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I’ve written before about how the Irish language has some quite unwieldy versions of some of the most common words and phrases you’ll ever need, like hello, hello back and thank you.

If also has no words for yes and no, incredibly.

Instead, it makes do with a much more engaging and involving set of answers, that has exact parallel in English and which I use a lot myself.

‘Did you finish your lunch?’ ‘I did.’

‘Have you done that report?’ ‘I haven’t.’

‘Will you come with me to the meeting?’ ‘I will’

‘Can you commit to the end of this month for the order?’ ‘We can.’

‘Are you in charge?’ ‘I am.’

It’s an altogether more accommodating language, reversing the questioner’s word order and creating a kind of subconscious closeness and empathy. Nothing less than you’d expect from a very friendly people.

Do I like it? I do.

 

 

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Well, bloody hell, 800 blog posts out the door! At a total elapsed average time from idea to creation, to fine-tuning, to scheduling of half an hour per post, that’s 400 hundred hours of blogging.

It’s also 10 solid weeks of nothing but blog posting over the last 5 years, 1 month, 1 week and change. There has to be a book in it somewhere. That doesn’t mean it’s a book worth publishing or buying, and if it’s not bought is it really a book? If a tree falls in a forest and no-one hears it does it make a sound? If I signal to turn left and no-one seems my signal, has it been received, to make it a signal to someone?

When I published my 750th blog post I talked about the possibility of packing it in at post number 1,000. That’s in 200 blog posts’ time, just over 15 months away, roughly the dawn of 2020. That seems as good a time as any, like when Forest Gump had run thousands of miles and then simply stopped, because for him the time was right. Maybe I’ll keep on going after the 1000th blog post, having become institutionalised to commit my musings to digital paper.

For me the act of blogging has always been a self-centred thing, something I do for the discipline and flow of regular writing. I’ve never actively promoted the blog and the size of the readership and followership is not important to me.

For now, though, the next thought is blog post number 801. Thanks for reading!

It is the sense of community, with a small c, that makes and binds a Community with a big C, I think. The idea that the sum of all of us, its constituent elements, is greater than the whole, the place we live or work in.

One of the paradoxes of modern life for me is that at a macro level communities, towns, cities and councils seem to get in their own way, in a one step forward, two steps back fashion, whereas at a micro, person-to-person level, the opposite happens. Sorry, that’s a long sentence, a bit tortuous, but I didn’t want a full stop to break the flow.

I’m frequently reminded of this in provincial Ireland where the community is always helping itself out in tiny ways. I had a an email dialogue with someone the other day, and I needed to get an envelope containing important information to her sooner rather than later. ‘That’s OK, she said, you don’t need to drop it out to me, just leave it at the local shop and I’ll pick it up on my way from work.’ Genius. I left it behind the counter with the chap, and it seemed the most natural thing to do.

One company I work with needs parcels to be collected and sent out on a regular basis. If the local courier can’t get to them before the end of the day on a Friday, we leave them at the local petrol station and he picks them up from there on the Saturday morning.

We may get frustrated and befuddled by the bureaucracy and process of big business and big government, but we make up for it with the small kindnesses of community.

Sometimes, when we’re having a bad day, at work or outside of work, we can’t help but see the bad in things. We get into a funk and it all gets a little bit emotional.

I hate it when I hate stuff. I know that nothing is perfect, but I know that it affects my mental health the longer I get stuck in a rut of negativity, seeing the bad in things that on the whole are good.

If we’re not careful, this negativity can radiate out and affect those around us. We don’t want to do that to them, it’s not fair. Also, we don’t want to be labelled by them the Good Vibe Vortex, and avoided.

I have a simple trick to flip myself out of this mindset. It comes down to this, as do many things for me: negativity is so damned unproductive. Want to get something done, or get better at something? Amp up the positivity and focus on something good.

I’m no different to anyone else when it comes to delivering ‘the big presentation’. I get nervous before I have to speak in front of a large audience. Who doesn’t? They used to say that if you weren’t nervous you didn’t care, and I think that adage still applies.

I’m not talking about the content of a big presentation in this post. I’m talking about getting into the right mindset so you do the best job you’re capable of.

I approach the psychology of a big presentation this way. I acknowledge that I’m nervous, and then I ask myself, ‘what’s the worst thing that could happen?’ However serious the ramifications are of a presentation not going well, they pale in comparison with, let’s say, our health and the health of our nearest and dearest. We sometimes fear in advance that things could go spectacularly wrong, but we always recover from these bumps in the road.

Once I’ve reminded myself that the worst that could happen is not that bad at all, I tell myself that I don’t care how the presentation goes, to take the pressure off. I’m now starting from a position of an empty box, a box empty of nervousness, and then I proceed to fill it with positive thoughts. I’m getting in the right frame of mind to deliver the best job I can. I’m getting my head in the game.

I mentally run through the order of the first few things I’m going to say, safe in the knowledge that once I get going everything will flow. I want to open with a bang, perhaps a surprise, earn the respect of the audience, and then relax knowing that I have them with me.

Sometimes someone introduces me, sometimes I’m the one speaking first, it doesn’t matter. I smile, and begin talking.

