Category Archives: motivation

Ageing gracefully

There is a lady who catches the same bus as me most mornings now. It sounds cruel but if one were to describe her, you are likely to use the words ‘drab’ or ‘stodgy’. Her hair is regularly coloured and clipped, but lank and limp. She’s picked up a few kilos over time and tries to hide this with dark coloured shapeless long skirts, blouses and jackets. She walks like someone who struggles a bit with her health.

If she was a bit richer or vainer, she’d probably get hair extensions and blow dries, structured designer clothing and maybe a personal trainer who would shape up her figure and add a bit more vim to her walk. If she had more natural flair (like my beloved blogger friend, Footloose) she’d just exude flair irrespective of what she was wearing. She’d give off a sense of vitality and energy. As it is, everything just seems a little bit run down for her.

My mother used to be very vain. Even when there was very little money while I was growing up she somehow found petty cash to perm and colour her hair. As she got older, she got a bit more indifferent to exactly how good her hair looked. (To be fair, she has pointed out once it thins to a certain point, it’s optimism and nothing else that will allow you to do anything with it). She’s also thrown out dressy in favour of comfy. The woman who would wear skirts so short and tight she couldn’t sit now believes stretchy pants are the way forward.

Some people never seem to cross that line between image and comfort. Some slide oh, so easily over it, even in youth.

I’m wondering which way I’d go?

It’s hard to say when elements like health, wealth and time must obviously feature in a massive way on this, unless your ego is so massive it overwhelms all of these external factors.

 

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‘Real’ writers

Once, just once, I went to a writers club. I realised that if you want to be a ‘real’ published author you need to be focused, dedicated, sacrifice, keep a steady eye on the target.

I thought perhaps this focus would be easier found in a group. I imagined this eclectic bunch of people, meeting in beatnik locations, drinking green tea and debating semi colons and metaphor.

The internet told me there was a writers circle at the library (how fitting) down the road from my house.

I carefully constructed a short story and even edited it out and copied it a few times to take along.

It was with some trepidation I went to meet the group. They were both more and less than I had imagined in my head. Run by a very friendly young man, who gave me a printed (self published I suppose) beautifully professionally bound book of short stories done as a collective by the group. Apparently they give one complimentary to all new members.

The intense young man was accompanied among others by a bearded Terry Pratchett character (sans hat) and a housewife who clearly had a lot of time to write, along with a random scattering of people who definitely came from all walks of life.

The thing is, when it came to discussing work, the Terry Prachett character, intense young man and frustrated housewife hauled out actual scripts to discuss. With full plot, chapter, in depth character analysis.

I felt completely out my comfort zone, me with my casual blog postings and the flippant Bridget Jones style writing I was doing. (Even though I had tried for a more dramatic short story that day.)

‘Your issue,’ said Terry Pratchett guy,’is your blogging. It’s like turning on a tap and letting it drip. All your creative juices are dripping away. You need to be more focused.’

I’m sure he’s right. Focus is something I’m seriously lacking in general, unless given an actual incentive, good or bad. Like a penalty for not completing. Or a huge book advance (yeah right). Something that has consequences and also makes the actual production of work a priority rather than a luxury.

Needless to say I did not return to the writers group although I meant to.

I still feel guilty I got a free book out of it as a consequence.

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Secrets to Getting Ahead

I think I’ve said before I suck at office politics. I was reading a really interesting article by another blogger on Google interview questions though. And I went to this strange management thing where they discussed recruitment and how you test people for suitability in a group interview process. (I don’t know what I was doing there as I’m not ‘management’, I’m just the disruptive odd cog in the clockwork.) Which got me to thinking about how people advance their careers.

