Stretch yourself – be like Pregnancy Pants.

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“Sometimes things can go right only by first going very wrong.” Edward Tenner

And here we are. We exist at a time where the whole world has come to a grinding crawl, with the retail and hospitality industries taking a big hit. Which means that we, the citizens, denied our access to the dopamine of retail therapy and the opportunity to get away from it all suddenly find we have to find some other way of feeling good and ‘finding ourselves’.

Charles R Hobbs, of the original, non-Brian Tracy title TimePower, observed that when we go on holiday, the first thing we do on arrival is recreate the Comfort Zone that is home. First, we check the TV channels, and then we find out the wi-fi password. Is he right? Be honest.

Today, the comfort zones of shopping and the workplace have been denied to many, and to be fair that has resulted in a lot of imagination being utilised to cope with new challenges, which is arguably Mankind’s greatest skill. And as one esteemed philosopher put it, Mankind’s development has been the result of Challenge – Response.

The Challenge today is how to live in a confined space and feel happy, secure and productive for the period of the Lockdown. Of course, the nature of this lockdown is, shall we say, a bit like pregnancy trousers – there’s a bit of leeway that will expand and contract as needs demand.

Notwithstanding the ability or otherwise to do your paid work, we have a twenty-day window to:

  • Discover Kindle e-books, which can be in your lap in seconds and can feed your mind on a subject of interest to you.
  • Access on-line courses which can make you more employable.
  • Do all those jobs around the house that have needed doing. (My kitchen FINALLY looks organised.)
  • Talk to your partner and kids.
  • And your neighbours, whether they work for the NHS or not.
  • Telephone friends, neighbours and workmates using those unlimited minutes you’ve paid for.
  • (Personal favourite) Study The Seven Habits, First Things First and Principle-Centred Leadership and discover new ways of thinking – how to think, not what to think – an important distinction. All available on Kindle and, if you’re clever, very cheaply.
  • Read my blogs more often.

All of the above ideas, and any you can discover for yourself, will mean that you come out of the other side of this a better person, more organised, and possibly even more productive than before.

But, above all, doing something like those things will absolutely, unarguably and without fail MASSIVELY increase your sense of self-esteem – the value you place on yourself.

Go on – don’t just be a public hero like everyone else. Stretch yourself.

Win a Private Victory as well.

I’ve heard it before. Stop re-posting.

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There is a tendency in all of us, and I say that because it is in me (and ‘what is most general is also most personal), to listen and understand only what we want to hear.

Evidence – the response to COVID-19.

I am avoiding news broadcasts because I do not want to hear the daily countdown to my own tragic death, and that of my loved ones. I am avoiding Twitter as much as I can because of the apparent glee with which some people speak of it, and the preaching from those who wrongly consider it their job to tell me what to do. The Government can do that for them. It’s in their Circle of Influence. Nobody else’s. How I respond is in mine. Everything else is outside, in the Circle of Concern. Including death tolls.

That said, I am grateful for the fact that HMG has started to use my mobile number to text me important updates, and Facebook for the unusually real updates.

What I am fed up with is everybody else’s reposting of the same posts I’ve had 10 times from someone else. If someone posts ‘how to wash your hands’ one more time I swear I’ll practice hand-wringing on their necks!

But these are strange times. There is, among the best of us, a willingness to comply for the better good. And the intent behind such posts is well-meant.

Unfortunately, and I refer back to my opening paragraph, there are those who understand only that 2m (what happened to 6 feet??) is the gap we should keep between us, so that means a 2m gap into which we can impose ourselves when jumping a queue. Those of us who think that it is noble to protect one’s family by behaving in a way that threatens another’s. And such people will, rest assured, find the evidence to justify what they are doing through reference to some nonsense that a moron has posted onto social media with the title ‘This is true!’, when it patently isn’t authoritative, responsibly sourced or cross-referenced.

At the same time, trotting out doctors to tell us we’re all going to die makes sobering, and therefore emotionally-avoided reading.

Which is why I have kept my reading about the virus to Government broadcasts and briefings. The rest is fluff and nonsense as far as I’m concerned.

Good ideas on the challenge in terms of how to Keep Calm and Carry On are great. Selfish preaching that points at me and says ‘IT’S ALL DOWN TO YOU’ – not so much.

