Monday, 29 April 2013

Motivating Matters

So many people claim to have trouble with self motivation.  When I was coaching people we used to explore what would inspire them to achieve. The usual text book answers followed - job satisfaction, achievement, making a difference, more life/work balance - some took the more materialistic route naming money and perks. 

In my experience if you want to make progress in having a more acceptable career you have to start with being completely honest with yourself and if needs be write down these thoughts so that you see them in sharp relief.

Consider what elements in a role are you looking for?
Are you qualified?
Do you have the skills for this role?
Do you have the experience?
Do you have the communication, social skills required?
Are you a good fit?
Then a very important question ........will this role support your lifestyle?  Financially? Flexibility?

If you can't answer positively to each of these there is going to be considerable angst which leads to frustration and unhappiness.  It is a matter of being realistic. It is useful to seek the advice of friends or acquaintances who will give you an honest assessment of your abilities and then you will have to be resilient enough to hear the message.  If 2 or 3 identify similar traits about you then maybe they should be taken on board in making a future decision.

A conversation I had this weekend reminded me of a time when I had to really galvanise myself to keep myself motivated and take my own medicine.

At the age of 45 I was a senior manager, good salary + benefits including a car. I also had 2 children - one at University and the other still at school.  My husband and I enjoyed our lifestyle but I was increasingly unhappy with my job.  Things move on, the job you once had had changed beyond all recognition, the culture was different  and so on but at the end of the day I had to be realistic -maybe its not the job I wanted but it pays the bills!

I had wanted my own business for a long time but somehow didn't have the nerve to take the plunge.  Also when you are on a good package - its hard to risk it ....the old "golden handcuffs" situation.  Then the Company merged with another and to cut a long story short an opportunity arose to leave and to take with me a sizeable sum of money.  However, no matter how big the package it had to sustain me over a long period of time and the sneaking thoughts kept creeping into my head - what if I can't get work?

Anyway after due consideration I decided on a plan.  If I left how would I manage the transition?  My husband and I chewed over the pros and cons.  He quite rightly gave me his opinion that I am a very driven person, quite resilient, love to succeed but hate to fail, inclined to be a workaholic,  quite materialistic and size of income would determine in my mind how successful I was.......  inexperienced at marketing............

What next then?  I wanted a smooth transition and I was questioning how I could possible achieve this - I had accrued about 4 weeks holiday and I decided that I would take them at the end of my notice period.  During these weeks I would form  a business plan, set up the structure and essential processes.  I would read up on marketing technique,  network exhaustively and set daily contact targets.  My aim was to continue my monthly income - so when my Company salary ended my business income would provide for the month which followed.  Looking back now this was quite a gamble!  Oh and one more thing!!  I was determined not to use my "payoff"!   This would be my bonus!!
My husband knew I had always wanted a Mercedes SLK  and so he found a photo of the car and framed it and put it on my desk and he told me this was what I was aiming for!!!

So my Management Consultancy business was born!  I was fortunate to get my first client very quickly after that it was much harder but my marketing continued and I got through the first year and my business started to go from strength to strength through hard work and determination.  More on the trials and tribulations in next post.....and also whether I got the car.........

Friday, 26 April 2013

About Face!

As a little girl I loved to draw.  People used to remark kindly on my drawings particularly my ballerinas!
The trouble with underdeveloped talents is that you don't know how good you are and in my day arty stuff was perceived as less vital than academic endeavour......

When I passed my 11 + I went to quite an academic RC School - and when I was about 13 we had to make subject choices and I had to drop art.  

When I retired and indeed really about  4 years before retirement, I decided to revisit my arty side .... I attended 3 short courses at St Martins in London - this gave me the confidence to do get out the paintbrushes.   One of these courses was really excellent and inspirational.... it concentrated on life drawing and portraits and these areas have been my main focus ever since.  I like using oils as with the paintings here.  Oils are so versatile and forgiving!  It is all a bit of fun and remarkably therapeutic.  I do have to be in the mood to paint and can can absorb myself in this for days and then leave alone for  months. This interest fits in very well with all my other hobbies and pursuits as I can dip in or dip out.

When I visit art galleries now I look much more closely at the paintings and question how the really accomplished artists managed to achieve some of their results. So observations, developing skills and technique certainly help in developing a standard you find acceptable.

Its never too late to develop your talents - it won't happen if you don't do something about it!!  Retirement does provide the opportunity to indulge yourself!!

Friday, 19 April 2013

Developing Interests!

What a week it has been - so much sad news, Margaret Thatcher's  funeral, the bombing in Boston and the explosion in Texas. It makes you count your blessings and you realise that you really have no reason to moan!

