It’s not someone else’s fault. It’s YOURS.

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Almost every book I have read on personal development suggests that one key method for massive personal success is to get up at stupid-o’clock in the morning, strap on your trainers and go out of the front door to greet the day with a run. The first thing I note about such books is that they are frequently written by Mid- to South-Californians and not the Welsh. I would challenge any Californian to get up in Brecon at 5AM in December, strap on their Magnum boots and go for a skiddy run-fall-snap.

The other thing I note is that early morning for those NOT self-employed, childless and of independent financial means is a time of stress, trying to get ready to comply with the quite reasonable expectations of their employers and children, in whatever order. Bearing in mind that the old 9-5 day became the 8-4 some time ago if you wanted a parking space, and for the same reason the day is quickly becoming a 7-3 if you don’t want to park half a mile from your workplace, a 6AM run would only last 5 minutes anyway.

Yes, I know there ARE people who love that early run but we are not all the same. I tried an early run twice and it was miserable, even in summer. For me. Mid-day, early evening, love it. 6.30AM – shove it.

Hyrum Smith asks, “What do you do for the magic 3 hours from 5AM to 8AM?” To be frank, I usually sleep for the first two.

Which brings me to another reason I hate early morning runs. It’s my wife. When I wake up, the wife does, too. If you’re as lucky as me, when you wake up together you have an opportunity to hold each other for a while before you get up. I am not willing to lose that for an exercise opportunity.

The funny thing was that because of all those books, I started to blame t’wife for my failure to exercise because I didn’t want to deprive her (us) of that cwtch*. I wasn’t running because of her needs. It was her fault I was fat because I don’t run in the dawn gloom.

Blaming other people for our failures to execute in some life areas is easy. It absolves us of responsibility for what we aren’t doing that we know we should be doing. But that is a slippery slope, because one thing all the PD writers say that I absolutely agree with is that We are responsible for our situation, even if that responsibility lies only in how we choose to respond to our situation.

In other words, I am able to choose whether t’wife or an early morning run is the more important thing I need to do (I should rephrase that…).

I am able to decide what job I seek, even if I can’t dictate what I am expected to do when I get that job. I can decide how I respond to an imposition, and do a good job even though I didn’t want that (part of the) job in the first place.

Therefore, let me state quite clearly – I CHOOSE not to exercise in the morning. Just as, at the moment, I am choosing not to exercise at all. Which is a choice I must choose to change, and quickly, because I can’t find a reason not to. Damn it.

Oddly, when I am away from home I routinely go for a half hour on a treadmill at 6AM. Maybe it IS her fault after all………

In life, we are responsible for our decisions. Let’s make good ones but not just because someone promotes something that sounds good – it might not suit our situation and even if it might, what we gain may not be worth what we lose. Like cuddling a warm bum on a winter’s morn.

 

*Look it up, it’s Welsh.

Do what you say, not what I do. After you’ve done what I say, and I do, too.

Occasionally, I ask myself what people think about my writing this blog. I wonder if they understand the purpose behind it. It’s simple: like any teacher, I have a desire to (a) tell people about the things that I find interesting, that (b) I would like them to use to their benefit; but also (c) so I can hold myself accountable to the things I ‘preach’. The first of those three is the easy part – the other two are damned hard.

People are reluctant to carry out meaningful self-examination, particularly when they are encouraged by others to do so. They sense judgement, an ulterior motive and, in extreme cases when talking about The 7 Habits, religion – even when all of these, and the other rationales for resistance, are actually absent. It is as if they think, “If I didn’t discover it, it’s dodgy.” Then they discover something and wonder why we apply the same thinking!

The funny thing is – and I refer here specifically to personal and professional development training and advice – the motive is unlikely to be negative. Okay, if I am trying to sell it there will be a perceived self-interest to espousing the principles, but in this field the chances are high that we believe in what we are selling because it did something for us. But what if I am trying to persuade you to just read a book written by someone else? Or providing advice I paid for, but for free? I promote the writing of a personal mission statement, or at least the discovery of a defined set of personal values, and you don’t have to pay for either. You just have to accept that doing so will be of benefit.

