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 🙂

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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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The power of communication and what this means for Article 50

So last week I wrote about the dimensions of communication and I was flattered by the response I received. But the biggest impact by far was that only a day or two after first releasing the post that I was hit with the epiphany about what it is we provide in the language industry.

Synopsis:

Over a number of years now I’ve been asking myself what it is I actually do that helps others. Don’t get me wrong I know that I help people and businesses but what is it exactly that they get from me? After writing my, to date, best blog of the year last week I had an epiphany. Whatever way you want to frame it, the answer to long term question has been answered and the answer is pretty simple, but still very profound. I help people communicate in such a manner that they build trust with people who do not speak their language.

With the submission, today, of Article 50 there is never a more important time in our country’s recent history where communication in multiple languages is going to be of utmost importance. And building new foundations of trust are absolutely paramount.

The power of communication

Throughout our entire lives, we’re influenced by our environment and those who communicate within it. It is initially how we gain the knowledge of our first language, but it goes far deeper than that. Our political viewpoints, our life lessons, our futures all begin with how we are communicated to and from where; making things extremely complicated when we get older if our views later differ from those of whom we uphold the greatest amount of respect. When this happens it demonstrates a level of adult development beyond that of the majority (72%), as they have begun their transition into Postconventional Understanding.

If you find the time to read the paper on Ego Development Theory by Susanne Cook-Greuter you’ll gain significant insight into this fascinating area of behavioural science. In short, those who can “break the mould” and begin thinking individually, and further, are the ones who have a significantly more grounded understanding of how important communication really is and rather than impose this upon others, they are more likely to listen and question their own views in order to further their own understanding and development.

Volume of noise

As we here in the UK enter into the next phase of our country’s history, there is going to be a huge amount of rhetoric from both divides rebuking and counter claiming the other sides “body of Truth”. Sadly for us to be able to hear the real discussions we have to filter out all this noise and begin to look for those individuals who demonstrate a far greater propensity to listen and review than they do posturing as “know it alls”. It is often said that the ones to be more mindful of are the quietest in the room and this is very sound advice. All of that said, Article 50 has now been instigated and there is going to be some significant shouting to filter out over the coming 2 years but we, the United Kingdom, need to also become the most attentive listeners throughout this period.

Communication channels

Throughout the Article 50 process, we’re going to be engaged in negotiations with countries who’s primary language is NOT English. (Oh yeah, that old chestnut!!) Well yes, in fact, older than you may think. Religious or not what was written in the 1 Corinthians 14: 10-12 is probably more important on this, 29th March 2017 than ever before.

Quote: “Undoubtedly there are all sorts of languages in the world, yet none of them is without meaning. If I do not grasp the meaning of what someone is saying, I am a foreigner to the speaker, and he is a foreigner to me.”

We HAVE to ensure that over the next 24 months our message is clear, concise and in a language that the receiving party understands. This does not just mean the translated text it means the context of what we are saying needs to be expressed within that text. The people we are negotiating with, need to believe us, trust us and moreover have a positive emotional connection with us. If the information we provide them with does not convey these messages then our future, and that of our children and grandchildren will be in serious jeopardy.

Conclusion

To keep this short I will say this, never has the importance of my job seemed so significant. And never before has an epiphany of that importance arrived in such a timely manner. Accurate communication creates trust, and trust is what builds long-term relationships.

TGL-2017

Within what dimension is AI communication?

Before I start I have to warn you that this blog is going to be a little longer than you’re used to from me!

Synopsis:

AI is a new buzz word amongst a number of my peers in the language industry and it spans across a variety of other industry sectors too. It has been given an elevated profile in recent months with the introduction of NMT (Neural Machine Translation) by Microsoft and Google. This, in simplistic terms, is machine translation in a large neural network trained by deep structured learning techniques. The results are producing some “human-like” translated content, even if the source of the original content is not entirely accurate. They believe that the accuracy will follow over time, and I don’t doubt that it will get better, but these results could have a more sinister impact in today’s modern communication absorption than on face value. I blogged about this previously. Since writing that piece I’ve been privileged to speak with some highly read individuals on the subject matter of AI, one such person was Marc Cohn who is the VP of Network Strategy at The Linux Foundation, and this has opened up my thoughts to a whole new take on why humans and human contact is so much more important when communicating.

