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PREF AC E T H E BEGIN N IN G H OW A WFUL CA N IT B E ? S P IR A LLING E CONOM Y S E P TE M B E R 11 T HE JOB M A R K E T Q UA LIFICA TIONS R E CR UITM E NT CONSULTA NTS H OW TO OV E R COM E THE SE THING S W HE R E WA S I? W HA T WA S THE SOLUTION ? A M IX OF P R A CTICA L A ND SP IR ITUA L E X P E R IE NCE A WOR LD WITH NE W V A LUE S C HOICE S , CHOICE S , CHOICE S WH AT DO I DO ? A CK NOWLE D G ING M Y P OSITION A CTION B R E E D S R E SULTS W HY WE R E M Y P LA NS NOT WOR K ING ? P R E P A R E D TO CHA NG E W HE R E D O I LOOK ? I S THIS THE R IG HT COUR SE FOR M E ? A CTION D OE S B R E E D R E SULTS S NOWB A LL T HE SOUR CE S OF HE LP N OT A LL THE G R E A T P E OP LE WR ITE B OOK S T HE P R OFE SSIONA LS C ONCLUSION EXERC IS ES AC T IO N L EADS T O RES U L T S T HE R E A SONS I T ’ S JUST A B OUT OUR JOB S , R IG HT ? T HE OTHE R TWO LE G S … F A ST M OV ING W OR LD I D E A S ON LOV E I S THA T A LL ? L OTS TO D IG E ST W HA T USE IS IT ? W E R E W E D ONE Y E T ? I NCR E D IB LE A CHIE V E M E NT O NWA R D S W E M UST G O 5 6 6 8 10 10 12 12 12 13 13 14 15 15 17 17 17 18 19 19 20 21 22 22 24 25 26 27 28 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 35 36 36
EXERC IS ES GET T IN G IT O U T T H ERE T O C H AN GE T HA T S P E CIA L S OM E ONE H A NG A B OUT , W HY S HOULD I D O T HIS ?!? P LE NTY OF F R IE ND LY E A R S TO B E ND N OT T HE E A SIE ST T HING T O D ISCUSS R E M E M B E R T HE A IM W E A R E N OT T HE O NLY O NE S T IM E T O M OV E O N U P N E CE SSITY I S S UR E LY T HE M OTHE R O F I NV E NTION C HA NG E M E A NS CHA NG E T HE JOB IS CLOSE R DEC IS IO N S , DEC IS IO N S , DEC IS IO N S J UST FOR Y OU W HA T ’ S L E FT ? H A NG A B OUT , WHA T A B OUT THE OLD STUFF ? T OP TIP S LE A R NT THE LONG WA Y P R A CTICE WHA T Y OU THINK O M E LE TTE S A ND E G G S N A ILING THA T CONSCIE NCE S IM P LIFY ING THE M A K ING G OOD P R OCE SS W ILL THE Y R E M E M B E R ? I T WILL IM P R OV E EXERC IS ES REC T IF Y AN D REPEAT P E OP LE TO M E E T T HR OW Y OUR SE LF A T THE IR M E R CY P R OG R E SS M UST B E M A D E SOM E HOW T HR E E WA Y S TO M OV ING FOR WA R D A LITTLE A B OUT M Y A IM S ( A ND HOW THE Y WE R E A SK E W ) R E A P THE R E WA R D S S O WHA T D O Y OU D O ? IT ’S N O T JU S T F O R YO U R E M E M B E R THE P R OCE SS A ND D O IT A G A IN N OT TOTA LLY SOLITA R Y T HE R E ’ S THE R UB S TE R E OTY P E S T HE COR E ISSUE I NSP IR A TION W HA T WOR K S FOR M E S TILL THE SA M E P E R SON 38 41 41 41 42 43 45 45 45 47 48 49 50 50 50 51 52 54 55 56 57 57 58 60 62 62 62 63 64 66 67 69 71 71 72 72 73 74 75 76 77
T HE B OOK S OCIE TY A ND US T HE CY CLE T H E EN D O F T H E BEGIN N IN G W E LL D ONE – NOW R E A P IT W OR K WILL IM P R OV E S OUR CE M A TE R IA LS P A SSION B ONUS TIM E M ONE Y ISN ’ T THE B E A LL A ND E ND A LL F A ULTS CA N HE LP I T ’ S O UR O WN J OUR NE Y I D E NTIFY THE B E NE FITS W HA T E LSE ? S HA R E D E X P E R IE NCE S T HINK ING OF Y OU Y OUR S , T R ULY 77 78 79 81 81 81 82 83 84 85 85 86 86 87 88 89 89
P r eface
Do you want to understand more about why you feel and think the way you do about work? Do you get confused as to why you are struggling with work, either in your job or to find a new one? Do you wonder why there are apparently a lot of jobs somewhere but never the right one for you? Do you lie awake at night concerned about meeting those bills and paying to merely live? Where is your next cheque coming from? The credit crunch has put the squeeze on us all and we are constantly barraged with ever gloomier reports about the job market and how many people are out of work. I know what it’s like to be out of work and really struggling to get hired – absolute misery especially if, like me, you were confused as to why you found it difficult to get that new job. After going through quite a period of such pain, I did get some great work and haven’t really looked back since then. This has meant that I have been able to make plans and get a footing on the housing ladder as well as furnish my resume with some meat that makes me more attractive for future hirers. It wasn’t easy. I had to go through a delicate and extremely painful process of self discovery that had an unexpected result – it changed me to be able to face such a challenge with not nearly so many concerns. I understood that a lot of the worries had been groundless and that with my head in a straight place, I could meet the workplace face on and not be concerned with its ups and downs. That was then (nearly eight years ago), but the process didn’t happen overnight. This book is the constellation of the lessons I learnt and I want to share with you to avoid some of the pain I went through. I wrote it when I was out of work but there are a lot of people being made redundant these days so I decided to republish. If you have any comments, I do welcome them so please drop me a line at email@example.com. In the meantime, I wish you well on your quest. Yours,
T he B eginning
H ow aw ful can it be? On June 4, 2001, I had a meeting with my then boss which was to prove the turning point in my life. He didn’t have a clue – I had a hint that this might be the start of some major changes. Little was I to know quite how much my life was to change. Would I have taken the same decisions again, knowing what I do now? Probably. But that was then, and I now have the advantage of hindsight. I also didn’t know that within four hours I would be fired. I had been in a job that I despised for exactly a year. This may seem familiar to many people but I really could not see the point of spending over a third of my existence cooped up in a room I didn’t like with people who patently didn’t like me, or I them. The pay was good, but not as good as it could have been. And that was what the meeting was about. Life had seemed great a little over a year previously. I had just had two of the most fantastic months of my life, working in the Belizean jungle building a resource centre for an environmental charity. Cut off from the western idea of civilisation, living on dried food and constantly wary of the dangers of jungle life focussed our minds into having terrific experiences. I have put down the lessons I have learnt during the past eighteen months in a book to help you understand how not to go mad and give up on that perfect job. It has often felt like an insurmountable wall. However, the job is out there and you can get it. Whether you are in a job you don’t want to be in, or thinking that you could do better, then read on. If you are out of work and trying to get back into a situation where your bank manager gets off your back, than read on quickly! There are some simple lessons in this book which, if applied thoroughly, will get you that job. The only thing you have to do is start taking action. The ‘job’ may well not be what you think it to be. It may well be that you end up working in a sector you never imagined possible, earning far less than you did before. You may end up running your own company or only having part time work. The trick is, as well as being the aim of this book, for you to find out about yourself so that whatever you do, you will believe fully in yourself and your abilities. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t have turned the first page. I believed in myself, I still do and you can, too! So what was the situation, how had I got into it and what could I do about it? I now had choices, but which way to go? But first I had to decide why I was making the decision.
7 I challenged my last employers because I believed they had breached my contract. I offered the chance to make good, which was rejected, and so I told them that I would have no option but to instigate legal action. They sacked me within a few hours, after sending me home so they could discuss the situation. The net result was that I was out of work a little more swiftly than I had planned, with no job offer to fall back on as well as a reluctance from the DSS to pay out Jobseekers’ Allowance as I had been summarily dismissed. The actual meeting we had is now a bit of a blur, but I do remember that the director kept on suggesting that I could always leave if I was unhappy. I knew that this would let them off the hook too easily and I was not going to back down so quickly. This was despite the fact that I had just spent a year with my hands tied behind my back, labouring under a system of control that choked all kinds of creative input as well as personal drive. And I was told in my offer that I had been hired for exactly these two qualities! I had never been to court before, so, prior to the meeting, I had taken advice. My position constituted a legal case so I knew I had it as a fall back. I did not want to go to a tribunal and believed there was an amicable solution to the problem. Although I did not enjoy the job, I did it as best as I was allowed and there was tangible proof of my application. When I read the letter that sacked me, the first feeling I felt was an enormous sense of relief. I have remembered that feeling during the bad times I have been through since. There have been moments of doubt and worry that I wasted time entertaining. The truth is, I was not enjoying the job and wanted something where I could exercise my skills as well as look forward to it. I wanted to get up in the morning with a spring in my step and a smile on my face. I wanted to race across town on my Vespa so I could get stuck into the next challenge. I wanted to enjoy the company of my colleagues and I wanted to laugh at work. Not much to ask for since I would be spending the majority of my waking hours in such a state. Most of all I wanted to be me and I was fed up with dancing to someone else’s restrictive tune. Jumping out of a job (and let’s face it – that’s what I did) is not a decision to be taken lightly, but also one that can be enormously emancipating. I have experienced lessons that can only be useful to as many people as possible. I have had time to reflect on these and have decided to distil them into a simple process that can provide results. These are the reasons I decided to sit down and put my experiences, thoughts and desires for the future into this book. It also is one of the most economically alarming times in modern history and therefore a period that definitely is not one to be out of work. These musings will help you furnish your bank account with more cash and your worry gene with some security.
Spir alling economy Since boo.com went bust at the beginning of the new century, the world’s media has talked, almost with glee, of the downward spiral that the economy will endure. All doom and gloom, with little to cheer our spirits. Things took a little longer than the media predicted, but that was only to be expected. However, bonuses are down this year and there will be fewer Porsches cluttering the driveways of the city high flyers. This has a trickle effect and naturally those not on silly salaries will also feel the bite. There have been a lot of redundancies and unemployment will rise. Many others will find themselves in the seemingly hapless position in which I have wallowed. This book is aimed at helping to readjust your outlook and open your eyes to your potential before you head for the nearest high bridge to jump off, clasping your beloved Playstation to your chest. Despite the relief I felt at getting out of a dreadful position, I probably chose a poor time. People really have their eye on the summer break in June and aren’t in the mood for throwing large amounts of money and effort at hiring new people. The evenings are getting longer and the sun is starting to shine regularly. Of course, this doesn’t mean that those with the hiring budget spend the whole summer looking out of the window – it’s more a case of not all the decision-makers being in one office at one time and so they generally have a go-slow. They tend to think “stop for now”. Part of the problem that the companies who are hiring face is that they don’t want to take a risk. Prevalent throughout modern society is the abdication of responsibility – no one wants to take a decision in case it backfires upon him or her. Therefore, the notion that everyone is away on holiday is a good excuse for putting off a decision that may be passed onto someone else, or not need to be taken because the economic situation changes. Of course, there is always the situation when the economy is moving so quickly that companies are desperate to recruit and spend the next few years embroiled in lengthy legal wrangles, usually in front of employment tribunals. Therefore, ‘everyone’s on holiday’ is a good way of putting off a potentially costly decision. Another great part of the summer is that it is a time of hope. We all like to think that this year will be a beauty and that there will be a lessening of the standard problems. The scientists may tell us that the vitamin D in sunshine is good for the spirit but we all know it’s because the chance to get out of work, go on holiday, have some fun in the sun and forget about the normal British weather is more than enough to cheer us all up. I am sure that if a study were made of people’s diaries during this time, there would be more ‘meetings’ at the end of the day and more lunches eaten out of the office. This is no bad thing. However, it doesn’t help those looking for work because the potential employer may well be working on their tan when you want to talk. There is another factor that is sure to be the death knell for finding a new job – recession. The media have warned of a downturn in economic activity incessantly over
9 the past eighteen months. Even the estate agents are consulted as to how the economy is looking! There is a noticeably radical decline in recruitment advertising since the internet boom of recent years. What used to be a chunky, three-part section of The Sunday Times is now a few pages with a small selection of positions. A lot of the bigger and older companies can take the prospect of a recession by cutting back on ‘surplus’ costs. This usually means marketing budgets and staff. People are, frankly, being shown the door. Since a lot of the larger companies were formed by mergers solely for the use of slashing staff and making huge payouts for the directors, this differs little from boom periods. But at least this time, they can justify it. As for SMEs (small to medium enterprises), this is a worrying time as their cash flow becomes strangled. Companies are nervous to employ new staff and so play it safe, trying to weather the clouds of recession. One thing I have never understood about accepted wisdom (and there is a lot of so-called wisdom – most of it based on fear) is cutting sales and marketing budgets when times are tough. Almost hunkering down like a stubborn mule seems to be the norm. However, a sales and marketing policy is there to drive sales – without them the business must surely fold. Therefore, more energy needs to be pumped into this area. What is often the case, however, is that this budget is usually spent in a less than productive fashion so when the financial director sees it, he knows that the returns are too low and cuts it. This is not merely a litany of the awful conditions that we are potentially heading into. I am trying to level a realistic viewpoint at what is, after all, another phase in life. Most of the problems with employment belong to people’s perceptions. After all, how many times is the first question upon meeting someone is, “What do you do?” I respond by telling them that I get out of bed, shower, shave and brush my teeth. I generally get a polite smile and a correction that they were asking after my job. Now, I find it extraordinary that the further you get up the supposed career ladder, this becomes more prevalent. This may have come from a party I went to years ago. My sister was the grand age of 11, myself nine. As the parents arrived to pick up my sister’s guests, a frightfully glamorous friend of my parents, who I had always had a secret crush on, turned to the man next to her and asked the proverbial question. He was very much dressed in scruffy attire with fraying shirt and trouser, dirty shoes. He took one look at her, recognised the inherent snobbery in the question, and replied, “Oh, I’m a butcher.” That was the last she spoke to him. He was managing director of Vestey UK – about as far removed from the practice of serving meat in a striped apron as you could get, but most definitely a (very large) purveyor of beef. I believe that the state of mind is far more important than the physical position. Regardless of whether there is a million pounds in your bank account or not a penny, how you feel will determine how you look at your situation. If you are in a foul mood,
10 then life will not look great, even if you have won the lottery. If your moods are reliant on external influences like your bank balance, yoga class, post code then there will always be misery around the corner. If, however, you take responsibility for your own well being, inside and out, then life will become much more enjoyable. There are a few simple stages to achieving this and getting that job you always dreamed of. A bit of work and you will be amazed by the results. September 1 1 As I one-finger type my thoughts on my completely unfaithful computer, another year has drawn to a close. Business reviews of the past twelve months are all in a muddle because the predictions have all gone awry. We are experiencing a dreadful state of the stock market, but the housing boom continues. Bonuses are down but retail spending has rallied. Reports tell us that many have cashed in a chunk of the newly acquired equity of increased value in property to have fun or merely buy stuff. The war with Iraq may be the another stage in the uncertainty that grips the world. The war on terror has caused fear and almost knee jerk reactions to circumstances. Since the dreadful events of September 11, the world has seemed to be balancing on a knife edge of fear and inevitably. Warnings are constantly issued that various countries are too dangerous to visit and the press picks up on terrorism warnings within our own shores. This leads to an obvious culture of general mistrust and fear. This does not help the job seekers but this book is aimed at doing just that. As the winter months shroud us, there is little to look forward to for a few months. April is the traditional harbinger of promises for the forthcoming season. Dark (and frequently wet) days keep the morale at the usual seasonal low. Bring on the summer, I say. But there are ways of making this a productive time of year for that job hunt. The job mar ket There is little that I can do about this but comment on its effect on the job market. When New York returned to work the Monday following September 11, the markets crashed. Everyone had hoped that this would not happen because rescue from the results seemed impossible. The economy is heading into a dire state. Even more people will find themselves without that friendly and reassuring presence in their bank account each month. There really are two ways of looking at the situation. Either you can wail and beat your chest, or you can look at this as one of the greatest opportunities of your life. Finding work is, frankly, a royal pain in the backside. There is the mix of constantly trawling through the trade papers, phoning every possible contact you can think of, and banging off numerous letters to as many companies as you can possibly envisage working for. Not a bad plan on the face of it. But if you feel uncertain, then sure as
11 eggs is eggs, you will transmit this in your communication. Getting into the right frame of mind is the first step – this change of perspective will assist you in taking the necessary action. Whilst there is a great deal of negative chatter about, there are still plenty of jobs to choose from. One way to start may be to choose an industry or sector that interests you. Do you want to work in accountancy or the law, marketing or advertising, engineering or public service? A quick glance across any recruitment website will list a plethora of trades and sectors, some vocational, some that will accept transferable skills from another sector. Some question you might ask yourself could start with, “Will I get out of bed for this? And, if so, why?” If the prospect of working in PR excites you because of its association with the media, then perhaps the media would be more suitable. Try not to settle for the first answer that pops into your head and, when you are sure of an answer, do sufficient research to back it up. PR is not all about glitzy launch parties and mingling with the rich and famous – it’s more about generating endless press releases and badgering journalists to get them to publish something about your client. Be honest as to whether you really want to get up on a filthy day, with too little sleep, and still come in to do your job. Of course, you won’t be happy everyday, but choose something that both interests you and has great prospects. Once you have decided the sector that attracts you, determine which level you can realistically apply for. It’s no use coming out of university with a good degree and expecting to land a super job earning in excess of £40,000. There are very few of these roles around and they are generally taken by exceptionally bright and driven people who want them purely for the financial reward. There are not many people I’ve met who slave long hours in the city of London who do it for the love of the deal. They are attracted by the pay packet and often have a ten to fifteen year plan to leave with their mortgage paid off and do something they really want. Aim for something you want to be, at a level either the same or slightly higher than you were before, dependent on your experience. If, for instance, you had six short months as a trainee editor for a small publishing house and were laid off because the company went bust, try not to think of yourself as a full-blown editor. Abraham Lincoln said that there was no substitute for experience, so build it. Once you have made a realistic appraisal of your expectations (and there will be more on how to do this in chapter 2), write it down. Look at it. Does it make you tingle with anticipation, boredom or fear that you over-extended your aims? Do you want to be that position and are there enough companies who hire at that level? With the state of the economy and the fear that prevents most companies from being bold at such a time, there may not be a lot of openings for programmers of the latest software. The company that fired me had a choice less than a week prior – I presented to the directors a business plan based on their findings. This document was a very modest projection of some potential revenue streams that they might want to open or even revisit. Rocket science it wasn’t. Yet they determined that, whilst they largely agreed with me, they were battening down and not risking anything. This was after they had
12 received a substantial cash investment that begged for a drive to dominate their market. If we look back through economic history over the past thirty years we find that when there are a lot of good job possibilities, it is generally when there is a lot of cash flowing. The boom of the mid to late nineties has been the most consistent period of economic growth for generations. The western world has become used to a time of progress and consequently, when recession looms, companies panic. There is not the culture of expansion and growth that we have enjoyed so recently. That does not mean that there are not ways to get great jobs and satisfy key desires. If security is taken away, then people start to panic. I certainly know what the uncertainty of unemployment feels like. This is not only aimed at those who have lost their jobs – it is also for those who want to improve. Change is not enough – a desire to improve is essential to fully benefit for the plan outlined in the later stages. Qualifications Over the past eighteen months, I have applied to over two hundred advertised jobs, registered with six recruitment agencies and written a number of largely speculative letters to potential employers. What has it achieved? No job. Someone asked me recently what I do with my time. I told him that it was combination of writing, telephoning, checking advertisements et cetera. The way he looked at me showed a small amount of scepticism. I then admitted to filling in the gaps by watching videos. This raised a grin and made me realise that I needed to be truthful because I am crap at lying. Recr uitment cons ultants I have had interviews with both employers and recruitment consultants. Each one has taken an interested look over my curriculum vitae and remarked that either I have too little experience or I have had a ‘varied’ career. I sometimes wonder whether they take me for a complete idiot or whether they haven’t the gumption to give me some real advice on where I could apply. But I have never been able to be ‘pigeon-holed’ so it must be a nightmare for a recruitment consultant to be faced with such a feisty sod who could never be bothered with conformity. I do, very occasionally, feel rather sorry for them. H ow to over come thes e things What I have found out after a working career of ten sometimes very long years that there is a simple key to making a success of anything – and that is my mind-set. Psychobabble litters modern parlance but I will try to avoid it in my explanation of how I got to where I am today. If this book amuses you, then I am delighted. If you think it is a load of self-indulgent twaddle, then I will respect your view. If, however you find
13 that you would rather not go through the decade of nonsense I have steered myself through and want the lessons without the hardship, then read on. Form your own views and if you really want to let me know what you think, then email me. Wher e w as I ? Imagine if you can a young man with no experience in the publishing industry taking a job as marketing manager of a leading travel guide publisher. Like I mentioned, a good salary and few benefits other than getting to spend a lot of time in book stores, often a way I spend my spare time. I had taken the job in publishing because, although I was one of the few people in England with certain qualifications, I wasn’t finding work in the sector I wanted. I had just returned from a fantastic adventure in central America and was ready to make my mark on London… I brought a background of initiative and plagiarism – two qualities that I think are essential to a successful person. Few ideas are original and often it’s the intransigence of the originator that strangles them. So I pinch them, put some effort and often a fresh approach to them and frequently - voilá! On the other side, I wasn’t best suited to an office job in a basement room with five other people around. I really managed to upset the office dynamic as well because I wasn’t the quietest of souls, nor the most patient. I was used to getting things done and had never played politics with anyone. Therefore, having to put ideas pass my boss whilst packing books seemed an utter waste of my time and their money. I went wrong by not knuckling down and getting on with it. I was convinced there was more to life than this and I wasn’t afraid to say so. My two bosses (brothers riven with the usual internecine baggage that most sensible people leave at home) had built this business almost by default and were unwilling to change. I tried to point out that there was room for improvement but fear is a great enemy, especially when that fear is prevalent in the decisions of those in charge. My fear was displayed by the fact that I hadn’t jumped ship almost as soon as I realised what the score was. It was nothing to do with the company – it was my decision to opt for a very uncomfortable existence and not leap out, somewhat into the unknown. This was based on the fear of more rejection letters and the sheer drudgery of job hunting. I was delighted to leave. What w as the s olution? So I found myself in a bit of a bind. No work, difficult job market and lots of more experienced people competing for fewer opportunities. I sat down and thought hard. Some wise person once said that there is a lot of learning to be had from each experience so I looked for the lesson in these circumstances.
