How long can you sit still for?

*I wrote this ages ago and wasn’t sure about publishing it but it still seems to ring true 2 years later, so here it is!

It’s funny how the world has evolved; you look at the first world countries and you see millions upon millions of people spending their days sat in offices, looking at screens and wishing they could leave already. That’s a funny version of the “free” societies we claim to operate. How is it that years of hard physical graft turned us into extensions of machines, often doing jobs that let’s face it, mean nothing in the context of humanity.

When was the last time you produced something real? Something tangible? Chances are, unless you’re one of the few who works a trade, it’s been a while. If you’re like me, it’s very likely that you produced a few emails, wrote a few lines of code or perhaps wrote a quick blog post and produced a lot of hot air explaining some abstract concept using a load of jargon-y words. I bet you thought that was a productive day, too.

Do you get the itchy feet though? The restless bum on your corporate torture device (chair)? The achy muscles that feel like they want to burst from your body because they’re so underused? No…you’re probably on the low energy current then; how about constant sugar and caffeine cravings? Incomprehensible weight gain? That headache that just won’t go? Almost everybody I know who works in an office complains about at least some of these symptoms and usually many more, so why do we put ourselves through it? We’ve built whole industries based on these office jobs that chain us to desks and they only exist because they’re mutually dependent. Why don’t we just go back to making things and using our bodies to do more than type every day?

Maybe I’m dreaming and maybe we’re all too lazy to do that, maybe we’d prefer to just sit still and moan but that’s exactly where I think the problem lies. I think that the more days that pass where people sit still and moan, the lower their tolerance becomes and the consequently, the lower their “productivity” is. So really what we have is a load of people running at a very low productivity level who should be set free to do something more useful with their time. Why don’t we make sitting jobs like national service? Something you have to do for a few years to keep the world turning and then you’re allowed out into the big wide world to do something you actually want to do.

It could just be me though; I said from day 1 that working in an office would be a struggle and the days when I’m not out and about, oh boy it really is!

Sometimes I can’t help but feel lucky

A few musings from last week…

As I sit sipping my coconut milk, caramel latte in a spacious New York hotel room located right by the World Trade Center, it’s hard not to count my blessings.

I believe that life is a roller-coaster of peaks and troughs and these can last for days, weeks or even years. Right now, mine’s on a peak and it has been for some time. I don’t know when I’ll fall off that peak or how far I’ll fall but while I’m up here, I’m sure going to enjoy the view.

So many of us find it difficult to realise what we have when we’re caught up in worrying about getting to places on time, earning more money, wearing the right clothes, etc. Actually what we need to do is appreciate what we have; for every one of us with the time and resource to read this blog, there’s someone else in the world who’s worried about the basics of survival, someone who doesn’t know where they will find clean water or food for their family.

Before my trip to New York, I was hugely anxious to the point that I was viewing it as a burden rather than perk of my job. All I was anxious about was that people wouldn’t perceive me the way I wanted them to. Sitting back for a second, I can’t believe myself and I can’t imagine how I reached that level of self indulgence. Who cares what they think of me!?! I am safe, I am well fed, I have money, family, love, respect – I have everything I need and so much more. Not to mention the happiness that comes with it these days.

So as I sit here and ponder whether or not I have the energy to head out and explore, I’m going to take one more deep breath and just remember that the small stuff really doesn’t matter, I am blessed.

Wishing you all many blessings of your own x

What’s Appearance Got To Do With It?

The whole “don’t judge a book by its cover” thing is always a tough one as we seem to have a natural tendency to do just that. I think it’s partly human nature and partly the way we are bred. When we are children our parents tell us not to talk to strangers in case they are the bad kind of person that will hurt us. How do we determine strangers? Oh yes, based on what they look like; if we don’t recognise them, we should treat them as the enemy. It’s no wonder that we find it hard to shake that approach when we get into adulthood.

