How many of us strive towards perfection, aiming to do something perfectly? After all, if something not worth doing well, if’s not worth doing at all, as our parent and grandparents – the grafting generations, before it all got a bit too easy – used to tell us.

Can we do something perfectly? Can we put in a perfect performance, a perfect execution of a plan? Is perfect even attainable? Is it like a ghost, or a mirage, always out of reach? Should it even be something we strive for?

I know that if I ever do the perfect something, I’m never going to do any of it again. When I write the perfect press release, play the perfect game of footie or table tennis, deliver the perfect presentation, close the perfect sale, or deliver the perfect marketing campaign, I’m going to quit immediately, on the highest of highs, and never do one of them again.

I’ll quit when I produce the perfect something because¬†I’ll never be able to do better. I’ll leave at the top, and not solider through the inevitable decline from my best, like so many people do.

I reckon I’ll be OK for a while though. Right now I’m not close to perfect in anything that I turn my head or hand to.

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How do you represent temperature with colour? Easy, right? Blue is cold and red is hot, with all the relative shades in between, like on a weather map.

What about the difference between cold and colder, or room temperature and colder? It’s a tough one. I always have a bit of a brain freeze when I’m at a water cooler, and especially after I’ve drunk from the very cold tap. There’s a white tap and a blue tap. The white is on the left and the blue is on the right. Which is colder? And how cold is the less cold one? Is it chilled less or is it room temperature?

I never know which is which on a water cooler. Water is transparent in colour, and so is ice, pretty much, so that doesn’t help the choice of tap colour. Blue traditionally denotes very cold I guess, like ice bergs or branding on beers. So if blue is cold, is the white tap simply cool water or room temperature water? And why is the white tap on the left? Does it mean the taps go colder from left to right, or should they go warmer from left to right? Has no-one thought about this or agonised over it i the design or assembly phases?

I know, overthinking things. I should just try a sip of both, and be done with it. But these things bother me, because they’re about simplifying the message path between the sender and recipient.

Many of us are in the business of imparting knowledge or experience. Teachers, lecturers, supervisors, mentors, trainers, consultants, managers, advisors. I think we all hope that what we impart is useful, in that it can be used.

I was reminded of this when I met with a colleague the other day. We were exchanging information and insight on various luminaries in the sales effectiveness and sales training business.

She shared an anecdote from a session she had attended with an internationally renowned sales trainer who is known for speaking her mind. After the keynote had finished, my colleague complimented the speaker on the session and said her talk provided much food for thought.

The sales guru, paused for a moment and said, ‘or food.’

And that’s a very important distinction. Food for thought means that we might think about what we’ve listened to and learned, but not necessarily act on it. We might not change our behaviour and ‘do’.

Food is something we actively consume and use, which gives us energy to progress, and do work. It influences our behaviour.

What about you? Are you providing food for thought, or food?

It’s impossible to resist the slow, glacial and inexorable movement of father time. Father time, but mother nature: what’s going on there?

Once you’ve reached the peak of fitness, be it physical, sporting, cerebral, intellectual and so on, or if you’re lucky, a long, luxurious plateau of a peak, you’re on the decline, fact. You have to work increasingly harder with each passing year to keep your skills at the level they were.

I have noticed this with the sport I have played most of over the last 4 decades, table tennis. It’s hard to judge how you compare with your much younger self, even though I still think I’m as good as I was in my peak, but I have a general sense that my abilities are in decline, that my skills are dwindling. Table tennis is one of those sports where you can have a long career of being at or close to your best. It’s not like some of the other speed and power sports where the window is much narrower.

That said, when I’m playing against people half my age, or less, I see that the sport has moved on, it’s played differently, and my approach to the game is outdated. I’m pushing against the tide of better ways of playing the game, and younger, faster and better players.

The enjoyment is still there, but the proficiency is such that you’re competitive against the standard of player on your way down that you were on your way up. The only way you can reconcile yourself with the march of time is to confine yourself to playing against your age group or to be in competition with yourself, and not others, on a daily basis.