14 When I had learnt to scuba dive a few years previously, one of the mantras that had been drilled into us was, "Plan the dive and dive the plan." I realised I needed a plan to take action. Out of the action I took came the lessons in this book but first I needed a plan. I dug out some of the first training literature I had been issued with in the army (a previous employer, when life seemed endless and fun was vital). Every aspect of war, e.g. defence or fighting in urban areas, was divided into principles and phases. The whole aspect of war itself had been given its own principles by von Clausewitz. Now this might seem a tad aggressive to be referring to military tactics for job hunting, but it was a campaign after all and therefore needed a strategy. I did plan to win, it has to be said. A mix of pr actical and s pir itual exper ience I was to base my plan around all the experience I could garner and it didn't have to be just mine. I was acutely aware that the so called 'perfect job' would not make me any happier because there had been a time when I had had a great job, pots of spare cash to play with as well as a very fast sports car. But I wasn't particularly happy. I therefore knew that this period of unemployment, however long, would have to be faced in the right frame of mind lest I lost opportunities through projecting negativity. I am not the first to believe that positivity attracts a similar reaction in others. The simplest example of this that I have heard in a long time is that it is always the friendliest people who have the most friends. This also applies to positive folk and if you are in an upbeat and positive mood then positive things tend to happen, both as a result of actions you take and also just because they do. Believe what you want, this one just happens to be based on my own experience. I knew that the experiences I have had have been an enormous learning experience for me, and not only for the job hunting. Although I have attempted to live a spiritual life for many years, I can easily forget the basic tenets. I do try to treat others as I would like to be treated myself and from that, as well as researching the concept of a better life, I have learnt some valuable lessons. Where I was at the time (dwindling cash reserves, creeping insanity at the prospect of not working and replenishing them, you know the score) needed some action, otherwise I would quietly fizzle out and wonder what had happened. I have distilled some of the lessons into this book but the great thing about getting a healthy mindset and outlook on life is that it can be applied to just about anything.
A w or ld w ith new values Over the past fifty years, our world has gone through some incredible changes. The technological advances are quite breathtaking but the personal advances are of more relevance here. The general expectations from life have changed immeasurably. No longer is the job for life a realistic career path and this professional insecurity has been a large contributor to the habit of looking inward for strength. People realise that life is far from being a bowl of cherries and that we have to be more self-sufficient. This does not necessarily mean that we have to fend for ourselves any more than previously, more that with the security of long term employment removed, we have to find strength elsewhere. As a result, we have come to appreciate the benefits of having an inner peace, a concept that emerged as fashionable during the sixties. Although there are a lot of theories that abound as to how to achieve this, this book draws on some of the more proven methods. However it is best to acknowledge that a distillation of all these techniques produces a simple series of steps. As the old adage reminds us, we only get out of something what we put into it. And, as I have realised over the past year and a half, to make it and keep my mind whilst out of work, I had to work hard. I had to make certain compromises and these had to be planned. I wanted peace of mind and I wanted to be happy with my lot. I did not want to be happy because of my job; I really just wanted to be happy with my job. I realised, through taking actions demonstrated in this book, that the strength to be happy with my work came from myself. And this took work. Choices , choices , choices I knew that I had to decide what I wanted most and put that at the top of my wish list. I was in a very enviable position of being suffused with options but I knew I had to avoid being swamped. The double-edged sword of these choices had to be wielded. I chose to use the variety to make a few necessary decisions, rather than feel overwhelmed. With the choices before me, I began to see that my life could be transformed. This was not so much a case of having any job I wanted, but more one of my mind changing to see a whole new approach. And it was from this approach that I was able to get a previously inexperienced serenity about seeking work. I started to believe a lot more in a different way of looking at things. I now know how to stay sane whilst enduring the rigours of job hunting.
16 I would not have achieved this level of equanimity without the plan outlined in the following chapters. Described in a largely anecdotal fashion, it follows the steps I took to, basically, get where I am today. I admit that this is not a programme that will find you that job, more to get the serenity to be content with yourself. As I have found, you may find yourself in a line of work never previously considered, but you will feel right about it. There may well be some elements of truth about yourself that are difficult to initially acknowledge, but then it is always best to be honest with yourself. The freedom that will come from this work will be so rewarding, rewarding to the extent that you will be able to look back, laugh and be extremely grateful for the lessons learnt on this phase of your life's exciting journey.
What D o I D o?
Acknow ledging my pos ition The choices that lay before me were both daunting and encouraging. But there was work to be done and here’s what I found most effective. I had to be honest to myself. Without this as a guiding principle, the whole desire to keep my mind would be flawed. I would not achieve the slightest move forward without honesty and this had to be rigorous. I was not there to help anyone else and so I had nothing to prove by putting on a ‘front’. I wanted to get this right because I believed there was a way and, as a result, was prepared to be totally honest. Would this be difficult? I, like many others as I was to find out, had not been shy with massaging the truth in times past. There certainly had been occasions when I had thought that either the whole story or even some of it might be detrimental to my cause so I had opted for the tactic politely referred to as being ‘economical with the truth’. This was a skill, for it can become one, developed in the playgrounds of school and later honed in the workplace. It’s amazing how often ‘spin’ can be put on situations to make the whole truth alter. This was not a course I wanted to take at this time. I knew I would only get short relief and then be back at the beginning, irritated, frustrated, hankering for work and going demented as to how to spend my time. The first thing I wanted to look at was why I had become unemployed. How much had been the circumstances and how much was directly my responsibility? For this I had to go back to why I had taken the job and what my intentions had been. I had to be frank but not brutal, open minded yet focussed. It was important that I maintain my original aim of why I was doing this exercise and what I expected at this stage to get out of it. My experience has often been that when is start something with specific aims, I quite often can achieve those but receive numerous other unforeseen benefits as well. Action br eeds r es ults I had needed a job yet was unprepared to work at the lowest level because I did have a certain amount of experience under my belt. Granted, it was varied, but there aren’t many people who have both negotiated large sponsorship contracts as well as leading thirty-five school leavers into the jungle for two months. I believed in my ability to do the job of Marketing Manager, and I was excited by the prospect of earning some good money. I wanted to get onto the property ladder, have a nice car and enjoy a good holiday once a year. I did not want to live for the job and I very much regarded this role as a means to an end.
18 Yet, exactly one year later, I was to find myself out of work and little to show materially other than a scooter and some (very) modest savings. I had enjoyed a great skiing holiday during the winter and was about to go around Sardinia on a motorbike with my girlfriend. I had not earned anything like the amounts that I had been led to believe were mine if I did my job well. This is not the place to describe the reasons why these bonuses did not materialise, suffice to say we ended up in court and I lost that part of the case because the bonuses had been termed discretionary. If ever there was an active lesson in contract law, this was it! I had lost that job because of my actions and was not scared to admit it. But now I needed to keep a level head and get back on track so that I could find more work. If I had known the numerous setbacks I was to receive over the upcoming months then I would have probably dived for the duvet and refused to come out. Luckily, this was not revealed to me until I was well on the way to working this method of self help. So I took stock. Here was I, aged only thirty-two and out of work with rental and other bills looming. I had to do something. You might read this and wonder what it has to do with you but I can only ask you to take what seems to work and leave the rest. Why w er e my plans not w or king? It has taken me a long time to learn the difference between application and pig headedness. On the one hand, you apply yourself to a task and work at it, worrying it like a terrier if that is your bent, until the job is done. Pig headedness is simply a manifestation of pure bloody-mindedness and refusing to admit that the tactics employed were not working. No prizes for guessing which camp I usually fell into. I was a past master at not so much persisting, as thumping at a problem until it was either solved or my energies ran out. I was a big fan of the “this time it will work” school of graft and so managed to consistently end up frustrated. It was the same way with my headspace. I felt that I knew what was best for me and, to be frank, never paid it a lot of heed until the voices starting screaming inside my little allocation of grey matter. I had never considered that I would feel so down in the dumps just because I was out of work, nor did I think that this had anything to do with me. So I chose to ignore it. The result – more frustration. Then I started to get annoyed with myself for not getting work and thought that I was at fault. That’s the start of the slippery slope. Who is the easiest person in the world to beat up? Why, yourself, of course. So I started laying in. Not a great plan because it is a downward spiral. Reading lots of literature by those who had achieved some level of success has always acted as an inspiration when I wanted it. One of the many small tricks I learnt involved using a rubber band. The idea was to wear this band on my wrist and whenever I got a negative thought, I was to snap the band, thereby giving me a short sharp sting. Trifling it may seem, but I thought I would give it a go. If I was to get a negative idea, then snap the band would go. If that idea led to another, then another snap. These
19 were not merely confined to work related issues. Any negative idea that I had was met with a twang of the rubber band. I was amazed how much of my head time was spent in negativity, so much in fact that I started to get a bright red tattoo on the inside of my wrist. The first few days, I was pinging away like a soloist in the Jew’s harp section of the New York Philarmonic. Friends mocked but it worked. Pretty soon I came to recognize the onset of these negative thoughts and was able to catch myself. This might not be for you, but the important aspect was that it was someone else’s idea. I am by no means a genius. I do not have even an eighth of the important answers in life. I genuinely believe that no one does. However, there is a lot of shared experience out there that can help everyone. And that is what I had to admit. Pr epar ed to change Anthony Robbins has mentioned that a decision takes an instant – it is merely the reasoning and building up to it that takes time. I had taken some time reasoning and prevaricating before I made the decision that I was basically not doing the right things to ensure my peace of mind. I have talked of the freedom that the decision to change gave me. I was lucky. My suggestion is that you make the same decision and read on. I also talked of the next day and the fears that crowded in on me. I knew I wanted to keep my wits about me and really be happy with my job but where would that take me? Would I end up working in a soup kitchen smiling with glee at all the souls I am helping? Unlikely. Would I end up at the top of a huge multinational corporation, cutting and sealing deals that net me millions? Even more unlikely. Would I be happy with my job? Now there’s a goal. Was I prepared to go to any lengths to achieve this? It has taken me about fifteen months to appreciate my peace of mind and how I maintain it. It has taken me about three months to get this book together. I tend to read a book a week. If you can do that, and do the exercises in these chapters because, let’s face it, when out of work then you generally have more spare time, then you can achieve wonders in less than eight days! The decisions were indeed instantaneous – the results for me took a while to seep through. What was immediately apparent, however, was that I felt the new strength of taking action flow through me and, as a result, this spurred me on to more work. Some of the results are, to this day, unquantifiable but I can guarantee you they have given me an enormous sense of well being and serenity. Wher e do I look? Admitting that we can’t do this all on our own means that we are now in a rather special club. It is often overwhelming how two working together can achieve much more together than two individuals working separately. And that even takes into account the odd natter by the water fountain! So the shared experiences of one can
20 help another, they can pass it on and so on. The pyramid widens and the message can be improved and refined in each stage. For instance, suppose only one thousand people read this book. Then each of you take the actions suggested within and put them into practice. After a bit of application and refinement, a Mach II version may emerge, purely through your experiences. Then you pass it on to two people each, they do the same and so on until fairly swiftly, thousands upon thousands have contributed to this system and refined it to such a degree that it is a seamless transition for the recipients from down in the dumps to pure happiness with their position. Of course, the early contributors need to be brought up to speed on further developments and I suggest that the best way to do so is to stay in touch with those you pass it onto. I get a lot of help from people I have helped in the past purely because they might have experienced circumstances that I am yet to have felt, and so benefit hugely from their advice. The other aspect that I thoroughly recommend is that taking on a new perspective, in this example, asking others for help and knowing that the help is out there, is like a spring clean. It is like the light at the end of the tunnel. I cannot be alone in my musings about how to stem the malaise in my head and, luckily, have been able to put my learnings down on paper. This book is very much designed to help you in the same situation that I have laboured through for the first fifteen months. Naturally, I wish for your sake that it doesn’t last even half that time! I s this the r ight cour s e for me? When I decided that I couldn’t do it all on my own and realised that I had to turn to others for help, I had to make sure that it was the right help. I once read a wonderful book by a totally cynical journalist who, over a four year investigative period, transformed from a true sceptic into an avid believer in the benefits of alternative medicine. He saw shamans, healers, crystal therapists and many other, as yet undefined, practitioners whose efforts resulted in fantastic benefits for their patients. His outlook was transformed but right from the start, he felt that he had to see the efficacy of the work. I thought this was good framework to follow and so only listened to people who had dealt with similar scenarios in their lives, not necessarily ones associated purely with unemployment. There are many routes to achieve some level of serenity about setbacks in life, and I must have read or spoke to a large majority of the propagators! They had to be people who had something I wanted, who had taken definable action and come through to the other side with rewards the like of which I hankered after. The amazing thing that I picked up early on was a seemingly inexplicable belief in a higher power. I am not trying to convert you to some extreme form of religious fervour, fortunately (for me) accompanied by large donations to a worthy cause, a cause that bears an
21 almost uncanny resemblance to my own bank account. No, what I have learnt is these successful people – and they have achieved a level of success beyond material gain – do believe that there is something out there. I had always been a cynic with regard to this facet of life, this concept that millions have bought into, from highly organised, ascetic religions, right along to individual spiritualists who very much do what they alone think is right. The message I seemed to get was one of choice. If I wanted to race down to the nearest cathedral/synagogue/mosque, hit my knees and follow the practices of a particular religion, then so be it. If, on the other hand – and this is where I warmed to the theme – I merely wanted to conceive a version of a higher power and believe in that then whatever I was comfortable with was best for me. So this is what I chose to do. The funny thing about this is the more people I talk to, the more seem to agree. Some are followers of an organised religion, most are not. It is just amazing how much strength that people draw from their beliefs. I merely believe now that I could not have achieved a transmutable level of sanity on my own. I was not pushed into taking actions by a zealous and concerned aunt nor did I see a flash of blinding light and have a sudden epiphany. I merely found myself exploring this concept of a greater being and the more I looked into it, the less I could either define or understand. All that really grew was my certainty of its existence! The debate could rage, but I was not responsible for the peace I now feel. Action does br eed r es ults Sitting around waiting for nirvana has never worked for anyone – it just doesn’t happen. And, since nirvana is defined as the ultimate level of enlightenment by Buddhists, then their thousands of years of experience in working towards it is something to which I am prepared to listen. My father has truly delightful expression about sitting around “with your thumb in your bum and your mind in neutral”. He was, no doubt, referring to my love of television and how it was a very happy pastime for me when I was supposedly growing up. It does, however, bear a large relevance to the issue at hand – how do we get out of the stupor generated by being out of work, regain a good level of peace and get out there to be happy with our work? The obvious answer must surely be to extract the digit, and change gear. As I have mentioned earlier, repeating the same action, expecting different results, is counter productive. If you find yourself trying to climb a wall and jumping from the standing still position doesn’t seem to work, then you would try a different approach, say running at it. If that didn’t work, you may try exploring the wall to see if it wasn’t so high in places or maybe had a doorway. The bottom line is, once you start taking action, a whole new set of circumstances befall you, thereby presenting lots of new opportunities. Once I realised I couldn’t do
22 things on my own and starting looking around for help, new opportunities presented themselves. Whether this came from just a mere snippet of information and advice or a whole situation, previously never thought of, evolving before my very eyes, there were just new things happening. And with each one I had a choice – action or inaction. Of course, the sensible option was always action, but this was not so easy. Snow ball When I was a child, we used to get snowed in every winter and generally had a power cut, once lasting ten days. This was not a case for worry – more a huge adventure. We had extra blankets, wood in the store to burn and a very inventive mother who could create great feasts from ever dwindling supplies. And we got to have snowball fights. However, whenever there are snowball fights, the appeal soon wanes and the desire to make a snowman overcomes us. Starting with a small bit of snow, we roll it until it grows, each turn growing even more in size. We usually end up with two large balls of snow. Then we have to position them. This is the situation I found myself in once I had decided to take action and believe that help could come from elsewhere. I had rolled up my snowball, and it was big, stuffed full of information garnered from various sources. I then had to move it to a place where it would have the most visual impact. As I started to move it, it was a huge strain, but then, with momentum, it became easier. The momentum lesson I got from my snowman is one I have carried over to this phase of my life. It seems like a mammoth task to take action and alter circumstances, but once it gets going, it becomes considerably easier. Believing in the external option for help was quite a leap of faith for me, but once I took it, things started happening. The s our ces of help Since I became interested in looking elsewhere for help I needed to find good sources of help. Rather than injure my pride by going to people I know and humbling myself before them, I decided to do some anonymous research. I have been interested in the self-help genre of literature for many years. Although a lot of the books do seem to be a regurgitation of others, I have noticed how popular that section in the bookstore has become. It started off as being listed as ‘Self Help’, usually in the basement or in the attic, and seemingly browsed rarely but furtively. Purchasers seemed almost embarrassed to be seen grasping fervently to their chest the latest work on being motivated. Times have, thankfully, changed. There is so much work on the subject as well as so many advocating the benefits of various approaches that obviously this is a popular genre. So much so, that the section in the bookstores are now named ‘Mind, Body & Spirit’ and regularly contain best sellers.
