Archives for category: General

Do we engage in human hibernation? I think we do, to a certain degree. I know I do, to a larger degree.

January is my hibernation month. I love Christmas, it’s my favourite part of the year, but then New Year’s Day always comes around so quickly.

In golfing western Ireland, when you hit a low ‘scuttery’ shot along the ground, instead of hitting one that flies like an angel, you sometimes call it a ‘kiss me erse’ shot. That’s January for me. It’s a bit of a kiss me erse month. You’ve no money, the nights are long and cold, you know you should be gambolling off to the gym like a March lamb, and there’s very little sport to commend itself.

I always try to delay my return to work as late as possible in January, to make it a shorter working month. It’s a month for making lists, putting the fire on and planning what you’re going to do with the year, if only you can get 8-and-one-third percent of it out of the way first.

Pretty soon, the 1st of February comes around, it’s a short month, and Rugby’s 6 Nations and Football’s Champions’ League ease us into the year proper. Happy Days.

But for now, let me pull the proverbial duvet over my head and give me a nudge in 4 weeks’ time.

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Well, a happy new year to you, if you, like I, follow the western Gregorian thingamabob.

2019 marks the seventh year during which I’ve blogged – not yet my seventh year blogging if you follow the distinction – since I put my first blog post down in September 2013. Since then it’s been a 3-times-a-week, Monday-Wednesday-Friday thing, regular as clockwork.

By the end of this year, I’ll be about a dozen posts short of 1,000 blog posts. Once you get into 4-figure territory, that probably puts you in the top 1% of bloggers in terms of output. I don’t think I’ve ever been the top 1% of anything, yet I’m willing to bet that it will feel exactly the same in early 2020 when I hit that threshold.

If you’ve read at least one of my blog posts in each of those 7 years, then I thank you, and I also admire you in equal measure.

If you’re still reading at this point, I’d like to wish you a most healthy and prosperous 2019. May it bring you almost all, but not absolutely all, that you hoped for. Stay hungry – not literally.

I’m on holiday as you read this. I’m not even in the country where I normally write these posts. I’ve jetted off with the family I helped to create to visit the family I was born into, as many of you do this time of year.

It’s a time for taking stock, considering where you are, and what you’re going to change or do differently next year. I always try and take off between Christmas and New Year if I can. I’m very conscious of people who work in the service industry, or people like my friend who works in the supply chain industry, that this time of year has a very stop-start feel to it. They can’t use this time of year for taking stock, they have to do it another time.

You can’t take stock in a couple of days. You need at least a week’s run at it, so you can decompress, assess and figure out the old traffic lights: what will I give the red light to and stop doing, what will I review on amber, and what will I give the green light to and continue or start doing? Then you can recoil yourself, ready to get into it.

Some people like to be working this time of the year, with a day or two off here and there. Some people have to work. I’m lucky, I have the luxury of not having to, usually, and so for me it’s a good time for taking a break, taking soundings from others and taking stock.

I had occasion to go to Dublin for a lunch networking meeting the other day, which was nice. I was due to meet at 12 across town and the train got in around that time so I jumped in a cab.

We flew through the city, since cabs can use bus lanes and there’s plenty of them in Dublin. We got there in about 15 minutes, 12 bucks very well spent. Sometimes traffic can be snarled in Dublin, even for cabs, but at 12 noon it was surprisingly light.

After a very pleasant meeting I realised that I only had 40 minutes to get to my train. I was going to jump in another cab when a colleague mentioned that thanks to the newish LUAS extension I could now get to the station in the west of the city. I walked ten minutes to the LUAS stop and figured out my route and my fare. I got in a LUAS train in south central Dublin, went 3 stops to north central Dublin and then walked 5 minutes to another LUAS stop, which wasn’t the closest but I wanted to keep moving in the right direction.

I got on the second LUAS train at 16 minutes past the hour, and 4 stops later it deposited my at the intercity train station, at 25 minutes past the hour, giving me more than enough time to get my train at half past.

A great, fast, efficient service, at least from my experience of one data point. And all for the pauper’s sum of €2.10. A city which has a cheap, fast and efficient public transport system is a global city, in my view.

 

I skim-read a fascinating article the other day that covered an interview with former FLOTUS Michelle Obama.

In it, Ms Obama talked about what she described as Imposter Syndrome, the feeling that sooner or later someone’s going to uncover you as someone who’s blagged their way in to position of status or seniority that’s above their station. I hadn’t heard it described that way before but I immediately latched onto it.

Who else feels that from time to time? More accurately, who hasn’t felt in a weak moment that they’re one misstep away from being exposed as a fraud, or at best under-qualified for the role they’re performing?

This is a normal reaction from time to time, normal at least for people who are pushing themselves, moving up the ladder trying new things, joining new groups, doing the one thing every day that slightly scares them. It’s a natural symptom of progress. The first time you step up there’s new things to learn and uncertainty before you get dug in. Then you have to move again before you get too dug in.

It seems too that since the article above others have identified with it and shared their stories, which you can read about here.

Tack and tact. This has a lot of people confused I think. Tack can either mean a small nail, or also a nautical term for changing direction. Probably other meaning as well, I haven’t checked.

Tact is an emotional intelligence skill you acquire with other people that manifests itself in diplomacy, language and body language. So two pretty different meanings, then, for two words that look and sound similar.

