How life lessons can help you in business

There are pivotal moments in everyone’s career and recently this has happened to me. Having suffered a number of forms of adversity over my 1/2 century on this planet, this last bout has been by far the toughest. Whilst I am still suffering intensely with the grief of my current situation, I am still obliged to and moreover, really need to continue working. The focus this situation has gifted me for my day job has been immense and whilst I don’t recommend it to anyone, it has certainly brought some significant clarity to all areas of my life.

I will not open up my private life for all to read, the word private in that opening sentence cannot be emphasised enough, I will, however, be drawing some parallels from a situation which some of you may or may not be familiar with. At the beginning of last month, I was delivered a bombshell and one which ripped the very soul out of my being. The impact hit me with the same magnitude as the hurricanes that were battering that the coastline of Florida at that time. Whilst all this was going on in my personal life, I was also expected to perform, at my very best, at the number one conference of my business calendar this year. It was awful! Multiple uncontrollable outbreaks of emotions in any given hour of every single day made for an extremely challenging 4 days and to cap it all, I was living in a small hotel room on my own in our capital city. To be surrounded by over 20 million people and feel so alone was such a devastating feeling, made even worse by the guilt of singling out that the homeless seemed to have it better than I did because at least they had each other to talk to. I was at the lowest point of my life to date and knowing how low I’ve reached in the past, this meant I was pretty darn low.

Each day that I trudged to the exhibition hall, I swore to myself that today would be a better day and each day my situation worsened. Within the exhibition walls, however, there was a different tune being played. Born out of this adversity, rose a fearless ability to tackle some of the most difficult of tasks in the murky world of prospecting. Direct questioning (so I didn’t bubble up in an emotional wreck in the halls) and concise reasoning for my being there were never more present than during this time. I was confident, courageous and creative. The conversations I had were all relevant and, after the feedback I’ve been given since then, nobody I spoke to walked away feeling that they had wasted their time. Quite the contrary, in fact, I’ve even received some very complimentary correspondence from a number of new contacts expressing their gratitude for the knowledge they’ve attained as a result of our meeting. What’s more some of these new opportunities discussed at the event, have already progressed further into the sale cycle and I am really enjoying delivering on the promises I gave during those 4 frightful days.

Since then I’ve had some time to reflect on the unfolding of both my personal life and my business one. And whilst the horrors of my personal life continue to shift at unprecedented vigour, I’ve managed to find a space where I can put these continued bombardments of emotions into neat little categories and consequently separate them from business life. Equally, I’ve been able to utilise the lessons I’ve learnt for the greater good of serving my clients.

So here are the top 5 lessons I’ve learned over the last few weeks:

  1. Learning to stop in the middle of a discussion and ask for a time-out because the clarity of your thinking is being clouded by emotional attachment.
  2. Learning to not be satisfied with the first answer given but deepen the understanding with further questions.
  3. When you feel the most uncomfortable, you’re actually beginning to get somewhere.
  4. Status Quo is the single biggest killer of any relationship.
  5. Daily journaling and meditation allow for space in the mind to get the real work done, one day at a time.

What are the 5 most influential trends in businesses across the globe right now?

This is going to make everyone who reads it, sit up and shout “HELP!” and quite rightly too. And the help that you are going to need is slick, refined and accurate communication help!

  • 1- Flat-line spending in the West and massive spending in the emerging markets

Since 2008 the western world has been on a spending diet. Budgets cut to unprecedented levels, pay freezes equating to negative salary growth over all sectors (public and private) and a huge increase in mergers and acquisitions to try and compensate and retain market share. For you and I, very little of this has been good news and many of us have had to experience a change in the industry within which we were employed, just to stay afloat. As an example, 65% of all the peripheral companies providing services to the finance sector disappeared. This did, however, have a positive effect too. The natural balance of “cause and effect” meant that on the flip side there was a rather large spending increase in a number of the emerging markets. As time has moved on this is having a huge impact on how global companies are operating, I’ll elaborate more on that shortly, resulting in a new world order when it comes to how we need to be marketing our products and services.

  • 2- The divergence of market strongholds, no more are countries influenced by a single provider of services, be that a company or a country.