23 I have read some of these books. Some I have picked up and not made it through. Some I have not been able to make head nor tail of. But there are some that have contained lessons that I have listened to and never forgotten. And it hasn’t been the whole book, merely a section within. There are some I have returned to and reread and I have got further lessons from. There are some I have returned to after not completing the first time and have finished, again with fresh lessons. I firmly believe the old adage “When the pupil is ready, the master will appear.” I wouldn’t have had these lessons if I hadn’t taken the action and picked up the books to read them. Browse the section in your local bookstore and read the ones you think are relevant. These can range from Buzan’s concept of ‘Mind-mapping’ to Scott Peck’s quite excellent Road Less Travelled series. Mark Victor Hansen, the author of the fabulous Chicken Soup for the Soul books, recommends reading them constantly, as much as an inspiration as also a reminder that the lessons contained within have helped others so why not you? You may well be of the school that believes there are better avenues for research. It is always wise to take what is relevant for yourself and leave the rest. There may be some interesting works on highly successful people. How did Richard Branson achieve a world famous brand and billionaire status by the age of fifty? How did Silvio Berlusconi become, with out a doubt, the single most powerful man in Italy, with interests ranging from politics to media? There is within the choice of works to be read a personal definition of success. I now believe that single word encompasses much more than the average marketing campaign would have us believe. If you believe that Jack Welch was the most successful person you have ever come across, then read his book. If Mother Theresa has always inspired you, then read about her. However, I have found that the unauthorised biographies of successful people are as, if not more, interesting than the authorised versions. This is because the wallpaper is not quite so glossy. I do try and read both, but in some case I give up on the authorised because it is a little too shiny for my palate – I prefer the more salacious stuff. Within these books, there are always interesting lessons. I have been known to look at them and feel distinctly unworthy of comparison, but that only results in self defeat. In fact, it is a similar reaction to that of comparison to super models – I am not one nor do I have the body of one. If an airbrush in the hands of a skilled operator was let loose on a photo of me, I am sure I could look a heap better than I do day to day. However, I prefer to change from the inside. The core to a lot of the lives of hugely successful people tends to be a mix of hard work and luck. Some may say they make their luck, but this is only through a lot of hard work. There are often no easy routes to success and the results would not have so much value if they were handed to you on a plate. What is the percentage of lottery
24 winners who find no happiness in their sudden wealth and oft pine for the days of old, when money had to be carefully budgeted? Read, mark, learn and inwardly digest. That is what I try to take to each of these books. What has that person done that I can feasibly emulate? Why do I have to struggle through life’s lessons without learning from the experiences of others? There are well-documented, truly incredible people out there who have made staggering achievements. Find out about them. N ot all the gr eat people w r ite books It is a constant source of amazement to me that when I open my eyes, there is a bounty of lessons out there. One of the best phrases to explain this is ‘A blinding glimpse of the obvious.’ I have been blessed with some truly amazing friends, friends who have both been in tough spots and are willing to talk about them. This process of shared knowledge is mentioned earlier but is lot closer to home than books or websites, if only for the benefits of question and answer sessions. If you are the only one of your friends who admits to experiencing hardship in their lives, especially the specific one of being out of work, then you are definitely in a minority. Go out and make some new ones, those who have truly lived life! The next obstacle is to get your friends to open up and talk about their experiences and what they did to combat the varying levels of stress. Some may be unwilling to do this, others may find it a real pleasure to help. I moved away from England for a year and wrote to everyone in my address book three times whilst I was abroad. It was only for a year and I received merely one response. Upon returning, I set about making new friends, for obviously the ones I had thought I knew before were unreliable. These are not the sort of people I really want in my life, because if times are tough, I want to be able to count on them. Recently I was lucky enough to be at a wedding and a wife of a friend was confiding in me some of the issues with which she was having problems dealing. I had no quick fire solution – all I could really do at the time was offer her a sympathetic ear. What I found staggering, however, was the similarities to our concerns. Oddly enough, she had the perfect job, husband, house and all the trappings but there was an inexplicable hole inside, one which she didn’t know how to fill. I had felt a similar chasm when I found myself out of work and struggling to keep my wits about me. On the other side, when I was looking for help, it was amazing where it came from. One of my closest friends has experienced the fear of being out of work and the pressure that brings to bear. He is an exceptionally witty and popular person who people tend to flock towards, always surrounded by many pleased to see him. He had spent a long time out of work and we talked. It was not a formulaic question and answer session, more a rambling conversation between friends with the natural interjections of humour. To define what came out of it was nigh on impossible apart from the reassurance for myself that there are others who have felt the nip of the
25 wringer caused by unemployment. He understands exactly the concerns I had and had experienced similar ones. He resolved the actual job situation by taking stock of his whole life and finding there was so much to be grateful for that merely not working meant he had a lot of time to do other things. Granted that this was not a permanent set up, but he tends to live each day to the full, enjoying the varieties that life holds. Talk to lots of people. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. Open a door and you will be amazed with the many others that are there before you. If you can talk to one person a day about these concerns you will be surprised how quickly a mini network will develop as your friends introduce you to others who may be able to help. You may find (shock and horror!) that when you start talking to more and more people, there is the ideal job waiting on a plate! The pr ofes s ionals The recruitment business is huge and I only touched on it in the first chapter. It is incredible that so many people, with little or no formal training, can match such a myriad cast of characters to such diverse roles. No two people are alike and therefore placing the right person into the right pigeonhole must take a certain amount of skill, experience and luck. The fact that so many companies, large and small rely on these consultants is testament to the level of work they produce. Being a candidate on their books is a whole different perspective. I find the issue of selling myself to both the recruitment consultant and then the prospective employer a rather frustrating process, but I cannot think of a short cut, least of all one that will not put the recruitment consultants straight out of business! The interesting thing is now they are really felling the pinch. It is staggering how many have either gone out of business or are scaling down hugely to counter the economic squeeze. They have always been in the position of only being as good as their last placement, but now there are fewer placements to be had and therefore the standard has to be that bit greater. It is definitely in their interests to ensure that their candidates are of the highest calibre so they may advocate some of the work in this book. All very well having all the boxes ticked and then the poor candidate is beset by the real concerns of unemployment and fails to shine in interviews. I do not profess to give top tips on how to ace that crucial interview, more to achieve a sense of calm that ensures you are the rock that can withstand all the re-employment process can throw at you. I registered with a number of agencies and was impressed by the help that some of them gave me. They were not one-stop shops in that I did not walk away with all my concerns lifted. In some cases, it was quite the opposite! What I am terribly grateful for is that some took the time to chat and help with specifics – I was not regarded as merely a commodity, more as a human being. This naturally helped me in so far I was able to present a far better side when interviewed. Unsurprisingly, there was a direct
26 correlation between those recruitment consultants who took the time to help and the interviews from which I received actual offers. Conclus ion This stage is largely reactive – I found that a general acknowledgement of my position and a bit of research required very little action in terms of myself. Yes, I had taken the decision to do something, yes, I admitted that I wasn’t able to do it on my own and yes, I sought help from outside sources. But I was soaking it up at this stage and I knew there was some fearless work to be done to endure I would not sink back into the quagmire of self defeat again. So now I had to really work on myself and apply the lessons so far.
E xer cis es
The aim of this chapter is very much to admit that we are in a bit of a bind and that we are not alone. There are also people out there who can help through their own experiences, either written in books or face to face as friends. Here is a set of exercises that will assist in this phase. • Select a comfortable chair in your home, turn off the television or music and merely sit for five minutes, thinking about your work situation, whether you are out of work or not. After the five minutes is up, write down the three most upsetting or annoying things about your work situation. • Visit a good bookshop in your local high street and have a look through some of the Mind, Body & Spirit section. There is no need to buy if you don’t want, but a flick through them should give you an idea that there are others out there who need help in various parts of their lives. • Think of those who seem to have made a success of their lives and always seem to be in a good mood. Make a list and do some research on them. There may well be pointers in their behaviour that are worth noting for later stages of this work. • Do something you wouldn’t normally do and this could be as simple as brushing your teeth before you take a shower, rather than your habitual after. This will help in changing habits and outlooks.
A ction L eads to R es ults
The Reas ons Whatever the reasons were that we lost our jobs or are less than content in our existing ones, and a lot of the time it really is beyond our control, we have to assess the situation purely because we don’t want to be in that position lest it was our plan. Granted, when I took on my old boss, I wanted out of the job and I have to think that I might have played it differently if I knew what I was to experience in the following months. Trouble was, I made the call with all the information available at that time right there in my hands. I assumed that I would find another job reasonably quickly and, in the meantime, I intended to enjoy my freedom! The more I learnt about being unemployed, the more I realised that the reasons for being out of work lay a lot deeper and they were because of what I had and hadn’t done in the past. I had enjoyed a varied career that included some fantastic experiences around the world doing things that I absolutely adored, adored so much that I seldom acknowledged that I was being paid for them! I always regarded my pay cheque as something to play with once work was over for good, usually because most of my best jobs involved places with few cash machines and even fewer places to spend your salary! My outlook had always been a fairly lackadaisical one and, as a result, there was not a lot of groundwork for long-term unemployment. Luckily, other areas of my life were pretty stable at the time. A good friend of mine once made the analogy of life seeming like balancing on a three-legged stool. The legs represented three main areas of life – love, home and work. It was not as if the legs had to contain a house, wife or job, more that we were happy with our lot in those areas, so if I was single and enjoying it, then fine, rented and didn’t want to buy, great and if I wanted to not work to pursue other dreams, then good as well. Trouble was, if one of the legs were broken or unstable i.e. I was not happy with my job, then the stool would fall. This seemed remarkably apt for my situation. I had kicked my leg away and presumed that I could balance happily on two. Not true! So I had to look at myself and work out what I really wanted, why I had got into this situation and what I needed to change to alter my direction. And I knew looking at myself was going to require the honesty I have touched on already, but it was also going to bring up some painful examples of my actions that I wasn’t best pleased with. It would have been easy to beat myself up but I had to steer a simple line between hiding from the truth and needlessly castigating myself. An objective viewpoint was required.
I t’s jus t about our jobs , r ight? If this is about being happy about our jobs, then we have to look at our careers. Best to start at the beginning and look at what we had worked at and why we had chosen particular routes. I always had a sneaking admiration for those who were able to start a semblance of a pre-career at university by doing job placements at various places, all the while building both a phone book of useful contacts and some valuable experience for their chosen jobs. I didn’t know what I wanted to do as a job apart from enjoy it so I opted for the army. When someone suggested I spend my weekends playing soldiers at university I thought they were mad. Why spend time playing at something that was going to be a full time job fairly soon when there are so many other things to do? This was the first thing I had looked at and it provided a useful starting point. Sit down with a pen and paper and work out ten reasons why you chose your first job. Be honest – in fact do what I did and have a look at some of the negative stuff as well. I joined the army because I could not see the attraction of working in an office when I was so young and able to do tons of physical things. I felt that a regular career in the same office building would kill me. The mere idea of wearing a suit every day filled me with dread. It’s just not me. There were positive things as well. I wanted the physical challenge, I loved the idea of travelling around to exciting places and I enjoy working in teams. I spent some time last summer with a retired businessman who had done very well for himself and a young graduate from Oxford. The latter was not sure of his job choice but decided to opt for the ‘grown-up job train’ and started work in the City of London soon after. The businessman thoroughly approved, I wasn’t so sure. His aims were quite simple and they started with financial ones. He wanted to earn pots of cash and stop working silly hours with a safe cushion of some saved money behind him. I wish him nothing but the best. Why did you start working where you did? Was it the first job of your dreams? Was it merely a stepping-stone to brighter things? Was it a stopgap until you found the right job? Was it a money provider while you trained for something else? Was it in the area you wanted to work in? And did it provide all that you had thought it might? Were the rewards, and I’m not just talking financial ones, what you were after? Did you enjoy going in to work? Or did you get out of it (money, career experience, savings, networks) all that you really wanted? Then make a list of what your aims had been – slightly longer in time frame but equally relevant. Then go through all your jobs, even the ones you might want to forget about, and do the same exercise with them. For instance, I worked as a washer upper at a fast food joint for a holiday – horrible work, long hours, low pay – you know the score. I did it as much to have something to do as well as to get some cash at the end of the week.
I find it amazing to talk to people about why they did what they did. An old friend of mine trained to be an accountant because he couldn’t think of anything else to do. He did very well but I’m sure he wanted other things out life. And this is where some of the painful questions come. Did you feel pressured in any way to take your job? If you wished you could have trained dolphins but instead worked for a funeral director, do you regret it? Were you basically obsessed with the external things as indicators e.g. money, cars houses? Did you want to keep up with the Joneses? An old friend of mine who won the lottery when asked whether such wealth made him happier replied, “No – but it makes the miserable times a little more bearable.” He had changed his work (he still went to his office every day) but knew that the money wasn’t the source of his contentment. There are many people out there who work for all kinds of reasons and have aims to shoot for. I cannot even hope to imagine what drives people on, I only know there have to be good reasons for it. You are trying to find and name your own reasons and aims for each job. This will enable you to change things for the future and either get yourself into a totally better state of mind in your current job, or set you up properly for your next role. Once you have your list of reasons as to why you took your jobs and what your aims were, you will have some pretty interesting information about yourself and the way you think. Hold onto it – it’s going to come in pretty handy. The other tw o legs … If all that it takes to restore you to sanity is a new job, go out and get one. If you have found from looking at the reasons behind your work history that it all seems perfectly justified and you have done what I didn’t by following a sensible career path and there is still a bit of a hole in your happiness then there are other areas you need to look at. Quite often happiness is not the result of the external influences i.e. money, job, car, house etc. The causes run a lot deeper. Many people today tend to lurch from crisis to crisis and scrape through each situation (I’m only talking about a sanity situation here) only to find themselves in another drama with the same imagined constrictions. We live in a society that places an enormous amount of pressure on us to succeed. The only problem is the definition of success. I firmly believe that success is an internal as opposed to an external issue. I spent a fascinating fifteen months working on a private estate in the West Indies and saw what super wealthy people do with their lives. No different to the rest of us – they are just as unbalanced! Therefore the reasons for the imbalance in your head may well not be solely attributable to just being unemployed. It may be that losing work has uncovered some serious stuff that needs dealing with, stuff that was covered by an inability to dedicate time, due to work commitments.
31 Fas t M oving Wor ld In today’s society, there seems to be a huge amount of pressure to succeed. The quiet, unassuming type is no longer fashionable. You have to be a real go-getter with bags of initiative and drive, aiming to be a successful entrepreneur by the age of thirty-five. Youth and celebrity obsessed, we find it easy to compare ourselves with the ‘role models’ presented daily by the media, airbrushed and manipulated to look unattainably desirable, only to find ourselves wanting. It is only natural to look at others and gauge your own progress. The only trouble is, the medium ranking cases are rarely reported. Compelling reportage is usually predicated by extremes and superlatives e.g. the most successful, beautiful, charitable, etc. I am not saying any of us are average, more that seeing the huge obstacles to achieve such success often seems beyond us. So we struggle and often think we are on our own in our daily grind. Having a job can allay these fears. Of course, when the job is no longer there, the fears creep back in. At this point it is wise to take stock and have a look at a wider picture than merely the work issue. We need to find out more about ourselves and acknowledge both our strengths and weaknesses. Many self help works only concentrate on buoying up the positives, screaming from the pages how wonderful you are and what a worthwhile person you are. Whilst I don’t doubt this for a minute, it is wise, from my own experience, to have a look at some of the less savoury aspects of our past. The questions are the same e.g. why did I choose to live where I did, why did I fancy that person etc. Dealing with the home aspect first, it is beneficial to look honestly at why you live where you do. I can tell you my experience – the ‘lure’ of the big city, all my friends were there, it was the place to be, only certain postcodes were acceptable. Really shallow issues but after speaking to a recent graduate recently about this very concern, it seems that exactly the same pressures are there. I cannot for a moment think that many people move into their first flat and think, “Good – sorted for life.” We are naturally aspirational and do want a nicer place to live with more space and modern appliances, for instance. So get the pen and paper out again and ask the same questions about where you live as you did about the work. Look at the negative reasons as well as the positive. I’ve met people who’ve crammed themselves into tiny spaces just to say they live in a smart part of town, others who use distinctly odd references to place names in order to cover up their real residence. The insecurity is rife and we all tend to suffer from it, to a lesser or greater degree. Be honest; confess as to why you made the choices you did. Oh, and try not to worry about that next mortgage/rent payment yet – although I am not offering to pay it, you will look at such a concern in a different light after working through this book!
32 Don’t forget to also have a look at what your goals with regards to your home. If you really want a massive country estate with tons of land, horses in the paddock and all the rest then put it down. Anything is possible, after all! I deas on love Now we approach the ‘love’ issue. I deliberately left this until last because it is, by it’s very nature, the most emotional. After the practice of going through your work and residential histories, you should be practiced enough to start on the really difficult area! Ever since (and I’m sure it was around before) the fairy tales that mothers used to tell us when we were young, we have had an idealistic view of love and all it should give us. And that is the problem. Loving is not about receiving, it’s about giving. It is tremendously exciting to start a new relationship with all the thrills from the ceaseless wondering whether the other person likes you to the thrill of discovering new experiences together. This is the stage that the expression ‘Love is blind’ comes from. I am relatively young in terms of long term commitments but I have already seen three friends divorced by the age of thirty-two, the age most people are starting a family. I recently read an article about the high divorce rate in modern society and one interviewee (again an extreme case, I hope) said she was about to marry for the third time because she adored that thrilling stage of the relationship. Once it was over and the regular aspects of life re-entered her world, she didn’t enjoy it any more so split. When I read once that to love was to give and that explains why parents tend to love their children more than children love their parents, it made sense. To me, to love someone is to give to them and this doesn’t mean in terms of gifts. No two people are alike and there is naturally going to have to be a certain level of compromise to build a relationship. And, as a result, the benefits are felt. It is never truer than in relationships that you only get out of it what you put into it. If you are someone who is out to purely think of yourself and whatever you can get out of each relationship, then good luck. I know a girl who was stringing along three men, each who were dangling more expensive baubles for her to respond. I also have met men who are quite happy to not commit to any girl and enjoy the bachelor lifestyle. These are not the persons I aspire to be and therefore when I looked at this aspect of my life, I knew that I had to adjust my aims. Under this umbrella of Love, I also put platonic relationships. I am lucky in so far that I enjoy a few very good friendships. I like to think that I would be there for them in times of need, as I know I can count on them. This was not always so. I chose my friends for the wrong reasons, and when times were hard, they were found wanting. I don’t count these people as friends, merely people I am lucky enough to have had the odd laugh with along the way.
33 So have a look at this area of you life and go through the questions again. What was it that initially attracted me to so-and-so? Either as a friend or as a lover? Do I compare myself to them? What were your aims in starting relationships? The positive aspects of them are bound to outweigh the negative ones. I found quite a few very happy memories came flooding back when I did this. There have been some great times and experiences with lots of people, many of which I am lucky to have been involved in. One thing in modern life I absolutely abhor is the endless rescheduling of appointments. It is common to set up a time to meet with a friend and the times are always shifting. This has helped me in no end to find out who is reliable and who isn’t, no matter how much fun I might have with them. If I find I am constantly keeping time free to see someone and they frequently let me down, it makes me question my value to them. I s that all? I found that when I had taken a look at these three areas, it was still a little unclear. I found out that I had to look at my part and nobody else’s. It generally boiled down to motives. What had they been at each stage or situation and what had I done as a result of them? When motives are looked at a whole new set of answers tend to emerge. They have to be looked at in an honest fashion or else there is little point, but the fact is they tend to answer a lot of questions. In my experience however, the first answer to the question, “What is my motive?” is not always the most accurate. I have practiced finding out the motives and am now generally fairly accurate. Because I know myself far better than I did at the beginning of this process, I know the motives are generally selfish. I am not saying that your motives are going to always be selfish - in fact this may happen on scant occasion. It’s just that I found admitting my selfishness, i.e. a glaring fault, the hardest to admit. How did I find out that my motives were selfish? Did I go for that job because I really thought I could bring a lot to the company or was it more a case of seeing what I could get out of it? When J F Kennedy made his famous inaugural speech and told the people of his country to ask what they could do for it rather than the other way round, it raised some interesting issues. Selfishness is not a modern day phenomenon, nor is it desperately unusual. The problem is, however, you act selfishly your whole life it tends to come back to haunt you. I am neither advocating a life of penance and self-denial nor am I suggesting one of total donation of all worldly assets. We all have to live and we have to find the right balance. When looking at your motives for each of the three areas, ask yourself to ignore anybody else’s part in the action. This is a lot easier than it sounds but do try. I can not do anything about anyone else’s thoughts or actions. I simply have neither the time nor
34 the power. Nor can I change the past or any actions they may have taken. If I spent my time trying to change what others had done in the past then I would waste an entire lifetime, with little success! So what was your part in it? Where were you selfish, greedy, proud, lazy or, indeed, any of the seven ‘deadly’ sins? Even though we often hear them as the teachings of the Bible, the anti-religious amongst you need not shy away. When we behave in certain ways the mind tends to protect ourselves. We often find it easier to blame another and therefore ignore our part. If this happens we tend to make little headway and find it difficult to keep our minds together. I find an enormous release when I admit to my fault. I have heard this referred to as keeping my side of the street clean. If I am secure in my motives and then my actions, I gain great strength and then tend to feel a whole lot better. It’s almost as if I have just expunged a bucket of slime from my soul and then life looks just rosy. Lots to diges t By now there should be a list of a reasonable number of situations in work, home and love that have caused you angst. There are some that might make you feel a bit icky, there are some you would rather never happened and there are some that you could be persuaded to believe are just not that important. Either way, it is a testament to yourselves that you have this list. Most people drift – even though they would be horrified to admit it – without a clear guide as to what they have done and how they can change it. This list could well provide the key to keeping your mind. At the very least, you may find that it has distilled certain fears and thoughts and you may see a pattern. Read it again. Look through it and remember each situation, thought and action that it has helped you to remember. Feel the same emotions, worries and pleasure each of these cases brought to you. Think about the way these feelings manifest themselves. I am a great one for twitching whenever I feel uncomfortable. This twitching can manifest itself in a number of ways, the most common being an ardent desire to do something else, rather than face up to the cause of the discomfort. I only really discovered this trait after this exercise, when I was prepared to admit to some of my faults. Even now, I still try and shield some of my faults, even though I know life would be better if I didn’t let them play out. So there is now sitting round your house or flat a lot of very personal information about yourself. I still can think that I will be the victim of a burglary and all my intimate details will be published. Net result: I will be a laughing stock. Of course this hasn’t happened, but everyone I know who has gone through a similar process has had the same fear – and none of them have been burgled!