Think about what and why you are posting. Has it been posted elsewhere, more authoritatively and widely? Is it in your area of expertise? Is it in the right Circle?

If the answers are Yes, No and No – don’t post.

Please.

Character, Character, Character – and Standards. Now, more than since 1945.

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The lockdown of 2020 has begun. Not since 1939 has anything like this been asked of the citizenry of the UK. That year, 40-odd million citizens did right by their country and their fellow Brits by complying with and trusting the advice and orders of those we elected to deal with exactly this kind of situation.

And a few thousand or so took advantage. Spivs, we called them. We decried their disobedience to the rule of law. And then we bought eggs off them.

We find ourselves in the middle of a truly extraordinary – for us – series of events. Which means we are now being called upon to demonstrate more character, as a people, than we have for quite some time.

Now we can stand up, or we can fall down.

It grieves me to say this, but the nature of televisual celebrity suggests that this might not happen. The young of today, fed as they are by the ‘me’ cult of the Kardashians and Made in Chelsea, will either act true to expectations and, as the evidence so far suggests, stamp their feet and demand their rights to do what they please regardless of the truth of principled living.

Or they may surprise us and show the kind of character that the youth of 1939 demonstrated when they knuckled down, volunteered, fought and died in defence of what had gone before.

Note that – they had a life, and Hitler interrupted it. They accepted that intrusion and a nation rose up to the challenge.

We had a life yesterday, and a virus has interrupted it.

I am calling upon everyone to demonstrate the same levels of character that were displayed then, by people just like us who had loved ones to protect, lifestyles to preserve, and an enemy to defeat.

And I will call out any selfish idiots I see.

Now, on a slightly different tack, I’m also going to ask that people do something else they may be tempted to put to one side while they are in isolation.

Maintain, or even Raise Your Standards.

At home, it is easy to let standards slip. There is a lot of anecdotal evidence that suggests that the standards people visibly maintain and expect in the workplace don’t apply when they’re at home. Suit wearers get into their baggy sweatpants, don’t shave, watch telly all day eating fast food.

That is the slippery slope to weight-gain, depression and lowered productivity.

Work as hard at home as you do at work. I’m not suggesting you wear business attire in your house (although why not?), but you can at least dress as if you’re going to be seen in public, ensure you’re clean and well-presented, and only grow a beard if you really mean it. (Ladies excepted.)

Then ‘normal’ will be a lot easier to achieve when it’s all over.

Bon chance, mon amis.

Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered. Or Beguiled?

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When I have promoted my works and offer training in the realms of personal development, I often find resistance not to the time or costs, but to the very idea of the material. I wrote in Police Time Management why I think this is in respect of that particular field of knowledge, but today I listened to a lecture by the late, great Jim Rohn and I think he hit the nail on the proverbial.

He spoke of the Sermon on the Mount and described how the response was reported in the Bible as being divided into three types – the perplexed, the mockers and the believers. Hence my title this morning.

Let’s have a think about all three, and their motivations.

The Perplexed. They don’t know what you’re talking about. These people are the ones in the Unconscious Incompetence bracket of Noel Burch’s model. They don’t know what they don’t know and are equally unable to comprehend that what they don’t know will serve them. They’ve likely already concluded it’s too hard to understand so they don’t bother trying.

The Mockers. These are the ones who know it all, or think they do. They don’t see that there is an alternative way of thinking to the one they’ve already decided is best. And rather than articulate that because they know it to be a stupid position or can’t face the work involved, they attack the idea. It’s easier than knuckling down and listening.

The Believers. Now, here we have to be careful because there are actually three strands. There are the Believers who believe regardless of the efficacy of the argument, so they’ll believe no matter what is said, if they are convinced by the speaker. Then there are Believers who are the Consciously Incompetent, who know that there is something that they don’t know – and want to know it. And the final subset are the ones who’ve had the training and have applied it to the degree that they know it to be good stuff.

That last set is very present on LinkedIn, but there’s something they could do that they aren’t doing. They aren’t letting anyone else know that the stuff is good.

