Common Purpose, Integrity and Style

Just coming down to earth after an exhilarating weekend. On Saturday I met up with, an estimated, 700,000 other people who’d decided to commit their day to travelling to central London to walk through the capital in a common pursuit; the purpose of which was, ultimately, to remain in the European Union. Peaceful, humorous and good natured, it was a demonstration of much of what I believe to be good about the culture of this country. In sharp contrast to the deceit, xenophobia, small mindedness and prejudice of the campaign of two years ago that created the need for us all to be there in the first place. What was also interesting was that we saw hardly any police officers, something surely unheard of in a demonstration of that size.

We left home at 10 am, popping off for my, NHS provided, flu jab, to meet up with family and friends who’d travelled many miles to get there. The NHS, of course, another example of what is good about this country. My wife and I got home at about 5.30pm to relax before setting off for an Eddie Reader gig in Hammersmith. As usual, she didn’t disappoint and, again, we spent nearly three hours in the company of like minded people in a common pursuit. This time to witness a wonderful singer and musicians who certainly know how to entertain with some style and integrity.

Now, I really like those two words as they describe qualities that I consider to be of some importance. Furthermore, they’re also words, like many others, that have greater impact in comparison with their opposites. In my dictionary, the latter is described as “soundness, uprightness and honesty” and the former, “notably superior in quality”. I leave you to consider those opposites and which you might prefer were best used in describing your common endeavour.

The Joy of Realising Untapped Talent

Having written and published four books of nonfiction (https://mikedaligan.com/books/), I have now turned my attention to writing a novel; something that I’ve been promising myself that I would do for nearly 40 years.

More recently, this was given some impetus when a friend of mine, on reading my latest book, said “Mike’s an incredible writer and this is a beautiful book”.  It received even more impetus when I asked my wife to read the opening chapter of said novel “Conversations with my Mother”, for her to comment, “Mike, this is beautifully written”. You can’t imagine the pleasure that gave me. This, in turn, prompted me to return to other things that I’d started; one of which I’ve now turned into a short story. It’s called “Judgement Day” and will be submitted as a competition entry that I’ve found on the internet.

Now the really interesting thing about all this, is that, for years, I’d convinced myself that, although I was quite good with words, well, a book was, that would be at least, 50,000 of them. The problem with this was that I didn’t see how I could actually write that much and, if I did, who would want to read it? After all, it was only me.

Well, as I’ve often said, the breakthrough came when I decided that I really must do this and sat down in front of the computer to write the story of my life. Only this time, I stuck at it. So that, whenever I got up to make a cup of tea, I went back to the computer. Similarly when I wanted something to eat, to do the washing up, put the washing in the machine, feed the cat or whatever other distraction I could find, I forced myself to go back to the computer and carry on writing.

The outcome was that I got into a rhythm or, rather, the writing did. And that made all the difference. By the end of the week, I’d written 25,000 words and realised that I really could write. Not only that but I could write well. As if by magic, words came, unbidden, out of my head directly onto the screen. Even more, I loved what I wrote. The result was a book of 120,000 words followed by three more of about half that much each. All are now self published so I’m now an author and publisher. Who’d have thought that when I was an unemployed single parent on benefits all those years ago? So, why am I writing this now?

Well, firstly because of the sheer joy of realising a talent I never thought I had. Secondly because my youngest daughter seems to have inherited her father’s talent and, thirdly, to say that the only time that it’s too late is when they nail the coffin lid down. So, if you’re stopping yourself from doing something that you want to do, just go ahead and do it. After all, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

One last thought. Once those words are in print, they’re there forever. Now there’s an epitaph for you.

 

 

The Benefits of Sharing and Caring

Roots and Shoots (2) Oct 2018

The picture shows another of those “Little Pieces of Wonderland” that I often write about. Places that might  be described as “hidden within plain view”. Ones that can be defined by four conditions. The first is that you are likely to have walked past them n without realising that they’re there. The second is that their location might well be in the busiest of areas with which they are in some contrast. The third is that they are little oases and the fourth, that they are centres of community activity. One such is “Roots and Shoots”, just off the busy Kennington Road, 5 minutes from the, even busier, Waterloo Station in London. I’ll bet most travellers don’t even realise that it’s there. Indeed, to step over the threshold can seem like a step into another world. So, perhaps, a link to their website might be useful  http://www.rootsandshoots.org.uk/environment. Set up as a registered charity in 1982, it’s still sustained by local voluntary effort.

So, why am I writing this blog? Well, partly because I’ve been lucky enough to have been involved with a number of these projects over the years and partly because they show what can be created from the starting point of “sharing and caring” instead of “Blow you, Jack, I’m OK”. The main difference being that one tends to be inclusive enabling people to contribute, often with talents that even they never realised that they had. Whereas the other tends to be exclusive and unrealising of talent. This latter not good for the individuals concerned or the country as a whole.

“Here endeth the lesson”, as my old headmaster used to say.

All I Had to Do Was Ask

Like many people, I find it extremely difficult to ask for help. Not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I can’t. Correction, that should read “couldn’t”. You see a few years ago, I did manage to ask Jeremy Nicholas, a good friend in the Professional Speaking Association, to find that, not only was it forthcoming, but that it was so with some joy that it was done. It was a first for me. Since then, although I still don’t find it easy, I make the effort and it is usually reciprocated. After all, as Alan Stevens, another fellow speaker once pointed out to me, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always “No””.

As a result, a few of us, in line with others in the profession, formed ourselves into a small Mastermind Group at which we would discuss problems we were experiencing in order to be able to support and advise one another. We meet every month, usually for the whole day. And it works.