So this morning I was determined to get back into my routine and positive attitude.  First thing  went to the gym for an hour on the cross trainer and then on to delivering leaflets for the Council Elections in May. I have always been interested in politics and do my bit for our local constituency.  Delivering leaflets provides me with yet more exercise and also combines this with my political interest.  My husband also helps with delivery and its  much more enjoyable when we do this together.

What I appreciate during my task is how hard it can be for our postman to deliver letters when I experience the challenges,  albeit in a limited way!

Letter boxes are arranged in different the middle of the door, some at the bottom and some on the side.  The spring loaded ones are lethal as they snap your knuckles and even worse are the dogs who enthusiastically launch themselves at your enticing fingers.  The more creative have a special box pinned to the wall......flats have boxes in the foyers which can only be accessed at certain times.  Grrrr!!

Access to some of the houses is like an obstacle course - some have complicated layouts which take you through a maze before you reach your destination, others are poorly maintained so negotiating broken paving stones and debris can be a real problem.

At the end of the exercise I feel I have achieved my objectives.......all leaflets delivered, calories burnt off!, and maybe more toned thighs  - I wish.........  time for feet up and a cup of tea....:)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Onwards and Upwards - The Thatcher Legacy!

I would love to discuss some lighter topics but this week this would seem somehow inappropriate.

When someone dies, whatever your view of that person you can't help but reflect on the past.  Maybe that person had an influence on your life or maybe not,  but the fact that they are no longer around fills you with a feeling of bafflement, and an awareness of your own mortality.

I can remember as a young girl that when someone in your own street died, everyone displayed a great deal of respect.  You probably didn't know the deceased but were aware of their existence. We always closed our curtains during the time of the funeral, people often lined the route of the courtege and men would remove their caps as the hearse passed by. People talked in hushed tones and I was aware of the family and friends' sadness associated with the demise of this individual.

I contrast this with then and now and the way some people have chosen to express their views of Margaret Thatcher who only died a few short days ago.  Whatever people's views about the politics of the time, the quite extreme comments of individuals of the past week are certainly worrying and depressing.  Courtesy and respect for the dead is absent. Some claim the right to behave in this derogatory way but were not even born during the time of Thatcher's premiership.  Even worse are those who are of a certain age and indeed my age,  who were around and indulge in this pseudo anger and venom which is totally disproportionate to their own experience of these times.

The fact is that although many carp about the destruction of communities in the North and the part that MT played, they are looking at the world then through rose coloured spectacles........and also the most vociferous were not even there.  Academics probably listen to the very vocal minority who pedal their own perspective according to their own agenda but do they reflect the real feelings of the vast majority?

Let me explain where I am coming from..........

I was brought up in a small mining community in South Yorkshire.  My late father was Polish and had joined the Polish Army as an underage recruit, encouraged to escape the worst aspects of the invasion by his family.  Dad was one of many unsung heroes of the War who couldn't bring himself to talk about many of the things which happened to him and his family.   After the war he was given the choice of the UK or USA to live and he chose the UK.  Many years later the Red Cross put him in touch with the remaining members of his family who had survived the camps and other vehicles of war.

Displaced as he was he needed employment with limited options and that is how he became a miner.  Dad always had a very strong work ethic and always wanted to achieve. He didn't see mining as long term but in the end he worked in the pits for 20 years on the coal face.  It was a miserable existence and was fraught with danger - he sustained many injuries and they left a long term mark on his health.

I can remember mum waiting by the window for him to return home from a shift and when he was late the worry and anxiety was etched on her face.  Lateness usually meant an accident.  One specific incident was when Dad had been in a tunnel as they were excavating the coal and part of the tunnel collapsed.  A pit prop fell with the debris and struck Dad on the head and he was knocked out.  As a child I was amazed at the size of the lump on his forehead. He never fully recovered from this and would often wake in the middle of the night with blinding headaches.  If you also factor in his flashbacks of the war he must have gone through hell, but he did't complain he just got on with things.

Dad didn't work in a colliery near to his home as "foreigners" weren't allowed to work there. So he had to travel quite a distance to work.

Why am I telling you all this?  Well to provide a true picture of what really went on. Yes there were communities within communities - those who wanted to maintain the status quo to maintain the nuclear family.  People lived closely and  knew everyone. Fathers and their sons, uncles, brothers would often worked in the mines. Families worked and played together. Their social lives revolved around the network of working mens clubs. The fact that maybe you could move on and do something different was not always an option that was aired - why would you want anything different?