Some possible reasons. They are naturally well-organised ‘time-managers’ and don’t realise that others need this input. Or perhaps they think it’s a great secret and don’t want anyone to know because it makes them appear really effective. Or they think that the cost of training their peers and staff in such material isn’t cost-effective.

So they are Believers but not Advocates. I like the by-line I use for my LinkedIn page – Advocate of the Seven Habits – because it underlines my willingness to communicate something I believe in. I would ask others to do the same, but not only in terms of their chosen profession.

I would encourage people to look at the provision of training in the sub-skills of ‘work’ – sector specific or in a more general sense – like communications, self- and time-management, administration practices, even mindfulness (ugh) if it makes their staff more productive and less stressed.

As the greats have said (and I paraphrase) – Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and he’ll produce enough fish for his employer to sell at a massive profit through enhanced effectiveness and efficiencies.

Go on. Train your staff or just buy them a book about ‘stuff’. Many have, and many have benefited as a consequence.

Be the right kind of Believer.

The Magic Formula – A Cure for Today?

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There is a magic formula that the successful use, specifically and particularly when faced with a challenge that comes at them sideways and out of the blue. Of course, we are faced with such a challenge at the moment, and a lot of people, including members of my family, are feeling the effects of the measures being taken by people to avoid the dreaded lurgy. Which, according to MSWord’s spellcheck, is  a word.

Businesses are laying off people left and right, and given that a lack of custom does tend to thwart a business’ efforts to stay solvent, I can understand this. Of course, said businesses – the less scrupulous – will take the money offered by the government to keep them afloat, while not using it to keep staff in a job. And, of course, if you’ve laid off your staff carefully and before said money becomes available, you can avoid paying them at all. I hope that HMG makes sure that the money they hand out is properly accounted for.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the scale, major grocery retailers are looking at the problems created by ‘now’ and are adjusting their practices to suit.

The major movers, ladies and quintleflick (not a word), are applying the formula.

Unfortunately, as the majority of us are not educated in leadership and management, a lot of people aren’t applying it. If only they knew what it was. Of course, while all clever kids know that x= minus b times the square root of b squared minus 4ac all over 2a, they aren’t taught this formula in school. And it could save a lot of stress.

The formula is E+R=O.*

E is the Event. This is the thing that happens to us or, as one of my participants forced me to decide, the situation in which we find ourselves. (That covered people born with disabilities –  they didn’t ‘happen’, their situation just ‘was’.) The Event is something outside of your control. You didn’t plan it, plan for it, expect it and probably didn’t anticipate the possibility. Cue a pandemic caused by eating a bat, allegedly.

R is the Response. It’s what you do about what’s happened, and that includes how you decide to feel about what’s happened. Excitement, despair, challenge – all reactions that are up to you. Maybe not in the first instance, but at least after you’ve paused to think about them.

O is the Outcome. The Outcome is what you want to have happened at the end of it all.

E is unchangeable. That being the case, the only way to change the value of O is entirely within the Response provided to E. Your Outcome is wholly dependant on the quality and thinking behind your Response to E.

The question is – is your Response wholly based in fear, or is it considered, thoughtful and ecological? Is it self-serving or will it serve us all? Is it destructive and aimed solely at self-preservation, or is it a unique answer to a problem? An answer the like of which gets written about in leadership and management literature next year?

Yes, folks. You Response to what is happening to you today could be so imaginative that you find yourself being immortalised in print. It could make you proud, or ashamed. Or just content, which is just enough for your integrity to remain intact.

Or you could just be a selfish tw4t. Your choice.

Businesses – the people you’re sacking, you’ll want back in three or four months. Treat them well and they will come. Treat them badly, and see whether all your selfish efforts backfire.

Have a good weekend, folks.

 

*From an idea by Dr Robert Resnick, as publicised in The Success Principles’ by Jack Canfield, but also the result of Habit One – Be Proactive, by Stephen Covey.

A Parable.

He stood tall, as his name suggested. Tall-as-a-Tree, respected Sioux warrior, looked out across the plain and took in the air. Conflict was all he could smell. As his forefathers had themselves found, life on the prairie was filled with dangers – many natural like the stormy rain and floods, but others more sinister in the form of Man. And it was Man he could detect on the wind.