The dimensions of communication:

In order to put this into context, I have broken up the way we communicate and given them dimensions.

Frist Dimension – The written word:

The written word is extremely powerful, as the saying goes “the pen is mightier than the sword” but it lacks in so much in depth and colour. Some of the best authors in the world can evoke these images but each one of those images is personal to you and your own journey to the point in time at which you read the words. How many times have you returned to a book, re-read it, and then seen it in a different way? The point is; we create the texture of what we are consuming from the written word based on our beliefs, state of mind, the speed we’ve read it and numerous other, outside and inside, influences. We’ve no doubt all experienced the social media Keyboard Warriors who then suddenly went silent after something was explained to them over the phone.

Second Dimension – The spoken word:

That leads me quite seamlessly into the second dimension, the spoken word. Our choice of vocabulary, our intonation, our breathing, our volume levels all add another level of understanding to the communication. Unlike the written word, when spoken we can express a simple word like “really” to be one of surprise or one of distrust.  A simple tut after hearing a long explanation as to where you were last night, speaks volumes and evokes feelings in both the respondent as with the receiver not possible without wordy exclamation or emoticons.

Third Dimension – Pictures or images:

The reason so many of us use emoticons is because we need to portrait a feeling visually in accompaniment to the written word. “A picture paints a thousand words” is very true and by coupling the written word together with images or emoticons, we can deliver a richer more lifelike message to the recipient but lacking once again the intonation of the spoken word.

Fourth Dimension – Video and Film:

One of the marketing successes of this generation is creating video content which goes viral. Merging the spoken word with moving images evokes a whole new level engagement with the recipient’s emotions and when done right can create an internet success almost overnight. Sadly it can also be used to evoke emotions such as existential angst, anger and other such ugly feelings resulting in fruitful recruiting grounds for those in society with different moral beliefs than the majority of us.

Fifth Dimension – Live music:

When moving into the direct communication from one human being to another there is nothing more powerful than live music. Thought provoking, beautiful poetry arranged skillfully with musical accompaniment and delivered live on stage is about as intimate as it can get in one-way communication. Yes, there’s an argument that the artist delivering this also get’s their feedback from the reaction of the audience making it a two-way communication of sorts, but this is limited to the message being given and does not diverge greatly from the original message. Obviously, this is very subjective and again the recurring theme of the present moment comes back.

Sixth Dimensions – Group meetings:

Meetings all tend to have some form of agenda, otherwise what is the point of having a meeting right? So when these happen there is generally some steer as to where the conversation is going to go. In a business meeting with more than 3 or 4 people present, it is good practice to have a chair of the meeting and with greater numbers, especially when it comes to negotiations, observers are a must. The communication here is usually divided into pack communication and if there are more than 2 packs they can get very loud and disjointed resulting in them becoming difficult to chair. Rules and guidelines of how to conduct oneself at these meetings will add another level of constraint and complexity to the event and in these cases, a single person needs to provide the authority and purvey over the order of the meeting. – The speaker in the house of commons is a prime example of somebody taking on this role. This communication level is rarely very intimate and emotions are usually evoked by pack mentality and belonging.

Seventh Dimension – Face to Face, or One on One

Before I being this final one, I would like to say that all the dimensions listed do not extend outside of the physical realm. I am aware that there is an etheric level of communications that stretches far beyond the limitations of our physical one, but this is neither the time or place to expand on that. There are also others with far greater knowledge and experience in that field, who can guide you through those if you have the desire to understand more.

Face to Face contact adds the final layer to our cake. Not only do we have the optical stimuli such as eye contact, hand gestures and other body movements, we also have all our other senses, smell, touch, and that all important gut feeling (and yes, this does stretch into the etheric). The power of being in the same room as another human being and being able to converse with one another freely is second to none. Engaging with all 5 (or 6) of the senses immerses one in the full spectrum of available emotions and is by far the most revered form of communication available to any sales professional.

Why AI will never replace human beings in sales:

Taking the above into consideration, it is quite easy to see why AI will not be able to replace sales professionals, but only if both parties value human contact. If you’re a sales person hiding behind social media and emails then you either need to up your game or leave the profession. It really is that simple! AI will certainly become good at recognising some written emotions, and most likely good enough to evoke a purchasing decision in a purely transactional sale such as the purchase of most things you find on Amazon, but it won’t be able to create the content needed to steer people down a purchasing decision that goes beyond that. And it certainly is not good enough to produce the levels of emotions created by books like the Haemin Sunim’s “The things you see only when you slow down”. Similarly, back to my industry, the content created by human linguists in marketing and such like will be extremely difficult to reproduce by the likes of NMT.