I’m sure it applies to work as well…

 

 

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.

It 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.

 

 

I’ve written a few times before about tackling large projects and biting off small digestible or achievable chunks to eat away at the project and make it doable.

One thing I find useful when tackling a large project – though not too large or else the parameters may change and you have to start again – is to do the fiddly stuff first. If you’re writing a document, get the contents right before you move on to fill in the big gaps. If you’re working on a large deck, do the cover slide and the end slide first and get the title and content conventions down before you do your slides. If you’re working on a spreadsheet, to the tidying up and formatting of cells before you put the main body of numbers in.

You have to do the important parts, the major bits, so getting the fiddly stuff out of the way means they won’t get forgotten about or underserved at the end when you’re flagging. Yes, you run the risk of not getting the big, important part finished, but you have to get it done so you’ll get it done, and if there’s a time deadline, then your focus, your productivity and your output will increase accordingly.

If you do the fiddly stuff first, you know you’ll finish. If you leave the fiddly stuff til last, you run the risk of wanting a break after finishing the big stuff and not finishing the whole thing.

I’ve had it with avocados. I’m done with them.

Yes, I know they’re good for me. They’re rich in those omega-thingies and they taste nice too. You just never know what you’re going to get. Sometimes they’re too hard, like cheese, but you’ve opened them now, so you have to eat them. You can leave the other half in the fridge, even with the stone still it, and they take about 5 mins to go off.

Sometimes they’re too soft, and have gone mostly black and bruised, not appealing to look at or taste, so they’re wasted. Even with the health benefits they’re a bit of a lottery.

And then there’s the process of how they’re made, and the vast distances they need to come to service the needs of a consumer in the north west of Europe. Take a look at this video¬†(it’s 12 minutes long, but worth a quick look). An awful lot of the environment goes into creating one of those capricious little suckers, and the ramifications are pretty far-reaching, as you’ll see.

No, much as I like them, I think I’m done with avocados.

Work, play. Day, night. Fun, no fun. These are pretty binary concepts, aren’t they?

I’ve always said we should find a job we enjoy, since it’s going to be occupying such a large amount of our healthy, active years, but enjoyment is hardly a binary concept.

No, it’s more of a spectrum. There are bits of our work that we enjoy more than others. The creative bits are generally more enjoyable than the humdrum bits. There are degrees of enjoyment. The most enjoyable parts of our job are not as enjoyable as our time off.Then again, being on holiday is often better than simply having time off.

If we play sport, then going to the gym is not as enjoyable as a game of footie or tennis.

I was out for an evening of 6-a-side soccer the other day, in the driving rain, and one of my pals joined the warm-up looking a bit glum. ‘Come on,’ I said, ‘you could be working. Playing soccer in terrible weather is always better than working. Are you telling me you’d rather be plastering right now?’

‘Yes’, he said, ‘I would.’ Like I said, degrees of enjoyment, just on a different part of the spectrum to me.

Solitude is great for concentration, great for getting things done.

As someone who does a lot of writing from home, I find that solitude and silence are the most productive drivers. I tend not to listen to music, or even have the radio on in the background. It’s just me and my thoughts, with no distractions. I do sing to myself, out loud, on the breaks though, as one does.

Of course, it’s horses for courses. A mate of mine who also writes for a living always has the radio on in the background, usually something high-brow like BBC Radio 3, which might explain his encyclopaedic knowledge of music.

It’s what you’re used to, and it goes in waves. There was a time when I listened to music when I wrote and the mood the particular music inspires can influence the writing, which can be a good or a bad thing, depending on the subject matter and the tone.

After too much, though, the solitude and quiet gets to you, and mild cabin fever sets in. Then, for me, it’s time, not for music, but some old fashioned dialogue and some human interaction. A good home-working balance seems to be a mix of thinking, writing time in solitude and collaborative, team time in the office.

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!