Tall-as-a Tree feared no man. Born to a noble family, brought up with wise mentors and physically strong peers, and ultimately carved and weathered by his environment, he was able in combat and sage in judgement. If talking was needed, he could debate with any man. If force was necessary, he was of powerful build and tone. His life was rooted in the lessons of his ancestors both recent and from long ago – hundreds of years of knowledge and experience had been imparted to him, and he had learned his lessons enthusiastically. He had prepared for and easily passed every physical test he was expected to undergo as part of his duties as a warrior; his intellectual capacities in negotiation were well known.

His training had begun when he was barely able to walk and he had mastered the knife, bow and tomahawk.  His hunting prowess was known throughout the land. He could hit anything he aimed at and he frequently fed other families with his kills when his own family had enough. He was rich in tribal terms but he was also generous and compassionate.

At the appropriate age and time he took a wife. As the greatest warrior in the tribe he was able to choose her, and she was acknowledged by all to be the most beautiful girl in the village. The celebration was held and happiness reigned throughout when they told everyone that his bride was to have a child; the joy was immeasurably enhanced when a son came to them. In what seemed like no time at all she fell pregnant again.

And he found a lover. A young female from a neighbouring tribe married into their own and she was also beautiful. There was something different and magical and unattainable about her when compared to his own bride, the mother of his children, and he was enamoured. On the night when others were engaged in celebration of his wife’s second pregnancy, they consummated their illicit love, thus betraying his wife and her husband.

Shortly after the birth of his second child, a daughter, there came a time of war. And it was now, as he smelled the air and detected the smell of man that he knew the time had come for a reckoning. In battle there was no guarantee that the greatest warriors would live. Combat with an individual caused him no concern because he was prepared for such a trial. But a stray arrow, overwhelming odds, a fallen horse – anything like that, outside his control or even his awareness, could be the cause of his death. But his heightened awareness, bred through skill and experience, lessened that likelihood, and with this he was content.

It is said that a man sees his life pass before his eyes at the moment of death. Whether it is true of a man that he reviews his life as he prepares for the possibility of death, such as during preparation for battle, is not so clear. But when Tall-as-a-Tree considered his life, his actions and his betrayal, he was suddenly gripped by enormous regret, even guilt. He was seen by his peers as the ultimate male, the one up to whom all men looked for example. And he had failed them, he had compromised his values and he had broken unwritten yet sacred laws that he knew, that they all knew, to be true. The respect in which he was held he also knew was based on a false premise – that he was a good man. He knew he was not. And that ate at him at this crucial moment.

As he rode into battle he doubted himself……..

 

Do you ever feel like that? If so, accept your sin, confess it if you feel it appropriate, then move on with greater dedication to observance of character.

An easy way to Leave a Legacy.

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First of all a quick correction. Last week I implied that Ernest Hemingway was the source of a quote leading me to write that I’m not all used up yet, so I refuse to die. It was in fact George Bernard Shaw’s quote I was vandalising. Doh!

He said, “This is the true joy in life, being recognized by yourself as a mighty one, being a force of nature instead of a feverish clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake; Life is no brief candle to me, it is a sort of splendid torch which I’ve got to hold up for a moment. I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

That seems to be a great mantra for life, particularly now as the better of us watch as the lesser of us hoard toilet rolls, pasta and hand-sanitiser – the latter reflecting an unwillingness to routinely wash hands, if my experience of seeing empty sanitiser shelves by full soap shelves is anything to go by.

Life is one chance to leave a lasting legacy. For some it need only mean raising healthy, good children so as to pass on the family line. For others it means making sure they are remembered for doing something memorable and lasting – which can be done with good or bad intent. Some of us will never know what we did that lasted in the memory.

There is an old tenet that suggests that we all remember a teacher that meant something to us in terms of how they made us better. And for most of us who had such a teacher we never got to tell them.

I was lucky. A couple of months ago a new school was opened and elder statesmen from the old buildings assembled, along with ex-pupils. Sat in front of me was the maths teacher and deputy Head who took me, with his teaching method, from a 50% maths examinee to an A grade at O Level (the old GCSEs). I can’t even remember specifically what else he did or said – I know there was something that made me change my attitude slightly but it was really subtle. But at the end of the proceedings that night I was able to tell him, “You know everyone had that one teacher -well, you were mine.”