The other part – (c) above – is the other motive. I want to be better, I want to hold myself accountable and I want you to hold me accountable. But here’s an important caveat – I want you to hold me accountable to my values and how I define them, not to your values or how you define mine. So if I value fitness, then just because you love swimming does not mean I have to get wet. Make me run, if that is my chosen route to a healthy physiology. Ask me first what my intended route is, and encourage me to take it. Only after doing that might you say, “Have you considered X”, and if I want to know more, tell me then.

Hold me accountable to what I have promised. There’s a big clue on the Personal Mission page of this site. And have a look at your own sense of purpose – or try to discover what it actually is because I bet many people don’t really know.

Just to be clear – in terms of my own MS, this week I will be training someone to drive at an advanced level and representing my industry at a national standards-setting institution 160 miles from chez moi. (I’ll also be trying to diet……)

Apart from your paid work, what will you be doing that is keeping with your values-system this week?

 

Turn Over My New Page

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Walking my dog along the river is a four-times weekly opportunity to (a) moan about the fact it is supposed to be my son’s dog and (b) listen to audiobooks. Today I was re-listening to David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done, the time management classic which is one practical alternative or support to the deeper time management advice provided by Hobbs and Covey in their classics on the subject.

Today I was caught by a comment by Allen about values. He suggests that our focus on values, far from being a route to happiness as described by others, is in fact fraught with danger. It is fraught because that values-focus reminds us that we have so much ‘work’ to do in order to comply with our values – which in turn diffuses that focus and makes us feel as if we are going nowhere. He suggests, I suppose (try concentrating when your dog demands attention), that we should focus on tasks and thus comply with the values, rather than try to focus on the values themselves.

To paraphrase:

  1. Covey/Hobbs: Focus on the values and create tasks and goals that fulfil them.
  2. Allen: Focus on the tasks and hope/intend that they fulfil our values, and therefore us.

In one sense, while both have merit, neither is complete (and I believe neither of the authors would argue differently) because regardless of our values, we live in an interdependent world which won’t allow us to ‘only’ do the things that comply with our values. We have to do tons of things that we don’t w ant to do, don’t like and would avoid if we could. These things are usually known as ‘work’ in the professional sense and ‘family commitments’ in the personal sense. (“Oh, another parents’ evening – joy….”)

Which takes me back to my 26th Feb blog entry, which in a way leans slightly towards the Allen perspective. If you can’t design your life around your values – and few can – then you are compelled to identify ways in which the values you have, serve the tasks that are imposed. That way, if you have a job you don’t want to do, at least in doing it you can comply with your values of Service, Excellence, Duty, etc. This means fulfilment even though, in the first instance, you would not have thought fulfilment possible.

However, you can only know you are doing that IF you know what your values ARE. I have created a new page in which I have re-created that portion of my book which tells you how to do that. Take an hour this week to identify your personal values. It’s incredibly informative.

I very dare you.

Your Weekly Reminder.

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All too many time management books make two mistakes. They are mistakes that quite probably result in a surprising amount of wasted time, and they are mistakes that quite possibly cause the first stress-virus injection of the of the day. The mistakes are that they:

  1. Advise that one should plan one’s day at the start of each day.
  2. Almost always focus solely on the achievement of the reader’s personal goals.

Those of us in the know have a different philosophy. We plan at the start of the week. There are a few good reasons for this. To stretch the injection metaphor further, let’s call them inoculations.

Inoculation 1. At the start of the week (or, if you are like me, at the end of the ‘old’ week), you set aside a time and place for the planning process. This means that instead of already being in work and surrounded by pressure, you are in a calm place of your own choosing.

Inoculation 2. You look at your set of written down values, your mission statement, your roles and your goals. This puts you in a frame of mind that invites the establishment not just of direction towards achieving your own goals, but also to reminding yourself that in execution of all your roles, your compliance with your personal mission/values will help you serve others in the achievement of their goals, too. Thus, you plan your week in the context of your whole life – work, family, community, etc. In other words, in a whole life perspective.

