ethos of the school's teaching, he answered; "Our job is to prepare our pupils to live life in preparation for a good death." 
It has helped the bereaved of those who lived life well, and to find some purpose for themselves going forward, as has this poem which was left one friend in an envelope by her mother who died of cancer last month. 

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has live
You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back 
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left  
Your heart can be empty because you can't see her 
Or you can be full of the love that you shared
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday
You can remember her and only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory let it live on 
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back 
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

David Harkins

Friday, 19 October 2012

Health - Trust your Gut Reaction

Life Auditing is all about listening to the inner 'you' and learning how not to ignore suppressed feelings and thoughts because they are too difficult, uncomfortable, time-consuming or plain boring to acknowledge and address. 
But one of the simplest things we can do to stress-test our emotional well-being is to learn how to better hear and trust the messages our body sends with its physical reaction to external experiences and encounters.  
I heard a story this week which really illustrated this from a dynamic, focussed and (until I heard his tale) seemingly very strong businessman.  Simon's business was struggling and he was battling to keep it going and his 25 staff employed.  He thought he was coping very well and certainly neither his family or friends were aware that he wasn't.  In truth, neither was he until his body told him otherwise. 
The only thing that made him question the effort and time he was putting into his business was that fact that it stopped him being able to spend as much time as he'd like on duties associated with being a County Councillor, something he really enjoyed.
Matters came to a head after a meeting when it became clear he would have to choose between the two - business or politics.  Displaying all the symptoms of a heart attack, Simon was rushed to hospital.  Dozens of tests revealed nothing wrong so he was sent home after an overnight stay.  
Feeling OK, he decided to take his dog for a walk, during which to his shock he found himself suddenly crying and couldn't stop.  He rang his wife sobbing who came and fetched him.   
"My body just said 'enough'," Simon told me.   "There was nothing I could do about it.  My body literally forced me to a grinding halt."   
As he spent a very quiet four months recovering (walking the dog, sleeping and taking each day at a time - no medication!) other people in the business took up the reins and got on with a corporate re-structure.  Now Simon has a small consultancy role with them and spends much more time with his first love - politics.  
"I am now really aware of any physical 'gut' reaction I have to situations and encounters.  I listen to what my body is telling me.  It seems to know best!" 

Monday, 15 October 2012

Relationships - Behind Closed Doors

What to do if you suspect a friend is trapped in an unhappy and abusive relationship.  Sharon B has got in touch saying she overheard her best friend's husband being unbelievably verbally cruel and viscous to her.  Her friend broke down when she asked her about it and Sharon now knows that the bonhomie and 'hail fellow, well met,' demeanour the man in question presents in public is a complete disguise for the overbearing bully he becomes indoors to his wife and family.  
But her friend has pleaded with her not to confront him and is determinedly not going to leave him.  "For the children's sake..."  is what she said to Sharon, who was at a loss to know what to do.    "I told her I don't think she should stay with him, but, that as she has decided to, I am here for her whenever and if ever she needs somewhere to go.  I think its a relief at least that somenone else knows what is going on in their marriage, but its hard keeping my mouth shut when we see him socially which we still do.  However that is what she wants and so I must respect that."  

The Pathway Project an amazing support organisation for women like Sharon's friend.  
Its mission is to 'Turn Victims into Survivors." It has a 24 hour helpline with someone always on the end of the phone to give confidential advice and support.  

Friday, 12 October 2012

Citizenship - Define Yourself

A sense of Citizenship is definitely making a comeback.  Twice in the last week its been the subject of enthusiastic debate about what actually constitutes being a good citizen.  

American political activist Ralph Nader asked the audience attending one of his seminars to state what role they felt defined them.  Variously they said they were Fathers, Mothers, Sons, Daughters, Engineers, Musicians, Specialists and so on.  Only a couple put down that they were 'Citizens.'  
One hundred and fifty years ago it was a matter of pride to call oneself first and foremost 'a good citizen.'  That description would lead the tributes in funeral eulogies as the Victorians and Methodists pursued good works along with their work ethic.
How do you define yourself?  What bit of your life would qualify you as a good citizen?  Recycling? Helping old ladies cross the road?  Picking up litter?  Using your vote? 
Nader's famous quote is "There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship."

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Work to Live or Live for Work

A Dilemma.  
Many people who can't get the sort of  jobs they aspire to or trained for at the moment are trying instead to set up their own enterprises.  
These are often to do with personal passions or talents.  Look at this beautiful film, made by talented Media graduate Tom Parnell, a talented photgrapher, director and cameraman.  It showcases his embryonic wedding video production company and clearly sets him apart from his run of the mill competition.
Tom absolutely loves his work and can't imagine not having a creative career.  
But being an Entrepreneur is hard and often requires 24/7 self-motivated effort.  As these folk plough through the cash flow plans and crises, try and often fail to raise backing and struggle in the lonely land of the self-employed, many are Life Auditing to see if they'd be happier stacking supermarket shelves or the equivalent.  At least that way, they reason, they'd earn enough to keep the lights on and would get their lives back. 
However, it would appear from The Life Audit inbox, that most are deciding to set a time limit to really 'go for it' businesswise.  Here are their top tips:
  • Set a deadline by which, if you haven't made significant progress you will reconsider your options.
  • Approach making your business a success as a military campaign.
  • Create a strict timetable of marketing, production and sales
  • Work regular hours
  • Build in time for an interest of something completely different ie going to the Gym
  • Laterally think your spare time to see if some pin/beer money can be earned ie shifts at a local pub, restaurant.  (Try and make this a sociable interlude ie NOT overnight supermarket shelf stacking!)
  • Go through your contact lists and those of family and friends and ask for advice and support.  You'll be surprised how pleased people will be to help.
  • Don't fret about the "What ifs....." until you reach your deadline.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Every Contract tells a Story

Like it or not, whatever you do in life, you will almost definitely have to consider and sign contracts of various sorts along the way.  (Even some schools now ask parents and pupils to sign up to a School Contract outlining behaviour and performance expectations).  

You may not think there is much to commend Contract Law and that examining small print is probably the least exciting job in the world.  But myself and a group of other businessmen and women were made to think again by Jacob Scott of Foot Anstey solicitors at a working lunch at Tamar Science Park
Jacob clearly enjoys his specialisation, which is informed by a previous career in business, and got our interest at the outset by stating that we shouldn't look upon a Contract as a dry and dusty document.   Instead we should read it as a Story.  A Story about a Relationship.  And instead of thinking 'Where's the catch?"  We should read it with our mind on the people and circumstances told about in the tale making sure that, however the business fortunes (plot) twists and turns, - a 'happily ever after...' ending is achievable. 

NB An interesting fact too about why contracts might often seem overly wordy.  Long ago draftsmen who drew them up were paid by the word count.  The more they wrote, the more they earned.   Do you think that's where legal verbosity might have started?