Sunday, 22 April 2012

How's your self confidence?

How's your self confidence? I bet it's not as robust as this guy's. You see we all live with self doubt. In fact a friend recently said; 'Robert, it's your self doubt and depression that makes you so good at what you do.'

And my self doubt is actually little more than a nervous edge that ensures I take nothing for granted. Working with a group last week, I had the very affirming opportunity to see how people respond to me. Once the penny drops they open up, reveal their challenges and we can start to explore solutions.

Large audiences are different. You see someone sharing a private joke at the back of the room and assume they're laughing at you. We all do that. I think it's what makes us work an audience and in my case, tailor each presentation to the group I'm talking to. And when the joke is shared later, you realise it wasn't about you at all. So why do we let self doubt screw us up?

How does the guy in the picture manage? Even the Prime Minister is saying nasty things about him. There's a massive campaign to get him out of the UK. His self confidence must be in tatters. Or is it?

My guess is that his commitment to his cause has over-ridden the basic human need to be liked. Being hated has somehow strengthened his resolve and so the more he is reviled, the more successful he feels. I'm sure it's a recognised psychological phenomenon.

So how can we get some of his self confidence, without becoming evil? I wonder if it's actually about having a personal mission. Something you really want to change in the world. Something that takes you above the day to day stuff that you can hold on to when the going gets tough.

Inevitably that mission will involve helping others. Not perhaps to 'martydom' but a more fulfilling life. Is mission the magic that can boost self confidence? Discuss!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Smoke gets in my eyes

Had he not died 30yrs ago, today would have been my late father's 85th birthday. I often wonder why I remember his birthday so easily and my mother's simply passes each year unremembered. (She died two years earlier).

I guess it's the time of year. The melancholy that accompanies the dawning of a new year. The cold weather and a time when work takes second place to life, inevitably leads me to contemplate death.

My father was not a happy man. He struggled with his demons and as he grew older, the demons began to win. He'd shut himself away, play Bach sonatas on his piano and drink. I think at the end he was consuming at least a bottle of Bells whisky a day, but this did not seem to salve his pain.

Finally he had the death we all hope for. He got out of bed one morning, took five paces, had a heart attack and was dead when he hit the floor. A shock for him and a relief for me, my brother and sister.

As time passes, the memory of my parents inevitably fades. My helpful mother in law sometimes says; 'I wonder what your parents would make of your life now?' Rather than rekindle memories this simply reminds me of the distance I have travelled since they died.

I do benchmark the relationship I have with my kids with that I did not enjoy with my own parents. There is no comparison. We are all very different and thank goodness, far happier with each other. I have huge respect for my now adult children and all their achieve; I think that respect is mutual, although of course masked by the usual cheeky banter you get from your kids.

The photo, is of Ipswich Crematorium. It's where both parents and one grandparent were dispatched. I've never been there and doubt I ever will. I've always avoided committals and was not there when either parent slid from chapel to cremator. Perhaps that's why each new year I remember. Perhaps next time I go to a family funeral I need to let the smoke get in my eyes.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Out with the old and in with . . . . .

Heck, I've not blogged for months - not here anyway. Let's change that right now. This 'Unlimited' blog has never been for the faint hearted. Or those that might be put off by the exposures and expositions it contains.

I'll be here at least weekly throughout 2012. so let's start today.

After 8yrs I'm finally off the pills. It's so convenient to pop one each morning to take the edge off the anxiety. I'd convinced myself that it was like adding 'Red X' to the petrol in my car; a little performance booster that did no harm and made the engine in my head run smoothly.

But surely if I'm to grow as a writer I need to feel more acutely. How can I truly observe and comment on the human condition if insulated from it? The pills had to go. Eight months of psychotherapy defragmented my thinking and took out all the damaged bits.

Next I discovered Moodscope. This brilliant (and currently free to use) web service asks me 20 pertinent questions each morning. The results translate into a graph. That graph plots my mood. It's academically robust and so credible. What is incredible though is the way it works. Or does for me anyway. The questions force me to think, albeit fleetingly about my well-being. My graph became more stable as my mood levelled out.

Next step, off the pills and in my case some quite interesting side effects. These have now passed so what I am feeling at the moment is what I really am - who I really am and more. It's quite exciting. It will give my writing in 2012 a human dimension that has thus far been suppressed. Watch this space!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

The end of the line, or the light at the end of a tunnel?

I'm very fond of my 87yr old uncle. We share a birthday and the prejudice and discrimination he has experienced in his life is one of the drivers of my own campaigning. He's gay, increasingly infirm but still up for a challenge.

Recently, he broke his hip and spent two weeks in hospital. Then, discharged before really ready he lasted a day at home before returning to the ward briefly, only to be discharged again. This time he was placed in an old folks home.