Inoculation 3. You don’t only make a list of to-dos. That is a way of creating excuses because you’ll do the easier to-dos rather than the effective to-dos. No, what you do first is you decide what goal- and work-oriented tasks you have (and I include appointments as tasks in this context), and then you decide when, in the next week, you will carry them out. You plan the appointments, of course, but you can also schedule those other important to-dos by day, or even by specific time of a specific day. If you routinely do this at the start of the day, each day, what you tend to have is a mental image of a limited amount of time to decide how you’re going to do ‘EVERYTHING!!!!’

Inoculation 4. As far as is humanly possible, do the things you decided to do, when you decided they’d be done.

Having done all of that, think about the result. You have a schedule that you designed, which tells you when you have decided things will be done. Now, of course stuff will happen to threaten the plan, but you won’t have the stress of juggling everything – in fact, you will probably know how to manage that stuff around your set priorities, because of the plan. You are in control, stuff isn’t.

To break it down into smaller parts, the plan is:

  1. Get settled, then reconnect to what’s important to you.
  2. Look at all of the roles you perform.
  3. Set goals for each of the roles you intend to perform this week.
  4. Schedule those plans.
  5. Execute the plan.

Sometimes, genuine emergencies will arise, and it is then, and only then, that you should plan every day. Plan weekly, adapt (if you have to) daily.

And at the end of a week, have a long hard look at yourself and decide if it all went as well as expected. You’ll usually find that it did.

For more, get this, HERE.

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You are NOT obliged to be stressed unless you wish to do so……

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Let’s start with a quick agenda.

  1. Stress is self-induced. To a degree.
  2. Stress is a chosen response to stimuli.
  3. Work creates stress.
  4. We chose our work.
  5. Therefore, WE have to change to reduce stress.

The YB12 ‘Best Year Ever’ process includes, as do many training programmes of its ilk, input on overcoming stress. Like Canfield, Covey and others, we suggest that stress is often the result of our response to an event. The psychologist Dr Robert Resnick created the formula E+R=O, where E is the Event; R is our Response to the Event; and O is the Outcome. The premise is that events tend to be outside our control, while responses are wholly within our control. Maths students already see how the only way to change O, given that E is a constant, is to change the value of R.

People who suffer from stress have not, either deliberately or passively, taken control of R. There may be perfectly good reasons why that is, but there it is. It could be fear of an imagined result (as all results are imagined until manifest); or it could be a response to a real threat (although the assumption that the threat will come to pass or only have one outcome is within our power). Either we take control of it, or it takes control of us. We can decide how we face it, even if we cannot alter the course of the event. We decide, deliberately or by accident, to be stressed – or not.

Traditionally, work is the primary cause of stress, usually for the reasons given above. An unwanted consequence of ‘work’ causes tension, and we buckle at the thought of the negative consequence if we fail, don’t do enough, the results aren’t favourable, and so on. It can also be the sheer drudgery or perceived pointlessness of the work, or the repetitiveness of it.

Work, as a rule, is something we have chosen to do. We work bloody hard at getting a job, jumping through hoops in order to be posted to a role we want.

The point I am (finally) getting to is this: as we chose our work, and as we can choose our response to the ‘stresses’ (small ‘s’) of that work, we needn’t be stressed IF we look at our tasks in one of two ways. They are:

  1. Love your work.
  2. If you can’t love your work – love HOW you work.

I can best illustrate this concept by illustration. I was once tasked with some real drudgery in a role I HADN’T chosen, but one which it was felt I was magnificently competent to do. (My own fault.) I hated it for a number of reasons, which space won’t allow me to state.

But one way of overcoming the stress that resulted (and I was on the verge of collapse at one stage, I assure you – even I was surprised) was to challenge my productivity. I like measuring my productivity, so instead of ‘I have to do all this stuff’ I decided to think, ‘How much of this stuff can I do in a day?’

In the end, my record was 1,000 ‘tasks’. I admit I don’t ever want to do that again – I was knackered – but how ‘stressed’ was I when I told everyone what a lot of work I had achieved that day? Not at all. I had won, the tasks hadn’t.*

Look at the job you worked hard to obtain, but which now irks you. What about that work could you take control of so that YOU ran IT, instead of the other way around?