He had no idea who I was, but that’s the beauty of teaching – so many unremembered souls that can be affected by what you do.

Anyway, here’s today’s suggestion. You may not be a teacher in the formal sense, but everything you do is seen by someone. Everything you say is heard.

So say good things and do good things and be a good example.

Someone is watching. Including your kids.

Put the extra ten packs of toilet rolls back on the shelf.

Now, more than ever – Plan Your Future.

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Okay, yesterday I said I’d only do one pandemic post, but circumstances change and so does our approach. Here is take 2. It’s more important than yesterday’s.

Viktor Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist who was sent to the concentration camps in WWII. Famously, he was academically interested in why some people survived the camps, and others didn’t. notwithstanding the misfortunes of selection and random execution, the ones who weren’t so unfortunate either died, or they did not.

To cut a long story to the chase, Frankl concluded that the ones who lived were those who had a firm vision of their future. For Frankl himself it was a vision that he would teach what he’d learned to students, with a view to it never happening again.

Norman Cousins was a man who, according to Wikipedia, used his mental faculty to overcome a debilitating condition. It is said he made laughter one of his main medicines, along with a personal determination to overcome his personal, physical challenges – and he succeeded.

We live at a time when a virus threatens the existence of those physically unable to fight it. I’ll admit it plays on my mind, as I have what may be one of those pre-existing medical conditions. But it isn’t just about me – I have two beautiful grandchildren, four lovely kids and a beloved wife. I can’t conceive of life without any of them, particularly the young. But that also means if I’m gone, I don’t get to see them grow. So it is me, but it’s them too.

So now, more than ever, I think it is time to consider positivity, laughter, and a firmly envisioned plan for the future that will provide hope for us as individuals and, in the end, for all of us.

I have no doubt that despair does not serve the physical body, and I firmly believe that some people who died did so because they lacked hope, or a sense of purpose. They thought, “I’m done here.” Which in the case of the elderly may, for them, have a been some kind of satisfaction. It’s not cruel or judgemental to say that. If it was, then the person who thought of the term for the dying of ‘Blessed release’ is equally evil. It is just a belief, no more.

Anyway, like Hemingway, I want to die only when I am all used up, and that isn’t yet.

Today is the day I carry out my planning for the week, and part of that plan will be to consider my long term future. What do I want to create in this world, what legacy do I wish to leave for those kids? How am I going to achieve that? Not just in terms of tasks but in terms of the way I conduct myself – hopefully with integrity, with the fullest congruence between my values and my behaviours.

I’ll ask you all to do the same. Design your future as if all will pass as well as it can, for you.

At the same time, I will tie up my camel by ensuring that my immediate family is cared for, provided for, supplied and kept as healthy as they can so that if it does strike, they can be part of the 80% who just get a sniffle. But not, I hope, at the expense of anyone else. I will get enough for our needs, and no more. those who are stockpiling a year’s worth of soap for the 14 days they may have to stay at home are selfish. No question.

Plan a spectacular future. See it in your mind’s eye and start working towards achieving your dream and towards leaving your legacy. Review and recommit to your Mission. Frankl and Cousins need your support. And your health and welfare may depend on it.

And if fate should decide otherwise, let me face it with integrity and set a good example.

Age = Wisdom, Youth = Vitality. Let the young have both, instead.

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A few weeks ago I wrote this blog on why I thought material of the kind espoused in The Seven Habits and my own book was ignored by so many for so long, suggesting that people tend to arrive at an age when they suddenly seek meaning rather than stuff.

Today, I put a new spin on this not by looking at why the older ‘do’, but on why the younger ‘do not’.

Reading Stephen Covey’s anthology of first drafts and first thoughts, from the book ‘Primary Greatness’, I read this sentence.

I maintain that humility is the mother of all virtues, because humility helps us centre our lives on principles.”

Young people are – or want to appear to be – confident individuals. They are fit, recently educated, fashionable, invincible. They tend, therefore and without judgment on my part, to be incredibly egotistic. They are finding their way and have yet to realise that life isn’t one long party – or that if it is a party, it eventually ends when they discover the responsibilities they didn’t possess in their teens and twenties.