Where do you conduct most of your communication?

So far AI has managed to encroach into one or two dimensions of communication making it a fairly flat and mundane form, but they are certainly working on others. However, due to the complexity of the physical realm alone, it will be a long time before they can move it away from this flat communication field. It is in this communication field where I see a large portion of my peers hanging out too and consequently where a large amount of scaremongering content is being produced. This volume of content is clouding the overall reality in my view. There is so much noise about unprecedented job losses through to machines taking over the world with an Orwellian precision that it is often all too easy to just sit back and believe it. Yes, AI can determine your emotion by what you post on your Facebook page, but this is ultimately down to you. So be honest how often are your true emotions revealed on your Facebook page? Right now there are only a select few who know your innermost thought, in fact probably only 1 if you don’t believe, and two or more if you do believe.

So in a business world you ultimately have to ask yourself the following questions:

  • How do my clients what to engage with me?
  • How do I communicate with them right now?
  • In which dimension do I produce most of my content?
  • Can I move clients from one dimension to another?
  • Are my clients wanting to move to another dimension?
  • Does what I provide need a deeper and richer understanding?

In summary, there is a lot of good coming from AI and over the years that follow it will only get better. Yes, there are going to be some job losses, as there were in the industrial revolution, but there will also be new opportunities too. However, despite the quickening of the pace of innovation, things will not change overnight and we will all have the time to adjust, who would have thought 10 year’s ago you’d be reading this on a mobile phone (statistically that’s what 60% of you will be doing), but again there’s nothing wrong with that. But here’s the thing,

So here’s the thing, AI technology is here to stay! It is being used in all manner of ways but the one area I don’t believe it will ever take over is real and in-depth communication.

 

Fundamental Movement Skills (FMS)

Over the weekend I was privileged to be able to offer some of my time to helping others in a sport I adore. As some of you will be aware I am a qualified British Cycling level 2 coach and throughout the year I have the joy of sharing my passion with all kinds of people from all walks of life and in all age groups. I regularly feel like this is pure selfish indulgence as I can pretty much guarantee that I get just as much out of it as those do who I am honoured to coach. Nonetheless it is purely a voluntary position and therefore it does have to fit in around my other commitments and getting that balance right can sometimes be a challenge.

When Sunday morning arrived I wasn’t entirely rested as the night was a little shorter than usual due to a late night with my lovely wife and then an early wake-up call from my energetic little 3 year old son resulted in some very tired eyes. After a quick breakfast I embarked upon the trip over the Pennines to the the National Cycling Centre in Manchester to be greeted by a very friendly face and a VERY welcomed cup of coffee.

After a short introduction we were split up into 2 main groups and logically all the coaches were together in one group whilst the volunteers were in another. We, the coaches, were then taught the latest in coaching techniques to facilitate the further development of FMS.

So what is FMS? – For those of you who remember the youthful days of climbing hills and trees, jumping in and out of back gardens and kicking a ball around an empty field; you’ll be subconsciously more than familiar with FMS. It is, as the name suggests,  “Fundamental Movement Skills”. What is very sad about having to be taught how to teach these is the fact that we now have a second generation growing up in the western world who do not have them. As for the first generation it is already too late for them to ever reach their full sporting potential in a large majority of cases, but it ISN’T too late to reverse a significant portion of the damage already inflicted; if we all take ownership of what it is we’re failing to do right now.

FMS then! The ability to perform simple tasks such as jumping, skipping, kicking, hopping turning, twisting, balancing, catching, rolling…. the list goes on. It is brutally alarming that we’ve already got one generation arriving into their adult life who are missing these basic skills and a second generation already in the making with the same deficit. Why?? well the simple answer is us! We are to blame really. We’ve allowed our children to not become bored, we’ve wrapped them up in cotton wool and we’ve created a society where protectionism prevails over common sense. We give them electronic entertainment devices to feed their need for everything to happen right here and now and they rarely go outside, especially if its raining, to enjoy simple playtime with their peers.

It has therefore become my job, and coaches like me, to help children find their FMS so that when their raw talent does shine through, and they are picked to progress into the elite training environments of our sport, that they do have a chance to attain their full potential because they’re no longer lacking the Fundamentals.