Do that.

 

*For more on that story, buy my book Effective Time and Life Management, available in Kindle or Paperback form from Amazon at that link.

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Values-based Time Management Means Achieving the BEST Goals.

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“If a goal isn’t connected to a deep ‘why,’ it may be good but it usually isn’t best.” Stephen Covey

I hereby truly and solemnly declare and affirm that I want to run a marathon.

That is a true statement. Deep down I want to be able to say that I ran a marathon, that I did it in less than 4 hours, and here’s my medal on display in the cabinet with my bronze swimming certificate.*

Yes, as far as running a marathon is concerned, I really want to run one. But I am not prepared to make the effort.

The reason I am not prepared to is because such a goal is often a dream that is planted by the achievements of others, by a desire to demonstrate a high level of physical fitness when such a level is not necessary for achievement of any of my other goals, and ultimately by ego – I want to brag about it.

Let me emphasise – they would be MY motives, and if you want to do a marathon for truly personal, deeply emotional reasons you go ahead and do it, and good luck. I am not here to tread on your dreams.

The point I am making is that achieving someone else’s goals, or seeking achievement for reasons of ego, probably won’t result in the deep happiness that comes from achievement pursued for truly personal, deeply impassioned motives. On the other hand, if achieving those goals is a means to a better end and not ends in themselves, the passion for those longer-term outcomes will help you achieve the smaller steps on the road to that greater success, the success you really seek. And let’s face it, you’ll be fitter and better able to enjoy that success (provided you haven’t crocked yourself in the process). And the greater success will be the one that serves your values system.

Seeing the goal as something which serves your values is the essence of values-based time management. Selecting a goal that doesn’t dovetail your values system is futile – you won’t do it, or you will detest every moment spent in striving for it, and UN-happiness is not a normal pursuit, is it? (Masochists excepted.)

I suspect that a 10k running ability is ample for most of us who don’t enjoy sport for sport’s sake. If you can run 6 miles in an hour and have a sensible diet you’ll be fit enough for most professions. If you want to get fit enough to achieve your other goals, decide on a sensible level of fitness, pursue that, and spend the rest of the time on the actual objective.

Spend as much of your time as you can on getting the result you seek, and a sensible-but-lesser proportion of time on the ‘side-issues’ that serve that objective. Plan your time so that you maximise the likelihood of achieving the (your) Main Thing, without spending too much time on achieving side-goals that will serve the greater objective but aren’t goals in themselves.

It’s a fine balancing act and using a suitable, personal planning system will help. In that, you put your Mission and Goals to the fore, and plan to spend as much of your time not on ‘shoulds’ or ‘coulds’, but on MUSTS. The other two can be fitted in around them.

And be careful that those ‘shoulds’ and ‘coulds’ don’t become excuses for procrastination! (Next week’s subject.)

*I don’t have one of those, either. I am not a fish and if I am going two miles on water, I know people with boats.

 

For more on Values-Based Time Management, go here, or go to the Books page on this site

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Don’t learn TOO much. Find ‘The Way’ that works, then ignore alternatives.

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I attended a talk last Monday by an excellent speaker, Jamie Denyer, whose presentation included a sobering observation. Once I got past his odd clothing choice – a bit hip-hop for a grandfather living in Swansea – I really enjoyed all of his talk, except that sobering bit. The sobering bit thrown right at me, personally. At least, I thought it was personal. I thought it was personal because the cap did fit and I had to wear it.

He described the individual who buys a personal development book, avidly reads it to the last page, then puts it down and “waits for the magic to work.” Then, when it doesn’t work because they aren’t applying it in a disciplined fashion they go out and buy the next one – and repeat. Then they repeat ad nauseum. He said that this is referred to in the trade as ‘shelf-development’, in that your book shelf gets fitter by holding up all your books.

Ouch. You should see my collection.

When I give talks on self-leadership (yes, fraudulently to some degree), one of the things I tell people is this.

  1. Choose your self-help book carefully. (I recommend The 7 Habits or Awaken the Giant Within, plus a couple of good time management books.)
  2. Apply the content religiously and don’t buy any other book!