Especially prevalent in the defence sector this one but across the board, the stronghold (monopoly in some cases) that companies, and countries, once had is no longer the case. Ever increasingly countries who have typically only bought from one other country (Vietnam from Russia for example) are now looking further afield and mitigating their reliance on just one source. Risk aversion is key here and (pardon the pun) burying the hatchet of recent history has even seen the likes of Vietnam purchasing arms from the US to complement and replace their existing stock.

  • 3- Global markets are now looking for exports in new markets to increase market share and company growth.

Coming back to the point I raised at the end of the first trend in this list, we are now seeing companies looking for new export markets to increase their market share and bottom line profits. Not surprisingly, the well-established brands are feeling the pinch of the budget and spending cuts in the west and are looking to replace these deficits with new blood from markets previously untapped. This brings with it a whole bunch of new and exciting prospects, as well as challenges, and finding the right ones is going to be key to their success.

  • 4- Countries who were previously just purchasers of products are now manufacturing and exporting themselves.

Countries who have benefited the most from this recent tipping of the scales are ones who have now got the ability to manufacture and export themselves. The diversity of products available from other, not so well known countries, is quite staggering and this is having a significant impact on how markets and companies are responding.

  • 5- The next 2 billion people to come online will not have English as a first language, in fact, the majority won’t even chose English as their first foreign language.

Finally, and I may have mentioned this on a number of occasions, this fact is going to have a massive impact on how we communicate. Within the next 5 to 10 years 2/3rds again of the existing online population will be added, none of whom will have English as their mother tongue. At this point, the most predominant language of the digital world will have lost its crown. Remember how international communication (the written form) was once the golden nugget of the French language?

  • So what can we do now?

A very good question. No matter whether you are an industry leader or a start-up, for your business to grow to its full potential you need to be thinking Global from the outset. With very few exceptions, such as domestic services (plumbers, electricians, gardeners, builders, etc), today’s businesses have the potential of a worldwide appeal and in this worldwide village, there are well over 200 different languages. There is, of course, very little chance that you will be able to speak them all, nor is there likely to be a need to do so, but if you’re serious about your export markets you will have to communicate in a much larger number of languages than ever before. In 2001 it was estimated that to reach 90% of the online market you would need just 13 languages in 2013 that figure rose to 21 and in 2020 it will be a minimum of 48. As I mentioned in point 5, the dominance of the English language is being threatened and by those countries who now have a say in the international market. If you step back in time to the early 70s, where Willy Brant, leader of the German SPD 1968 – 1987, first verbalised this famous saying, “If I want to sell to you then I speak your language, wenn Sie mir was verkaufen wollen dann müssen Sie Deutsch reden.” – I’ll translate for you,if you want to sell to me then you must speak German” never has this sentiment been more accurate than in today’s digital world.

In short, to get ahead of all the big boys in your industry, you can do far worse than having a sales window in the language of the country you’re looking to export into.

Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

In 1996 my journey began, quite literally actually. I started driving long distance haulage and going to night school to improve my German. This was because to get where I needed to be, I had to attain the top 2% in Maths, German and English. This, in essence, was the start of my real love of languages and all because I wanted to complete my degree in IT Sales and Marketing, in Germany, in German. The pre-requisites for starting this “fully funded from the union” retraining program was pretty tough to swallow at first. However, when I came to start the course, it became abundantly clear as to why.

I completed my consolidated 5-year course in just short of 3 years and was awarded the highest ever marked paper in the whole of Germany for my paper on “Selling KVM switches to the German market, from England, using a distributor network”.  (99%)

I attribute a large portion of this success to my German and English tutor during this period of my life, as she was so passionate about the subject matter of language it was impossible to not absorb it by osmosis, never mind anything else. And this passion now runs through me today.

Had it not been for the fact that these pre-requisites were strictly adhered to, I would not have been able to be taught to such a high level in a language that wasn’t my mother tongue. Being able to impart knowledge on another, as any coach, teacher or professor will testify, is not an easy job. Having to do this when the person receiving that knowledge is also limited by their lack of language within which it is being taught, makes it near impossible.

So on to my question of the day! Is our public safety being put at risk because of a lack of language and training understanding?

I ask this for a number of reasons, not least of which because of my very own personal experience; which I believe places me in a very unique position of authority.

  1. Companies, organisations, schools, universities, sports clubs, hospitals, small business, in fact, every organisation who could be in contact with the general public, in whatever means, are mandated to deliver health and safety training to all of their staff.
  2. Not all of the staff in these companies/ organisations are native speakers of the companies’ corporate language.
  3. Financial cuts to both public and private sector companies/ organisations.
  4. Brexit
  5. Trump
  6. Polarised political views
  7. And I could continue!