35 What us e is it? Good question. If we were to merely take the list and never look at it again, then it would have helped us in some little way, if only as an exercise in marshalling our thoughts. However, I would suggest that there is a lot more that can be gained from such work. I still use the first time I did this as a reference to the subsequent efforts. Don’t worry, the more we practice, the better we get but I will go into this in more detail later. I was so keen to find some seemingly obscure answers that I really slogged away at it. I set out to complete it in a certain time, failed to do so, and eventually finished it about a month later. It has since served as a great framework for future efforts for two reasons. Initially, I proved to myself that there was a lot to me that I just hadn’t admitted to previously. Secondly, there was the application I had addressed it with, an application borne out of desperation. I knew I could not have done it any better at the time. This I never forget. Therefore I can compare subsequent efforts against the quality of the first one and I know if I am swinging the lead. As I have revisited this process, I have also learned a hidden benefit. It has trained my mind to think along certain lines, lines I avoided before. The result of this is that I can look at these issues again and there is a disciplined train of thought to go through to seek the answers to myself. That’s not merely the half of it. None of what I have talked about was my idea. If you look at the teachings of great men and women through the ages, there is often advice to take stock. You cannot grow to be Richard Branson without knowing what you have on the debit and ledger sides. Nor could you run a cheese shop in the West Country without the same dedication to honesty, an honesty combined with a disciplined approach to procedures. Reading, talking to people and experimenting have taught me how to do this process and the first stage is always the muckiest. Wer e We Done Yet? Only you know the answer! That’s what someone told me when I first did this. And I wanted, quite frankly, to poke their precocious eyes out. But I learnt to ask whether I was content with the process. I asked myself further questions. Had I been ruthless and thorough? Had I probed for all the answers? Was there any more effort I could bring to bear? It is draining. When I had finished, I was bushed. I fell into the best sleep I had had in weeks. I even called up a mate the next day to gloat… Don’t think I would ask you to put every ounce of effort you have into this, so by the time you’ve finished it you are a gibbering wreck, barely capable of blowing your nose, let alone going for a relaxing walk to forget for a while. Just give it your best effort and don’t obsess about it. Easier said than done.
36 Of course, the level of effort you have given may tell you something else, something you have been skirting round. Do you like to admit to cutting corners or being obsessive about something? Or is there is some other negative attribute with which you wish to be credited? At this time, I would be surprised if you weren’t beating yourself up a bit about life. So try not to berate yourself over the work you have put into this, merely be grateful that you have completed something that many are terrified to face. I ncr edible Achievement At this point, I would however take a minute or two to really congratulate yourself. Not many people are honest enough to face up to what they have done that might have occurred for the wrong reasons. Fewer still are prepared to admit to their own shortcomings. Of course, I didn’t take a minute or two – I took a couple of months. I was so pleased with what I had done that I gave myself a large pat on the back and thought that I had certainly done enough for the foreseeable future. The short version is that I waited until I was feeling antsy again and I knew something was up so I needed to take action. The feelings in the meantime were excellent, though. I had made a breakthrough in honesty and looked at some things that had possibly held me back from getting great work that I was happy in. There were also answers to questions I had dodged but knew had needed to be answered. If I had taken a job for the wrong reasons, it sure was going to come back and make me feel bad about it. Call it what you will, but when I do something for the wrong reasons, I tend to feel rather bad about the whole thing. But here I had written proof of my reasoning and its flaws. It sure showed patterns in my behaviour. Some people will have you believe that a habit can be easily changed. That may be true, but you have to know what the habit is. I had displayed patterns of behaviour of which I had previously been unaware. I was told of continuously doing the same thing and expecting different results. I had never seen that in certain cases, I repeated actions that led to exactly the same conclusions, conclusions I was deeply dissatisfied with. This obviously meant I had to change those patterns lest I fall into the same traps again, but at least now I could see more clearly the traps. You now have the framework for seeing those traits of behaviour that may lead you into areas that you aren’t happy with. If you are anything like me, those traits may never leave you, maybe are instinctive and you consistently act out on them. That is the worst-case scenario. Things can be better and some may well leave you as you recognise them. Onw ar ds We M us t Go I had found myself with reams (slight exaggeration, but it sure sounds good) of paper, covered in my best drunken-spider writing, spilling out some of my innermost secrets.
37 Only thing was, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that I was going to write everything down. Oh, no. I might be the victim of a burglar who specialized in really ‘personal’ effects. There might be someone out there, who worked for a large organization, who was desperate to publicly humiliate me by broadcasting all my innermost desires and drives. So I kept a lot of it in my head. Which is where I thought it would, and most definitely should, stay. Funny how those carefully laid plans often fall apart. I can almost hear the shrieks of horror from here as you read this. Yes, I am talking about sharing your stuff with someone else. Keep going and learn the benefits…
E xer cis es
We need to collate information to build a picture and I find the easiest way is through comparison. 1. Take a blank piece of paper and draw a line down the middle. 2. On the left side write five positive reasons why you took the last (or present) job. Was it the sector of your ambition, the best company in town, the funkiest approach to work, the best salary, the best hours for your home life? Elaborate on each reason until there are ten. 3. Do the same on the right side for the negative reasons why you might have taken the job. Was it because you needed the cash, that there were debts to pay, you couldn’t find work elsewhere, it’s the only employer nearby? One of these sides is going to be a lot easier to fill than the other. I would imagine at the moment the balance will lie in favour of the negative. There may well be more than five on side or even both. It doesn’t matter. Try your best and you will have a list of comparables. For example: 1 2 3 4 5 Pos itive Exciting new company Interesting location Great team to work with Growing reputation of firm It would stretch me N egative Needed a job Needed money to pay off debts Only job offer I had Not a sector I wanted Bluffed to get job
Even looking at these will bring up memories of the job in question, some good, others that might make you a little uncomfortable. Try and go back and go back through all your jobs and do the same exercise. Once you have a list of reasons, we now need to look at the aims. These are different because the reasons are very much a present tense action and the aims are looking to the future. For example: 1 2 3 4 5 Aims Improve experience to get more work Learn new language Buy a house within eighteen months Explore new avenues for starting up ventures of my own Make an impression on an exciting project
39 This is the work side – remember the other two legs of the stool? Home: 1 2 3 4 5 Pos itive Gorgeous setting Dog friendly Near to new work Lifelong dream New area N egative Out of city Cheap Ended old place with bad memories Couldn’t afford to buy Wanted a change
These are some of the reasons I have used to take a place. As for my aims: 1 2 3 4 5 Aims Build home life in new area Get dog Live a country life Meet like minded people Settle down Pos itive Made me laugh Similar background Kind and loving person Lovely smile Great conversation N egative Not my type Confused Couldn’t say no Preferred a partner than being single Friends were jealous
Love: 1 2 3 4 5
These are real examples why I and others have got into relationships. Possible aims: 1 2 3 4 5 Aims Meet future wife/husband Build joint experiences Regular sex with someone you like Good activity partner Learn to grow in partnerships
These too, feature. What are my motives? Again, this one is tricky, but needs to be looked at. I divide reasons, aims and motives into three areas – present, past and Machiavellian. I can twist my actions around to
40 suit whatever scheme I have thought up, but if I was to define my motives, they could be listed as the following: Pride Envy Gluttony Sloth Lust Anger Greed Not original, but easily memorised. These are negative so there is the odd positive one in there such as: Love
G etting I t O ut T her e to C hange
That Special Someone The trouble with choosing the right person to confess all your details of work history is about a matter of trust. If it is a really good friend who you feel you can trust, then there will not be a problem. However, at times like this, we tend to get a little concerned about such issues and therefore balk at taking such an action. I had to think quite hard about who would be the right person Being imbued with an unrealistically inflated sense of self-importance, I knew that the person had to be the right one. No messing, no compromise – this one had to be perfect. Oh, the plans we lay! In the end I told it to anyone who would just listen. No one was really interested. There was no gossip within that wasn’t old hat, there were no revelations that could set the world afire, it was just a case of one guy’s little brain getting into right old scrapes. And usually with itself. Please don’t think I am trying to belittle the importance of getting this stage right. All I had to do was merely find a balance between my self-importance and the benefits that would be accrued from spilling the beans. H ang About, Why Should I do This ?! ? Of course, I haven’t discussed why I think it is a great idea to talk to someone about our innermosts. We all remember the adage that a problem shared is a problem halved. Well, where I grew up, a secret shared was no longer a secret because whomever you told it to would tell everybody. Not such a great way to deal with things. I therefore sympathise if you think that this is a mad idea. However (that word always crops up when you least want it), there are tangible benefits to telling someone. Probably the easiest to define is once some of this stuff is out there, then there’s little going back. It sure acted as a spur to me, if only as a matter of pride. I also know that I felt a palpable sense of relief that I had got some of this off my chest. Although it took me a while to realise it, I had known about most of the reasoning behind my actions. I had merely ducked from admitting it or had tried to justify it some other way. Actually writing it down on paper (or not, as I have admitted) showed the patterns that I was both ashamed of and pleased to identify. Talking to someone about them showed that there were others out there who thought and acted the same way that I did. It also managed to help overcome the shame that I had begun to recognise as a defence mechanism. If I was secure in myself, why worry about what others thought? Easier said than done, but not a bad view to take, in anyone’s book. The shame was an easy place to hide and it did nothing but hold me back. So I went for it with my heart in my mouth.
42 Plenty of Fr iendly Ear s to Bend Once I started to look for someone to tell, it was amazing how many people seemed right for the job, nay honour, as I thought of it. There are a lot of kind people out there who love to help others and not in a patronising way. I have heard of some who talk to their priest, their psychiatrist or even their hairdresser. Not being Catholic, ever in therapy or trusting an old man fairly brutal with the scissors, I did not have these luxuries. The most obvious person turned out to be right in front of me. Moving round the world, as I tended to do for excitement, if not for anything else, meant that I got to make some very interesting friends. There was one who had lived as a gang member and had knife and gun shot scars, dressed solely in black and rode a very large motorcycle. Despite a rather scary past all he wanted to do was dance and so he was a ballroom dance instructor. Girls swooned for him, lucky so and so. He had great ears and would sympathise with you over anything. Another was this lovely bloke who grew up in the West Indies and could free dive for what seemed hours. We would go fishing and he would take one breath and chase fishes all over the sea bed as I was constantly popping up for air. He set up a rugby club and drove round town to fill up his truck with players who didn’t have vehicles to take them to training and games. One of the most generous people I have ever been lucky enough to meet. He could listen as well. I admit these are exceptional cases and tend to stand out but I found that there are many more, those who do not have to seem amazing just to help. The person I chose was unemployed and had been made destitute at some point in his life by poor decisions. When I compared myself to him (a fault that rears its ugly head too often) I could not compete with hardship stories on the unemployment front. He listened because he knew what it felt like to be going through what I was. I have found that once you get past the initial stages of being just good mates and start to talk about the important stuff in life, it is amazing how many others experience the same fears and doubts that you do. It is not, for instance, terribly difficult to meet others who have been out of work for more than six months. In modern society, most people don’t like to admit this sort of thing lest it gives a negative impression, but then this sort of people is not the type that I choose to associate with. One of the lessons I have learnt about finding out about others is that it seems as if they are not going to say much until I raise the subject. This used to seem like a terrible risk but now is one which I barely register. I know what I value in a friendship and if there is not a good level of communication then I am not going to get too excited about counting them as good friends. Fairly brutal but effective. On the positive side, there simply are lots of friendly and compatible people out there who are prepared to listen. I have heard that many others apart from me tend to think that their cases are unique and nobody else could possibly understand. I had to find out that I am not that special and different, in many ways rather ordinary in both my
43 experiences and outlook. I am not going to set the world on fire, but hopefully I will be content with myself. There are, literally, thousands out there who are the same. Finding them can be a tricky one. You may have a very close friend in whom you have trusted all your secrets. Fantastic. There may be a friendly uncle you always turn to for advice, or a sympathetic neighbour who serves up your favourite cake when you go and see them. Brilliant Have a look round and try to think whom you would like to talk to. If there are none of the above, or even similar types, then try to make connections with the right sort. Just meeting someone can tell you pretty early on whether you are going to get on with them. Time will tell once you get to know them whether you can confide in them and whether they either empathise or just sympathise. They are out there. Do ask them to listen and you will be surprised how many are prepared to help. Oh, and try not to rush into friendships just to complete this stage. Remember your motives… N ot The Eas ies t Thing To Dis cus s There are two main approaches to such a task – formal and informal. The former is one of requesting that someone sits there and listens while you expose stuff that only you previously knew. The time is agreed and the butterflies tend to be rampant. Excuses are sought and there seems to be an impending gloom about the whole occasion. Or the informal is one of it just cropping up in friendly chat with a mate or that certain person you have chosen. I recently spent a day driving round East Anglia with a good friend in his new car and chatted about pretty much everything. There were enough breaks in the journey to ensure that we rested from whatever highbrow discussion was ensuing but we still managed to chat about some of the more important stuff in each other’s lives. There cannot be any hard or fast rules about how to approach such a conversation. When I first opened up, it was all in one and I talked solidly for about two and a half hours. Subsequent discussions on similar topics have been far more piecemeal. What I have learnt from the latter is that once I get going on one subject, I tend to want to finish that chat and so I am always eager to return if there is an enforced break in the conversation. There may well be the chance to break it down into the three areas discussed in the previous chapter. If so, great, if not, then it is always possible to work round it. Don’t be surprised if it turns out to be trickier that you envisaged. There may well be sections of your work that you are understandably reluctant to reveal. The fear of what the other person thinks is probably the main hindrance but you have already asked them to listen so they should treat it as confidentially as you would like. It is terribly easy to be blasé about the harm relationships can induce, but I do believe that if the person we have selected turns out to be the wrong one then they either will play no role in your life from then on or you just have to learn to not worry about what
44 they think. It’s no great shakes to have someone out there who knows your secrets and then tells someone else or does another harmful act as a result of that knowledge. I tend to feel sorry for them but there is little I can do. Vicarious pleasure gained from someone else’s misfortune is not the most honourable way to lead a life and not one that I even remotely aspire to. Opening up about this stuff can be just as interesting for you as for the other. Only when I talked to someone else about this did I realise how much I had omitted in my written version. I was also talking about situations and reasons that I had, frankly, not even thought of when I was writing. There were cases of behaviour I had forgotten about. It was revealing to me. As I got into the swing of it, more came out, not necessarily in a structured form of any sort, just information. Some of the chat was spent reflecting on how I had forgotten such and such a motive or action and how an even clearer pattern was emerging. There are, as I have mentioned, no rules. I love the way the mind protects us from some stuff and only reveals it when it is useful. Not only was I talking to someone about very personal thoughts and actions, but I was also finding out more about myself. Those things that made me tick the way I do, the impulses that I all too easily gave into and the denials I had used to smooth over certain ugly situations. Not all of it was bad, either. There was some stuff that I had previously unseen. My reaction to myself was more of an indicator of my character that what I had actually done. Where I had achieved some good results, I had often discounted it due to a negative selfimage. That self-image had driven me forward on a number of occasions, but it was never in a contented way and I was fed up with looking at things through such a dark glass. Having spent the previous few months exploring myself, I was certainly in the habit of analysing what was inducing reactions and motives. It was fascinating to discuss my work history and the unease I had felt throughout and see the patterns emerging. New patterns were also emerging as I went through the motives and actions I had taken. Interesting flaws in my character were revealed, as well as laudable traits. I was a fairly average human being with one or two talents. The problem was, as I slowly admitted, that I tended to think too much about things. A little less thought and a bit more action would certainly do me no harm. You may well find as you embark on such a course of action that you end up with a rounded view of yourself, a view that shows the credit and debit sides of your work history’s ledger and what drives you into various situations. There will probably be things that are so obvious you question the need for highlighting them. There will be things of which you have previously been unaware. Whatever comes of it, there will be a lightening of your load. Most of us tend to carry round what the psycho babble spouting agony aunts of the popular press refer to as ‘emotional baggage’. All I think about this stuff is that is just actions or thoughts we have shied away from. Doing this work is the exact opposite and, as a result, there are huge benefits.
45 It’s another throwback to putting in the effort brings the rewards. You have been putting in the effort and the rewards are on their way. Remember The Aim I commenced all this soul searching with a reasonably firm aim in mind – I wanted my mind back. I just wanted to be content with where I was, understand what I had done to get there and make some changes if there was another course I wished to pursue. Simple, right? Well, here was a part of the work I did that produced some real benefits. I talked earlier about why I think it is a good idea to talk to someone else about the actions and motives we took. When I had opened up and revealed, and also faced up to, some of my past behaviour, the problems did not seem nearly so daunting. I felt a wave of peace physically wash over me. I slept better than I had since I lost the job. There was a spring in my step because I had new challenges to face. I wanted to change and I had seen areas that I could work on. There is no guarantee that these benefits will be felt so strongly or even at all at this stage. I was lucky. It just helped me realise that I was doing the right thing and that I had also carried around a lot of useless ‘junk’ in my little head that did considerably more harm than good. I still know about what I did but there is no longer the angst when I reflect upon it. Occasionally, and I emphasise the word occasionally, I can even laugh at myself. We Ar e N ot The Only Ones One small lesson that came out of this part of the work was the empathy I engendered in the person to whom I told it. Lots of acknowledgements of similar situations and giggles at comparable experiences. They too had developed repetitive patterns of behaviour that had not helped. This was of enormous benefit to me because I knew I was not alone. Besides, why are you reading this book? Time To M ove On U p If we have identified certain traits in our behaviour and then confessed them to someone else, we are in a fairly rare position. Yes, there are countless tales of people doing similar acts in search of enlightenment with regard to various aspects of their life, but they are still in the minority. So pat yourself on the back and reflect on your good fortune. When I had got to this stage, I expected everything to work out and be wonderful so I was a little disappointed when it didn’t. I was very happy with all the stuff I had finally admitted and yet there was no huge release of concerns. I still worried and was equally capable of making the same mistakes again and again.
46 I have said that I felt very free and was enormously grateful for the results my efforts had produced but I still needed to improve. There were consistent patterns in my behaviour that seemed never to change and I had been barely aware of them prior to this work. These patterns seemed relentless in their desire to position me in the wrong kind of work situation. What had obviously happened was that I was now out of work, eating my way through my savings and getting further into debt, not really sure what would come next, let alone how I was going to react to it. Since I had really started looking at myself and admitting to certain habits, I also was getting rather scared about the consistency of my actions and reactions. I really wanted to understand more but, at this stage, I had delved as deep as I could and there were no more obvious answers. I had a (non-written – didn’t want the world finding out yet) list of what I tended to do in certain situations, patterns of reactions and actions around work. It still wasn’t clear why these patterns had pushed me to where they had or even what an alternative to them might be. All I knew was that I wanted to change because I was in a bind and it was obvious that if I carried on doing the same old things, I was going to carry on being in the same bind. I had identified motives that were distinctly less than honourable and actions I had taken as a direct result of them. Scant attention had been paid as to how these things would affect others or whether they could improve me as a person. As many people have, I became obsessed with reputation. I really cared about what others thought about me and, in London, the work aspect of that fear can be hugely debilitating. The eternal question about what you did I found not only offensive but also frightening because I wanted to say something that was exciting and ‘better’ than my questioner. I wanted the right address, the right car, girlfriend and all that. I was horrified by how much work those who did get these things had to put into getting them and I certainly never seemed to fit in. All debilitating stuff but I just didn’t give up thinking that if I only had that pair of jeans, or that record, I would then be all right. Utter baloney, of course. These things never made a blind bit of difference. There was a stage when I had a very fast sports car, pots of cash and a beautiful girlfriend. I did some very exciting work and got to meet fascinating people. I hated it. At the time I could not admit exactly what motivated me to take the job in the first place and so I decided to leave. I opted for what I thought was the greatest job in the world and found myself on a Caribbean island in a totally miserable mood. I pursued professional qualifications to set myself above contemporaries with a fervour that had me winning prizes and coming top of most classes. I was impatient and ambitious. I had little time for certain basic tenets of work and wanted to get somewhere fast. I still find the lure of certain working practices attractive rather than admitting that there are more sensible approaches. I was fired from a potentially great job because I wanted to change things and was not allowed to even contribute to the most basic elements of management.
