100-Day Challenge, Day 27. Talk -or read – yourself into success.

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I have never really been all that enthusiastic about affirmations, those sentences one states (ideally out loud) to oneself that are intended to reinforce the cognitive integrity between what we say to ourselves and how we behave. Not that I don’t believe that what we say to us influences us, but the woowaah suggestion that doing so out loud makes any difference. Until this week.

Until last week, I had got into the habit of reading my PMS daily – it was on my to-do list and the brevity of time it took, allied to the simplicity of the particular to-do, meant it was an easy ‘tick-off’ in my planner. I didn’t shout out loud (partly because I was in an office full of personal development sceptics, aka ‘detectives’), but I did focus on the reading. And for the couple of weeks I did that I lost weight, produced, and lived according to said PMS.

This week, I did not. I allowed myself to believe that I had, by now, ‘got it’ and didn’t need to read it any more. This was the week I didn’t exercise, ate too much (and it doesn’t take ‘too much’ to stop weight loss, I assure you), and didn’t study for my forthcoming test as well as I could have.

In other words, my failure to read my PMS influenced – well, my failures.

So it is back in the planner and will be read daily this week. And I respect affirmations a little bit more than I used to. And to be frank, if they are good enough for Stephen Covey, then they are certainly good enough for me.

Now, dear sceptics – you may think this silly. Now ask Lewis Hamilton, Tiger Woods, many premiership footballers, and copious other successes who you’ve SEEN talking to themselves or meditating with closed eyes just before they perform, what they are doing. And if it is good enough for the successful – why isn’t it good enough for YOU?

A Sunday Morning Values Lesson on the BBC.

Are you willing to admit that your ideology influences you too much?

I was just watching Sunday Morning Live on the BBC, and the subject under discussion was the famous case of the monkey selfie, where PETA (the animal rights charity that does otherwise valuable work) was wasting money suing a photographer over the rights to a photograph that a monkey accidentally took of itself, using the gentleman’s camera. As is often the case the conversation widened, but at the end the four panellists were asked a simple question.

In a situation where an animal and a human were in danger, which would you save first?

This is where ideo-stupidity stepped in. it’s a simple question. Two alternatives. Which one?

The first two panellists avoided the question. Don’t get me wrong – even though I think there is only one sensible answer, I am not saying they gave a ‘wrong’ one. My point is that they avoided giving one at all.

The first (PETA) said they need more information (bolleaux) and the second went into whether we should treat animals with the same respect as we (should) treat each other, which wasn’t what he was asked.

That meant that PETA woman would not say she would put a person first because it might undermine their otherwise unquestioned love for animals, while not choosing the animal first because that might upset humans. And the second panellist avoided committing to a human life – which seemed odd for an equality rights campaigner for ‘people’, who wouldn’t put a ‘people’ before an animal in that simple dichotomy – possibly because he may upset animal lovers.

Here’s the thing – both were unwilling to stand by any personal values at all, either way. They flapped, they flummoxed, they prevaricated and, in the end they lied, either directly or by omission. There was an answer to give, whatever it was – but they wouldn’t give it because it would commit them to something that others might challenge. Which means they were gutless about their beliefs – which in one case was odd because the panellist is usually quite vociferous about what he believes in.

Which brings us to the point of my opening question – do you realise that your chosen ideology influences you so much that you can’t even stand by it when challenged? Does it influence you to the point that you KNOW or suspect that standing by it – isn’t absolutely right?

Question your values and beliefs until you get to the point where you wholly understand and are willing to stand by them, whatever the cost. Otherwise you will never be truly happy or congruent. When questioned, you will squirm. You will then be challenged, and you will squirm even more before getting all defensive and angry. Ultimately you will find yourself unable to put together the cogent argument that you did have about your values-derived choice – and all because your beliefs weren’t as sound and principled as you thought they were.

Do the values exercise, question your own beliefs, get absolutely clear and then stand by your values.

Or look a fool.

100-Day Challenge, Day 23.

Here I am at day 22 and a hiatus. Despite every hope that I would gently resume and commit to running daily throughout July, it is clear that my knee is not going to let me. I suspect a cruciate ligament malady similar to one I encountered before the 2015 Baker-Vegas Relay Challenge, which side-lined me for months only for my Achilles to go when the cruciate settled. Methinks I need a new strategy for the fitness side of my Challenge – probably a gym, with bikes, rowers and light weights – which I detest because – well, just because (there is no excuse, after all!). Gutted because I was seeing genuine progress in terms of speed. Face it, David – you’re not 20 anymore. Train like a 55-year old, instead.

No weight loss this week, probably because (a) I couldn’t exercise as well as I wanted and (b) because I ate all the ice cream. More commitment needed, or at least better use of the gap between stimulus (look, food!) and response (eat food).

 

100-Day Challenge, Day 20. And ‘Look what THEY have done!’

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It hasn’t been a great week for the challenge. Fitness wise I haven’t run since Sunday because of the knee, and the (possibly psychosomatic) pain in the back where, until the doctor suggested I should have pain, I didn’t have. Damnit! And I am too easily succumbing to the evening ice cream. What part of “Don’t buy any more!” don’t you understand!

On a better note, I have launched myself into the services I provide, soberingly realising that the social benefits of being an Institute Director, a driving Observer and a Speakers Club President in addition to my own ‘stuff’ mean – additional workload! Well, I never.

For those who know me, rest assured that I deliberately chose those service roles because they involved no physical effort whatsoever (even if my brain sometimes gets fried).

 

Ooh, look what they get!

It’s all kicked off at the BBC, hasn’t it? For those out of the loop, they have voluntarily (!) revealed large pay gaps between male and female presenter/celebs/newscasters, resulting in much debate on other programmes presented by those not earning as much (sic).