It is quite alarming, when I’m talking to potential prospects about their language requirements for their corporate e-learning material, how many say “well they should speak [INSERT LANGUAGE] because they live in this country” or “It would cost us far too much to do this in all [INSERT QUANTITY] languages of the people we employ”, or something else along those lines. Yet they are all willing to take on these employees because of their work ethic and their acceptance to work at a lower pay grade than most of the domestic low-cost workers in that country. Not only is this practice putting the lives and welfare of these workers at risk, but all that of the general public too. How can they expect an employee, who does not have the corporate language of that company as their mother tongue, to be able to be schooled on Health & Safety?

So in these times of e-learning, where it is now being used consistently for cost saving purposes as well as ease of deployment on a global scale, wouldn’t it be “SAFER” for all involved, if the most critical of training is at least conducted in the mother tongue of the scholar?

Is “Death by Blockchain” coming to EDI?

Blockchain! The latest in a long line of modern technologies to take the headlines by storm. If you’re new to this then a really informative read on how it works and where it can be applied can be found here. It is a section from within this document and as a result of viewing a promotional video from a high street bank here in the UK, that I paused for a moment and came to the realisation that this technology could become the most serious threat yet, to our beloved EDI!

The Premise

The premise is simple, Blockchain technology is secure, fully auditable and totally transparent. Where EDI has it’s downfall is largely the complex nature of the mapping and cross mapping reference tables coupled together with the multiple VAN/ FTP/ AS2 (etc) message transport protocols and no single agreeable global format for communication exchange. I mean, ANSI X12  is still being widely used despite a call for an EDIFACT standard to be incorporated and quite frankly there is only one winner in this world of confusion, the EDI integration providers. Even the introduction of PEPPOL, which was halo-ed as the “VAN KILLER”, has done little more than adding further complexity to an already mystifying and cross-industry expense-inducing business requirement. Even the most remote African farmer is required, by the larger super market chains, to be EDI compliant or they incur a financial penalty for not being so, hence why Fax to EDI became yet another protocol!

So why is it that this laggard seems so irreplaceable?

EDI has been with us for over 30 years now and, in my opinion anyway, should be awarded a major resilience prize, but it is not without help from us. By “us” I mean human-beings and our immunity to change. To this day, an EDI industry colleague of mine informs me, companies are still requesting email orders to be integrated into their ERP as a quasi EDI form.  We are inherently sceptical of anything new and frequently apply the rule of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” EDI, however, has actually been broken for quite some time, not to the extent that it doesn’t work, but it certainly doesn’t work efficiently anymore. It was built in a digital era where less was more and by that, I mean less in terms of bits and bytes. The smaller the message the less it would cost when being transmitted over the VAN (Value Added Network for those not familiar with this acronym). A well used, but still very valid, argument for the use of EDI is the comparison of the cost of postage versus the cost of a digital transmission. ROI is demonstrated over the software set-up costs and, depending on volume, this initial cost can be easily recouped within the first 6 to 12 months. It has taken years of persuasion to take on this worldwide adoption of technology and when we consider that in today’s digital world, mindset changes over 30 years are equal to 300 years of the pre-digital era it can surely only be a matter of time before the laggards of the EDI move forward into a new era of document exchange. On the flipside, and probably another reason why there is such an immunity to change is the capricious nature of software and product development by the likes of Google. It was only a few years back that I was forced to move to a more stable multi platform note taking environment because Google decided to can theirs. And similarly, that happened to my blog a few years prior to that too.

So in short, I do believe that Blockchain will add real value to the world of document exchange. It will create a more transparent, secure and robust environment upon which businesses can develop their own unique document exchange programs, which can freely and simply interface with another organisation and reduce human error, by reducing human interaction and simplifying the communication. However, it is the human at the end of this chain, the one like you and I, who will ultimately decide how quickly this happens and also the one who decides if they will allow their jobs to be taken by AI. As the old saying goes, “to err is human, to completely mess it all up requires a computer!”

Exposure of a Sales Professional

A few months back I ranted on about mobile phones and the lack of attention the sales staff were paying to the passing trade on their exhibition stand – you can read it here. However, I was not doing this to elevate me as having superior knowledge about sales and sales processes, no I was doing this to highlight the lack of attention we pay to real life when we get our heads stuck into our mobile devices. Moreover, it followed on from a previous blog where I offered some practical tips and advice on how to conduct ourselves more professionally in this situation, all in the vain hope that it would resonate with some of my peers.

