Starting again is not failing; starting again is not failing (repeat to fade)

In the travels of life

I am starting my life edit again.

I could end the post there but that wouldn’t make for a good journal for me to read back on.

Like many good intentions/resolutions/promises-to-one’s-self they don’t always provide a return for the initial enthusiasm investment but although my initial plan didn’t sustain life-editing has very much stayed with me.  It was particularly renewed when I took part in ‘Live Below the Line’ – a challenge to eat up to £1 in total per day for five days in order to reflect on the millions of people who live on this figure entirely.

I may not have starved and I may not have REALLY felt what it was like to live below the line but it realy challenged me.  It made me think about what I want v what I need; the waste in mine/our lives (not just food either); it caused me to reflect on how different our lives would be if we took what we needed and then carefully considered how we invest the rest.

So I am starting again: this time in bite size chunks. And I am documenting it so that I can remind myself (as I have just done with my posts from two years ago) how wonderfully therapeutic life-editing is and how much much is discovered without so much baggage.

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Spam

I have an old email account, which I had to ditch because I had used it to buy so much stuff resulting in my address being on every mailing list in the retail world. I now have 32,396 unread emails on that account. I would say at least 95% of that is spam…. that’s about 30,776 emails that I don’t want to read.

The concept of email from a marketing perspective – and as discussed in a previous post, marketing should mean communication – often ends up being a one-way communication. I so often see email campaigns (eDM’s if we’re going to jargonise into marketing speak) talk at people, not to them or with them. There is no real offer for the viewer to contribute to the conversation yet it is precisely that engagement and participation that relates and registers with people far more than just words on a page. This is an easy thing to fall into when emailing because there is no physical presence of a person, but it got me thinking about the physical world and whether we actually allow a two-way conversation when we DO have the physical, tangible, presence of a person in front of us.

I am currently hosting an Alpha course group, it’s a course that explores life and where God might fit within it all – hugely emotive and potentially divisive. The group is an amazing mix of perspectives, thoughts and logical (and emotional) reasoning. It’s important within any conversation that both parties feel equal enough that there is less fear to contribute and more subjects that each participant can relate to, even if their views are different. In this particular setting that requires me as a host to say less, without trying to control the conversation in a rigid way, allowing the conversation to organically grow within a safe environment. I say very little in way of my own stories, thoughts or ideas so that “host” isn’t confused with “teacher”, it’s incredible how much space that allows people and it’s even more incredible how much I learn.

A friend of mine had developed an amazing meeting technique for both face-to-face meetings with clients and conference calls. He would introduce himself at the start of the meeting or conference call but then wouldn’t really speak until nearer the end. Whilst for the first two thirds of the meeting he almost seemed to be shying away from the subject matter, actually what he was doing was writing down the key words that would come up again and again. Then, in the the final third of the meeting he would chip in with something profound that stopped everyone else from talking. In actual fact, all that he had done was take out the key points made by everyone and relay them back to the group without all the unnecessary information that had taken up the meeting. One such call was with people from the sporting world. Big players from the business side of the NBA were on the call as well as our clients and business partners. My friend was, on paper, the least experienced. Yet it was his lack of spam and the careful and considerate silent observation that meant his words, nearer the end of the conversation, were the words that were remembered.

I can talk. A lot. When I am nervous or trying to cover up a vulnerability with humour this is especially true. Yet equally, when things actually matter, I don’t talk. I found my first ever school report and noted how little I had changed. It read “Kirstie is a sociable part of the class, but will often be found in the book corner on her own”…

My conclusion; we need to say enough that we are a contributor, that we play some part in the direction of conversations. But if we aren’t talking with purpose, then we might just be spamming everyone. It’s ok to observe what happens with silence too.

If in doubt, it’s probably best just to listen.

Challenging circumstances…

Beyond the physical “stuff” I wanted to look at what other clutter was holding back my focus. Ideals and realities, beliefs and educated guesses – when something extraordinary happens you can either be someone who can walk on by, or it prompts you to comment or analyse.