Applying this same logic to the world of business I wonder how long it will be before we realise that we’ve also got a “fundamental management skills” deficit and that this selfsame protectionism (or as I like to call it the “passing the book” attitude) has resulted in a wave of talent coming through who no longer know how to take ownership. They’ve never been allowed to fail as somebody has always found an excuse for them, “Oh the resources weren’t available sorry they couldn’t deliver on time” or “Ah yes the power went down so they didn’t have access to the internet” or “Actually they did deliver 2 out of 4 so I think that’s good enough don’t you?” Consequently they have now been attuned into finding the blame elsewhere rather than looking at themselves first, and all this from a very early age.

I really don’t want this to be viewed as a “When I were a lad” post, because it isn’t. I’m actually taking ownership of this outcome. I want everyone who reads this to think about their own situation, as a parent, as a business owner or as an employee and ask yourself a simple question. How does what I do make a difference?, and more importantly, what is the difference that it makes? Once you’ve rekindled yourself with this then apply a few basic foundation building skills of your own so that our younger generation can grow up and gain a full and extensive experience of real life, with all it’s beauty and hardship that comes with it. Encourage them to take ownership of their own outcomes and give them the confidence that they can tell you when they’ve messed up without the fear of you blowing your top and then covering up for them. Together we can help realign the next generation of talent with reality, because the world they are going to be living in will be far more demanding than the one we’re all living in right now. It is our duty to ensure that they have the Fundamental Skills of Life to prosper in it.

Feel free to let me know how and what you’ve done.

TGL

Ultimately I’m the one who is to blame

All too often in life people are looking for somebody to take the rap if something doesn’t go to plan. It is has stemmed from quite a healthy notion of … “Okay this hasn’t quite worked out right, let’s take a deeper look at where things went wrong so we can learn from our mistakes”  but this has long since become an exception to that initial notion.

Sadly there are a whole raft of bad practises now in play who’s sole aim has become to exonerate blame in the event of something going wrong, my personal pet peeve is the COPY THE WORLD into every email… but let’s not go there right now.

So let’s take this back to basics. I am in sales, I am the outside representative of my company and I have a duty of care to every one of my clients. If something goes wrong it is my fault… NO… it IS my fault!! What goes on behind the scenes has nothing to do with it, what happens in world politics has nothing to do with it, and what happens within the client’s company has nothing to do with- This is my mindset and therefore I am solely accountable for everything I recommend to all of my clients.

Clearly upon dissection of each individual occurrence it is most likely going to have been a fault outside of my immediate control but by taking on this mindset I am doing two things.

  1. I am extremely diligent in my scoping of every project- and I have an amazing team behind me who help me do this.
  2. I am ALWAYS available to my clients and no request or enquiry goes unanswered (I don’t have my head in the sand hoping it will go away).

This clearly does not make me some kind of superman; all this does is makes sure that no matter what I promise I deliver, and the same goes for my personal life too. The thing is, this isn’t just something you can switch on and off at will. Once you start taking ownership, you start to do it in all walks of life and in my view that is predominantly a good thing. However here’s a small word of caution. If and when you do make this mind shift, be prepared to let people down! Not because you’re getting things wrong all the time, but because you will stop taking on everything, as the sheer volume of responsibilities you will have will become overwhelming.  At first this is a difficult one to deal with, especially if you are always one for “helping out”, but believe me in the long run you’ll be thankful that you’ve read this because a little disappointment here and there is much better than loosing your integrity through not keeping your word.

Have a great weekend and be mindful of what you promise.

TGL

Getting outside after a long week

It might be quite apparent to some of you that I am a great believer that we should spend as much time as we can outdoors. So after a deterioration of health within the family unit towards the back end of last week there was very little opportunity for any of us to be out of the house much. Over the weekend however things improved significantly and today we had some glorious weather in our part of the country, albeit a bit on the chilly side. No such thing as bad weather, just poor clothing choices; is a regular passage spoken in our house. 

So off we set, with the sunlight streaming through the car window we headed north east to Fountains Abbey. Making good time on some strangely empty roads we arrived well before lunch and flashed our national trust cards upon entry. We love it there, their well maintained grounds and stunning views are just the tonic you need when you’ve been cooped up in your office half the week and travelling on public transport and pounding trade floors the other. Add to that two little ones who have were both going square eyed from the relentless repeats of the sound of music and fireman Sam (sickness bugs kind of do that to you) and the inevitable energy release followed by total energy drain were of no surprise. 