Even so, as adults most of us try and overcome our fear of the unknown and at least pretend that we aren’t judging people based on their appearance…except in the workplace. At work it seems to be totally acceptable to judge people based on their appearance. How often do people go for job interviews where the interviewer takes one look at them and decides they haven’t got the job before they’ve even had a chance to speak? We have all sorts of laws in place to protect people from this but I’m not talking about people who are disfigured or disabled in some way, I’m talking about people who just look different to what the boss expected. The girl with the green hair, the guy with the ponytail or even the guy wearing a pink shirt instead of a white shirt. These are the people who dared to be different yet are paying the price, sometimes unknowingly and it seems to be a completely acceptable part of our culture.

Does it really matter if the man who stands in front of you presenting a fantastic business case, dressed immaculately, speaking very articulately has a nose piercing? I would say not. I’d say I’d listen to him more because he looked more individual than some people. I’d also say that he immediately outshines the person who comes in with the average-to-badly-fitting suit without the nose piercing because he’s taken more pride in his appearance, put more thought into how he will be received. But the nose piercing? An extra hole in his nose…it’s getting in the way because that tiny hoop or stud is blocking a lot of people’s view of his talents.

Nowhere does the fear of the unknown seem so great than in the world of business, in this crazy corporate land where people are supposed to conform to some outdated set of ideals. We’ve ended up with 2 camps: the cool kids working for the tech start-ups and media firms who are forced to be more expressive than they feel comfortable with and the old-skool crew working in banking and suchlike who are supposed to speak with a plum in their mouth and wear ultra-shiny shoes. If you don’t fit the mould, you aren’t coming in. Your work ethic and your mindset are completely irrelevant if you don’t look the part because most employers are too scared to shake the tree. They’re too worried that their customers might run away if they employ someone who looks different.

Here’s a novel idea, how about people just employ those who can do the job well? Why don’t we give this engine a jump start, provide exemplary service and learn to deal with those who look different in work as well as outside of work. Surely anyone in their right mind would rather do business with somebody competent who looks a little different than an incompetent oaf with a side parting, black suit and white shirt!?!

Things I Know: Work

“Work: (noun) Activity involving mental or physical effort done in order to achieve a result”

http://oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/work

Somehow my post about relationships came more easily than my post about work, maybe because I’ve spent more days in relationships than I have at work or maybe because although I know some things about work, I don’t have it entirely sussed yet. Either way, I’ve had to do something which I almost never do… I’ve redrafted this post. Actually taken it back to the drawing board and changed the content type redrafted, not just tweaked the odd typo!

Work is a bizarre thing that seems to be sort of thrust upon us when we reach a certain age. Technically school is a form of work for children but it never really seems like that at the time, at least it didn’t for me because I preferred school to home and was always quite an able student. Work first appeared in my life when I was a teenager and my parents made it very clear that if I wanted more than £20 a month to spend on fun things, I’d have to earn it. Luckily, I was able to work for my parents before I was 16 to boost this meagre income and then secured myself a brilliant part time job with lots of fun people when I was legally old enough to have a “proper” job.

That introduction to work was great in that it allayed my fears about what it would be like to work in the big wide world but bad in that it didn’t prepare me for the fact that not everywhere would be that fun. Over the years I’ve had a multitude of jobs, a few include: retail assistant, party rep, data entry monkey, direct credit card sales rep, training administrator and sales operations lead. Some of these have been fun, most have been insanely, mind-numbingly boring.

Am I successful? Well that depends who you are and how you define success; from the outside I’m doing perfectly fine for someone my age, especially someone who’s jumped around so much and had 2 redundancies in their first 5 years of full time work. (I technically fled before 1 of the redundancies but I knew it was coming so it still counts!) So if you count success as being employed throughout the recession and earning more than the national average then yes, I am successful. If you count success as enjoying your work and gaining some sort of satisfaction from it then no, I’ve not quite made it there yet but I’m working on it.