47 None of these were clear to me when I found myself sitting in a flat in south London wondering what to do next and, more importantly, cursing the grey gloom that pervaded every thought. If there was a book on job-hunting, I either bought, borrowed or used a library to read it. I sent off numerous résumés to all sorts of companies. I was extremely disheartened by the responses I received. The bland impersonality of the form letters infuriated me but I understood many jobs were over subscribed. One company wrote a glowing advertisement about the quality of their staff and took three weeks to even acknowledge my application. They then failed to respond to a series of letters to various directors until I wrote to the chairman expressing amazement at the discrepancy between their advertisement and the reality of their employees. He was not best pleased and passed my missive back down the chain to the human resources person in charge of the original applications. They, in turn, were not too happy to have been criticised so summarily told me to desist from any further communication. This wee battle certainly didn’t even gain me an interview but it felt good. For a bit. If I was going to use this section to vent, then I could go on. The facts speak for themselves. I sent over 150 applications and approaches to companies and agencies in one year alone. I was given two interviews, one for a position I never even wanted. It ground me down. I read with glee articles disparaging human resources departments, the departments that were the gatekeepers to the roles I wanted to fill. I despaired at the politics that seemed prevalent in modern workplaces and I was flabbergasted at the way some people seemed to glide into job after job and others, seemingly more capable, were held back. The only net result was that I stayed out of work. It was driving me insane. N eces s ity I s Sur ely The M other Of I nvention Something had to be done and I set out on the work outlined here. It was not a smooth transition of waking up and going for it, but it took time and adaptation, lessons had to be learnt and I had to face up to certain truths. I started out on this work because all else seemed to have failed. I wanted something that would work, a plan, a series of actions that would produce some beneficial results. If all the applications were failing to get me a job, what needed to be changed? I had a number of résumés that covered various job types, I had applied to advertisements, networked and sent off cold-call letters to scores of companies. I had to get honest about what was driving me because if I could see the engine, I might be able to see the engineering flaws that were putting me on the wrong road. There were many efforts at trying to find solutions. Hours were spent staring at the wall trying to work it out. If I had smoked, I would probably have gone through a packet an hour as I ruminated. Nothing seemed clear. One thing I had never tried was actually writing it down, so I did. Answers started to appear.
These answers seemed to be ones of repetition. They exposed my character for all its warts. Much more was revealed to me than a simple quick-fix solution to finding a job. I had all my motives and reasoning laid out before me and it was obvious that something needed changing if my circumstances were to alter. Then a bit more fear came in. You might be more fortunate and face the patterns and then change them. I was afraid of the unknown. If these patterns were consciously changed then I was afraid that a perilous journey would befall me. What I was afraid of was that I had been mooching through certain patterns that had not achieved any level of real pleasure in my work but if I changed what seemed to be my natural reactions, then what would happen. Misery is entirely optional in this life but, to over-dramatise, I was opting for the miserable choice because it was well known and therefore navigable. If this turns out to be the case with you, then it might be also fairly obvious that something needs to be changed. I certainly could not continue in the same vein I had been struggling in for so long. I was afraid of changing, however. If I just said that everything I did was going to be predicated on different motives, then I didn’t actually have a clue what the consequences might be. I became tortured by worries of the unfamiliar. Change means change It certainly doesn’t take the brains of an archbishop to work out that if things appear to not be going well, your mind is in a complete flux and you can’t seem to be able to get out of the slump, then there is a need for change. To make a conscious decision to get rid of all the negative and restrictive patterns in your behaviour seems an easy concept. It is. It is, after all, just a decision. What tends to make it more than a mere mental decision is that there has to be some action to validate it. Just try to remember that when you truly make this decision, there is no going back. You have acknowledged that there are some serious flaws in your reasoning that tend to have a decidedly negative impact on your mind. You naturally want rid of them. You might want to think how you are going to get rid of them. You might want to think about with what you are going to replace them. I do believe that it is very easy to say that I want to be a better person – it’s just becoming a better person tends to be a tad tricky. So think hard and long about what part of your basic make up you are trying to change and expunge. Try and recall if these same decision making traits had resulted in some positive things happening to you. You will probably want to get rid of them. Great. Simple decision, one that is hopefully reached after some level headed thinking and one that is undoubtedly right to improve your general lot.
49 The job is clos er I would assume that if you are anything like me, you may well have continued your search for that perfect job whilst doing this work. During that time, you may well also have applied some of the lessons in this book. Maybe now is the time whether to ask how these techniques have helped you. You will also notice that you are still only about halfway through the book. That’s fine now, because if you have that perfect job and you are truly happy inside with it, then our work is done. I hope. We have a natural early euphoria system to certain things. New house, new relationship, new car, new job. I heard some time ago that seven months is as good an introductory time for a new job as any. The initial learning time is over, you tend to be both familiar and comfortable with your position and responsibilities and you are established in the company with all its politics within. This doesn’t mean that the decision to absolve ourselves of some the less productive character traits can be dodged. Since you are here, you might as well push on, decide that there is room for improvement by getting rid of these, and work to improve. Then the job, that might actually seem merely mediocre at the moment, can be viewed in a totally different light. I find it amazing that when I am determined (and sometimes I have to really put some effort into getting into that frame of mind) to look at something in a positive light, how much better it seems. Even the greyest and most dreary day can take on a whole new patina when looked at in a positive light. Having taken the decision to improve by cutting out some of your traits does actually mean a whole new outlook on life. Facing up to who you are and how you operate is one of the hardest acts in life. Everyone, at some point in their lives, wants to be different to what they choose to see themselves as. This tends to be an error of perception because you cannot see what you are made up of unless you examine yourself thoroughly. If you can accept that the brain, by governing everything we do, is the most powerful muscle in the body, then you can accept that this part of you needs to be looked at closely to understand yourself. This is what you have done up to now. What we need to look at now is how to move forward and change yourself into that better person. This will not be done by looking backward at what you have done already, more what you can do in the future. The research is there to show on what you can base your future decision, but at the same time, you will be entering unchartered waters and therefore it will all be forward looking. There will be times of uncertainty and fear but nothing ventured does mean nothing gained after all. So work on and let’s see what the future can hold for you.
D ecis ions , D ecis ions , D ecis ions
Jus t for You Up till now, with the exception of a sympathetic pair of ears, the whole process has involved one person. You - your life, your jobs, why you got into the position you chose, how it was affecting your head. This is great. It saves the embarrassment and also keeps all the mucky stuff pretty well contained. You are right to take this as a warning! If you work in an igloo, hundreds of miles from the nearest neighbour, purely use the internet or an elk to communicate with work contacts and are totally isolated from the working world that most of us are confined within, then maybe you will survive. Generally though, you will have to interact with others and, personally, I would rather meet and liaise with other people. I tend to like mingling, communicating, building relationships. A lot of the time I may not wish them to be life long buddies but this is not what this work is about. You have a list of errors made, often unwittingly, and the scrapes they pushed you into. You have already decided to try not to make these errors again but there is no alternative at the moment. You also have some fallout from these mistakes insofar as others may have been affected. There is now an opportunity to go forward, mend old and build new relationships and polish one of the key skills of the workplace – getting on with others. You also have a working laboratory in which you can conduct certain experiments from which you will be able to understand even more about yourself. What’s Left? The decision to change is a great one to take. You have gone through this by deciding that the traits, which have previously pushed you into poor decisions, are now surplus to requirements. However, it is worth remembering that these traits were the driving force. If they are no longer there, what can be the alternative? What are better traits? I don’t know. I have to be honest throughout but if you came up to me and asked for a simple answer to the conundrums you are facing in regaining your head, I would, quite frankly, stammer and splutter. There is no easy solution. I have heard people say that they heard one sentence, some analogy, an utterance and it changed their outlook forever. I wish I had a pat answer. That’s not a false wish. To write how ever many words are in this book takes a fair bit of time (it’s not the first book I have started) and instead if I could write a quick one-stop answer down on a piece of paper and mail it out to whoever wanted it, the life would be a lot easier. It would have to be at the reasonable price of £49.99, of course, because good advice shouldn’t come too cheap.
51 If you are anything like me, you may have thought at some time along the way about behaving like someone else. This simple thought (however negative its impact on you might have been) would have occupied your mind for a long time. Often I have wished to have obvious traits that are displayed in others. Whether they were as simple as the ability to go and talk to a beautiful girl, or more appropriately to this study, how to apply myself to a plan and see it through. There have been many people that I have worked with who have seemed so focussed on their careers and jobs that there has been scant deviation from a very successful path. I now find myself grudgingly admiring their ability to have achieved what they have while I have, quite frankly, been having a lot of fun. Therefore there may be the examples of what to replace your old habits with. These habits you see in others are not beyond the realms of possibility. Trying not to think about it and merely getting on and doing it can work wonders. I cannot promise you that if you decide to write down a series of goals and a timeframe for them all, you will be amazed at the results. You probably will if you haven’t done it before. H ang about, w hat about the old s tuff? You see, we have moved on from worrying about the old baggage and behaviour and started to think about a new way of acting. I believe quite fervently that you can think your way all you like but unless you take action, those thoughts might as well be harmless clouds scudding across the sky. There is going to be a whole load of old thoughts which will drive you into similar situations as to those that befell you previously. There is no way that you can change one hundred per cent overnight. There is also little chance of you not slipping backwards in your progress sometimes. Sorry. But you can achieve a remarkable average forward movement. Doesn’t sound like much, but think of buying a house and selling it ten years later. It is unlikely that during that entire time the value continued to rise. Inflation would have taken a bit out of its value year on year as well. However, it is extremely likely that the value would, on average, increase. Of course you have to put some effort into it, for instance keeping it insulated and painted but for the money you can make, it’s remarkably little effort if you just buy a good house and maintain it for a decade. Approach this phase of work with a similar frame of mind and you should be delighted with the progress. Hopefully, you will be reasonably aware of how your thought processes work with relation to work. We are trying to sort out the head, remove the confusion and get the right frame of mind to carry us through unemployment or your current role and hopefully into a cracking job. Or at least, one that you perceive to be wonderful. That’s the important thing – how you perceive the job. Remember talking about the motives? Well, I would think that by now you are well and truly set on a more achievable set of motives, probably with a more generous and honest nature to them. Therefore, some of the old baggage has started to leave you. This also has happened along the process and did not have to delay until now for
52 successful completion. If you treat the phases in this book as a framework for approaching this issue, you can go through the process again and again. As you do it more often, not only will it become easier, but the actions will happen sooner. If you were the architect of the traits and motives that have driven you previously, then surely you must be able to redesign them. There must be a way of thought and action that you can adopt that will facilitate this. Personally, I advocate taking the actions first, then thinking about them. Let me explain. In my short experience, I noticed that some of my motives were distinctly dodgy. I was scared of choosing more decent ones because I thought I might just use supposedly good motives to carry on working in a caddish fashion. So I checked out some traits, mostly in others around me, some from books and the odd one from the perfect laboratory of Hollywood, and tried to act in the same way. I would love to tell you that I sat down, wrote a shortlist of desired attributes and then inculcated them in my every act. This is patently not the way I operate and I realised that if I set myself such a goal, I would stumble at the first hurdle. I am much more lackadaisical in my approach. However it is possible to set yourself little goals of behaviour. If I found that my thoughts had driven me one way, then I tried to accept that I was not the great architect and therefore adopt a radically opposite approach. This may sound ludicrous but give it a go. I wanted to live in a certain postcode because I figured it would improve my standing in so-called society. I would like to think that I’m not the only one; in fact I’ve been to enough parties and been bored rotten by pretentious idiots trying to impress me with where they lived. The sad part about it was, it took me a long time to realise that I was letting these so-and-sos influence me. Instead I went and lived in a so-called not so nice place. I chose a council estate. It was a bit odd. There is a reasonably well known school of thought that talks about imitating others to improve oneself. Will it work? Well, I can only say that it is very much up to you how much you apply yourself. I certainly have found that I can adopt the habits of others but I do revert back to my old behaviour. I view it very much as taking on new skills, not dissimilar to going on a training programme. Having worked for a while as an instructor (most of the time I taught instructors what and how to instruct) I appreciate the techniques necessary to take on board new practices. Believing fervently in imitation and practice as two key tenets to learning, I have found this is the same way with behavioural traits. Top tips lear nt the long w ay I mentioned earlier something that I think is key to this lesson. I have always found it very hard to apply myself to one project or task and see it through once the pitfalls and
53 mountains started appearing. This book is very much a case in point because, as we stand, it has only taken eighteen months so far! I will say that I am a lot better and the ways I have learnt to combat my natural apathy and lethargy have been as follows. A long time ago I was told that one of my major faults (always a pleasing conversation) was that I only aimed for excellence and was not prepared to settle for what I perceived as second best. It also meant that once I hit the foothills of any struggle, I tended to give up because the goal was so far away that relinquishing the desire was relatively easy. I have had to learn to do things differently. The balance in these situations is always the hardest to find as I tend to strive one way or the other and find myself either relentlessly obsessing about a goal or giving up far too easily. Some things are meant to be and it can be extremely frustrating when that perfect scenario just seems to happen with no input. It’s almost uncanny. On the other hand, some things will never happen, no matter how hard you struggle. I have mentioned about striving to do something again and again and expecting different results and how that has to be appreciated as a lesson. Well, if I told you that I spent over two years trying to find work in a particular sector to no avail, and I mean no avail insofar as I had two interviews for jobs I wanted during that entire time. I had started in this area upon finishing my MA by setting up my own concern and going it alone, winning a huge contract only to watch that project disappear before my very eyes through my own naiveté. I assumed that the experience gained in this project would set me up for future work. I was very wrong and had to go through an uncomfortable two years trying to re-enter a crowded marketplace. Some of this time was spent being frustrated and lethargic, finding it hard to push myself to carry on. The lessons were really twofold: firstly, not to give up on something just because it became difficult and; secondly, to know when to cut your losses! The first lesson took no time to intellectualise, quite a while to implement. Just rationalising that a little bit at a time would add up to a large result is easy to think through. I understood the concept, despite my natural desire to want everything yesterday. I thought it through and tried to work out little goals to achieve. In this example, these included ten applications or curriculum vitas to be sent out every day. That meant that fifty people would receive my CV on their desk every week. I had to accept that some would just get binned, some would not get to the right person, some would be wrong for the job and some may get looked at. There may not even be a job at most of the organisations I wanted to write to but there may be an opening in the future that I would be considered for. I had a little experience in job hunting and had received enough letters that were couched in the usual non-committal language that human resources staff used. I have yet to meet someone who was contacted by a firm after they had received a letter that promised retention of their CV and if future suitable positions were to arise etc, etc. There might be some out there. I would be delighted to hear from them as it is, in fact, an encouragement to all work seekers.
54 Allowing for the fact that there are approximately forty six working weeks in the year once holidays have been accounted for, and I was on this particular quest for two years, there should have been over four and a half thousand CVs of yours truly that landed on desks of industry chiefs. For a start, that is one large sector and one large amount of paper. Of course, this didn’t happen. I would be struck by bursts of enthusiasm and send out a batch of one hundred or so to a sector of this industry. I would then sit back and wait for those responses because I had to chase up each letter. Even paying for such diligence would have crippled me. Fifty second class stamps each week plus follow up calls during peak hours would have cost some twenty five pounds a week. Doesn’t sound a lot when you are earning, but when every penny counts, it matters a lot and pretty soon adds up. Anyway, it wasn’t the cost that stopped me. My head was in a flux and worsened, despite my determination, with every rejection. It was also a tough goal because all it required was one missed day and I would felt worse about myself. So I had to learn. Pr actice w hat you think It’s all well and good to have a super plan that looks great and is achievable in bite sized chunks. The only trouble is – we are all human. Much of the management refinements we have endured over the past thirty years have to been to minimise the human input and turn us into faultless automatons. It has improved productivity by a vast amount but it also has its own negative impact. That being said, we are dealing with one person’s mind and its general well being. The aim of this book is to get that mind back into line so that future work is chosen for the right reasons and that you are comfortable with why you chose that particular job. By acting your way into a new way of thinking you will achieve this far more easily. Practice what you think almost as soon as you think it. If the circumstances stay the same and you keep on acting in the same matter, things just are not going to change. So change your actions. Here comes the odd bit. If you brush your teeth after shaving or bathing, try it the other way round. If you always read the news first thing in the morning, try watching it on television. If you like running as an exercise, try walking. Just try something different. You have got yourself to where you are and you need to change. Practice other actions and your circumstances will naturally change. I was having a chat the other day with a friend about affirmations. Many books assure you that if you tell yourself three times a day how wonderful you are then you will soon believe it and therefore achieve enormous results. All well and good. It does work. I don’t like it because I feel an absolute chump looking at myself in the mirror and telling myself things. Could be the reserved Brit in me that shies away from such new
55 age ‘touchy feely’ sort of stuff. That’s my view. There are enough people out there who shared my scepticism, tried it anyway and then found benefits. Another example of the architect being flawed in his or her concept. I don’t know best. I have to constantly learn and practice. Have a look at the exercises at the end of this chapter for some other ideas for changing your habits. Omelettes and Eggs By trying to adopt new habits and actions that are going to change your thoughts, there are going to be some other consequences. These are going to affect other people, even if it is at such a minor level that you don’t notice it. I have found that interaction with people is changed once I take a different course of action. We are all aiming for improvement so it naturally stands that if we are getting better, then there are going to be periods in our past that have been less than perfect. Much of our time on this little world is spent interacting with others and the workplace is certainly no different. Most jobs require the adoption of a slightly unnatural code of practices when dealing with others. How many times do we hear about a ‘professional’ approach to situations? I have certainly noticed people working with what seems to me an incredible level of dedication such that they are able to ignore a lot of the patently obvious nonsense that goes with everyday work. These are people I do have a grudging jealousy for since I am one who has always spoke his mind. You may well be of this ilk. Bravo! Let me know how you do it – I haven’t a clue or merely am in possession of a rather impatient mouth. I remember a works party some ten years ago when I got very bored with inane conversation and hid in one of the ante rooms. I got chatting to this lovely woman about the rubbish we had to put up with at these sort of dos, making polite chit-chat with people we neither knew nor were particularly interested in. She agreed wholeheartedly with me and mentioned her husband’s name a few times. It was only when one of the senior manager types came over and, frankly, started sucking up to her, that I realised that she must be quite important. By adding two and two together I worked out that she was the wife of the most important person at the party, the equivalent of the chairman of the board. She had obviously been trooped out to innumerable parties of a similar ilk throughout the years and had got thoroughly fed up. She was wonderful when I realised my gaffe and tried to make good but maintained the overt dislike of the politicking that these organisations create. I was lucky. On the other hand, there are numerous gaffes and mistakes throughout my working life that made me either cringe at the time or after. The list was seemingly endless and it includes some I had managed to get away with. Talking to people has led me to understand that others make similar errors and have sometimes paid dearly for them. There are also the deliberate errors one might do, generally to further your own career. These do not have to be massive and designed to set you up for the next
56 decade, but could be as little as writing a report that puts you in a more favourable light than perhaps the circumstances should have allowed. These ones tend to cause the most angst. Either way, even if there are none of the latter, I suggest you take some time and make a list. This should comprise what these errors or misjudgements were, where and when they happened and whom they might have affected. This can often be achieved by revisiting the work done earlier in this whole process. There will be pointers as to where certain patches of discomfort may have existed. These patches are often caused by a conscience, no matter how hard you try to repress it. I get twinges of conscience for the slightest thing now and it is a real struggle to evaluate most of them. But that will come later. Write the list down and have a look at it. You don’t have to show it to anyone so there are no concerns about what others may think. As I have mentioned before, people are generally far too interested in themselves to be overly concerned about others, especially if finding out that information requires some effort. Once you have the list and have looked at it, it may not provide many solutions and may just depress you because you feel it is a revision of your faults. Fair thoughts, but what we are trying to do is to train you to think differently by acting differently. You would not normally have written such a list down so there are bound to be fresh thoughts emanating as a result. I would also think that there is a reason why you feel uncomfortable about revisiting such occasions. N ailing that cons cience When I embarked on this process, made mistakes, and tried to learn along the way, I noticed that I was changing the way I thought. This was done by actions, but once the thinking methods started to change, the actions became more frequent and so the thoughts changed more quickly. I also found that the new way of thinking (funnily enough) brought new thoughts that were incredibly helpful. These thoughts were not always positive. I certainly felt bad about some occasions at work where either I had made a mistake or had done a selfish deed at the cost of someone else. I will not waste time listing them here – it might be too easy for you to find differences and excuse yourself the next stage! Where before I had managed to either forget or sweep some of the results of these actions under the carpet, a new way of regarding them raised its very uncomfortable head. I have labelled this as my conscience as I can think of no simpler way to describe such feelings. I thought these were not positive thoughts because they were incredibly uncomfortable. The truth is, they were extremely positive because they forced me to act. I found out that the only way to quieten that blasted conscience was to make good my previous errors.
57 This is by no means easy. For a start, admitting my own part in mistakes and ignoring the influence of others on such circumstances had been a trifle tricky. Now I was looking at rebuilding these areas of my work history. This is mainly a selfish process because the number one benefactor has got to be yourself. If I remembered that as one of the guiding principles, it tended to make certain parts of the process easier. Therefore making good on past errors was going to be a struggle, especially if that involved others. Let’s come back to that in a bit. Simplifying the making good pr oces s Go back to your list of harms to others and have a look at those who may have been affected by your actions. Take a moment with each one to think how you would have felt if you had been the recipient of such an action, and had known about it at the time. I started to write down my possible reactions and made it quite a long way down the list before some real patterns started to emerge. I began to think I would feel exactly the same emotions with all the actions so had to step back and try and find different expressions for my probable reactions. This is a funny part of the process. You have made a list of all the upsets and motives in your work life, possibly including others about your outside life, and now it has to be revisited. This is usually because the icky feelings past actions may have caused are a fair indicator of mistreating someone else. That can make this easier, but usually it is a pain to think again about the bad times. I have found out that these bad feelings are usually the result of unresolved issues. If you still feel negatively about something that happened last week, month or year, then there is still some work you can do to change that. In today’s society, the pressure seems to be to brush it under the carpet, look out for number one and move on. That’s probably why so many books and articles sell so well telling people to do exactly that. If most people were able to do such a seemingly simple act, then they would only have to be told once and that would be enough. Trouble is, it’s not really that simple and such a decision merely papers over the cracks of the problem, dealing with the symptoms rather than the cause. So we have to go back and really repair those areas that still cause discomfort. Sounds obvious and the solution is rather simple – go and apologise. When you go and say sorry for your wrongs, and your motives in doing so are clean, then it tends to be, frankly, amazing how the guilt, remorse, annoyance and all other bad feelings tend to dissipate. Will they r emember ? It all sounds a bit melodramatic to present yourself in front of someone who you have wronged and profess your undying remorse. That’s not really the aim. Turning an apology for your misdeeds into something grandiose is rather self-serving and will not help your cause.