My mum and dad saved as much as possible during those 20 years and eventually enough for dad and my mother to start small businesses which they then could use their considerable skills and determination and were very successful.  They did not want to perpetuate a regime where your children had to follow in their father's footsteps into an industry which was dangerous and also very limiting.  They wanted something better. The grammar school/ secondary modern system helped to provide an alternative future for us. Academically or practically based education provided different avenues for children which many exploited to the full and achieved more promising futures.

So when we hear about the communities who vilify Thatcher, who by the way closed less mines than
the previous government......, did they really want to perpetuate this way of life for their children just to maintain the status quo?  Many of us have retrained and moved areas in search of more meaningful employment.  What is key is the response to change - nothing ever remains the same nor should it. Maybe the transit could have been handled more carefully but really can't see how with such entrenched positions.

Many mines were not viable, many miners did not agree with the unions but felt intimidated, many did not want to get into destructive financially damaging strikes. Too often the Unions purported to speak for the masses without having a vote.  Who were the winners?  Very often the ones that push the agenda and attract excellent salaries and perks which continue long into their dotage........and the protesters..........they are still protesting............

We all have gripes about our lot in life but you can't remain locked in this negative frame - what does it get you in the end? Achieving more doesn't mean to deny your roots - it means you build on them, this firm foundation which provides progress and alternatives  and a better way of life - that is why Thatcher may at times have been a blunt instrument but she was a necessary one.

Instead of remaining a girl who served behind the counter in her father's grocers shop she chose the alternative.......the Prime Minister of Great Britain............

Monday, 8 April 2013

The Iron Lady

Whatever your political persuasion you can't help but respect Margaret Thatcher our first woman Prime Minister.  She overcame many difficulties to achieve this accolade including the class system at the time and also the fact that she was a woman.

As a young woman I remember very clearly hearing of her election. The women I worked with were so excited at the thought that a woman had made it this far.  It gave us all a feeling that you could achieve anything if  you want to - even a grocer's daughter!

There are many tributes being made from so many people - some even unlikely ones who talk about her values, her conviction and her leadership.  She transformed the nation in a way that no-one would ever have thought could be achieved. She displayed a strength of character which we rarely see.  She even overcame the Brighton bombing and continued to stare in the face of adversity.

She was a "woman of substance"

Friday, 5 April 2013


I have had several emails on the tria I use - see my previous post - "Never say never"

Have a look at this link for more info

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

The Legacy!

A more serious subject today but not necessarily a downbeat one.  I am one of the baby boomers.  I was also one of the "sandwich generation" that is, for a time, taking care of parents and children.  You never think this challenging period will ever to an end but of course it does.

I feel that holiday periods particularly festive ones and bank holidays can be difficult as these are the times when elderly members of the family shared these occasions.  Certainly this was the case this Easter, as my mother, who would enjoy these events,  sadly passed away 2 years ago on the 5th April.  She was one month short of her 83rd birthday.
Mum at 80

At these holiday times you can't help but reflect on past times when everyone was together.  Not to say that these times were always calm - they could be challenging as mum had a very strong personality and very firm views and standards. I sometimes felt that her advice was more of an instruction and if I didn't follow - I felt like the disobedient child. We talk about some of these moments now with great affection and humour.  We tend to think of our parents as a very different generation and that their outlook on life is not ours.........and then as the years go by we start to realise that we are presenting behaviours which are oh so similar.

Here is a photo of mum's garden which she maintained herself until her illness took hold.

 We weren't allowed to walk on this lawn.  My children have fond and amusing memories of her legendary expanse of grass as they thought that not being able to walk on it was the norm!

Mum had a very strong work ethic which she instilled in her children!  She was a perfectionist in terms of her dress, her house, her garden almost to the point of being compulsive obsessive.  She always had a "project",  some objective which made her feel she was achieving - it was something to attain. When dad was alive they loved to discuss what next - the new plan.

This energy and drive continued until about 2 years before her death when some niggling little things she had identified in terms of her health, came together with a diagnosis of motor neurone disease which robbed her of all sense of direction.  All diseases are cruel and certainly this one was very hard to observe because you realise there isn't a cure and when you are caring for someone who has been so active the frustration is palpable.

I like to feel that she lives on in us in terms of our DNA, our values and philosophy. I don't think my brother and I share her exacting standards to the same degree but we recognise the traits and we are grateful for the discipline she and my late father instilled in us and made us what and who we are.

We all have a legacy.  I wonder how our children will think of our generation in years to come.........................

Our grateful thanks to St Lukes Hospice, Harrow