One thing I have learned about work is that you do have to do as the definition says and put in effort otherwise you just won’t reap the rewards and that’s fine because I like a job that requires me to work hard. However, what I have also learned is that the effort is pointless if nobody notices. If your boss doesn’t like you or tries to claim your effort as theirs, look wider and shout louder until somebody else sees your effort. It took me far too long to realise this but it really does only take 1 person in the right place to sing your praises and suddenly doors start flying open left, right and centre.

Another thing I have learned is that being miserable at work isn’t worth it, if you genuinely hate your job, change it. If you know you won’t like working in an office or outside in the rain, stay away. I’ve made these mistakes so badly and for so long I’ve actually suffered depression because I hated my work so much and I’ve spent thousands of pounds I didn’t have because I thought my life would be better if I had more stuff. Not true! Now I am working in a sales role purely to pay off some of that debt… I still don’t like offices and I still don’t like technology, but I’ve finally found a dirt track to lead me to the shiny road that will take me out of this environment and into one I should have started off in several years ago.

Work is a huge part of your life so follow your passion, even if it means less money. You will make the money in the end because you’ll be prepared to put the effort in to be the best at what you do. Most of us in the western world are lucky enough to have choices so don’t waste yours picking something “just because”, choose something because you have a genuine reason for doing so and you’ll live with your choice much more easily.

Now I wholly stand by the points I’ve made above but the biggest point I am going to make here is that confidence is the key to a successful working life in my opinion. I’m not talking about being an arrogant whatsit who stomps around the office making enemies, I’m talking about the self-assured comfort that allows you to do what works best for you. Confidence will help you to stand up and make sure your hard work is noticed and that it pays off; confidence will give you the courage to take the lesser trodden path because you believe it’s right for you and confidence will help you move on from your mistakes and make positive changes to affect your future.

And that’s my advice about work; it’s very much in progress as I keep shuffling toward what I consider success to be but nonetheless, I have already learned some things and I wanted to share them. Don’t just do the job you think you should do, aim for the one you really want and the challenges along the way will become minor hurdles for you to leap over 🙂

Next stop on the Things I Know journey will be “Bodies”! x

Did anyone tell us where the jobs were?

This morning I came across an article in the FT which said that teenagers in the UK are aspiring to the wrong jobs. Apparently too many teenagers are aiming for glamorous jobs and too few are aiming for the drudgery of admin and care work. Well… what a shock!!!

Really??? Who decided we needed an article to tell us this? Of course too many teenagers are aspiring to have the “fun” jobs, I’m pretty sure this has always been the way and will continue to be so regardless of how many careers advisors we force them to sit in front of. Who even needs careers advisors? As I remember it, one of my so called ideal matches for a job came out as a florist. A friggin’ florist… I don’t even buy flowers for special occasions, never mind wanting to fondle the blasted things all day, every day!

Apologies for that little tangent I just went off on but realistically, will it make much difference if the careers advice is that young people should look at bog standard jobs and not get too excited about the future? I think not. For many generations, we have managed perfectly well living in our dream worlds as teenagers and then waking up when we realise the only job we can get is night-time secretary or some other such dream-shattering, life-sucking leech of a job. But then we work harder to change it and find something we like just a little bit more. This works!

If careers advice really must increase for these youngsters, stop beating around the bush and asking them what they like and what they are good at and start telling them which roles pay the most, which have flexible working, which allow you to wear jeans in the office, etc. They probably won’t listen but I’d wager the odds are higher than if you try and persuade them that their love of computer games means they’d be amazing at data entry. And that’s what I have to say about that!

Phew! Feeling much better for that rant!!! x

Daydreaming

Is it possible to make dreams come true when you aren’t even sure what they are?

I don’t know about you but one thing I find myself doing for pretty much 23 out of every 24 hours per day is daydreaming; I’ve always done this. As a child I vividly remember standing in the playground at school wondering what my life would be like if I had this or had that, did this or did that. It’s just a thing I’ve always done.