In the last few weeks, I have seen an alarming increase in “sales bashing”, especially on LinkedIn. People with a vested interest, of course, exposing poor sales pitches for all the business world to jeer over and pass hurtful comment about. It feels like it has become a game of “Expose the Sales Professional” and one where they are clearly hoping to gain new clients for their own sales training businesses.

Maybe it’s just me, I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure that ridiculing somebody because of a poorly written email is a surefire way to find yourself in the firing line at the first slip of your own keyboard. It is very easy to pick holes in other people’s work and though the examples exhibited were particularly poor, it does not mean that these people are worthy of such scathing criticism. For all we know they may have been given this list of sample emails to use by their manager and could face serious consequences if they’re not used to the letter. And I know, that this could open the door for more sales training but you get my point.

Personally, I’m not in the business of coaching sales but I am a coach and I know that it is my role to impart the techniques necessary for the people I’m coaching to be able to improve and turn those techniques into a skill. In the same way, I know that the sales trainers and influences I have the most respect for, do exactly the same. Quite often these industry leaders, offer a whole heap of training advice for free as a means of demonstrating how proficient they are in this field.

So here’s a little humble advice, from somebody who has been in all positions on the sales continuum. Whenever I purchase sales training, and I do so on a personal level quite regularly, I think hard about who I am prepared to invest my money in. That individual or company has to have an integrity about them that I can relate to, a strong character who does not feel the need to ridicule anyone because of their lack of knowledge or understanding and one who would not expose my weaknesses in the WorldWideWeb for all and sundry to scorn upon and make fun of.

Nobody is perfect, nobody was born a genius and nobody should be publically hung out to dry for not being either of those two things, especially by those very people who are supposed to be helping them to get better.

TGL

 

 

Why is it I feel so worthless?

The simple answer is I’m in sales! – Should I just leave it there and let you all fill in the blanks? OK maybe not!

It is systemic in today’s society that you’re only as good as your last success. A sportsperson strives to become number one only to realise that once they’ve got there, there is only one way to go and in sales, it is no different. You strive to be the best in your company, to achieve or overachieve your targets and each time you reach a pinnacle point, you either drop back or find yourself with an even greater target to work towards.

I am painting a pretty grim picture about life in sales, but it is an honest one and in order to enjoy this profession you have to break things down into smaller steps and be prepared for some significant setbacks along the way.

So let’s start with expectations! Setting expectations is an important part of the process. Over the years I have been guilty as charged when it comes to feast and famine sales. A consequence of varying factors but one in particular. I have found, over the years, that I am extremely good at getting a week’s worth of work completed in just 1 or 2 days. I rush headlong into a day with to-do lists longer than a Shakespearean novel and by lunchtime, I’m done. I’ve rattled through them in order to get finished and in so doing I have rarely had time to breath. At this point, I fall over in an exhausted heap on my desk and spend the rest of the day procrastinating because I physically and mentally don’t have the energy to do anything else. I usually find that the day after follows with a major slump in the morning, before the guilt of procrastination initiates the next bust of “get it all done quickly”! By the close of business on the second day I’ve completed a week’s worth of work and feel drained for the rest of the week. By setting weekly goals I find myself falling into this trap week in week out, however, in sales you need to plan your week. In fact, you really need to plan bi-weekly 1/4rly, half-yearly and annually. So what should I do to stop this?

My Q1 this year was “off the chart” amazing and having just closed out Q2 it has become apparent that my weekly intensity programs have manifested themselves into 1/4rly ones. Q4 last year was intense, and this is why Q1 allowed for some amazing results to land. Whilst this was happening I was tied up with the detail and as Q2 approached I realised that my attention was not in the right place. Q2 was therefore spent in the same vein as Q4 last year and in reality, Q3 is looking pretty good right now, but what about Q4? In order to ensure that this doesn’t slump in the same way Q2 just has, I have to change my 1/4rly feast-famine approach and set myself some more realistic expectations.