Dennis and I have often talked about old people's homes. His mother, my granny, died within days of being placed in one. It was not for her and so she opted out. I feared that history was about to be repeated. But, old folks homes have changed.  What I found when I returned from holiday and visited Dennis surprised me.

He's in a new home operated by Runwood. I'd heard they were good and I now I know it. Spacious, modern, efficient and with really nice staff, the place was not quite as I'd imagined it. Yes there is the inevitable lounge with loud TV and a row of drooping, dribbling old ladies, but there's also a lot more.

I took in a portable TV and popped to Comet to get the digital box I needed. One of the care workers set it up for us, finding a SCART lead because  I'd thought there was one in the box. They're going to spend time with him every day getting him confident on his feet and the plan is to have him home again within six weeks.

Like so many things, this was no where near as scary as I had imagined. Old folks homes don't have to be the end of the line. For some, they are the light at the end of a long dark tunnel!

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Hello darkness my old friend

I have been ‘out’ for years about the fact that I live with depression.  In common with many professional creatives the enduring, varying tension between my perception and reality fuels my quest for answers. And increasingly, the work I do is all about finding the answers that have eluded other people. Folk in a fix are often too close to their personal and organisational challenges to see the wider context. I live in that wider context.
Depression however place demands upon those it inhabits. It’s vital to manage pace, space and focus on just one race. What do I mean?
Pace is everything because exhaustion brings on self doubt, followed by the damp dark foggy cloak that takes you out of circulation. Mood swing bring highs that make me feel invincible. They are always followed by a fall into darkness.
Space is equally important. I live in the countryside surrounded by fields. My home phone number is a closely guarded secret, known only to immediate family. I can shut the door on my work phone, close the garden gate and isolate myself from the world. This means I’m not always accessible; tough!
And sticking to one race is also essential. It’s so easy to get distracted and flounder as a multitude of equally regarded goals seem to wriggle from my grasp. Focus is difficult, but not to focus means to fail.
Right now, with professional help, I’m five weeks without an encounter with the ‘black dog’ of depression. It’s never far away I know, but if I throw it the odd negative thought or lingering self doubt it seems content to leave me alone.
It’s strange to say, but when under control, it’s fine occasionally to say hello to the darkness. It is after all my old friend!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Oh no, I'm getting old

I flew to Glasgow on Thursday for a couple of meetings. One was with an innovative, enthusiastic and clearly very able social entrepreneur. He and I going to do some business together, as well as some campaigning which will be huge fun.

He sent me a text to say he'd be easy to spot as he was wearing a pink shirt. I still didn't spot him and had to ring him so that I could pick him out of the rather small crowd.

When we met I realised why I'd overlooked him in the airport arrivals hall. He's 25 and I was looking for someone twice that age! Over the next few hours I came to realise that youth was no barrier to this guy's considerable success. Over time however, I had clearly acquired a perception that to be successful you need to be middle aged. I'd assumed I was dealing with someone nearer my own age. Why did I feel that way? It rather pisses me off to find I have developed an ageist prejudice.

So, for the record - I now fully understand that you can be successful at any age. Mt next challenge is to appreciate that if people the same age as my kids can be very successful entrepreneurs,  then clearly my kids are no longer kids but fully functioning adults. Yes, I knew this, but somehow  . . . . . .  . . well you know what I mean . . . doh!

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Strut your stuff or peck someone's eyes out?

I find 'society events' rather annoying. Most of the people are nice, the wine welcomed and the canapes fill a gap, but there's something superficial about all the air kisses and polite smalltalk that leaves me cold.

Last night, Belinda and I were at yet another of these evening receptions. To be fair I had some very useful business conversations and caught up with some people I like and respect, but the evening had its moments.

However had I not gone, I'd not have experienced one of the most outrageous examples of what I'll call lily pad hopping. One particular old frog, a well known local PR grabbed me for what I initially thought was going to be an interesting conversation about a stage performance we'd both recently seen in Cambridge.

However, mid conversation she spotted someone she considered more worthwhile approaching. She simply walked away leaving me in mid-sentence.Clearly she'd made a quick assessment and decided that the other people were far more useful to her. I detest the superficial way people like this treat others. By only talking to who you consider to be the most useful person within grasp at any one time, you prove to the world that you don't actually care about people - just what they can do for you.

Ironically and unbeknown to her, I spend a considerable amount each month with an excellent London PR agency. They take me seriously and deliver astounding results. They don't take me or anyone else for granted.

How can we expect our Big Society to help the vulnerable up the social ladder when there are people already on the ladder willing to put people down to further their own upward progress? Perhaps life at the bottom is better after all!