What happens when I stop daydreaming? Honestly…90% of the time I’m not daydreaming I’m miserable as sin, only occasionally am I happy to live in the here and now without part of me wishing I was living in someone else’s here and now. But why is this and is this even normal? Seriously, does everyone else feel the same or am I just some weird dreamy freak who can’t quite relax enough to enjoy reality for fear of missing something better? (Answers on a postcard please.)

Anyway, the fact that I daydream my life away isn’t really the point of this post; the real focal point here is around making those dreams come true. If I made some of my dreams come true, would I spend less time daydreaming and more time just living or would my dreams simply change? Does it even matter? If it does though, how does one make dreams come true when they have so many dreams that they aren’t sure which the real ones are. By real ones, I mean the ones that are worthwhile bringing to fruition rather than the silly ones like dreaming about having an endless supply of Kellogg’s Frosties and ice cold semi-skimmed milk on tap…though I wouldn’t complain if that one came true!

So, this is a call out to anybody and everybody who reads this; what is your take on this? How much time do you spend daydreaming? Does it help if you make dreams a reality or do the dreams just change? I’m curious and I want to know if I’m doing something wrong or if I’m just like the rest of you, only I actually put it out there for the world to see and hear. Help me out guys, my dreams don’t have an answer for this one! x

Taking the Plunge

In 2011 an ex-colleague leapt in with both feet and started his own business; nobody knew if or how it would work and as somebody who was involved near the beginning, I certainly had my doubts about some of what he was doing. After not speaking for nearly a year – purely because I didn’t have enough time to work with him and work my full-time job, I’ve caught up with him this week and things are going really well. He’s negotiating big contracts, had an offer to buy the business, (one which I would have taken and then gone travelling for a few years with) and is generally loving what he’s doing.

I’m jealous.

Now I have just as many business ideas and just as much knowledge about how to get a business off the ground as he does but for some reason, I’m working for somebody else. I’ve just taken my career in a new direction and I’m enjoying my job but I know that I’d be more satisfied if I was doing it for myself. So why don’t I and why does he? Confidence!

The one thing this guy has absolutely oodles of is confidence, he simply can’t fail because it hasn’t even entered his head as an option. The what ifs, buts and maybes which plague me just aren’t there for him and when they do occasionally pop up, he knows exactly how to handle his own objections. He’s happy to take risks because he knows he has the ability to make everything work; I’m reluctant to take risk for fear of failure and that seems to be the key difference between those who do and those who don’t.

So how do I become a person who does? At some point, I think you just have to take the plunge and accept the fact that you might not be entirely successful but make the decision that it’s better to try. I think I’ve gotten halfway there by taking my current job, it’s the first one I’ve taken that I haven’t been 100% sure I could do but I took it because it got me closer to my end goal. Now I need to build on that and maximise every opportunity that comes my way until I reach my end goal of creating the opportunities myself.

Here goes!!! x

26 and Counting…

Shock horror, today is my last day of being 26 so funnily enough, all of my thoughts have been focussed on the fact that tomorrow I am officially old! There’s just something I’m not loving about the number 27; it looks funny and it sounds way closer to the big 3…0… than 26 is.

However, looking back at being 26, was it all that great and would I want to repeat it? The answer is mixed to the first part and a definite no to the second part of that double question.

This time last year I was eating a super scrummy dinner in Reading’s number 1 restaurant (according to Trip Advisor). It was my last day in a job that I had worked really hard for before being made redundant and I was a smidgen panicked about my lack of job. Since then I have taken a Christmas temp job at Boots, a permanent HR role, a temporary, additional receptionist role and now a Sales role. I’ve been abroad twice, had 2 cars fall apart, split up with my bf who I lived with and quite frankly I’m pretty darned tired. It’s been one of those years of building the foundations for the future but boy am I hoping that 27 is a bit more relaxed!