With only 1/2 mile left to go they’d both had enough but the promise of lunch and a warm room to eat it in was fortunately tempting enough to help them reach their final reserves. After this we had another fairly traffic free drive home and our vitamin D had been given a well needed boost. 

This is why I enjoy my life so much. Everything is intertwined the energy I gain from days out with my loved ones like this set me up perfectly to tackle a new week of work ahead. One compliments the other in harmonious equilibrium and the challenges from either are made easier by the joyful memories of the other, bringing a state of zen like stability to both worlds. 

It is time in the open air that helps with the healing process of my mind, revitalising every fibre of my being. Is it any wonder therefore that I’m sat here right now waxing lyrical about the virtues of being outdoors. We all have to make choices in our lives and today was certainly the right one to make in mine. 

TGL

If you live in the present your new world starts every day!

Over the last 48 hours there has been so much talk and comparisons made regarding the inauguration of the latest president of America. I do not doubt in the slightest that things on the world stage are going to change over the coming weeks, months, years; and I really don’t want to start hypothesising about where America is going to be 5 years from now, because quite frankly there is precious little I do in my life which can influence the direction she is taking. What I can do though is take control of my own life. I can influence the small few who surround me, who need me, who love me, and who believe in me. Who then in turn can do the same to those in their close circle of life. If we start looking for all the good things to share, smiling at people we barely know and sharing our inner most thoughts with those who we truly love and trust, then maybe just maybe this united act of loving kindness can steer the world in a more harmonious direction than the one we’re currently being fed by the world’s doom and gloom press. 

Every day I wake up surrounded by my loving family, I meditate and find inner peace to start the day, and I then try to share some of this joy with anyone I can so they too can have a small moment of happiness in their day.  I am not special, I have a million flaws, I hurt in so many ways but I live in the present moment and as a result my life has a new beginning each and every moment in each and every day. I learn from the past, I forgive myself and others for things I now understand to be hurtful and I continue to listen to my body, my mind and my surroundings so that I don’t make these hurtful mistakes again. I don’t always succeed either but I try and by doing so I change over time. So if you too, as I did not all too long since, find yourself being absorbed by the poison of the press and those who preach it without validation, then take a moment to breath, think about where you are and become present in your here and now. It will, I assure you, take away the initial pain and help you focus on what really matters, YOU and those close to you.

TGL 

2016 round-up

Synopsis:

In order to do a round up you have to reflect on the year gone by and in order to do that you have to record things as they happen or indeed shortly after they happened during the year. As I was particularly poor at this on here during early 2016 I’ve had to resort to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and more importantly my personal hand written diary (which I incidentally didn’t write up last night)

The first half of 2016 was totally intense. A very busy work scheduled coupled with my Level 2 British Cycling Coaching course, my shoulder operation and the building of my new office all demanded an extraordinary amount of time and resource, so consequently something had to give. It was my passion that took the hit. In 2015 I managed to total just under 6,500 miles on my various bicycles and this dropped to a little over 1,500 this year. I have increased my my running from 80 to 150 year on year, but that too has been mainly in the latter half of 2016.

With targets readjusted to accommodate for all of this I’m happy to say that by the end of the year I’ve achieved 8 out of the 10 ambitious goals. More importantly I have learned some extremely valuable lessons in yearly planning so this next year should see me achieve even more but with less impact on my personal passions.

So here’s the top 3 lessons I’ve learned this year.

  1. Do not try to do a year’s work in the first 6 months.
  2. Always take time-out to reevaluate your position.
  3. Use at least 2 mentors.

Lesson 1

At the end of 2015 I completed my business plan for 2016. I listened to Michael Hyatt and decided that 2016 was going to be my “Best year ever”. To all intents and purposes it really was one of, if not the, best year I’ve had in this industry and I almost certainly had the best final quarter I’ve ever had. So what went right and what went wrong.

Well first up I completed my top 10 goals of 2016 as instructed. I defined them, applied deadlines to them, committed them to writing, shared them and added milestones to keep the checks and balances in place in terms of progress. What I didn’t do was spread these out in the right proportions over the year.