The aim is to help you. That’s why we are trying to work through this process and leave you with a much quieter head; one that has learnt to appreciate your reasoning and that will remain stable for a while. Besides, if it doesn’t, there is always this process that can be repeated. Therefore we have to examine once again the motives. I admit quite freely that apologising for a wrong will bring relief from your conscience. However, if that is the reason behind the apology, that relief will not last for long. I found that by working through this process, my thinking had started to change. One of the benefits I received was a more honest approach to decisions and actions and I found that I could not act on this approach without a clean bill of health. I had to make good because I was genuinely sorry for what I had done. Look at your past errors and determine which ones you are honestly sorry about. Take time to think each one through and decide whether you feel the right way about them. If you do not, then an apology will be of little long-term use. If you are anything like me, you will probably find that the list divides into three. The first third (and they are not necessarily evenly matched portions) are errors for which you feel real remorse and about which you are prepared to make good. The second section has wrongs that you do not feel sorry about strongly enough to justify an apology. Then there is the last portion which usually comprises of wrongs for which, under any foreseeable circumstances, you will never go and apologise. Usually it’s because you still feel some level of ire or you might feel that the other person has misbehaved to a far greater degree than yourself. The easy first bunch are great. I thought that I would start on these and the others would follow. This happened with some of them but I had to look at the more stubborn ones. I had to come to terms with my part in the wrongs, not anybody else’s, and see that to go forward I must apologise. I then started to feel a lot more sorry! The goal here is not only to realise your wrongs but to genuinely feel sorry for them. Try as hard as you can to remove others’ actions from the feelings, try to look at only your part, try to work out why you refuse to feel sorry for some and try to find some compassion for others who may have been affected. There is enough good in all of us to achieve these things and therefore there is enough good to feel sorry for one’s own actions. If you want to realise your part, acknowledge your errors and develop yourself as a person to get your head back, the sorrow is likely to come. Nurture it for now. Some of this sorrow will not come immediately but there is plenty to be getting on with in the meantime. I t w ill impr ove Now you are in a super position. You have looked at your work history and not only realised but probably come to terms with why you did the things you have done. You also have looked at some of the more painful instances in your career where you misbehaved in some way, have learnt to acknowledge your part and are therefore
59 ready to go out and make good. Some of these, as I have mentioned, may not be ready for restitution yet but give them time while you move forward. It’s easy to get stuck on this process at almost any stage so it is important to work at moving forward. This is the only stage where you can put off some of the work until later, but only when you are honest about the motives for doing so! Now it befalls you to go out and make good, restore your conscience to a healthy condition and probably do more for your peace of mind than anything else up to this point. You wouldn’t be able to take the next step without all the work already completed so take a moment to give yourself a large pat on the back before turning the page and facing more challenges.
E xer cis es
The aim here is to define exactly where we might have harmed others and get ready to make good for those wrongs. Time for some writing! Make a list of ten habits that you would like to adopt in your workplace. Take your time to define these as they will come in useful later, either when you land your job or when you start to practise them. For example: 1. Run a project management programme on all tasks, prioritising time and effort to each section thereof 2. Answer emails within five minutes of reading them 3. Be early four days out of five (and on time for the fifth!) 4. Take evening classes to assist in promotional prospects 5. Write list of goals for the day each morning, for the week each Monday, for the month on the first 6. Dress for the rank above the one you hold 7. Put in your diary all the birthdays of your work colleagues 8. Save 5% of your salary for special treats every month 9. Look up ten possible new dream jobs every week 10. Write a plan for where you want to be in five years time in terms of work, home and love Keep the list safe and look at it at least once a week, in fact make looking at it a new habit! When you read the list, visualise each habit. Think about how you would look as you do it. Imagine your body language and the determination you would have to complete each task. Then act them out, one at a time. Make time, not excuses. This will help change your thinking rapidly, but will need to be maintained. We need a list of our wrongs so we can rectify them. Write down what you have done that may have harmed others in your work history and try to imagine how you would have felt had that same act been done to you, either personally or as a boss. For example: Act Cheated on my expenses Regularly late for work Badmouthed colleagues Missed deadlines Disloyal attitude Pos s ible r eaction Affronted, aggrieved Exasperated, desire to sack Insulted, upset, marginalised Frustrated, annoyed Excluded, distrustful
61 Whilst these are but five, they are fairly indicative of some of our most common wrongs. Really try to think how you would feel if you were on the receiving end and you may well see some patterns begin to emerge in your behaviour.
R ectify and R epeat
People to meet There is your list, you have admitted a lot about yourself, you possibly want to get out there and make good since you now have the desire. This is a time that can make or break this whole process. Don’t belittle the work you have already achieved – regard it as a solid foundation for the next stage. All those wrongs that you have come to terms with now need resolving. You have tried to get your mind round even some that you thought you would never feel sorry for, or at least sorry enough to apologise. I was champing at the bit to get out there and see these people because I thought that my previous actions were still acting as a block on my development. The freedom to have my mind back was being denied by a bunch of skeletons in my closet. I had managed to also understand that if I apologised just to make myself feel better then it would not work. That was a purely selfish act as the benefits to others would be lessened. Once I had reached a stage of really feeling sorry to the people that I had harmed, I was ready to go out and work on them. I had wanted to feel sorry because I knew that this was the next stage and I had to believe that it would help or else I might as well give up. All the remorse did not greet me with the sunrise one morning. It was a gradual process and one that still goes on. If I had waited for every wrong to be changed into a feeling of sorrow combined with an urge to make good, I would be suiting around until hell froze over. So I decided to at least feel sorry for a good number and set to work. Besides, I naively reasoned, I was on the best path and nothing would harm me now – right? Oops, there I went again, dangerously assuming stuff. After the previous chapter, there is probably a bunch of wrongs that you either always felt, or have more recently come to feel, bad about. This will almost definitely not be all-inclusive, and, if you think it is, then I suggest you go back and have another look since there are bound to be wrongs that you have yet to feel remorse about. Or, to be a little more honest, if you have a complete list now, you are a right jammy so and so since it took me a lot longer. Thr ow your s elf at their mer cy I was full of fire and wanted to go out and confess all my misdeeds. My humility knew no bounds! I saw myself as a pious monk on his lonesome path to redemption and was checking out the fashion magazines to see if sackcloth and ashes was still an outfit selling on the high street. I wanted to feel the pain of my sorrow and really throw myself at everyone’s mercy, knowing that I was a sinner of the first order and deserved my suffering.
63 Absolute baloney of course, since all I was really doing was trying to set myself up for a few falls at the first fences and then have justifiable excuses for giving up. I did, however, realise that I had to approach this in a constructive way, one that was obviously going to benefit me, but without the complication of hurting others and thereby giving me the same task again. I was not out to get my peace of mind at the expense of others so, for instance, it would not have benefited me to dredge up something from the mists of time and regurgitate somebody else’s pain. They may have forgotten the incident; wiped it off their mental and fiscal copybook and it might cause further harm if it was brought back up. This is not an excuse to avoid apologising… Pr ogr es s mus t be made s omehow You do want to make good and since most of the ills are specific how do you go about it? It is a long process and one that can hold you back. It is important that the majority of apologies are made before further work is done, otherwise there will not be the fulfilment from such a task. I wrote to some of those people I had harmed because they were out of the country. Those in the country I tried to get to see. I did not have to specify my wrongs, lest they were of a financial nature. I had to tell the person that I had wronged them in some way or other, knowing when I did so what my motives were and realising my part in the situation. Some are easy, because you can say that in such and such a year, in such and such a place, you did so and so. If it involves a financial recompense, then make that payment. I was surprised and annoyed by how much the financial wrongs weighed on my mind. I regarded taking the odd pen or bit of paper from work as bad as defrauding my expenses because it required no grading of dishonesty. I had to be realistic and therefore not turn up humbly on someone’s doorstep clutching a handful of Bic biros with a seriously contrite expression on my face. I had to be pragmatic. I knew that I had done wrong and therefore would take the opportunity to make good, should it arise. If you approach an individual or institution and are unable to pay off an outstanding debt at the time of apologising, then make best effort to come to an agreement that you will endeavour to clear yourself in as quick a time as possible. Some people will be appalled by what you may have done but debts are only about money. You might be quite surprised by how some people react. It may be nigh on impossible to approach a particular department or even company so there is always the equivalent charitable donation to make. Again, this is not an excuse for not approaching the relevant party! The main reasons I emphasise that this stage takes a long time and can hold you back is that I still have apologies to make. Fear has stopped me from approaching institutions and making good. I have, for instance, stolen money from one group that I
64 worked with and got away with it. However, I know about it and whenever I think of financial wrongs, I get a little wince of pain about it. I have become quite practised at quashing that particular wrong (even as I write about it now) but it is a matter that needs to be resolved. I have spoken to some people about it and it has proved tricky. Another one seems to thwart every attempt to make good. Yes, he lives on the other side of the world and yes, he works in a sector with which I am extremely unlikely to have any dealings, but, for some reason, I often come across people who know him and see him on a semi-regular basis. He knows I wronged him and this may be a resistance to all efforts to get in touch. It is not something that I will give up on but I have the rest of my life to lead at the same time and do believe that the right time will come. It still gnaws at m every time I think of it which doesn’t help either. In the early days I tried to forget it but it has raised its head relentlessly ever since. Ah well, no point losing much sleep over it, is there? That would be nice if these events hadn’t left such a long lasting impression on my conscience. I will have to work through them as they appear and if I push them, they may not appear. I have to make the effort, though. Some of these can be a right pain in the proverbial. For your own good, though, get out there and do them. Be prepared for the worse and then whatever happens should all seem better! There is, however, no simple way of getting these sort of apologies out of the way. Thr ee w ays to moving for w ar d I have mentioned the option of writing. Quite a few spare hours were spent poring over some writing paper, trying to get the right wording and ever conscious that I could look a right idiot (which I naturally didn’t want to do) and still achieve my aim. The letters were sent off First Class with much trepidation. Some of the recipients were people I hadn’t seen in years. I had explained that I was trying to make good for the wrongs I had done in my past and that I wanted to apologise for some of my actions. It would be lovely to say that I just sent them off and immediately felt better. Alas that was not the case with me and I have taken some time to actually let go of the guilt around some of the actions. One person replied with a lovely letter that had one sentence saying I had behaved in an odd fashion along the way. This was a four page letter, hand written with a lot of care. It was very kind of her to do this as it was definitely something I had not asked for. That’s not to say I didn’t want any feedback… Anyway, this letter was really kind but it was the phrases that highlighted my faults that I remember, not the other 95% of the letter that was rather special. The rest of the letters went unanswered and I have to question myself as to why I might still a little angst when I think of them. The odds of seeing these people are slim at the very least and, if I did, I know I could hold my head up high and realise that I
65 had kept my side of the street clean. I had to remember that the purpose of the exercise was not to seek or want forgiveness, merely to set my life in good order. I have, and I’m afraid to admit it but neither do you, no control over other people’s reactions or actions. The reactions caused by my letters were the responsibility of the recipients and if they chose to implement some level of legal proceedings for whatever reason, that is their choice. Needless to say, I have not been sent to jail nor even had a legal letter sent my way. I will say that there are still some apologies that could be made and they might still result in a criminal matter but that is not what I am afraid of. It’s my pride that I feel will be injured. This is despite the fact that when I have done it in the past, it has had positive results. Get the pen and paper out! These letters are not a prostration of yourself before the wronged, begging for forgiveness. They sometimes (but don’t use this as an excuse) do not have to mention the exact nature of your wrongs. Let’s not forget that some of the misdeeds that you did were not financial, maybe personal, and therefore it may be best to leave them unspecified. I once apologised just for not doing as good a job as I could have, knowing full well that I had neither cost the company money or time but aware that I was recruited to do a high standard of work and I tended to do the absolute bare minimum to keep my head above water. You will remember however that these letters were not the primary way I had of making good. That would be far too easy. No, it was a case of fronting myself up to the relevant parties and apologising face to face. This takes some level of dedication to the cause but I can assure you, it is not nearly half as difficult as you might think. The aim is to apologise, not specify or gain forgiveness. The point is to help yourself in the long run but also not to cause further harm to the other party so it would be pointless to apologise with a dredging up the apportioning of blame that you might have thought to be justifiable. If you still think of apportioning blame, then you are probably not sorry enough yet in this particular case and it may well be worth while shelving it until you can feel sorrow with your hand on your heart. You also should remember that the other party may have forgotten the specifics of your wrongs and therefore will only revisit the bad experiences if you specify. Talk about your side of the street, not theirs. The third way of dealing with this whole issue is to put it off. Not, alas I hear you say, because it doesn’t have to be done, but because it is unfeasible at the moment. This may be because the wronged are away and are returning or they might even not return your calls to set up an appointment. Take strength form the fact that these things tend to happen when the time is right. It is almost frightening how they can present themselves if you believe in the process. I have my mind in good order and I want yours to be in as good a state as well so see if this can help. As I have said (quite a few times!), it is important to feel the right feelings to do the apologies. Try and remember that it is you we are trying to take care of and we went
66 for a crusade of looking after all those we had wronged and all the repercussions that that would have, we would never get any time for ourselves, let alone any sleep. This is a selfish process and the results can often be quite palpable at this stage. The rewards I got from clearing up the debris in my work life have been noticeable. Of course, I expected them immediately and this was not to be the case for me. I personally think, for what it’s worth, that this is one of those typical quirks of fate. If I think about an outcome of one of my actions, I usually am wrong. This could mean that my life is full of surprises but that would make it far too much like fun. What tends to happen is that I dramatise events in my little head and then get worked up about what will happen. Therefore when I started making good for my wrongs I naively expected an immediate cornucopia of rewards, whether they were spiritual, mental or even just plain material. Basically, I wanted a killer job, with lots of the bells and whistles that modern society seems to regard as an indicator of someone’s worth. A little about my aims ( and how they w er e as kew ) I have always claimed that this book is about getting your head back into a decent state after being out of work has altered it. What I haven’t talked about is the form the results will take. This is because I don’t have a clue. I don’t know anything about you, only snippets about myself. If you think what I have to say can help then read on. Such were the depths of my negativity around work (which affected other areas of my life) that I really didn’t like what I thought I was or how I worked. I set out a plan for a totally different person, one who would be a naturally perfect worker and could achieve great things whilst drawing down a fantastic salary. Sounds great, doesn’t it? I have also talked of setting new habits to learn and I am still highly in favour of them. What I have learnt is that I am the same person but that person is nothing like what I had imagined. I realise now that I have always been on a voyage of self-discovery and the developments made as a result of being out of work have merely been part of that process. Therefore I have learned to temper my aims and watch the real results as they are infinitely more rewarding. I will eventually divulge where all this took me in terms of employment, because it certainly has to be at the back of most people’s mind, that desire to get back into work with a salary and all the other ups and downs. The mind tends to also play terrible tricks throughout this sort of process. Mine has a terrible habit of magnifying downs so that things always seem worse than they really are. I then get tied up in knots thinking worse thoughts, usually about myself and this certainly doesn’t help. There has to be a way to break the cycle but I haven’t found a clear answer. The only effective technique (and, being one with a naturally negative outlook, I am not 100% happy with it yet) I have found is to catch myself when it starts. I have to base my advice to myself on experience. I have done some pretty fun things, as I am sure we all have. Most of us have been faced with some pretty major challenges, whether at work or at home, and we have got through them. The
67 experiences may have taught us to only act differently should they arise again, but that is a start. When the negativity starts, I can now recognise it and I have to tell myself to stop. Sometimes it’s really that simple, sometimes it’s not. When it’s not, it’s usually for a number of reasons, but they tend to merely be me being negative. I can wallow in the negativity because it is, after all, familiar and therefore attractive. However, I now know that I have both the power to get into and out of these negative mindsets. It was Abraham Lincoln who said we were as happy as we made up our minds to be. I mentioned before that I didn’t exactly get an epiphany of wellness at this stage. All things have been rather gradual with me, which tends to annoy me because I generally want all the benefits yesterday. However, if that’s the way it is, then that’s the way I have to accept it. Therefore although I didn’t wake up feeling wonderful, this stage of the process has had palpable rewards. It has helped me to slough off the old niggles and worries about past behaviour and realise that these concerns are only dispersed when I have done the appropriate level of work. My head can still play awful tricks about work and what it may hold, how bad I am and whether I am in the right place. Without having done all the work we have talked about, I wouldn’t be able to turn round and stop the negative thoughts. I am lucky insofar as I have made it to this stage but the work was quite hard. I would love to pontificate and say that the whole process was a relative walk in the park, but I would be lying. It has taken time, effort and a lot of stops before I got to this part. Reap the r ew ar ds It was not immediately after this that things started to work out, but they did. I had been mulching around trying to find work in various areas and there was an air of desperation to my searching, combined with an ever increasing array of debts. It had to change and it did by chance one evening during a chat with a friend who rang up out of the blue to see how I was. He had, in my mind, gone backward in his choice of work, but this was an ill informed view. Having a similar background, he suggested that I give this field of work a try and, if it didn’t work out, then at least I would know a little bit more about some of the opportunities out there. I followed his advice (it’s funny how doing all this work made me realise how rarely it was I who had the answers) and made a few calls. I was offered a role within a week! Unfortunately that fell through but it planted a seed of hope. I chased up this sector, knowing that where there was one role, there must be more and, lo and behold, I was offered a similar job to the first fairly swiftly. Within two months of getting the call out of the blue from my mate I started a job in a new sector with good pay. I was placed in a position of responsibility and there were good chances of moving up. This sector was enjoying a huge growth spurt and were recruiting madly as well so I knew I could find other work if this job didn’t work out.
68 I had to journey some distance and make a bit of an upheaval in my life to start this role but I was prepared, possibly desperate, to do what it took to have a job. I was afraid of my mind set when I arrived and it was a nervous few days as I discovered there was so much to learn and take care of. The person I had taken over from was so annoyed with his handling by the company that he left without a thorough brief of what I was to do and I was expected to fend largely for myself. I was ill prepared and nervous of my chances. I also had a lot of regard for my fellow workers, as they were a close-knit team who had built a difficult project from the ground up. I was very much the new kid on the block with a lot to prove. What amazed me this time was that I was not as nervous as I had been in other jobs. I was a lot happier with what was going on and how the role developed. It was an intensely high pressure environment and things started collapsing around us. Through luck and a bit of work on my part, I was promoted to head up the team within a month and had to do some political hotfooting to stay in control and salve bruised egos. As it was a contract role, I knew it would come to an end sooner or later and I would have to find new contracts. That was not a concern because the industry is very much built on experience and, when you have the experience, future roles are easier to get. It can look a bit like a Catch 22 at the start but I wasn’t about to let this dissuade me from seeing whether I could see it through. I was offered another role immediately on the strength of this one but had some time off in the meantime. This was when I wondered whether I was doing the right thing. Funny how it’s always my head, and nobody else’s which gets me into potential trouble. A very good friend pointed out that there weren’t many people in the world who had found work that paid well, they were good at and they enjoyed. Fair point, I thought. The fourth contract is now being serviced and the prospects are incredibly positive. I have worked hard and committed myself to providing some good work for the clients. I have met some fascinating people and seen some beautiful sights. I am very lucky. The only reason I realise that is because I did the work in this book. I would hate to think how negative my outlook could be if I had, by some twist of fate, landed a similar role to the one from which I was sacked. I may be still tying myself in knots. I really don’t think that when I was interviewed I would have given the right impression if I hadn’t embarked on such a path of self-discovery. There have been great situations that I have had in the work environment whose pleasure and beauty have just passed me by. As you have no doubt found about yourself, a lot of this work uncovers some deep seated issues that will need resolving before your head is in a fine enough state to look at the work place in a new light. There are always going to be worries – that’s just life. The concern is how you look at them. It should feel like new pair of glasses having their effect on your outlook now. Don’t kill yourself if there isn’t. I had done this work a long time before I got the new job and was able to enjoy it thoroughly.