On the one hand I feel like 27 could be a great year where I finally get closer to where I want to be; on the other hand I’m worried it’s going to be another year the same as 26 with everything up in the air the whole time and with a few too many new starts. How do I take control of this year and make sure it’s a winner? How do I learn my lesson and make sure I don’t spend any of my time in a relationship that’s meant to have ended already?  And… can I actually do this Sales thing and earn enough money to start making the debt figure go down rather than up?

So many questions and so much unknown, (365 days to be precise) for now all I can say is… Thank you 26, you weren’t what I expected you to be but you’ve definitely made me stronger and more ready to take on 27. Bring on the birthday!!! x

The Curse of the Power March

One thing I’ve noticed that modern offices are plagued with these days is semi powerful women marching across the floor with an effect similar to a herd of elephants stampeding past. If you work in an office I’m sure you know the type, you may even be the type; low to mid-management women whose power has gone to their heads and who have decided that the way to demonstrate confidence and assertiveness is to tread heavily…very heavily!

Why? What is it that these women thing they will gain from such heavy-footed traversing? I don’t know about you but I’ve also noticed that these women seem to spend A LOT of the day stomping around the office, I don’t know where they are going but their

laptops don’t seem to be following them wherever it is!

My question is simply “why?”. I just cannot work it out, where did this dominant stamping phenomenon come from? What purpose does it serve other than to annoy colleagues and cause them to mumble rude things under their breath? Is there anyone out there who can answer this!?! x

Are you getting enough sleep?

If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably have been through a least a short period of time when it seems almost impossible to fit sleep into your schedule; this may even be the norm for you. You have to work all day but you don’t want to miss out on the fun parts of life, yet you also need to fit in some exercise to compensate for sitting at your desk all day and suddenly, 24 hours in a day just isn’t enough!

I’ll give you an idea of the sort of thing I’m talking about… a few months ago I decided I wasn’t doing enough with my life, that I could work more to earn more, socialise more and get more involved with my hobbies, especially am dram. Suddenly I found myself with weekdays looking like this:

6.45am Wake up

7.30am Work

9.00am Finish that job and travel to the next

9.45am Start second job

6.15pm Finish work, travel into town for…

7.00pm Business meeting (3rd job – also had to grab some food here instead of dinner)

9.00pm Leave business meeting and head to audition

9.15pm Amdram audition

10.30pm Head home

11.00pm Go to bed – cannot sleep as mind is buzzing, end up with about 5 hours’ sleep

Since when is that a great way to live!?! Not only that but I also started packing out my weekends too and now often find that I can’t sleep at night because I’ve been so busy right up until bed time that I simply can’t switch off which reduces the sleep time even further.

What I should have been doing!

So what did I do? I ate more, mainly sugary, wheaty, naughty foods which made me more tired. I stressed more which made me more tired and I ignored it all, pretending I could do everything I wanted. What did that do? I’ve gained weight, gained wrinkles and frequently have a mouth full of painful ulcers. Hmm…not quite what I was hoping for! Don’t get me wrong, I have achieved a lot too and I’m happy that I have done so but it’s really time to re-evaluate. How can I manage my time better?

Now, I am in the process of making small changes: budgeting better so I can drop the additional job; blogging in a lunch break so I don’t need to do that in the evening; picking up my reading hobby so that I can relax with a book before bed instead of Tweeting whilst watching TV and online shopping all at once. You see, there is a fine balance between doing enough and doing too much, you need to work out what is right for you and what gives you that sense of accomplishment whilst also making sure you don’t age prematurely and stick with it! For extra motivation, remember that people with crazy sleep schedules are meant to be 3 times more likely to be overweight…

I’ll let you know how I’m feeling in a month, see if I’ve shifted my social jet-lag and I’d love to hear how the rest of you juggle these crazy lives we lead! x