By the end of April, 1/3 way through the year, I was heading towards burnout. Something was going to have to give and I had to shift the finishing goalposts for 3 out of the 10 goals. I then had a portion of work to do to re-calibrate those goals and some difficult decisions to make in terms of where my priorities lie. By the time my summer vacation arrived in August it was well overdue, but the 2 weeks I took were the perfect tonic and the business focus I attained because of them was incredible.

I spent 2 weeks in September mopping up the final fallout from the first half of the year and then focused on finishing the job at hand in the final 1/4. – It worked, thankfully.

What I did wrong here was overstretch myself both physically and mentally in the first half of the year. I overestimated the amount of energy I needed to complete certain tasks, especially when they threw up unexpected curve balls. Ultimately I did complete them, but not within the timescales I’d allocated and also at a severe cost to my personal well-being. It also had an impact on the other goals I’d set, as these were not given the full attention required to complete them as I would have liked to have done, so this left me with an subdued feeling of completion as opposed to an elated one.

It is not a nice feeling to have achieved something but not feel like you want to, or can take the time to, celebrate the achievement.

Lesson 2

The first half of 2016 had me head down blowing out of my arse (cyclists amongst you will know what I mean) and all I saw was a huge road of tarmac required to travel along before the finishing line even came into sight. Not only did I not have time to breath, I didn’t have time to think either and therein was my single biggest mistake of the year. Having appointed 2 mentors at the beginning of the year, I had but one single evaluation meeting in the first half of the year and that was in February. It wasn’t until July when I finally “took the time, not found it” to have a 2nd meeting that I was made aware of what I was doing.

Powering forward all guns blazing was burning and I was heading for a fall. It was around this point that I became hugely aware that something was going to give and if I wasn’t careful it would be my health. Without your health you can’t do a thing so that really does have to take number one priority in my view. After taking stock of the situation a number of decisions were made to relieve the initial pressure, and then put in place a plan to recover so that the rest of the year didn’t suffer too much. Again it was abundantly clear that this year was going to suffer a little as a result, and it was my choice as to what part would actually suffer.

Health, Family, Career, Friends and Passion. and in that order. Fortunately my passion does have a health twist but it was my passion that had to go. I kept up a minimum level of fitness “Auf Sparflamme” (pilot light- just enough to keep ticking over) but I was quickly loosing the top end and consequently I was also gaining weight (although my wife did comment to say that I was now looking much healthier than I had been the previous two years). So I accepted it. My maximum weight threshold was increased, my minimum exercise levels reduced and I even changed the type of exercises I was doing so that the time constraints I had could still be used to maximum effect. I quit my 2 positions on the committee and concentrated solely my coaching. This freed up the time I needed to ensure the other elements of my life were being completed correctly.

It was this painful evaluation that saved my year, I had already achieved a massive amount in the first half of the year, but the detrimental effect of over-working was going to impact severely if I didn’t go through this process, and this segues perfectly into lesson 3.

Lesson 3

As mentioned a couple of times throughout this blog I appointed 2 mentors at the beginning of the year. These people were chosen to enable someone from the outside to review and reflect on my progress and offer guidance on fine tuning the processes being used in order to achieve my goals. What I didn’t expect to happen was, what did happen. In the early half of the year one of my mentors was quite ill and as this person was my main contact person. I found it difficult to impose on the other as they too had a number of things they needed to achieve in their life (yes remember your mentor has a life too) so I just carried on. This compounded my headlong charge to disaster as the communication requirements to nudge me back on track were lacking. Fortunately it wasn’t too late when my mentor finally did recover enough to school me. And I use that term very definitively. I needed educating in the 2 life lessons I’ve just described above.

Mentors tend not to tell you what to do but rather they offer alternative courses of action which can lead to the same outcome. The best mentors will even use questioning to enable you to come to that alternative course of action without having to even mention to you that what you’re doing is, in fact, not working very efficiently. This is precisely what I was enabled to do and I cannot thank my main mentor enough for this.

I realised how important having a mentor was almost 7 months into 2016 and I can now tell you all, that you need a minimum of 2 because if your mentor does fall ill their skill and wisdom will need to be complimented by somebody else who is also in a position to enable you to think differently.