The Simple Seven:

  1. Sales is fluid and there will always be seasonal and organic fluctuations
  2. You cannot work at 100%, 100% of the time
  3. You don’t have to be the best
  4. Being consistent is much harder than being the best
  5. Don’t rely on others to help you, if you need help ASK for it or do it yourself
  6. Allow yourself time to enjoy the journey, it is the getting there that’s important and not the destination.
  7. Remember that you are not the right solution for everyone you meet

Using these “simple-seven” will empower me to keep going, but more importantly to slow down. With a whole 6 months left before the year closes, there is more than enough time to close out another successful year and then prepare for the next one. And all this whilst still taking time out to enjoy the journey and celebrate the successes along the way. Maybe I shouldn’t feel so worthless after all!

TGL

Should we charge to quote?

I’m currently thinking of ways of taking ourselves out of the continued, “Also-Rans” situation when a potential client just uses (abuses) us to fulfil their “3-quote” due diligence requirement.

Preamble:

Over the last 18 months, I’ve had a potential client request a number of quotations. Each time they have been left open as a “maybe but not just yet” – First off this tells me that I’ve not done my job right (or in theory anyway), which in its own right is a bit of a worry, as I’ve been doing this job for long enough to know when, and when not, to quote. Secondly, when I did a little bit of digging the other day, I noticed that 2 of the jobs we quoted for have been completed but even when armed with this knowledge I was informed by my contact there that they were still on hold. Curious to say the least. Finally, another request came in for a quote and I’d pretty much had enough of being made to look a fool. Not only does this affect my KPIs but it also, far more importantly, takes me away from working with other potentials who are far more likely to respect the work I do for them and honour me with an answer either way. So this time I pushed back and I’ve heard nothing since.

Why does quoting cost so much?

In its most simple form, there are approximately 4 people involved in preparing an accurate new quote for a new prospect. There is a tech team, a projects team, a finance team and a sales team. We’re very thorough in our approach and this reaps rewards later in the process so it is generally considered time well spent, provided that they say yes at some point of course. It is all part of the client acquisition process and it is also the reason why it forms part of our KPIs. Depending on the magnitude of the request, this can become a quite lengthy process too and involve almost double the number of personnel. Consequently, this process has a real monetary value associated with it, one which we offer for free as part of our service. For the most part, this later becomes a much simpler process, once the client is on-boarded, and the cost of quoting is then reduced.

When a client, therefore, repeatedly goes through the same initial process time and time again, without ordering, this can become an issue. To resolve this issue,  on this occasion, I did something that I’ve not had to do before in this industry. I charged for the quote, well I told them that I would be doing at least, they consequently said that they didn’t want it and I’ve, unsurprisingly, not heard from them since.

So here’s my question! Do you believe that you should charge for quotations, and at what point in the client acquisition process do you make that decision?

Or, do you believe that they should always be factored into the cost of sale?

 

Integrity

Here in the UK, it is the day of our general election and this latest “buzz word” has become one of the most over-, and misused, words during a dirty and personal campaign. One where honesty and morals were certainly not on the top of everyone’s agenda. Not surprisingly then, upon hearing someone tell you how honest and moral they are, your initial reaction is one of mistrust. Politicians certainly have a lot to answer for!

But is it just politicians who are to blame? No, is the short answer. They are the ones who are “en vogue” right now but just a short step back in time provides us with evidence of other “supposable” reputable groups of people doing the exact same thing. Bankers, the Police, Lawyers, Priests, Kings, Queens, celebrities, in fact, the list goes on and on and all of whom have somehow been entangled in some reputation damaging scandal that has resulted in mistrust. We’ve created a whole new generation of scepticism.

In my industry, as a language service provider, we too have had our fair share of scandal and bad press. You don’t have to do too much Googling to uncover some highly amusing bad translations, warring factions within a company causing irreparable damage to it and its ultimate demise, and stories of rabbits becoming accredited court interpreters. Is there any wonder then, when a sales person, who also carries with them a professional stigma too, approaches somebody about being able to help them with their language needs that they get a very frosty response? It is, quite frankly, a difficult one to overcome. Especially as within this industry there is a very strong human bias in the final delivery of the service. Linguists, Project Managers, File Technicians, Vendor Management Teams, Salespeople and then all the usual company administration teams, all mean that, at some point, mistakes are inevitable. Therefore a strong emphasis on how you, as a company and a salesperson, deal with these human errors is something that can truly distinguish you from your peers.

It is herein that the word integrity is of real value! Do you have an integrity DNA strand in your professional and personal lifeline?

