Tuesday 29 December 2020

My five guiding principles for success in life

As I assess all around me, I find myself happy with my lot. I am blessed, I have great family, amazing friends, I play in a truly inspiring band, I am 58 and I still play five a side football. I love my job, I've loved my career. I have no desire to retire as my job is as much fun as many peoples hobbies for much of the time. Sure there have been many bumps on the way, not least dyslexia, cancer and residual pain from a car accident in 1988, but I've never seen these as anything more than mountains to be climbed. I believe that I was blessed to be born in 1962. This meant I was a teenager in the mid 1970's  and gave me a punk rock ethos. Many see punk as a nihilistic movement, all about being anti everything, but the biggest aspect was the 'do it yourself' aspect, which launched independent labels, grassroots music promotors, self published magazines and cottage industry merchandising. When Mark Perry famously said "Here's three chords, now form a band", many of us did and it changed our lives.

Over the years, I've developed an ethos which I live by. As we approach the New Year, I thought I'd share this with you.

1. The harder you work, the lazier you can be.

I love both hard work and being lazy. What many people fail to realise is that there is time for both in life. If you work hard at the right time, then you can be lazy. The secret is to work productively and spend your lazy time doing things that relax you and that you enjoy. For me, music is a great release, there is nothing I love more than chilling and listening to a classic album or going to see a great band. I can only indulge my love of it properly because of the hard graft I've put in. If you want to stay balanced and level, your down time is as important as your working time, use it wisely. I always plan a reward for myself when I am working. This may be a pork pie at lunchtime if I acheive my target, it may be a pint after work, it may be putting a pound in the jukebox, or buying tickets for a gig. It may be a holiday in Australia. These times have been hard, but I've kept myself sane by rewarding myself when I've met my goals. I view it as I view nature and growing a garden. When I was nine years old, I saved up and bought a pear tree from Barry Edgars garden centre on Hale Lane.  I took it home and planted in our back garden. I still live in the same house and each year the tree rewards me with fresh, tasty pears. As you sow, so you reap! People often say that in negative sense, but it is also a very positive statement. Sowing good things is hard work, but reaping the rewards is the best thing.

2. Don't be too busy watching your back to see where you are going.

Too many of us are held back by worries, negative thoughts, self doubt. We are always looking behind us, so much so that we don't see the massive hole we are about to fall into. We all have baggage, but your baggage is there to help you when you arrive, not to hold you back. Pack light and pack the things you need in life. Set your goals and keep your eye on them. It is the road ahead that matters not the path you've walked. And remember all journeys are best enjoyed with companions to help you keep going.

3. Healthy doesn't need to be boring

Many of us equate healthy lifestyles with giving up things we enjoy. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2011, I realised that I needed to make lifestyle changes. I gave up dairy products, I brought in a three days a week off alcohol rule where I have three booze free days a week. I've always been fairly active, but buying a fitbit, I try and ensure I do my 10,000 steps a day. So whilst there is a list of things I don't do, the secret has been to replace the things I really miss with things I really enjoy. With not drinking on three days, I ensure that I cook on these days and cook healthy food that is satisfying and fun. I spend the day planning what I'm going to cook. We buy organic fresh vegetables and never buy microwaveable 'ready meals'. We've found the food we avoid is generally far more bland than freshly prepared meals. Over the years, we've expanded our array of herbs and spices and grow many fresh these days. |I must say, the one thing I really miss is cheese, so I allow myself one day a month when I have some really good cheese. This may be on a cheese board after a good meal. As to drinking, we spend some of the money we save on buying nicer, better quality wines and beers for the days we do drink. Then when we drink them, we actually look forward to them, rather than just habitually quaffing them.As to the fitbit, in Mill Hill, there are amazing walks. I've learned to plan them so we easily hit the target and see some wonderful scenery. London is a wonderful city. When I worked in the centre, I'd often go for a stroll, around the parks and south bank. In fact I believe there is nowhere in London too far from some amazing walks. Being healthy is only boring if you don't make the effort.

4. Your enemies are your greatest asset

We all come across people we don't like, people who work to thwart us, people who bully us, people who beaver away behind our backs trying to alienate people from us. When we were children and didn't have the tools to deal with this, it could be very destructive. When we become adults, your enemies become your greatest asset (so long as they are not in a position of power to control or harm you such as a boss or your in-laws!). Although it isn't pleasant, learn to recognise the benefits. When you acquire a person of poison into your friends group, you will learn who your real friends are. If toxic characters find like minded people, you really don't need them in your friends group. If your friends won't stand up for you, are they really friends. It may be unpleasant at the time, but such people come and go and usually take the detritus with them. When you run a business, your enemies and competetors keep you on your toes and spur you to greater achievements. As nothing ever stays the same forever, having challenges will ensure you keep progressing and developing.  It is always worth analysing criticism from whatever the source, as there are only two alternatives. Either criticism is justified and that offers room for improvement which nice people are too polite to say, which is good and the opportunity should be embraced, or it is not valid and justifiable. It is worth reminding yourself that there is a difference between opinions and facts. Much criticism is simply a question of personal taste. There is little point wasting energy on people who simply have a stylistic difference and cannot be polite about it.

If criticism is not justified and clearly malicious, you usually find that your enemy has revealed their own weakness and vulnerablities, as that is what they perceive to be weak spots.  Once you have established that your worst enemy has the looks, personality, intellect, personal hygiene and work ethic of a dead haddock,  their criticisms should become a source of amusement. If they don't have the CV to back their criticism, then look no further than their green eyes and move on with a song and a giggle. Have as little to do with them as possible, Where this is not feasible, analyse their methods of attack and develop a strategy to mitigate any damage they may do, whilst correcting any valid criticism they may throw up. If this happens to be on social media, just block. If possible, develop a sense of humour. This is the best mechanism, as you find that the worst people have no sense of humour and irony at all. Once you realise that, you can almost enjoy their behaviour. Just remember the old saying that the person who has no enemies has achieved nothing in life.

5. Give generously and expect nothing in return

This is the one I fall down on most. Not because I don't intend to, but because I forget and get too comfy. It is strange that the more comfortable and happy we become, the less we remember to give something back. It is so easy to forget that if we are successful, luck and being in the right place are as much a part of the equation as our own skills. If you are 'right with the world' the world will be right with you. These are difficult times. Spread a little love. Money can make you comfortable, but it won't make you truly happy. For me true happiness comes from being around other people that are happy. When I talk of giving generously, I am talking as much about love and your time as money.We only get one shot at this life, so why wouldn't you want to spend as much time as possible making other people happy and being in a loving supportive environment? When we do things such as dropping of food at the foodbank, buying a homeless person a sandwich, helping a Scouts/Guides group, working at a homeless shelter, arranging flowers at the local Church, doing the teas at the local charity fair, taking the day off work to take the kids to the Zoo, stopping off to chat with an elderly neighbour, etc, we are doing something far more powerful than making a money transfer to a TV charity appeal. We doing a good thing for someone else, but we are also improving ourselves. Just before Xmas I made a video for the Sacred Heart Church choir. I was up all night transferring the footage, editing it, mixing the sounds. The church showed the video at the Xmas masses and posted it up on their Facebook page. One parishioner commented that "there wasn't a dry eye in mass when they showed that".  When I read that I welled up. Yopu really can't buy a feeling like that. Don't try. 

Just getting back to my opening paragraph. The punk ethos is that you don't wait for someone to do something for you. Get up and do it yourself. Do it with love and do it as well as you can.

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