Conclusion

2016 was, personally, a very good year. I have learnt a lot about myself, and more importantly about others and the power and influence they have on how you conduct yourself. I have learnt that surrounding yourself with like-minded people only reinforces the behavioural traits you already have, and if these traits are stopping you from progressing, well guess what? You’ll continue with the status quo. Me, I’m not happy with the status quo, yes I have a great deal to be grateful for, and yes I am very happy doing what I do (in fact I love my job) but in order to improve you need to think differently and you need to be surrounded by positive influences, be that people of experiences. So for 2017 I have once again planned out my year, once again I have ambitious goals and once again I have appointed mentors; but this year I have also put changes in place to adjust my environment so that I can truly make 2017 – “The best year ever”

It’s only a number

I have now travelled 50 times around the sun. Half a century on this wonderful planet of ours and to all intents and purposes I feel as good as I’ve ever felt about myself, but that really wasn’t the case this time last week.

I’m not really somebody who worries too much about my age, I’m fit, healthy and have a lovely young family who help me stay that way. So when I made the plans to celebrate my 50th birthday it was’t really going to be anything out of the ordinary.

The format was simple, invite a bunch of people you know and love to an open house starting early afternoon and finishing when the last ones leave. It worked wonderfully for my 40th so why change a winning formula I thought.

My wife and I planned the food and drink and repeatedly over the last 2 months we’ve bought bits and pieces each time we’ve been out shopping. With the exception of the one or two last minute items, we’d got everything sorted by Monday last week and all that was left to do was see how many people actually turned up.

Monday evening was the first night I really noticed it. “I can’t get no sleep” what was going on? There was nothing I could attribute the restlessness to other than “just a nag”. Tuesday saw a repeat but this time the nag was much more defined. I now knew precisely what it was.

By the time the weekend arrived I’d accrued no more than 2 to 3 hours of sleep on every single night of the week and all because I was turning fifty. Thoughts like being hit by a car whilst out riding my bike to being taken out on a pedestrian crossing on my way to collect the children from school were a paranoid status quo in my mind and I seemed powerless to be able to control them. FOR CRYING OUT LOUD it’s only a number!

I cannot begin to explain the elation that hit me on the actually day of my birthday, fortunately it was also a day before the party. A feeling akin to having a lead weight removed from your chest whilst walking into the ocean paints a fairly accurate picture albeit not one I, or many others for that matter, have experienced.

That evening I dropped off to sleep almost immediately and then slept through until early the next morning. So where did all this anxiety come from?

It would seem that the power of moving on into a second half century had a profound affect on my mind. I would like to say that I remember it all too well when playing cricket in my younger years, but I was a bowler not a batter and I rarely made it into double figures. I can however see how these psychological effects can really cause people to stumble last minute in their sporting quests or adventures and as Beth French said in her interview with Lynda Tucker this week, if you let your mind believe then you body will follow.

So my mind does believe. It believes that 50 really is just another number and though my body sometimes does play up from time to time, being able to still run a sub 50 minute 10km at over 50 (which I was when I did so last night) means that there is lots of life left in this old dog yet.

Believe in who you are, believe in what you can do and don’t let the power of destructive thoughts beat you down because, your mind leads you wherever you go.

TGL

 

Terry’s takeaway 2016-12-11

Give praise 

Quite an apt title for a Sunday but this does not refer to any religious beliefs as both they and politics are items I am trying to ensure I keep out of my business life. 

So why write on a Sunday? Well today I took my daughter (5 years 11 months) to her very first parkrun. Her interest was piqued by my winter training. Biking and UK winters are not always something that go hand in hand, and this year I have issued myself a new rule “no riding below 3 deg, solo, and when it’s dark” Surprisingly these parameters come into play a lot more often than it would first appear and in order to ensure that I don’t lose all my cardio fitness and leg muscles over winter I have started running again. 

I do seriously enjoy it though and when you’re out 3 times a week running and just once or twice maximum cycling, kids pick up on it quickly. 

Two weeks back I agreed that I would take her to the parkrun and today was the day.  Her inaugural 2km. 13.42s and all holding my hand around the entire course. I cannot tell you how proud I felt. I did however tell her this and the light that shone in her pretty little face was sheer gold. 

It allowed me also to think about what these few words of praise did for her and for the rest of our day too. Just a few honest words of encouragement and gratitude enriched our entire Sunday. 

So this week I challenge all of us to find just one or two words of praise each day and to let that person know. Both yours and their world will be significantly more pleasant as a result.

TGL