Recently the topic of concern was the use of social media, specifically Linked In, to help us to publicise what we each do. It was an area in which we all felt that we weren’t using well enough, mainly due to lack of expertise in regard to the technology. At which point, we made use of a video by one of the PSA’s Linked In go to experts, Philip Calvert. It took three sessions to cover the subject and relate it back to our individual needs. Now what was interesting was how Linked In uses algorithms to consider any blogs that you upload to the site. I thought that it would be straightforward. After all, if you press the button that lets you upload to LinkedIn, you’d think that that was what would happen, wouldn’t you? Well, it seems not as I thought it would. Well, among Phil’s little gems was to show us how to get around the algorithms so that we could upload and publish what we’d written so that it would be seen.

So, I spent a couple of hours yesterday with the lovely Mike Blissett, one of my Mastermind buddies, and he helped me to reformat my Linked In pages. In the process, I delved into my archives and reposted an old blog using this, to me, newly discovered method. Well, not only did it work but this morning, when I went to my Linked In page to rewrite my profile (a work still in progress), there were my old blogs. Going back some years.

Job done and all I had to do was ask. Thanks, guys (and gals).

It Doesn’t Have To Be This Way

I don’t think I’m likely to have much in common with many Conservative MP’s, so it was interesting some years ago, to have one such, Jesse Norman, say that he believed that there was a vast amount of untapped talent in this country. It’s a statement that I heartily concur with. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that I believe that most people probably hardly scratch at the surface of what they are capable of being. I know I didn’t until, approaching 40 and without realising it, I took those first steps. However, it wasn’t until 20 years later that I started doing what I should have done all my life; writing. Even then, it took me a few more years, when a friend said that I was an incredible writer, that I started to believe it. It has been a long journey during which, for most of it, life got in the way.  Not, I have to say, any longer.

Now, if this situation was only of interest to the individuals themselves, you could argue that it was a personal problem and of little concern to anyone else. In this, however, you would be mistaken.  First of all, those unrealised dreams are likely to lead to low expectations; something that can pass onto your children. Unfortunately, this scenario is compounded by the “barista” economy that is the government’s economic model of choice; a sad indictment of its views of the abilities of our young people who deserve so much better.

Yet you have only to look at the country’s history to see another model. One based on realising that untapped talent. Talent that has persisted over the years giving us, for example, the steam engine, the discovery of antibiotics, the telephone, television, the jet engine, the hovercraft, the folding buggy and, more recently, the world wide web; I could go on. So, this is a plea to work towards a different sort of society; one that operates on fairness and supports its people, such that they are able to develop their full potential. In this way the benefits are both individual and collective.

Finally, to end on the personal. Now, I may be someone who got waylaid by events, however, I don’t think I’m alone. Indeed I know I’m not, as evidenced by the people who were homeless and unemployed that I worked with when I was a charity Director. And secondly, one of the lovely things about being an author is that your books will outlive you. You could hardly ask for a better epitaph.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

I tend not to prevaricate too much. Yes, I do my research first but then I usually hold my nose and jump. By that time, I’ve some idea of what I’m getting into, so action seems to me to be the appropriate response. Unless, of course the external circumstances have changed in the interim and, even then, these shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way. Those who know me well will tell you that that has been the pattern to my life. Whether it was making the best of a divorce, handing in my notice and becoming a single parent student, being unemployed, being dropped in at the deep end in failing charities and rescuing them, running marathons or writing books, it has served me in good stead.

However, there are circumstances under which I don’t do something that I really need to get on and do and this week has been one such time. So, I’ve done what I always do in these cases and just got on with and, guess what? What I’d put off doing wasn’t the onerous and difficult task that I’d built it up to be. In fact, it was relatively easy. Moreover, the result, a profile of myself, has been better than I’d expected. Not really a problem as words are my stock in trade.

So how do I know that there is something in myself that creates this situation and what is this fear that I feel, all about? Well, like, I suspect, many speakers, I find self publicity difficulty. In fact, I find it embarrassing. And, for me, embarrassment is one of my worst fears. In combination with another of my quirks, that of knowing inside, that I am quite capable while not really believing it, make for a powerful inhibitor. An antidote to which is to feel the fear and do it anyway, but I guess you knew that anyway.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

 

I tend not to prevaricate a great deal. Yes, I may my research first but then I usually hold my nose and jump. By that time, I’ve some idea of what I’m getting into, so action seems to me to be the appropriate response. Unless, of course the external circumstances have changed in the interim and, even then, these shouldn’t be allowed to get in the way. Those who know me well will tell you that that has been the pattern to my life. Whether it was making the best of a divorce, handing in my notice and becoming a single parent student, being unemployed, being dropped in at the deep end in failing charities and rescuing them, running marathons or writing books, it has served me in good stead.

However, there are circumstances under which I don’t do something that I really need to get on and do and this week has been one such time. So, I’ve done what I always do in these cases and just got on with and, guess what? What I’d put off doing wasn’t the onerous and difficult task that I’d built it up to be. In fact, it was relatively easy. Moreover, the result, a profile of myself, has been better than I’d expected. Not really a problem as words are my stock in trade.

So how do I know that there is something in myself that creates this situation and what is this fear that I feel, all about? Well, like, I suspect, many speakers, I find self publicity difficulty. In fact, I find it embarrassing. And, for me, embarrassment is one of my worst fears. In combination with another of my quirks, that of knowing inside, that I am quite capable while not really believing it, make for a powerful inhibitor. An antidote to which is to feel the fear and do it anyway, but I guess you knew that anyway.