I met, for the first time, a friend of a friend who I had been promised was “great fun” – indeed she was and was also very interested in my life edit endeavours. Upon telling her about what I was trying to achieve she promptly whipped out her phone to show me a photograph she had taken of a quote from Jalaluddin (try saying that after a few glasses of wine!) Rumi – “Out beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there”

I'll meet you there

The recent murder of UK soldier, Lee Rigby,prompted reaction positively and negatively from so many. How quickly some were to resign and condemn all religions and immigration laws in response, going into a protective “save ourselves” bubble where, should we not have any religion or people of foreign origin, “the world would be a much better place” (for the UK I assume).

I am a very comfortable and proud Christian, and yet I feel brave to say that on such an open and not-necessarily-Christian forum.

The reason I feel brave saying that on here is because people get hung up on a small part of a big picture but make big picture judgements.

I haven’t been a Christian all of my life and, and actually spent the first few months “trying” church believing that Jesus was probably a David Blaine of his time. But when I had a better understanding of my own beliefs, based on what I had learned and my experiences, the response from those i told was a mix of amusement, fascination, warning and in a few cases, agression. Equally, I felt pretty intimidated by church goers too, inhibited by my earlier uncertainty of whether Jesus was the son of God or the son of Mrs Blaine from over 2000 years ago and not feeling particularly qualified to be there. I was the new girl in the yoga class and convinced everyone else knew all the moves.

How much time I must have wasted between those two human walls.

The moment I stopped trying to align myself with anyone else was the time I was able to just ‘be’. No one could tell me that I was wrong to be a Christian, equally I wasn’t scared of being a “bad” Christian either. I could spend a life time reading the bible because I thought that was the right thing to do, or I could read it because I was interested. Ultimately, in anything; by cutting out the focus (or judgement) on anyone else, you shift from “what I should do” to “what I can do” and that has much more rewarding results.

I love how Russell Brand approached the subject and is not scared to simplify it by a common, human, ground: “..be loving and compassionate to one another” and that’s what it all comes down to, whatever you believe.

The field that Rumi talks about seems like a good place to be…

Russell Brand, from his website http://www.russellbrand.tv/
Russell Brand, from his website http://www.russellbrand.tv/

Pep talks

I once worked with a girl who I was completely amazed by. She was out of university but couldn’t find a job so took matters into her own hands. She became a spokesperson for graduates in her local government, set up a copywriting bureau and never stopped looking for the perfect first job. That first job was an Account Executive at the Marketing & PR agency I was working with at the time.

She became a key member of the agency and was one of the strongest copywriters in the entire business. As with all of us, sometimes life leaves you feeling lacking in confidence but she only had to look at what she achieved with nothing to see what she could achieve with the support and resources of an agency.

When I left that agency she wrote me the most beautiful letter that I have ever received. In it she said: ‘You once told me “do you think Karren Brady got to 23 and made MD of Birmingham FC with that attitude? Absolutely not!” I repeat this to myself all the time’

She taught me a lot about the value of words.

47 pairs of shoes and a whole lot of cleanser

I wouldn’t ever have described myself as very girlie, feminine yes, but girlie no. I have long hair and a love for heels (which, at 5’4.5 – basically 5’5 – and a lot of tall friends, is a pretty natural desire), but I also love adventure war wounds and driving as if I am auditioning for “The Fast and Furious 15” (or whatever number we are up to).

So whenever the subject of shoes came up, I would almost proudly announce that I “do not have hundreds of pairs of shoes”. Well, I may have been right about the hundreds, but as I went through, ruthlessly bagging up all the things that were taking my focus away, I started to look at all the shoes that were mounting up. Counting; 1,2,3….10,11,12 (slightly shocked at this point), 22, 24, 25 (audible “OMG’s” by this point) 36, 37,38 (starting to distrust my own counting ability by now) 44, 45, 46,47.

47!?!

I checked again. Still 47.

As I looked around at the graveyard of heels and shoe boxes, I wondered two things; 1) how on earth had I amassed this amount of shoes? 2) how did I not know I had amassed this amount of shoes?

Most hadn’t ever been worn, others hadn’t been worn since the 90’s.

What was more remarkable, was that upon second glance, my ruthless drive had gone and was replaced with a preparation plan for every possible eventuality that I may need a shoe for.