In a world where social media places your life on public display, it can be very easy for somebody to take a look at what you’re saying and doing almost 24/7. In fact, when somebody doesn’t have a social media presence, they are often seen as “wanting to hide something”. So here’s the rub, whenever you’re online, be that on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn or wherever, you have to be aware that this is going to become your digital DNA, both as a person and as a company. If integrity doesn’t shine through here, then you might as well have a 1-star review on Amazon.

Inside the hurt locker!

Over the Bank Holiday weekend, I was a fortunate participant in my cycling club’s annual Humber Bridge Audax. Every year Huddersfield Star Wheelers meet up at Huddersfield train station and set off on an epic flat ride (flat for us anyway) out to the Humber Bridge and back in a day. In the previous years, I’ve not been available to join the ride as it has always been on the late May bank holiday weekend, but this year we had nothing planned and I was given the proverbial “day pass”. This year was also different too, it was now an official open Audax and therefore open to all clubs so a total of 90 riders were expected to join in the fun.

I wasn’t particularly looking forward to it either! My training, in the build-up to the event, had been marred by illnesses and a severe lack of time in the saddle, raising my concerns of even completing it, nevermind being able to keep up with my usual riding partners. As the day grew ever closer, a watchful eye on the weather for the event turned up the paranoia one notch further. We were forecast an outbound tailwind, but a fairly brisk headwind on the return leg and every cyclist I know knows what that means when you’ve already got 120km in your legs before the turn. So throughout the week preceding Sunday’s epic adventure, my inner voice was formulating all kinds of excuses as to why I could fail and why it might not be a good idea to even embark upon such a journey.

It was Thursday, however, when I set my mind somewhat at ease. I completed my last “hard” short training session and smashed an arbitrary goal I’d been seeking for years, on my VLC (virtual lunchtime commute). I felt good that evening and at least the weather forecast hadn’t gotten any worse since the beginning of the week so I settled the argument with the voice and told him I was doing it.

Friday I coached, Saturday I coached, Sunday I woke early and had a VERY large portion of porridge. The day had finally arrived and I set off on a cool and drizzly Sunday morning for the 8am station meeting point. I set off in good time so I took it fairly steady, as it was going to be a long day out. When I got there, I met up with a whole bunch of familiar faces telling tales of the suffering of years gone by and I was all on, to tame the “told you so” voice in my head. I also heard that the “Steady Eddies” were already long gone, as they had taken it upon themselves to leave at 6.30 so as not to be returning way after dark, so my get out of jail free card of riding at a more sedate pace had already been used up, unless of course, we could catch them up.

We set off and the large group was very quickly split with a pacier bunch making a break due to traffic signals riding through town. By the time we reached the roundabout at Grange Moor, there were a number of very distinct groups and I found myself at the front of the second one of these groups. As the undulating terrain through Flockton began, it became clear that a couple of the riders our group were new to this form of riding and this caused for some early concertina-ing, which can be quite energy sapping. After the second rise, when the front two riders rapidly scrubbed off speed as opposed to just digging in a little, I let my momentum carry me through and then put in a few strong pedal strokes to carry me to the top of the hill. This quickly formed a gap of around 200m, after continuing at that pace on the flat for a while, and as I came round the corner I caught sight of the leading group, about 250m ahead. I was between a rock and hard place. I decided to just keep on pedalling and hoped that I would either be able to tag onto the back of the leading group or get swallowed up by the trailing second group as my energy drained. Fortunately, my good friend Steve had registered what had happened and picked up the pace of the trailing pack and they caught me about 100m out from the leading group. We made up ground towards them fairly swiftly and before we reached West Bretton Roundabout the leading group was now around 24 or more strong.

Using the tailwind to our advantage we made great progress out to the first checkpoint and took a wise decision not to hang about more than to get our cards stamped and fill up our water bottles. By this time the sun had also come out and what started out as a grey drizzly morning turned into a wonderful sunny day.

The halfway point of Humber Bridge was the next stop and, having lost a couple to the lure of a longer rest and ride out at a more sedate pace, we set off again around 22 strong. The pace was, once again, pretty stiff but even with an unbalanced load sharing on the front it still made it attainable for everyone involved and we arrived at the Bridge ahead of the Steddie Eddies. They did clock us though! And sneakily snuck into the cafe ahead of us whilst we took a photo opportunity 🙂

HB1.jpg

HB2.jpg

Refuelled and ready to go, although my food arrived delayed and I was forced to leave 1/2 a coffee cake and 1/4 of a baked potato as a result, we started our return journey.