As I write this post it’s 10 years to the week since the great financial crash of 2008, followed by years of turmoil and hardship, certainly in Ireland at any rate, before the provinces – by which I mean, in the English sense, the areas outside of the capital – started to recover, slowly and not so surely.

Not so Dublin, which probably recovered 5 years ago and is once again in the throes of a giddy period of boom. I’ve blogged before about the amount of construction going on in the city. The hotels are full – and I don’t mean some of them, I mean the city’s hotel capacity is maxed out – during the summer; you can’t get a room for anything reasonable. The roads are gorged with traffic all year round. You can’t get anywhere quickly, except by a fast walking.

I’m regularly in Dublin, but on my last visit I couldn’t help but marvel at the divide between the capital and the provinces, some of which are only just getting back on their feet. After fighting through town in a taxi – yes, even the bus lane was a car park – to make my train, I saw that, as usual, the train for Galway was departing from the group of 3 platforms that are two hundred-plus yardss further than the rest of the platforms. Not only that, but the train sits beyond an empty redundant train at the very top of the platform, a hundred and fifty yards further.

It brought it home to me, as provincial people in any country probably feel, that there’s Dublin, and then there’s outside Dublin, which doesn’t really matter much.

When my brothers and I were kids, our parents were teachers and we had a special way of answering the  house phone and dealing with phone calls.

We’d say hello. We’d never say ‘hello this is London 123456’, giving away our number, and we’d never say our name. If someone said is this 123456, we’d either say, no it’s not, what number were you looking for, or else we’d ask who they were looking for. If someone asked to speak to a person in the house, we’d ask their name before we checked if our parents or our brothers were in.

As teachers, my parent’s were ex-directory, that is to say that they chose not to list their phone number in the big book. We would occasionally get crank or abusive calls and this escalation protocol was a useful process for getting rid of them.

Nowadays, people just say hello, which is fine of course, but in business it’s not particularly helpful. This is because it forces many callers to say ‘is this Paul?’ to which we would have to say yes before the call had even started.

I used to date an American girl a long time ago. When she was at work she wouldn’t answer with hello, she’d say ‘this is Susan’. Susan wasn’t actually her name, but you get the point. I liked it. It was helpful, personal and sounded more customer focused. I adopted it immediately.

So don’t be surprised if you call me on business and I say ‘this is Paul’, or it’s even friendlier version ‘hello, this is Paul’.

Despite the advent of all things digital and web, a lot of us still do a lot of travelling, to physical meetings or events. We still spend a lot of time out of the office. That makes it hard for people to get hold of us but also hard for us to get stuff done while we’re travelling.

If we’re driving to meetings, much more so than if we’re travelling by rail or air, then this can be dead time, because the act of driving occupies so many of our faculties on a constant basis. After all, we might be guiding a one-and-a-half ton killing machine through fast motorways, narrow, winding roads roads and populated areas.

This is road time. In the car is the best time for people to reach us and for us to hold calls and get them out. The one thing we can do when we’re driving is talk. And think, it least to some degree.

If I want to do a long call or an interview with someone, I’ll ask them when they’re travelling. They’re a captive audience during their road time, they’re happy to get the call out of the way – it’s a good use of their time – and they generally have privacy, which you can’t say for train journeys.

Road time can be productive, for both the driver and the person trying to reach them.

Speed camera warning sign in Ireland

I passed a scruffy truck the other day and as I passed I saw a notice on the back, which said: ‘This truck is equipped with visual recording technology’, presumably to ward off would be thieves or stowaways.

Next to the words was a symbol of a camera, and it was exactly the same type of image you see on signs all over Irish roads, warning you against speeding by the presence of speed cameras. Except there aren’t any speed cameras generally, except mobile ones housed in a vehicle. So the sign has come to me to be considered a fake symbol. Whenever I see the speed camera sign my reaction is, ‘oh, no speed cameras here, but probably a well known speedy stretch – or potentially dangerous stretch, or both – is coming up’.

And so it was with this truck. My first thought was, ‘no it’s not equipped with that technology’. It’s like the visual equivalent of fake news, or at least reverse news. A sports club announces it’s fully behind their beleaguered manager, they’re on the way out.

Call it middle aged suspicion, but since the advent of April Fools’ Day in my childhood years I’ve become conditioned to look out for fake news, and fake symbols are no different.

They say that three’s a crowd, but for me there’s something elegant, memorable and succinct about groups of 3.

I like the grouping of that particular number. We seem to be locked into the number 3 in a way that 1, 2 or a number greater than 3 can’t really get to. Maybe that’s why we feel so comfortable with TLAs, those handy ways of summarising a sometimes difficult concept in  3 easy letters. NGO, PVC, and of course TLA; each industry or milieu has a gazillion of them, serving as shorthand, occasionally inclusive but also sometimes excluding.

Business seems to be fond of the number 3 as well. Getting 3 quotes is always advisable, 3 key metrics is a good management starting point, and a good presentation slide starts with 3 bullet points. I know I’m easy with it, and many times in my writing, from this blog to reports and even books, I find myself grouping my phrases into 3’s. You can see an example in the first line of this post. Another example might be ‘let’s make sure we have a good session tomorrow, keeping it simple, focusing on the basics, and staying on track.’

So I shall continue my attachment to groups of 3. I like it, it works for me, and I think it resonates with my audience.