Of my favourites; “mid-height heels will be great if I get some trousers to go with them”. I don’t have trousers that have asked for “mid-heels” as yet, I am not sure I ever have.

Then there was “well there will always be that time where I will need old trainers”. Yes, always. Quite. Phew that I have three pairs of old trainers then for the constant stream of old-trainer-requirements.

This theme continued throughout the day where dresses that were too big for me were “good if i should ever be pregnant”… well that’s good to plan for. I don’t have a significant other and I am not sure I will be chosen for an immaculate conception, but at least I have a dress should I one day look down at my stomach and suddenly find myself with child.

A pair of jeans also made it into the same scenario where I may need old trainers. I’m so looking forward to that day, I’m going to look awesome.

Possibly even more shocking than my shoes and clothing range, was the incredible amount of skin care items I had. 12 tubs, bottles or tubes of moisturiser, along with a myriad of different face cleansers, toners and some other items which have bold statements of preserving my youth and making my skin look like it’s been airbrushed.

I finished after having gone through items in only one room. One black bag of things to give away to the rubbish fairy and three black bags of stuff destined for charity shops, eBay or a very fortunate friend or sister.

Admittedly some items, however bizarre the reason for keeping them, did make it through. It’s early days and as my best friend once said when she ate a bacon sandwich the same day she decided to be a Chicketarian (a vegetarian who eats chicken apparently) “lifestyle choices take time”.

"How did I end up amongst all of these shoes?!"

“How did I end up amongst all of these shoes?!”

Space to think

Space to think

I recently decided to perform a “life edit”.

In reality this probably started about two months ago when I gave up my full time and very demanding day job as a successful Business Development Account Director at a Marketing & PR agency to freelance and get a focus. A scary decision, but a needed decision and one I have so far been glad of, particularly as my first focus was to help start a charity which I had been attempting to do in my spare time (http://sportforfreedom.org in case you were wondering).

Marketing & PR in it’s rawest form is communicating, on a logical and emotional level, a story to get engagement from it’s viewer. Looking at the who, what, when, how and, importantly but often overlooked, the why.

It’s about getting to the point and making it, then building that story.

I’d become the queen of “mood” videos to condense thoughts and ideas for clients and prospective clients into something that would touch multiple senses and highlight the opportunity, as I saw it, of where the logical meets the emotional in their offering.

So when I looked at my own story I had to wonder what the answers to all of those questions were and I realised that I was the proverbial plumber with a leaky tap.

I was then introduced to this TED talk “Less Stuff, More Happiness” where Graham Hill very eloquently uncovers the idea of what we need versus what we have.

‘Need’ is a very logical ideal. The very premise of ‘need’ suggests something that we literally can’t live without. But what Graham poses through his talk, is that we all need to be happy. ‘Stuff’ does not necessarily result in this outcome.

Although this particular talk focuses a lot on the physical, for me it can be applied to all the bags of life that we are to balance:

  • Emotional
  • Spiritual
  • Physical
  • Financial
  • Relational

All these contribute to a big bag

  • Humanity

I am sure there are others too.

This idea of balancing our bags was an outcome of a recent discussion with my mentor around focus. I thought a lot about what she had said, all of which positively navigated my thoughts, and the image of these bags came to life (in my head they are sacks with coffee beans in them, with the big writing on the front). In everything we do we are either adding or taking away from a bag, for example if you want to join a gym you might take from your financial bag to add to your physical (and emotional and mental) bag. Or worse, we don’t add to any of them (for example endless hours in an internet “hole” – where time passes and you have realised that despite all the funny videos you have just seen on YouTube, you have nothing to show for it).

If the most desired outcome is to see each bag be fruitful then the least desired has to be that we add to none of them or even take away from some of them.

I wasn’t sure how bountiful my life bags were because so much of them were surrounded by clutter which was taking my time and focus with real return.

So I will be starting with the easiest thing to de-clutter; stuff.

It means sorting through my room, my garage, my friends barn, my friends living room, various place in my parents house and probably other places I can’t remember.

I couldn’t tell you exactly what is in all of these places (except I know that my sofa is in my friends living room, it’s pretty memorable being so big) but I do know that when I move in August I don’t want to be taking all of my baggage with me.