The headwind very quickly made itself known and we had to arrange the group on the fly to balance the load sharing much more evenly. To a large extent this worked well and our average speed, although taking a hit, didn’t diminish too much. It did, however, take its toll and there were a few who could no longer take their turn at the front. On one occasion this was me too, as two of the stronger riders in front of me pushed up the pace so much that I was struggling to hold on whilst directly behind them and so when it came to me doing my bit I lasted no more than a minute or two before having to own up and calling for some assistance from behind. We reached the final checkpoint at the same time as this same group in the previous year had only just left the Bridge, and Dick wasn’t going to allow us much time to breathe before rallying us all back together to continue. With one energy spent casualty having to stay behind at the stop, we received a rousing and very clear instructional speech from Jonny asking those who could do their bit to do it, but to, this time, keep the pace more reasonable as we all needed to get back together. At this point, I held my hand up to announce that I would struggle to do my bit but I’d give it a go as did two or three others, honesty was needed at this point.

It was in this final leg of the journey which found me sat inside the hurt locker. I’d done 2 turns on the front, despite announcing I probably wouldn’t be able to, but with 30 miles (50km) left to go, I was hurting badly. The next 15 miles (25km) I was in a pretty dark place, every slight elevation caused me pain but I managed to work through it and by the end of it I still managed to enjoy the final 15 back to the starting point and didn’t hold up the group all too much either.

After 7h44m34s in the saddle, I’d managed to complete 237km at an Avg of 30.6kmh making this the longest ride I’ve done to date. It is a credit to the group that I rode with, as much as anything else, as to why I accomplished this in the way that I did and I’d like to thank each and every one of them for their encouragement, support and laughter when it mattered most. You are a credit to your clubs and yourselves and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of the day. And yes, even when I was sat in the hurt locker!

Cheers

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Taking myself away

As I’ve mentioned on a few occasions over the last few months, I’ve been practising mindfulness meditation since the beginning of the year, and I’ve found it to be extremely powerful. So when I awoke to the horrific news from the centre of Manchester this morning, just 35 minutes away from where I live, I was grateful that this practice has become part of my morning ritual. As the morning’s news later unfolded and the details of the trauma and devastation it had caused to the family, friends and public services were unveiled, there was nothing more needed than an extended lunchtime walk into the Pennines.

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These hills are just 15 to 20 minutes walk away from my front door and I am eternally thankful that I returned to them in 2003, after an 18-year absence. I find an immense amount of peacefulness when I’m alone in them and today, solitude was just what I needed.

It is during these times of nationwide sorrow that I believe the practice of inward reflection is such a valuable skill to have. It is all too easy for people to start accusing one thing and another for the atrocities that have occurred and in so doing, stirring up more tension in an already snare drum taught situation. I don’t exempt myself from this either, my initial emotions of pure hatred towards the perpetrators were so violently charged that I was shaking with rage. However, I applied my acceptance principals, not of the act but of the feelings, and was later in a position to uncover where they really came from and why. This did not, in any way, diminish the abhorrent levels of disgust for the ones who carried out this mindless act of inhumane violence towards children, but it did allow me to not fuel their crusade by vowing for revenge. Violence has never defeated violence in any situation ever, over the long term. It has always been love and compassion that has finally conquered.

Whilst the horrors of last night are still so raw, it is hard to believe that there won’t be violent repercussions of one sort or another and there are those who will justify their actions on a world stage. However, I make a very humble plea to everyone, please, don’t fight fire with fire! We are not going to resolve this with bombs, guns and reciprocating violence. Anyone who has had any form or military training knows, that the most effective way to neutralise your enemy is to take away their communication lines and their funding.

So these awful examples of the human race thrive on social media and electronic messaging. Please, before you re-post ANYTHING, check the source. Don’t allow their network of followers to grow through inadvertently advertising for them.

And finally, to all the leaders of the world, there is enough anecdotal and physical evidence available to your country’s intelligence services to allow you the luxury of understanding who is funding these organisations, so just STOP trading with them! Regardless of what that means to your GDP. One parent’s child’s life is worth more than the world’s GDP combined and the sooner we accept this the sooner we can quench the radical fires of terrorism.