So my advice in moving ahead, not that I follow it, as it goes against most my principles, morals, patience and ethics not withstanding:

  • I think I’ve mentioned this before on a post. Say back in slightly different words after a ten minute interval what the big boss just said. For some reason bosses don’t seem to realise you just mimicked them and often think you are very clever for coming up with THEIR idea. Either way, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, they seem to fall for this easier than one would expect
  • If it is a person of the opposite sex (or even the same sex if they are that way inclined), flirt. Subtly. But never go for drinks or anything with the person concerned. Just drop a lot of hints in meetings and around photocopiers about your abilities
  • Create a posse. Gather everyone on your level and below and make them feel good about themselves. Have them reporting back to you as your eyes and ears to all possible developments you can abuse. Also, they are handy at covering for you when you are late/hung over/bad at your job.
  • Bring food into the office. People really are that shallow. You have to be tactical in that you ‘just love baking’ or ‘was just passing the store at lunch and thought we could all do with a little lift’ but some people do really mistake a few biscuits for generosity and your being a team player even while you are busy stabbing daggers into a coworkers back
  • Don’t come in late but it doesn’t really pay to come in early. Rather hover around and try outstay your boss by a couple of minutes a few times a week then rush out the door when they have left. It makes them think you are a superhard worker.
  • Run don’t walk to meetings, this also deludes the boss you are really busy and packing your hours in.
  • Volunteer for whatever after hours activity suggested, no matter how stupid, whether a team sport or babysitting the boss’s kid
  • Ask people a lot of questions about themselves and nod in deep interest and agreement. Never sound like you know the answer to what they are saying but imply they are vastly superior in knowledge and experience, no matter how stupid or novice they are. (This flatters senior management AND the posse you are collecting)
  • Always look eager to please.
  • Dress as if every day you are going for a job interview.
  • Cultivate an interest in whatever sports/teams/hobbies your boss and colleagues partake/follow so you can make general silly small talk with them at any point.
  • Kiss a lot of ass. It shouldn’t work as well as it does, but sadly it does…

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My Flatpack are Like My Lists

So I mentioned how I have been instructed to make a weekly to do list. To be honest, I have not done it for a fortnight. Once because I forgot and yesterday because I was depressed by the fact that I foresaw already I’m not going to achieve half of what goes on the list.

Because the damned lists go wonky in my life.

Like flatpack.

We bought a load of flatpack furniture at a certain very large store that specialises in such things. This concept does NOT exist in Africa. Where you expect furniture to be solid and arrive preassembled and carried in by three or four strong men, not you, trying to hire a van and stumbling around with a wheeled trolley thing, matching a jumbled series of item codes to random cardboard shapes in a warehouse that are miraculously meant to ‘grow’ into furniture. (Just add labour.)

We had to go to the store on a weekday to try minimise the number of rugrats. This was sort of negated because a certain demographic appeared to be using the store as free childcare while they went shopping across the car park at the supermarket. There was a serious lack of boxes but a lot of pram being pushed around the entrance areas by these people.

The flatpack has made plus one very happy in some ways. There is no space in the flat, it’s like tetris – you have to move a series of boxes to assemble and then move that item out the way to stack the next one. But he feels very male and empowered and the worst part for him and me is that occasionally he does require me to stand there and hold something up so he can drill it into place.

I think I’d be more excited by this if I was the one actually doing the assembly as I do like a good jigsaw puzzle. But he’s put off by the fact that I didn’t read the instructions on how to put the shelf support in and stuck the little metal foot in upside down. (No big deal, you just SWIVEL it the other way before inserting shelf.) He is convinced I show equally little focus when following lists or making them in order to tell him what I’m doing for the week.

Probably.

I just know the flatpack went as wonky as my lists.

Or rather the wall did. I have my suspicion the flat pack is keeping the same dimensions. Unfortunately, plus one only measured the middle of the wall. Then drilled the shelving into the return of a corner where it is now fixed for life. When we tried to fit the very top unit above this, we have found it doesn’t fit into the corner. It’s too wide. Somehow the wall narrows when you get to the top of it. So although the units may line up on the one side, they don’t on the other.

Like life.

Nothing is perfectly symmetrical.

And it doesn’t follow to plan.

 

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Organisation

I have a to do list for the week.

As per a recommendation by a professional who runs management courses and life coaching and stuff it is categorised into the various ‘roles’ I play in my life. As a working pleb, as a much absent plus one, as a seriously deficient housekeeper etc etc… you get the gist.