69 It’s not all about the job. I said at the beginning that this was not designed to get you a new job, merely to set your mind up to be able to both tackle the job hunt effectively and present the right front when you went for new roles. There has been a lot of work discussed in this book but it doesn’t have to take a long time. Therefore the results can be achieved quickly, I believe. This is where I fell down. I took my time, for all the reasons and excuses I have highlighted already. As a result, I do firmly think, it took longer for that role to appear. That’s not to say that my head wasn’t getting sorted prior to work – as we have already seen, the state of one’s mind is not directly related to whether you are in employment or not. It was just that getting sorted was taking longer because I had taken longer to do the work. I am also not saying rush in and blast your way through this process – it will take some time and if you try to rush it there will be missed areas and the results will be forced. Today’s society seems to expect results almost yesterday, with the instant fix solution, and I don’t see how the healing process, for that is what it is, can be speeded up. Enjoy the work and do it thoroughly and there is no reason why the results won’t be forthcoming. Don’t do as I did and procrastinate, do as I say and get on with it! So w hat do you do? I have studiously avoided describing exactly what I do because it is most definitely not a normal role. I spent a few years in the army when I left university because I thought that was where the fun in life was to be had. There were plenty of opportunities to have fun and some of them I was given but my outlook was not always positive. The fact is, there were better men and women than me who were more patient and so worked their way up the ladder. My hat goes off to them, because it was never something that I wanted to do for a long time, just a few years while I was still young. After leaving I worked in the West Indies as a barely glorified handyman, looking after boats and some properties. It was lovely to get a killer tan and not worry about a career since there was one level in my job and I had reached it. I knew it was not forever and so took a Master’s degree and then worked in sports marketing for a while. I certainly enjoyed a modicum of success, only just outweighed by some of the failures! I learnt a lot and tried to keep on applying the experience. Market forces were not the only reason but a rapidly shrinking sector combined with a relatively barren address book meant that I was to start three years of struggle to find a great job. Don’t be mistaken that the whole time was spent in purdah – I set up websites (and that sector crashed!), I led an expedition into the Central American jungle for a couple of months (not a great money machine, but fantastic fun) and worked as the marketing manager for a small publishing house which ended where this book starts. All through that time I picked up experiences whose value I didn’t realise.. Some were positive, others were definitely not, but when I embarked upon the process laid out
70 here, I was able to recall them in order to help push the whole thing along. This whole process took me a lot longer than I would wish for you so push on! The final stages of this book are all about looking forward. I am a firm believer not so much in shutting the door on the past as putting a strong, double-glazed window on it. Something you can see, but not go, through. Then it should all be laid out as a series of lessons and the troubles in your work history should be cleared up by now. They might not be. There may still be niggles that persist and take a long time to clear up. There may have been wrongs which you have addressed in the appropriate manner and still linger to vex. I have always said that this takes a long time and the last stage, the actual making right of the wrong, can go on and on. That is usually because more and more comes to light. Now, I am not advocating slogging repeatedly back to your old employers and promising them that this is honestly the last time, only to reappear soon after as more filters its way into your consciousness. The aim now is to live your work life on an even keel and not place yourself in a position where your head takes off down the dodgy road to negativity and confusion. I am still working in odd places round the world (these sentences are written in the foothills of the Himalayas) but my head is all right. I don’t have that much to worry about with regards how my head feels about work. Due to completing this process the first time, I have learned to evaluate decisions far better and get to know myself far better as well. I will never be the Chief Executive Officer of a large corporation, probably because I realise I am a long way from being the political animal required to survive in such an environment. I doubt whether I will be a primary school teacher in rural England either – I just don’t have the patience for that sort of thing. I know I will constantly seek challenges and variety, including working with as many different people as possible. Just working this process have armed me to choose my roles carefully and approach them in the right way, as well as lay out some areas to learn. This could be the same for you because I have learned stacks, a learning process that I carry on.
I t’s Not Jus t F or Y ou
Remember the pr oces s and do it again Having completed the bulk of the process, the results will start to filter through. They may already have their effects felt. Either way, there is the need to keep up the work in order that you don’t retreat into the negative mind set again. I believe it’s what the mechanics would refer to as ‘basic maintenance’. Check the oil, water and tyres helps guarantee your car so taking care of yourself, constantly refining the process and then helping others to find the same level of peace will ensure that your state of mind improves constantly. I think you’ll find, as I did as I started working through this whole process, that it is very much a steep learning curve. There is the honest approach that you may have avoided in the past, there is the physical recording of your actions and then there is the actual repair of the wrongs that you may have done. It may seem like a bit of a blur now but I will wager that there were difficult moments – it’s only natural. I regard it now as having learnt a basic skill. A skill is not something that you are born with, like a talent, but something that is developed through practice. Jonny Wilkinson did not become the greatest fly half of his generation (no prizes for guessing when I wrote this passage – England have just won the cup) but he gained his skills through constant, repetitive practice. Sometimes sounds boring, doesn’t it? However, I don’t want to become the best in the world at this, adored by millions or even competing with others, I just want to do it well enough to take care of little old me. To continue the sporting analogy, I used to play tennis regularly. I never was going to win Wimbledon and I had played people who made me look like a part time amateur. Which is what I was. But I played often and had a consistent game. I stopped playing due to travelling and time constraints and now pick up a racquet far less often than I would like. When I do, my game is atrocious. I go for the same shots I could achieve with months of practice behind me and they just will not happen out of the blue. I know I need to play more often if I can hope to even play to half the standard I used to. Therefore we must all practice, not only to improve, but also to maintain a basic level of skill. By constantly going through the process we have talked about in this book, we are bound to improve. It’s only natural, but I don’t want to get stale or bored from doing the work. So there needs to be some level of variety in this stage. I do not sit down every day and put pen to paper. I do mentally review my day and work out what I may have done that will affect my mind. Unfortunately, the side effects of having practiced this process for a while is that if I don’t address certain concerns, they haunt me through the night and I either have little sleep or the kind of night where you wake up more tired than when you went to bed.
72 This review can literally stem from having a niggle that I may have erred slightly in the day. I am not advocating being a saint and doing nothing but the purest of actions, more that you will be able to recognise where some actions might take you. The motives tend to be the key, if you remember. I do feel uneasy about wrongs or situations with which I am not entirely happy. I always have. I used to suppress these feelings but now I can have a dig around in my head and sometimes come up with answer. N ot totally s olitar y We took a bold step by telling somebody else of our misdeeds. There are those people out there also who can help me find the answers. I don’t always see the truth, or deliberately shy away from it. I have a couple of plain speaking buddies, who now know me very well, who tell me like it is. As a result, I generally have a fair idea of where my motives lie and I know whether they are flawed. You may have developed relationships like this in the past or during the process (that is, after all, what friends are for) so go and have a chat to them. It’s usually rather annoying when the plain truth is laid out before me by them. It is so obvious that I also feel a bit of an idiot and that makes me angry at myself as well. It is a self-defeating circle that I get into and only recognise because of this work. That being said, the obvious has to be dealt with as well, not just my reaction to it. Therefore I have to either make good my wrongs or acknowledge my part with a view to finding some level of contentment with my actions. By repeating the process over and over again, it usually helps. This is not to say that I write it all down and go through what is, after all, a fairly labour intensive process. It is more to say that the training given me in doing this the first time round has taught me a staged process to go through that can be often done without any actual writing down. I have often reached some conclusions on my motorbike. It worries me senseless sometimes that I can nip around town at fairly serious speeds and not remember a single thing about the journey because I have been thinking so hard. I do half expect the light thud of a summons on my doormat shortly after, requesting my presence in court to answer charges of some traffic misdemeanour I allegedly committed. I have found that practice does not make perfect, more like it improves the process. Each time I really apply myself to the process I both learn and accept more about myself. Ther e’s the r ub I once heard tell of a fellow who said, in his late fifties, that he had finally found that person with whom he wanted to spend the rest of his life. And that person was him. I have learned to accept more and more about myself than I ever was able to do before. It is my skin and I am comfortable within it. The eternal search is far from over, but boy, this process took care of some major foundation blocks.
73 Allowing that each and every one of us is different, I can only offer a series of suggestions laid out in the exercise sections of the chapters. They are good practice, but are only basic and will need reefing to your own needs. With a review process, some do it daily, others weekly, some monthly and I have heard of some who set a date in their diary every year for doing it. I am far from being that disciplined. Whenever seems to be my credo. And that whenever is oft when it just suits me and I want something from the process. I am an undeniably selfish person and behave accordingly. Commitment to work in the long term has never been a strength of mine but I do have an enormous quota of adaptability – you need it in the work I have to do! If you are one of those marvellously self-disciplined souls who can set out a specific date and time for such a process, then hats off to you. I have found that just trying to look at things when they are going very well also has its benefits. We are here to get our heads in a fine old state so that we can take on the world and enjoy it. Therefore when the good times are there, and they happen more and more now, take heed of the symptoms. If you enjoy getting up the majority of the time and have a thrill going to work some of the time, then I would say you are doing very well thank you. If you actually enjoy your day to day work, then you are now in a minority. If you are happy about your head with regard to work and are doing the nine to five to achieve other things, like save up for that rare Gibson Les Paul guitar, then good for you. These are all great signs. Write them down. Try and look at the old motives for these and where your head was when you made the decisions that have resulted in your current position. Relish them and remember them. They are lessons that can be used in the future. Ster eotypes One of the most annoying traits of modern society is the way we get pigeonholed by our roles. Similar people do similar jobs, especially when they are vocational. I never regarded the army as a vocation but there are elements to the mind set that I constantly come across when I bump into serving or ex-members of that august organisation. One of those traits that I frankly laugh at is deeply homophobic. It’s still illegal in the army to be gay (how can they stop the way you are?) and if there is even a sniff of that behaviour, then vilification soon follows. I left and did my own thing, which resulted in me living in San Francisco and actually following a far healthier lifestyle, which included no drinking. I went from being your average beer swiller into a far thinner fellow who like his fruit smoothies and some of the nicer things in life. I must be gay. If only I’d known. I went to a party with a whole lot of ex-army hoods and one of them sidled up to verify some rumour that he had heard. I laughed it off and asked a few other people I knew who still had friends either in or recently left. They, too, had heard that I was gay.
74 Even my sister! It made me laugh quite hard because I was happy with what I am and therefore couldn’t be bothered with any gossip. So now, whenever I bump into any of the old crew, I flirt like a raging queen. It unsettles them but I have no worries. I also flirt with gay men, not because I want to sleep with them, but because it’s just harmless fun and I never feel threatened because I know I never will have to sleep with them. To get to this lack of concern, I had to look at the issue of why other people bothered me and how they behaved. As usual, the fault lay with myself, not them, and so I was able to come to terms with my motives and clear them up. What has that to do with work? Again I work with a lot of guys who are, essentially, homophobic. I have to look at my motives for why I talk to them the way I do about this very issue. Am I going for a quick laugh at their expense? Or am I trying to pass on what I have learnt? Who am I to judge whether I can teach anything? So I try and shut up. This is an example of just one of the pitfalls that we can get into. The workplace is a funny old set up where we have to interact and achieve things with people with whom we would otherwise not congregate. Therefore the relationships within the workplace can often make or break that organisation. If we keep our side of the street clean, then the fault will not lie with us. We might end up redundant, but acting properly will ensure our heads are in a far stronger position from which to act. The cor e is s ue I never set out to make this a spiritual quest, it just has turned out that way. When I was growing up, the whole concept of God was frightening. Old bloke on the cloud with a long white beard and usually looking disapproving, right? Just the sort of muck that was rammed down our throats when we were younger because it had worked on other generations but we no longer learnt by frightening us. People moved away from this area in droves. Put it this way, everyone I was at primary school with went to Sunday school run by the church. If I went to church now, I would be rather surprised to see people with an average age less than my parents. There are exceptions (the Alpha course seems to have done well) but people look elsewhere for their salvation. I was no different until I started working along the lines laid out in this book. I have mentioned in Chapter Two some of the arguments for and against such an issue. I can tell you I believe that there is something out there. It keeps me going. I do choose to call it God because it is three letters long, easy to say, can cause consternation when mentioned in polite conversation and can be defined as how I feel comfortable. I have an evolving impression of this higher power, one that becomes more elusive the more I look at it. It also frees me enormously to accept this force and just get on with life. I am sure you will have seen some guru or gleaming gospel with the light of ten thousand hearts shining from the pits of their eyes. Gives me the jitters, but they are
75 happy. This is not what I aspire to, nor can I thankfully see it happening in the near future. I do accept those and others far more easily nowadays and can get on with people I work with far more easily. I tend to look for their strengths more readily, and I can usually do it without feeling comparatively inadequate! So if we can get on with others, forge relationships with strangers as well as rebuild ones with those to whom we are close, then this is a tangible success. I have been given this as a result of the work I have done. It’s really as simple as that. I have struggled for years to find equilibrium in my mind over work matters (and others, besides) and have tried all kinds of techniques. Just by doing this work and turning over the results to something else, this concept of a power greater than little old me, has helped enormously. This has not meant that I have absolved myself of all responsibility, more that I have taken a firm decision to accept that if I do certain things then the results will happen that are best for me. That is why I am rather content with where I am in my career, and also where it’s going. I ns pir ation One of the benefits has been that the crazy worry tapes have slowed down in my head. I can still work myself (because nobody else does it, after all) into a state but generally things are quieter upstairs. I cannot emphasise enough how important or wonderful this is. It means that I can often think a lot more clearly about work issues, worry less about their outcome and repair them when there are errors. The change from how it was is incredible. I could waste ages, whether it was in the bath, in bed, on the way to work, at work, everywhere, with these non-productive thoughts whirring round my head, driving me away from achieving anything practical. I now look through that strong, double glazed window and am extremely grateful for the difference. Again, this is not something that I try to do on my own. I often ask others, as I have mentioned, but I used a second technique as well. Meditation has been practiced throughout the world for centuries as a means to achieve various goals. I have two – self-discipline and peace of mind. I need the first because I can be wayward and realise that I need to practice in areas other than fitness. The peace of mind I can achieve is wonderful yet, at the same time, indefinable: it just seems right. This is not a book on mediation. I would never presume to teach such an art since I am an utter novice. I have read a few books on the subject and practiced some of their techniques. They range from the very simple to quite complicated routines. I use what feels best for me and quite often, it is just sitting there letting my mind wander. Some of the authors have said that this should only be done with lots of experience, but I just do it because it feels right. I can get the occasional insight, or matters that have been worrying me can fall into place. Quite often my mind hones in on a particular subject and I lose the freedom of the meditation.
There are no real rules, I just always try and set an aim for whatever I do because it gives me something to strive. I suggest you don’t set your aims too high when you try and meditate (I really do recommend it) so you can achieve them. Floating down the high street with a glow like a Ready-brek kid probably won’t be achieved in the first week. Then again, I am not in charge and someone else may have plans for you… What w or ks for me I started mediating about two years ago when I was staying over at a friend’s house. The two aren’t related, I merely had been putting it off for a while. I had read a few chapters by then and one of the techniques seemed easy enough. We had been out on a bit of a bender and no-one was stirring the next morning. As usual, I woke early and was faced with the prospect of lying in bed, getting up to get the papers with all that entailed or maybe trying to meditate. Of course, I reviewed my options thoroughly and thought quite hard about reading the nearest book to hand. Since it was a biography of some really famous movie star, I didn’t want to get embroiled in a somewhat fruitless comparison exercise. So I started to meditate. I closed my eyes and tried to empty my mind. Not in the least bit easy, I can assure you. I concentrated on my breathing and nothing else. I tried to ignore any thoughts that came into my mind. If I caught myself thinking about something because usually a thought would spring in and I would chase it like an unravelling jumper, I had to drop that thought. Often I found myself really thinking about some issue and then I would realise that I had wasted a long time on that subject. I did this for fifteen minutes and then my alarm went off and I stopped. I certainly didn’t feel some higher level of understanding or believed that I was on another plane. I just was quite happy that I had stuck it out and that I could maybe see myself doing it again. I waited a while (probably a couple of weeks, I cannot remember) and then did it again. This time I got very antsy and wanted to stop far earlier. I got out some of the books and looked at their suggestions. Some talked of concentrating on one thing to help empty your mind. One spoke of using your thumbnail as a focal point, others mentioned candles. I tried the thumbnail on the underground and did feel a bit of an idiot but it was good to try and shut out all the bustle of a crowded tube train. I had heard that the epitome of a Zen master was one who could take ten breaths without thinking of anything. Just ten, I thought – pah! Of course, to this day I am not even close, but it’s fun trying. I usually set my timer on my watch for five minutes, sit back and go for it with eyes closed and trying to concentrate on my breathing. I am not totally convinced that it serves me any great way with regard to understanding my work better but, if I practice it, I do tend to feel more relaxed about life, and that’s no bad thing.
77 Getting the answers to what is right is not something that I am even close to yet. I just have to believe that I am on the right course. One example is that I can call friends from wherever I am in the world and they tell me that I sound happy. For someone who can’t remember this in my life, this is fantastic. So what if that’s all I have got? It’s more than some, the same as others and a great foundation to really strive for the golden goose of who knows what. Still the s ame per s on Under all this new feeling I am still the same person who embarked on this voyage of self discovery. I have mentioned time and time again that I don’t claim to have done this on my own, whether it’s through the help of friends or the good old God factor. I just know that if I keep going at it, I get stronger. Being calm to still my head and meditate on my life, whether it’s work or some other issue, also helps give me the evidence to repeat the practice. I do not claim to do it every day, week or month, but I do go through spurts. At the moment, life is great, so I generally am happy to ride the good times. When it sinks a while I do tend to beat my chest a bit but my memories soon make their way to the surface and I start the process all over again, in whatever detail I deem necessary. I get the strength from practice, pride and belief. I practice to refine what I know and will know. I have the pride to prevent me from failing and it’s not always a bad feeling to have. The belief is rooted in my own fallibility and I don’t know why I have been given the benefits of being introduced to this work. The book Practice and maintenance can improve what I do and I don’t see why the same can’t apply to you. It would be wrong to sit back and keep all this to myself, not because I have some powerful message but if I just help one person, that will make my year. There is a certain misery to having a skull in bad order when you are out of work (you are a pariah after a while, which cannot help) but there is a way out of it. This is not a claim to have all if any of the answers. I just want to open someone’s eyes to a version of work that may help themselves. If, at the very least, just trying to do something helps their situation change, then there is some level of success. If you can do this work, refine it to your own situation and then pass it on, I think there will be greater benefits. This book has taken far too long to write. I have used all kinds of tricks on myself to get it finished, but I am a procrastinator of the finest order. Bite sized chunks has proved to be the key to getting it done, Believe it or not, there are some out there who have wanted to read what I have to say right from the start. They will be the first to read it. In fact, someone reviewed the first chapter just so I could get some feedback on the style. They liked it, for whatever reason they cited.
Will it help them? Who am I to judge? If it gives them a few moments of hope, peace, emotion or just plain distraction from the messed up state of their head, then what a privilege. When you have got to this stage, I hope your friends have noticed a change. There will be, whatever they might think. You will be stronger; if not, do it again. If your friends don’t mention anything, just tell them. Tell others. You will be surprised who may need some of the lessons I had to learn, have tried to pass on which you have now refined and personalised. Make a network of others to assist in their struggle. If you can’t find someone to help, be patient. Don’t waste time on those who don’t want to hear, just be grateful if anyone wants to talk. Just offering a friendly ear can mean stacks to some. Not telling someone how to live their life, just how you have lived yours, puts no pressure on them so what’s there to lose? The courage you will have shown by getting this far will give you the right strength to pass on whatever lessons you may have learnt. I have been asked for copies by family and friends of people who are out of work, even by someone who is about to retire after thirty years in one career and will start out on his own. He obviously believes that forearmed is forewarned. I don’t even have to say a lot about it, just that being out of work is truly miserable and messes up your head (we all know about that) and that this book is about getting a grip on the sanity or even preventing it before it happens. I know who to trust and who to talk to now. I am amazed by so called friends who had little time for me in times of trouble and those who stuck by me. I don’t bear grudges, I just hope I can support someone if they came to me for help. I can get on with people I work with far better and do a better job as a result. I can learn new things and apply them. I seek out good examples and copy them. I read books on work and thought processes so I can try and apply them. I talk to people. I would not have the job I do today or feel the way I do in my head about work if I had never done this work. Tell others. Society and us If you find telling others difficult, I can totally appreciate it. Having grown up in British life we are trained to adopt the so-called stiff upper lip and be perfectly nice to others. Thankfully, that is changing rapidly and people are much happier being themselves rather than putting up a front to impress others. Recently I was invited to what is, basically, a week long social event. I wanted to go for one aspect and realised that there was a lot more to the whole show than I had either realised or wanted. I had to look at my motives for the whole thing, found they were skewed and therefore had only myself to blame for not enjoying it. I spoke to a few people about the concept for this book and they liked the idea but I would have been surprised if they would read it. I also noticed that I felt embarrassed by the book.