There is a personal reason that I do this. I will sit there and read one of my books. I will then think, “This is the system I will now apply.” I will then see another book, listen to another trainer, see a new form, or just have something come to mind when I am walking the dog, and I start to think about how I will apply that instead of what I was already (supposedly) doing. As a result, instead of ‘doing’ I am perpetually ‘thinking about doing’.

The daft thing is – and Stephen Covey wrote about this in The 8th Habit – they are all saying the same thing.

  • They ALL say that taking responsibility for our thoughts is the key to a directed, patient, principled life.
  • They ALL say that having goals and a sense of direction towards a passion is key to a successful life.
  • They ALL say that relationships are important.
  • They ALL say that looking after your body enables success in the former three endeavours.

BUT they all have subtly nuanced alternatives to how to apply the philosophy to the discovery of a purpose and how to define goals.

I have suggested before that success is created by application of self to a simple philosophy.

  1. Know what you want.
  2. Manage your time accordingly.
  3. Communicate with clarity – in and out.

After that, it’s all about method, system and practices. For me, I always come back to Covey’s template because I understand it so well, teach it in schools, and absolutely believe in the systematic approach and principled teaching that it is. You could choose Canfield’s, Robbins’, Ziglars, Hobbs – whoever you like.

But just pick one. It leaves the mind clear for the important stuff. Then apply it with discipline.

Lift the fog, then you can go much faster.

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In his audio programme, ‘What Matters Most’, author and speaker Hyrum W Smith describes the following situation. You are in your car, alone, driving along when, without warning because you weren’t paying all that much attention, you find yourself entering a thick fog. It is all-enveloping; like a pilot flying into cloud who loses all sense of up and down or right-way-up, the depth and intensity of the fog means you lose all sense of where you are. You can barely see in front of you despite your summer-time use of fog lights, and you have no reference points ahead, to the side or behind that can help you.

Immediately, you brake but still concern yourself whether what is behind will collide with you. You slow, terrified that something unidentified and ahead of you will threaten your personal safety. You are now in a dead crawl, almost stopped. Your progress is extremely limited, if it exists at all.

Suddenly the fog lifts. Now you can see where you are going, in absolute clarity. The way ahead is clear. You start to accelerate; you make headway and your mind is now free from the clutter of fear. In time, you reach your destination.

Is your life occasionally just like that?

Do you sometimes lose all sense of direction and find yourself slowing to a dead crawl, wondering what you are for, where you are supposed to be going, even convinced that even when you DO know where that is, you are never going to get there? And when the opposite applies, when you really know what you’re heading for and how to get there, doesn’t life feel great, like you have the moon on a stick and nothing can spoil things?

High self-esteem comes from knowing what you want, seeking it and acting in a fashion that is wholly congruent with what you believe. The opposite is an experience many of us have, where what we are doing is absolutely not what we want to be doing, or (worse) the values of those for whom we are expected to do it are in conflict with our own.

I know I have seem people I respect and admire start to follow a ‘political’ path that is wholly out of kilter with how I thought they were, and knowing that they were in conflict with those beliefs meant I was having to spend time challenging my own in order to work for them. Instead of working towards the vision and with the values I thought we both had, they fogged things with ‘political sensitivity’ and our attention and activity were diverted and slowed.

This was a hateful place to be. Situations like this mean you start work for pay instead of passion, when the economic realities of life are the only thing stopping you from telling your employer to stuff their hypocrisy and their job. It’s when work becomes a chore instead of a vocation.

A failure, or environment-imposed inability to act in keeping with your values and personal vision causes the worst, densest, vision-spoiling and therefore dangerous fog that could ever be.

Smith’s example illustrates just how important Vision actually is. The contents of my two books, Effective Time and Life Management and The Three Resolutions, include some serious arguments for developing your own sense of purpose. Or Google values-based time management / mission statements/ values clarification and read more.

Please. I don’t want to collide with you because of your own fog. I have enough challenges dealing with my own.

 

What you HATE can tell you what you VALUE

What is important to you?