‘I think we need to take a different tact.’ I heard this the other day – for the countlessth time, from someone who sails regularly and presumably done his share of tacking. You don’t want the word tact here, you want the word tack, unless your change in strategy involves ushering in some unexpected wave of diplomacy into proceedings.

The best way to remember the difference I think is from the Faithless song Insomnia, the lyrics of which go:

‘Fundamental movement, huh, so when it’s black
This insomniac, take an original tack
Keep the beast in my nature under ceaseless attack’

The tack you want is the one that rhymes with black and attack. Unless of course your context is thoughtfulness and consideration to others, in which case some tact is required.

Was that tactfully enough put to put you on the right tack?

We live in a semi-rural area with a lot of high trees, which is to say that we’re beset by a small army of crows. As aviary species go, they’re clever suckers, knowing just what will annoy me the most, such as removing small stones from the front pebbled garden and dropping them on the tarmac driveway and stealing bread from the back garden and other foodstuffs not intended for them.

They’ve also perfected the art of hitting a small upstairs bathroom window, unreachable for cleaning from inside or outside, with slimy projectile excrement which bonds to glass and has a half life of about 40 years.

The only way to get rid of them from the garden is to go up to the window and do big crow arms. When you wave your arms about maniacally they imagine you to be a colossally impressive crow and get the heck out of dodge, apparently. Size does matter in the crow world too, by all accounts.

Her Ladyship gave me this life hack, and if I’m honest she’s furnished me with 80 to 90% of the life hacks and micro-efficiencies I carry around with me in my metaphorical tool-bag as I plot my course through life.

 

Emails are tough to manage aren’t they? You blink or go away for a couple of days and all of a sudden your inbox looks like a war-zone.

Are you an active email manager or a laissez-faire kind of a person? On the one hand you can spend a few extra moments sorting out every single email the first time you read it, deleting it or filing it, which aggregates to hundreds of hours. On the other, you file nothing, maybe delete nothing, safe in the knowledge that you can search for emails and do an emergency triage if your storage limit gets tripped.

I take a different approach to my work emails and my personal emails. With my work emails I leave everything in the inbox or sent items, searching for stuff when I need it and doing a periodic cull of large attachments to relieve storage and aid computer speed. I knew a colleague who was a very successful salesperson and religiously kept his work inbox down to a handful of emails, all the time. How he did it I’ll never know.

With my personal emails – and many of the emails I get are subscriptions to emails from businesses – I try to delete and file, keeping my inbox as clear as I can. Inevitably it mushrooms out of control and I have to spend a few hours every 6 months getting the inbox and sent items down to a reasonable level, deleting stuff I should have and filing other emails away into folders that I’ll rarely access.

The trouble is, the periods immediately preceding a seasonal wipe session are less than serene. Like now, for instance…

Today’s old-fashioned word you don’t hear too much of these days – and with good reason – is wallowing. It literally means to roll about the place, like an elephant in a mud bath, and has roots in the Indo-European proto-language, but it’s more commonly used in the metaphorical sense of indulging in an emotion.

Although it can be either kind of emotion, the good one or the bad one, I only ever hear people using the bad one, as in wallowing in self-pity, or in nostalgia, which I also consider to be an unhealthy pastime, as you can’t get back what’s gone.

I try and avoid wallowing whenever I can, and try to stay upbeat and positive. Sometimes, however, you have a bad day where you’re stuck and you can’t see your way out of it. I don’t have them often but when I do I always think of those people for whom depression and anxiety are constant companions. After all, it’s really hard to escape from your own mind, and if you try to do it using alcohol or recreational drugs then you’re simply putting off the part you eventually have to get through.

My occasional bouts of wallowing often stem from uncertainty as to future outcomes, but manifest themselves in unhelpful comparisons with the situations of other people whose grass appears greener than mine. The best way out of it I think, as the experts say, is to talk it out, bring your nearest and dearest close to you and talk to them, over the phone if you can’t do it in person.

There’s a low in wallowing, literally, but springing from it is a win too.

Like many bloggers, especially the phenomenal ones who commit to daily posts, I usually have a couple of weeks’ worth of posts stored up, so they get published about half a month after I’ve created them. Then again, from time to time I like to slot them in as I write them. This is such an occasion, while the thoughts are fresh.

I went to a high school reunion a couple of days ago. I’d never been to one before. They’re an institution in places like the US, and Grosse Pointe Blank is one of my favourite films, so I was expecting something not quite as surreal and a lot less violent.

I hadn’t seen most of the attendees for over 30 years, and hadn’t talked to anyone from my class year this century, so it was odd yet hugely gratifying to reacquaint myself with people who had either changed remarkably little or who had changed out of all recognition.

Once I had triangulated my memory with name and face, It was very easy to slip back into a relaxed conversation with folks, as though a few weeks – rather than a few decades – had elapsed since we had last caught up.

Some had done well and were retired, some were doing well and still at it, and most were in the lifelong experience of parenting. There was good news and sad news, but it was an unfailingly pleasant night. Some of us promised to keep in touch with each other, so we’ll see what the passage of time does to these easy pledges.

There was no violence, apart from one unfortunate soul who slipped and banged her head, and it was completely, utterly surreal. I scored 50% there, which I think is a pass at school, right?