The idea is that making these lists once a week on a Sunday will focus your goals for the week, so you can achieve short term and thereby medium to long term targets.

Unfortunately in my case I might as well photocopy the damned thing out and just put a new date on it weekly. Because about 80% of the list tends to just carry over onto the next week. Especially the ones listed with helpful items like ‘vacuum’ (plus one has complained he doesn’t think I understand what this is) and ‘do admin’ (because I hate HATE things like filing, in electronic or hard copy format, I don’t want to do it). And the things I cross of tend to be because they are actually at a critical mark so I would have had to address them regardless of The List. Like the invoice I was ignoring that I had to get a friend to pay eventually as I’d locked myself out my bank account. (Still haven’t worked out how to resolve that one, list or no list.)

The thing is, my to do items are not really that difficult – I’m just ineffective about them. I have no idea how hard it must be to suffer something like depression where ‘get out of bed and out of pjs’ is probably a major achievement. I am not dissing this either. I’m sure someone like Winston Churchill who probably wrote ‘beat those Krauts’ under ‘work’ would find my note to ‘finish work assignment and ask for leave’ pitiable.  But an achievement is an achievement. Being able to cross something out, especially with a fat black marker, should still give one a sense of completion.

I’m just good at creating tasks that do not really have an end point. Like ‘try make sure all my socks have friends’. (In our house, friendless socks are the ones that went into the wash together but plus one always manages to separate so they are lost and lonely and floating annoyingly in a muddled drawer with pantihose tangled around the underwear. I keep meaning to tidy this drawer but I mess it up equally frequently when I rummage frantically for two of the same. A really annoying factor in my life because in the days before plus one meddled, I had holey socks but they were always matched with a  mate.)

One day… one day I will win against the list.

Or just toss it and go on holiday. (Although I need to get through the packing list which needs to be created – oops something to put onto the weekly goals list)

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Empowerment

At the bottom of this circular I picked up was one line. The exact wording is lost to me but the gist was ‘Only you can choose to be happy’. It was ironic as it was attached to a religious pamphlet, something you would expect to say ‘God will decide your will, trust in Him’. But I think it is telling of the fact that there is also something called ‘free will’ and you can only lead someone so far and then it’s up to them and good on whoever put that on there acknowledging that.

I went on this management/leadership training thing for half a morning that seemed intent on reinforcing the same principles. That we have to choose how we want to lead our lives. That saying ‘no’ is an acceptable response, that you have to pick your priorities. If I had read this in one of those self help books with the big serif sentences on the cover picked out in white or black on a lilac or white background, screaming an evangelical pick me, I would have gone, ‘yeah right’.

But that is mostly because I am inherently lazy. I’m incredibly bad at correspondence courses. I struggle to relate to some remote sentence out of a book, I really do require the person in front of me pointing out the obvious.

But what is even more motivating is MEETING someone who seems to have gotten it right. Of course those people exist but there just aren’t enough of them in the world. I walked back from my fitness class with one of the girls who pointed out our team captain was completely crazy but good fun and clearly comfortable in his circumstances although neither of us wanted to abuse that. (He’d basically spent the previous Saturday driving people around and paid off a number of small items semi involving the group and refusing to accept payment).

I had to agree with the girl – that where he was, a decade down the line from where I am -is where I would want to be. My very first conversation with him involved him saying he was fortunate enough that he could start work after 10am, allowing him to drop his children off at school and even fluff around a bit if he wanted to. It’s not to say he doesn’t work very long hours after the late start but that he had the freedom to do so.

In the one and a half hour drive he mentioned how even if he won the lottery today, he’d probably just carry on doing what he did now as he loved his job.

He probably would too. And carry on organising little social outings while balancing family, friends and an inordinate number of holidays, most of which he seems to be able to action by himself without the help of a PA. (I get the feeling his long suffering wife helps with the family end but I doubt was involved when he was emailing and calling all sorts of random people to organise the car ride, the event at the end etc)

It’s a bit like watching a slighly over excited terrier gambolling along. You can only really be cheered on by watching him but you do think THIS is a physical embodiment of what the self help books and courses try to mean.

 

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