If this book embarrassed me, how could I talk to others, let alone publish the ideas within and hopefully help others? I set out to write this book to both help me and maybe others. I knew if I could put down on paper what I had done (when I started, it was still ongoing), then it would provide a framework for myself. I could remember areas that I might have missed, reaffirm my belief in the process and possibly refine it somewhat. Then I could get to the final stage and pass it on to others. Of course, as an idea, it was lovely to me. Then I set out to write it and it has taken a long time. The end is near but it is, after all, work and I have looked at why I have faltered in the writing, and when those various stages have been. I had to work out a way of achieving it that suited me and it simply boiled down to writing a little every day. It soon added up. Some writers work all morning and then take a break and then attack again in the afternoon. I am not that kind of person. I enjoy my work and I have enjoyed writing this book. It has hung over me for ages. One of the ways I used to encourage myself was to tell others that it was the offing. Some have remembered and have reminded me that they want to hear about it. Pride has pushed me along. Not always the greatest or healthiest incentive to action, but it has worked for me at this stage of my life. If I have chosen to do something like bare my soul in a book like this, why should I worry whether people who I don’t particularly like find it interesting? Really annoying how these things take hold. The cycle I still try and do this process even though I am in a great place, both in terms of work and my mind. It helps to keep me in line with what will help and, probably more importantly, what will not hurt. I found that my problems lay with my motives so there is always a big red light flashing at the back of my head to analyse that aspect of my actions. This may not be the case for you. It may be just a fear of making relationships with the right people, fear of not getting a job, thinking that if others have work so should you. In fact, all sorts of things can come to bear on your peace of mind when unemployed. These influences also have an effect in work. It is both a benefit and I think a downside of modern life that so much time is given to personal reactions. I think it is marvellous how therapy and help can assist people through their bad times. I also think that time can be wasted because life is not a bed a roses and therefore has to be got through. Work is but one aspect of life but so much importance is placed on it these days that the pressure is on almost before the first set of exams are taken at school. Some days I leap out of bed ready to work and looking forward to it. Others I can hardly drag myself to the bathroom, let alone out of the front door. That is just me and nothing to do with the job. I understand now that repeating the process can usually
80 help me work out why the mindset is where it is and therefore what I can hopefully do about it. I don’t work through the issue and suddenly come out with a broad smile on my face – I merely find out where my faults lie and try to rectify them. It really worked for me and, if it works for you as I hope it will, there are others out there who you can help with your experiences
T he E nd of the B eginning
Well done – now r eap it This has not been a walk in the park, by any means. It’s time for another of those jolly old pats on the back. You have made it through a testing process, discovered all sorts of stuff that was either hidden or you didn’t want to admit to, and have repaired a lot of your work history’s damage. Hats off, I say. You are no doubt aware that I am far from being perfect, so it is usually at times like this I take a walk down the street and find a crowded place, like a supermarket, and surreptitiously take a look round me. I have spent many hours (shopping, that’s all) in these new mini-markets that are springing up around our urban centres. They are great and you are prepared to pay that extra for all the essentials because you either don’t have the transport to get to the bigger, cheaper outlets or you are just plain exhausted after a day at work. One of the things I have noticed is that there is always the same sort of expression on people’s faces in these places – one of resignation that they are where they are when in fact they would rather be somewhere else. I have found, by doing this sort of process, that I am usually far more comfortable where I am and that I take quite a lot of pleasure in the day-to-day trivialities like shopping for milk and bread. Here’s where my faults come in, though. I look at the others and wonder if they have found any way to get a level head or that they feel they are sinking under the pressures of the modern world and don’t have a clue how to break the cycle. The majority of them probably do not have what you have from doing this process. I would love to lie and say that I don’t gloat, but I think you know the truth on that one. I do however recognise the gloat for what it is and try and ring fence it so it doesn’t affect any others. If an opportunity arose to help someone else, I hope and pray that I would take it. Wor k w ill impr ove This book is merely aimed at getting the old head back on track due to work troubles. I can assure you, I have concentrated on that aspect of your life because that’s where I learnt so much. Maybe it was the pressure of not having that friendly cheque landing in my account at the end of each month focussed my head, but I certainly benefited from doing all this. The job you are in will feel a lot better. Searching for that other job will feel a lot better. Getting that dream role will feel like paradise. This will not be an overnight switch but I warrant you are feeling the benefits already. A half-hearted attempt will have given you half-hearted results and you know how much effort you put into it. The more you put in, the taller you will be walking. It’s not some amorphous notion of
82 nirvana, more a solid base with your feet firmly on the ground and your head tuned to act right. Sour ce mater ials I have mentioned that there is no such thing as an original thought, or at least that’s what I think. The ideas within this book are not original. They are based upon the twelve steps that have been adopted by any number of recovery programmes since the originators of Alcoholics Anonymous put them together. The history of their evolution is interesting in itself. They are a combination of experience and long established teachings of the monotheistic religions. Throughout time, we have realised that things aren’t always as good as they might be, that there might be a gap in the soul that needs filling. Some people accept that we can never be perfect and so get on with life. Others feel a desire to mend that flaw, whatever it may be. I think accepting your faults for what they are is a sensible approach, but I also believe that you can work towards improving who you are. This process is all about improving yourself, using the mind malaise caused by work as the focus. The process that has been outlined is the same as the teachings of Jesus, Mohammed or Buddha. Stage one is to realise that things aren’t as good as they might be, Stage two is take stock and seek help. Stage three is to make good for that which you can and the final stage is to get out there and help others. Fairly simple at the very least, but if it were complicated, then more people would have stumbled. I say again that this is not a holy joe clarion call to recruit – I merely have realised that I am but a single soul on this vast earth and there is some hefty wisdom out there that has been learned through generations. When the foot and mouth disease struck recently, it wiped out herds that had been built up over decades if not longer. One of the facts that emerged was that these animals had instinctive reactions to situations that had been bred into them from their forebears. Look at any animal in the wild – it often knows how to react when it’s born without long tuition sessions from its parents. I remembered being flabbergasted when I came home one day to find all the apples in the fruit bowl eaten by our new puppies. They had then taken eggs off the rack and eaten them to counter the acidic effect of the fruit! I only wish house training them was so simple. We have instinctual reactions to various occasions that are inbred, others which are learnt. The search for fulfilment is not a new desire in the twenty first century, it’s affected millions throughout the ages. Whether you are on a personal quest to make yourself into something that you think is whole or you have just used this book for the work aspect and the rest of the quest literature has left you cold, then you are not alone in seeking improvement. We all have areas in our lives that can be improved and life is often about working to improve.
83 Looking back at my childhood and watching children behave, I am constantly amazed how cruel we can be. Merciless in the desire not to stand out. I was not the nicest of children to my fellow schoolchildren purely because I was afraid. I had to find out what had caused that fear and get through it. It took a long time to face up to that issue and it was very similar to the work in this book insofar that it didn’t become possible until I was ready. You may not have made it this far in the book on your first attempt, you may have skipped all the text and just tried the exercises, you may well have just decided to read the introduction and the closing remarks. It doesn’t really matter because if you want something badly enough, you will go for it. Pas s ion Something I have found from this whole process is the passion and dedication I can bring to my work now. I don’t get fired up and dance around like a gushing luvvie – that’s not how I get passionate. I just get stuck in and don’t let go. I love it and the hours fly by, the days add up and I’ve made it to the end of another project and I am looking forward to the next. Not everyday is like this. I had to learn to capture the passion. There is a lot of talk today about positive mental attitude, affirmations and self-belief. I think this process will have certainly helped you believe in yourself, the affirmations can be made each time you go through the stages and the positive mental attitude just seems to arrive. Think about those positive moments for a while. Imagine the feelings that literally course through your system when everything is going great guns and you are on top of your game. Think of how tall you feel, how good you look and just what it is that you couldn’t accomplish at this time. The world is yours and you are ready to take it. I have heard inspirational speakers say the best thing to do is now to associate this with a physical act, the most common of which seems to be squeezing your forefinger and thumb together. They also talk about repeating this exercise for two to three weeks every day. Try it – it worked for me and I still try and do it. This helps me capture the passion in one simple physical act because when I want to feel that surge of confidence and drive all I have to do is squeeze my forefinger and thumb together and I start to feel immediately better. This is not a short cut to feeling better, just a way of capturing a special feeling in order to use it to your advantage. I now am happy with myself at work and confident that if I was to find myself out of work again (God forbid it ever get like the last time, but I do firmly believe it can’t now I am armed with this process) I know that my mind will be so sorted that I will sail right through the bad patch and get stuck into a new role fairly swiftly. I now work in an area that is based on contracts – there are very few long-term roles due to the fluidity of the clients’ requirements. Not that I believe there are many long term jobs anywhere anymore – it seems far too easy to get rid of staff very quickly these days and you are only as good as your last result. So I am only in work as long as the
84 contract lasts. Due to their nature, it is nigh on impossible to interview for new contracts while the present one is one, so I know each one will end with a period of unemployment. Some of it is a relief as I generally need the rest more than I am prepared to admit but it also exists as a constant reminder of what might easily happen. I pick up the job sections in the papers and I get the opposite of the reaction I get to squeezing the forefinger and thumb together because I associate a long period of trawling through the advertisements, applying and then getting rejected which just drove me into a greater depression. Now is very different. I am much more confident and I feel you are too. You may well be in such in a frame of confidence that you only want the good news so here goes. Bonus time Coming out of a long period of unemployment and all that being in that state entails, left me with some considerable debts to pay. I used to watch every penny like a hawk and it has come as little surprise to me that one of the things that has given me the greatest pleasure in the first few months was not only paying off large chunks of my debts but also having money to spend on myself. Let’s get material for a second. I was able to buy all the toys I had lusted after for quite some time as well as get some rather nice clothes. I am looking to buy my first property and need to seek financial advice to take care of my spare cash. The materialism of the twenty first century no longer fills me with fear. At the same time, I can go to a greasy spoon and eat some good old-fashioned fry up for next to nothing and love it. I have financial freedom beyond what I imagined and that’s not because I have made an absolute fortune since starting work. I haven’t. The fact is, I feel so much better about myself and work that I know I can go out and get more and keep stashing some away for another rainy day. Previously, I thought the dread of staying penniless would never end. February 1st – I was on unemployment benefit, wearing two jumpers in the day to stop having to pay for heating, riding a ten year old motorbike through some miserable weather because I couldn’t afford to run my car and wondering when I would be able to get to the dentist because my teeth were giving me hell and the bills would have crippled me. October 23rd – I was lounging on a deck chair, looking out over the Arabian Gulf, staying at the world’s first six-star hotel with a great girl and loving life. I was paying for it out of some spare cash I had saved up over the summer as well as paying off thousands in debts and buying a new computer and clothes as well as getting some serious new stamps in my passport. I had to pinch myself. These are just the easy things to add up. I had such a wonderful year that I got a new tattoo to celebrate and my colleagues said I had more front than
85 Brighton. I was brimming with confidence in many areas of my life and loving it. I was standing up for myself and at last valuing me for all my pluses and many minuses. M oney is n’t the be all and end all It is not the money that makes me feel the way I do. One of the contracts I took on was dreadful. It paid better than any of the others and I could easily work out how happy I should be because of all the lovely loot I was going to get. However, I didn’t feel in the slightest bit happy or anything positive. I had to look at my motives and lo and behold, it was greed that had pushed me into this role. I was on my own, with nobody else who could speak good English and a lot of the time was spent waiting for the inevitable. When it did happen, there was loads to do but all the run up had been spent thinking. Bad move, because it pushed me down. Luckily, I had this process to fall back on and it kept me sane. I can attest to its power when needed again and again. You have nothing to fear apart from yourself. Most of our problems in this area tend to be imagined and it is halting that often degenerative way we can grind ourselves into pulp. By working this process again at times like this, we can back on our feet again. If I didn’t have the way to regain the peace of mind, I would be back in the state I had been when the effects of being out of work hit me. Now that doesn’t have to happen. There is always a choice with this sort of thing. I have mentioned that the desire to take the action must be enough to take the steps so unless that desire is there, you probably won’t do the necessary. I know I wouldn’t. I have to wait until the weight of the problem finally outweighs the weight of the solution. The solution is always going to be difficult because it means changing things and there are often no results without the depression and pain it brings. Dredging up bad experiences and re-facing their consequences is difficult but the rewards are more than worth it. However, I don’t know about you but I am prepared to wait for that work just to see if everything else will work. Faults can help You now know yourself far better than when you started. There are still going to be areas of your approach that might be improved. I have always said that none of us are perfect nor will we ever be. We can always get better, though. I have mentioned the technique of acting your way into a new way of thinking. It works and different characteristics become instinctive. I don’t really believe that these are new to your character. I feel there were always there, you have now found the way to unlock their magic. You will also have recognised that there are still characteristics that are prevalent. I do not have the greatest concentration span. I like to experience constantly varying stimulation. That’s why I found it hard to learn to meditate. I can apply myseldf to
86 meditation but I do still find it hard, despite the benefits. I like to organise teams and am not the greatest team player. I have had to learn to operate amongst equals. I have also learnt that there are enough opportunities out there that need some level of leadership. I am not a fan of writing reports (this book has nearly hit the bin a number of times) but I love public speaking. Standing in front of a couple of hundred people or more to present some idea is tremendously exciting for me and I love it. Writing a sales document is nigh on impossible, or so I think. Then I write, leave it and come back to it and realise that the English is correct, it states the case and is usually fairly succinct. It works for me and not every sales document works for everyone. Seeing people learning to live with themselves and appreciate their characters is a real boon in this kind of work. Watching them improve is such a pleasure, I can barely describe it. This is probably the greatest benefit from this process and I can’t spend, drive or live in it. I t’s Our Ow n Jour ney When I first thought about putting these thoughts into a book, I wanted to find a suitable approach. There were always going to be areas that might cause discomfort – that is, after all, the very nature of the process because it changes things and this causes upheaval. There was also the area of how I laid it out and what I should include. I swiftly began to realise that all I could honestly bring to the book was my own experience. This book is about what I did, how I did it and what I got out of it. Every person is indeed different so you will probably have very different experiences, each as rich as they can be. I have tried to avoid clear instruction on what to do in such and such a situation because what might have worked for me may not work for you and vice versa. That’s why I have talked of refining and personalising the process. Make it your own and then share it with others in the same way. They may in turn bring new approaches and techniques, none of which you or I would ever have thought. I am not a gusher like some of the self help literature out there. I always feel slightly odd when I use some of their practices like smiling widely into a mirror and telling myself quite how wonderful I am. I just feel self-conscious and while that explains some more about me, then it also probably suggests there might be other ways to bolster myself. Therefore what has worked for me, a low-key approach without screaming from the rooftops, is what I can pass on. If you are a more gregarious type who gains strength form the more overt approach, then there will be others you can help. I have tried to leave it sufficiently open so that you can adapt the process to your own needs. The great thing is, there are others who you will be able to talk to and help. That is the greatest benefit of doing this work. I dentify the Benefits
87 I have used the financial benefits I have accrued as a direct result of doing this work. I never have said that it will find you a job, more get your head back in shape to get the right role or get right for your role. The financial gains were something that I was after and they are easy to quantify. I have also said that they are not the most important. I think getting a clear head is the best part of all this work. Losing that heavy weight on my brow has counted for more than anything else. I do not get depressed about work any more. I do not feel that the situation is never going to change. I have realism where before there was only hope. I believed there was something out there that I could get hold of if only I had the chance. I found it through doing this work and that is why I believe you too will benefit from such an effort. It’s very difficult for me to put into words how I now feel about work, but I will try. Where before I was negative, I am now positive. I was desperate to grasp at any offer, now I can look at my interviewer and challenge them on the position and improve the package. I was unsure of what I wanted out of work, I now know how to define my goals and then work for them. I used to want everything yesterday and now I appreciate the journey, rather than merely yearning for time to pass until I reach the destination. I don’t have a Vespa any more but I still love riding motorbikes and I try and get one for work because it is fun. I have always thought that not taking life too seriously would get me in trouble; I have now learned to behave in a more appropriate fashion. Don’t get me wrong, there is so much more work to do that I feel a bit daunted but I also feel more invigorated by the challenge. I have taken a lot of pride in this work and I feel you deserve that pride as well. I am not talking about harmful pride, just the quiet, justifiable kind that we can (mostly!) keep to ourselves and is a source of strength. What els e? This book has been written with work in mind and getting your head back into shape to face either a new role or approach your present job in better state. I have mentioned the three legged stool of Work, Home and Love. The other two are great indicators of how we think and act and have probably helped you determine certain areas of your lives that could benefit from work. The book is based on the twelve steps which are used in many addiction programmes. If there is an example I have avoided, it is a comparison with addictions. I don’t believe having a messed up head due to being in work difficulties has anything to do with an addiction. If it leads to excessive drug or alcohol use, then that’s a whole new ball game. I do think that the process I have outlined can help in many areas of our lives. For example, looking at why relationships (not necessarily sexual) fail, for interaction is
88 vital to achieving personal growth. We have incredible problems with issues around relationships and often find ourselves in unbalanced friendships that cannot help. Using the process to address these issues can be of tremendous help. I also experience unease in other situations, too numerous to specify here. I have to look at why I have acted the way I have and deal with it. Again, it is the process being applied to everyday situations. You may well have already tried this in other areas. Great! I hope it works for you as well as it does for me. I do not float round in a haze of glowing happiness but I feel so much better about life that I can only recommend this to everyone. Try to do your best and you will get fantastic results. I think it’s a lifelong process as we can constantly work on improving ourselves. I enjoy finding out more about myself and getting comfortable with my head and accepting me for what I am and not what I think I could or, much worse, should be. I look at the people in my life and I have to say they are wonderful and it sometimes makes me wonder how I deserve them as friends. The fact is, they are my friends and I value them and that’s enough for now. I can’t ask for much more. Shar ed Exper iences You might find that the real benefits for you are different to the ones I have gained but if you draw strength from helping others, then you and I are in the same club. If you get other benefits, I want to know. A lot of this process is about passing it on and developing the techniques to suit your individual needs. I am a man with limited brain power so only can bring my experience to this book. I cannot imagine what goes through other people’s minds but I do want to know. If you can let me know how this process has worked for you, then I would be tremendously grateful. I can then refine it possibly for myself and also for others to whom I then get to talk. I am positive that your story is more interesting than mine, if only because I haven’t heard it before. I am a little bored of thinking about what I have been through and writing it down. It is aimed to help you yet this book has become a bit of an obsession with me. I have wanted to get it out for quite a while so when others do read it, I will be immensely relieved. Having worked in marketing I understand that it is a bit of a black art. The most effective technique is often viral marketing, that is predominantly by word of mouth. This word of mouth will get the process to others and they can feed back to me. Is there the possibility of a community out there that are in work difficulty and would love some help? It undoubtedly already exists in which case this work may be just an extra bit of help. I would still love to hear from you to let me know what help this has given you and how you have evolved it for your own needs.
Thinking of You We all deserve pats on our backs for this kind of work. I have mentioned that I do not apply myself fervently everyday to every issue but I do know how to deal with the upsets in the workplace and other areas of my life. I am far from a faultless person and I have to face up to those faults on a regular basis. I do like to get away from all the work, though. I take a mental holiday, whether it is going away for a couple of days, watching a mindless movie or just plain ignoring the problems as they accumulate. I need the rest or else it bogs me down. Take a rest yourself. Some will have you believe that you can never escape yourselves – I agree entirely. But you are also the one who needs the holidays. Balance is vital to a successful life and I believe this process will set you firmly on the way to achieving and excellent sense of balance in your life. You will probably want to do more work in other areas and I commend you for it. You may feel incredibly stable with a fine frame of mind after doing this work so I am delighted for you. We all need to live healthy lives which involves other people around us in order to grow. This process is about nailing one aspect of our lives, work, and making us approach it in such a way as to draw strength and enjoyment from it. Work does not have to be a chore and nothing needs to seem that way as long as we approach it in the right way. When we are happy, nothing seems tough and I want you to be happy from this process. This happiness can affect the other areas of our lives that I have mentioned – the Home and our Loves. These are equally important and are intermingled so work is often met with great benefits. I get immense satisfaction from applying this level of work to my life and get to enjoy the results daily. I am lucky and I want you to be too. Your s , Tr uly This process has been written for you and your benefits. That’s why I sat down and did it and boy, if I had known how long it would have taken, I would probably never have started it. You may have found the same with doing this process and it is taking longer than you imagined. Stick at it and the rewards will be more than worth it. The journey has benefited me and I have learnt a lot more about myself whilst doing it. Revisiting old experiences has reminded me strongly of my actions and I have been able to address some issues I had missed. This is what it’s all about. Improvement of you is the aim of this book and I think this will assist enormously. You will find a new freedom around work that might make others question your newfound approach and you will be grateful. What may have seemed impossible before will be achievable and you will enjoy the challenges.
90 There will be a balance in your life that almost makes me envious thinking about it. I try not to care about what others think of me and I hope the same approach affects you. In the meantime, I just want you to know that I will be thinking of you when you do this process and I wish you nothing but the best wishes from my very core. It isn’t easy – but it’s worth it!