That is a question familiar with most clients of personal development programmes and coaches. It is a valid question, intended to help a client identify their governing values, the values which (should) direct their activities if they are to succeed in discovering a sense of happiness and purpose, and (from a time management perspective) where they should focus their mind and their time. Makes sense, working towards identification of what you want.

I have just returned from walking my delightful collie, Abby. Abby doesn’t visibly wear a watch, but she seems to know when she is due her daily walk so must have one on her person somewhere. However, the fact that she has started looking at me expectantly, one hour early, suggests she failed to put her watch back last October.

Anyway, I hate walking my dog. I love my dog, but I hate walking her. And it was while walking her, hatefully (can’t emphasise that enough), that I asked myself, “What if a good way of identifying what we love is to identify what we hate?”

I hate – people parking on pavements when it isn’t even necessary; dog walkers throwing their poo-bags in the river; people who don’t signal properly when driving (in fact, any poor driving standards, including limp-wristed steering); untidiness; any act of inconsideration that normal, respectful behaviour would normally counter, like NOT putting luggage on train seats to avoid the terrors of ‘being sat next to’; I hate being lied to – particularly by broadcasters who say they are there to entertain you but put adverts 6 minutes into a programme. Liars.

By analysing what I hate, I find myself discovering that what I value pretty much represents the opposite. I value order, high standards of performance, not wasting time (like walking a dog….), and compliance with rules that benefit all, like respectful behaviour towards others. And to a great degree, honesty.

So this week, as part of your values-based time management studies, look at those things that wind you the hell up and see what their opposites are. Then, ask yourself if those do represent your values system. If nothing else you’ll know why people p155 you off so much…..

 

BTW The Three Resolutions book is now available again through Amazon Kindle. I’ve reconsidered the model, and rewritten the text a little to more accurately reflect what the 3Rs represent to me, and how they could help you.

Get it HERE at Amazon.

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The Forgotten Skill.

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I tweeted a while ago through @3ResolutonsGuy that after you decide upon your purpose, the rest is just well-executed time management and active communication. I have also discovered, with the help and guidance of several highly educated, qualified and wise mentors that ‘time management’, while a perfectly understandable marketing cliché, is better termed ‘self-leadership’. Communication, if you like, comes under the separate heading ‘interpersonal leadership’.

Having said that I prefer the term self-leadership, however, I find myself reluctant to use it because of something else I have observed. And what I have observed is that the proliferation of genuinely great self-help books, having raised the bar in the personal development field, seem to have inadvertently left the science of time management behind.

Some might disagree, but in my view while digitising communication was supposed to make life better, it actually seems to have hampered our ability to communicate using correct grammar, in considered and polite tones, and after deep thought. It even hampers speech. I am heartily sick of asking people why we are conversing text by text, or email by email, when simply speaking on the telephone would take a lot less time, clarify understanding and speed up completion upon what is under discussion.

In the same vein, while the new world of instant communication should have increased our ability to produce, I find people are no longer being taught, properly, how to manage the massive increase in expectations that the new world demands. They have the digital tools to manage time, but not the education that would enable better use of those tools.

Proof? Do you, like my many colleagues in a hugely digital policing world, keep a separate paper to-do list and diary? Yes? If so, you haven’t been taught how to manage time properly. You may think you are, but you’re under-utilising the potential of a proper, disciplined and systematic approach. And don’t think having a digital diary and to-do list makes you any more effective – you may just be digitally ineffective. You may be cutting edge, but just as lost. (See iPads…..)

Another thing I have noticed is that ‘managers’ and ‘executives’ get (some, occasional) time management training while the front-line staff, the ones doing the work and managing the multiple tasks and challenges, do not. How considered is that?

Hence the change of focus for this site. It’s going to be more about productivity and self-management than about self-leadership because most of us now know where we are going, but cannot manage, as well as we could, how we are going to get there. Including me.

I am going to start exploring time management issues, and invite you to read along and see if something I say improves your lot, and whether your alternative perspectives can improve my own. It won’t just be about method. There’ll be philosophy, theory and observational comedy as well.

Follow me on http://threeresolutionsguy.com or @3ResolutionsGuy and let’s see where we end up.