Perhaps this is as it should be. Perhaps later wisdom is intended to be delayed until people are ready for it, or until their proverbial wild oats are sown. I have no idea, because I am not the font of all wisdom. By any stretch!

This is why, perhaps, the young resist the wisdom literature. They don’t need it because they know better. They see things ‘as they are’ through interested, open eyes – whereas we old fuddy-duddies see things through experience gained by making mistakes. And having made mistakes we older ones seek to redress them, whereas the young are still learning from theirs.

But imagine if the young were taught that you can be humble and still have fun? That you can leave a legacy of forty or fifty years foundation rather than just for that night or weekend? That they are still learning, and that they could direct and control that learning if they just gave more thought to the longer-term. To their whole lives instead of the now.

Covey goes on to add, “I would then say that courage is the father of all virtues.”

Of course, another influence on the young is the peer group. Which means that Covey’s second quote reveals something which the young tend to lack. Not physical courage – they seem to have that in abundance, as a rule. But courage born of a properly considered and congruent values system, where they act in accordance with their conscience and what they know, deeply, to be true – and yet what those around them are trying to convince them is just ‘boring old stuff’.

This is what should be taught in school, not environmentalism and ‘social justice’ and ‘rights of the individual’ (without responsibilities of and towards the individual).

Kids need to be shown that courage does not mean lack of consideration. That wisdom is not a downer but a path to ‘better’. There are schools out there that do this, but they’ve had to initiate and fund this training themselves.

Wouldn’t it be better if it was a state-funded part of the curriculum? Instead of Welsh.

My one and only COVID-19 blog.

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As we delve ever deeper into the Coronavirus challenge, the call for character increases. This may not be as obvious a statement as ‘following the science’ and other twee clichés designed to assuage the panic of the populace, but it is nevertheless true.

It is true because some of us, those with ‘underlying health concerns’ are obliged to listen to the daily news reports that obsess with telling us that our personal Armageddon is closing in on us either geographically (I’m 6 miles away from the nearest) or numerically (“here’s today’s news on deaths and new cases”). The unconscious message is ‘You’ll be next!” Oh, great.

Character is required because we are being challenged, and because we are being challenged to deal with unknowns which for the majority lie firmly within their Circle of Concern, and equally firmly outside, or at least on the very outer edge of their Circle of Influence. The answer to this challenge lies within the competence of the NHS and the Doctors and Nurses who have to (a) deal with it and (b) be exposed to it so that the rest of us aren’t. For them, most of all, character shines out because they could all, justifiably, think selfishly and stay at home. We are very reliant upon the competence and character of the health workers. We need them to focus in their Circle of Influence so that our Circle of Concern can shrink a little.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of the politicians, who equally possess COVID-19 in their Circle of Concern..

At a time where the country needs to pull together, to fight off this challenge and defeat it, all I see on the news is point-scoring. The Opposition cannot wait, when asked about the virus, to start banging on about cuts in services and austerity measures (which they caused) and blaming the government for everything.

That’s really helpful. Thanks.

Of course, what makes it worse in 21st Century thinking is the immediacy and the accessibility of the media. I don’t recall wide-spread and overt criticism of the government at the outset of WW2: there seemed to be, if reports are to be believed, a sense of common purpose and community about that particular threat.

But here we are, needing character and what do we have?

Whining opposition politicians, and people stockpiling toilet paper and taking all the sanitizer off the store shelves while happily mingling in crowds. Isn’t that a little odd?

I’ll admit that as a result of this ‘countdown’ news reportage I am disheartened. There seems to be no positivity available to us. It’s all doom and gloom, where the updates are- ‘10% have had it’ rather than ‘90% will have a runny nose’. It is demoralising.

It’s the 2020 version of ‘Let’s learn German.’

So character is called for. Some stoicism, some resignation, but above all the taking of the opportunity to become better people by demonstrating patience, consideration, common sense and all those other traits which we know serve us better than selfishness, panic and disrespect.

And in a worst case scenario, demonstrating love for those we love. Time is always running out, but occasionally something happens to make us realise that with just a little more clarity.

Love you, folks. Take care.

And if you MUST self-isolate, get a copy of The 7 Habits and the Workbook, and use the time to Get Better in more ways than one!