Shortly, it will be a legal requirement that businesses with over 250 staff will be forced to publish their pay structures/details, and one suggestion to counter the BBC-initiated but now extended issue of gender/race-related pay gaps ‘in the whole world’ is that ALL business should publish their pay details.

When I was young, my father said, “What I earn and what I pay in tax is my own business”. (He wasn’t a fan of Cliff Richard so he wasn’t talking about bachelorhood.*)

Outside of some public services, where pay IS publicised – like the police service where rates of pay are published, if not individual income – this would mean that everyone would be legally entitled to know what you were being paid. Everyone.

I wonder how that would benefit people? I know that the motive is positive, but like many good-natured ideas, has it been thought through? Imagine schoolyard bullies being able to pick on kids whose parents earn less than theirs. The phone calls to HMRC or Crimestoppers because Fred’s mum is deriving a Range Rover on a private plate and she only earns £21,000 a year so she ‘couldn’t possibly afford it’. The thrifty being asked for charitable donations by chuggers. And so on.

There is an economical tenet to which I subscribe, conditionally. It is that you get paid what you’re worth in terms of service provision. Which is why people who do jobs that ‘anyone can do’ get paid less than jobs which required years of training and effort. After that, the next leveller of pay is the number of people who want to do the job or who could do it – if only 5 people could do a particular job, then the rate of pay would probably be higher than if everyone wanted it – and the lowest bidder would win. That might explain public sector pay. (Hey, I am no economist and this argument may hold no water!)

All of which brings me around to the BBC issue. Notwithstanding the gender/race gap, which is an issue, is it just possible that the service provided by the best-paid talent is paid for at a rate that was agreed by the two parties involved, and was the result of a negotiation from which either side could have withdrawn, thus lowering the proverbial bar for the next applicant? In other words, “I want YOU,” resulted in the response, “Okay, this is what I want” and off they went.

Nothing. Wrong. With. That.

Perhaps the race/gender gap is a reflection of all of the aforementioned factors – plus an unwillingness of some to ask for more. “Life will give to you what you ask of it,” as Tony Robbins espoused.

And for some of those so offended by this issue, I have a question. Do you watch the drivel that is driving this pay up so high?

    I know my place.

*Look it up

100-Day Challenge – Day 16. And why your argument might make you look stupid.

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Lost another 2 pounds this week, which might have been more had I not succumbed to limited, controlled but admittedly self-undermining temptation with desserts of an evening. After telling my loving spouse NOT to buy ice-creams, she forgot she’d listened. Still, I could have said, ‘No’, couldn’t I?

I also ran a faster 2 miles, which is progress even if I am a long way of a 10 miler target. and I was nicely productive most of the time.

Don’t Argue for Generals.

The psychologist Dr Leonard Orr postulated that in all of us there are two people – a ‘thinker’ and a ‘prover’. The Thinker within you is the part that thinks up ideas and generates possibilities while the Prover looks for the evidence that supports those ideas. Orr’s Law states, “Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves’.

Consequently, if you believe something to be true based on any number of factors in including upbringing, peer pressures, experience and environment, then your Prover will seek out and identify any evidence that supports that belief – while dismissing anything which counters that belief.

This is a problem. Referencing Covey’s first Habit, we have the ability if we are aware of and wish to use it to overcome that closed thinking. We can choose to look at what we believe, and to question those beliefs. We also have the ability to elect to make those beliefs conditional – that, to accept that our beliefs are not facts, or that they may apply a lot of the time but aren’t necessarily universal.

This came to mind this week because a Facebook acquaintance had circulated a pic supporting of equality in gay marriage, but with an additional barb at the bottom about ‘the church’ being anti-gay. I questioned why a positive message about equality had to end with an attack. Off we went.

The point I wanted to convey (and maybe failed because of the medium or because the other party declined to accept Orr’s Law, I don’t know) was that generalising attacks on any organisation/culture/body/group, undermines the intellectual accuracy of the argument. In fact, it merely demonstrates the stereotyping of whole strata of society. And that stereotyping is often done by those who demand we do not stereotype!

I read about ‘the police did X at Hillsborough’ or ‘the army did that’ in Afghanistan, or ‘all politicians something else’ wherever, and I get miffed.

I get miffed because ‘the police’ is made up of thousands of people who had nothing to do with Hillsborough – I was 180 miles away; ‘the army’ is all over the world and not just in Afghanistan; ‘politicians’ represent society so some are dishonest, some are self-absorbed, and many are trying their best in a warped system (while also being subject to Orr’s Law!). But many ‘police’, ‘army’ and ‘politicians’ are none of those things. Many – no, most – are trying to uphold high personal and professional standards in a system designed (for some reason) to be adversarial. But most can leave the adversity in the workplace. Some, on the other hand, insist on taking it to Facebook.

You can usually tell the ideology of the arguer – their language about the other side will be dismissive, often insulting – but always general, as in ‘all X are Y’. Their language rarely takes into account the nature and size of exemptions that make the original generalisation ineffective.

Try arguing for an idea without attacking, insulting or stereotyping those who hold an opposing viewpoint. It’ll make you clever – er.

100-Day Challenge, Day 13. And a bit about kids and the world of work.

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No run today – knee trembling (no, not like that) and as I am suddenly conscious that running as often as I am when I am as overweight as I am may not serve structural integrity unless I am careful. in other words, I must give my joints time to rest between runs, and if there’s a twinge – I should take note. I’ve also been to the doctor, who thinks my numb toes may be a recovering slipped disc somewhere around L5 in the spine and I certainly don’t want to make THAT any worse. Baby steps, Buster, baby steps.

Other than that, I’ve cleared out a bucket load of clutter and I can move in my ‘office’, which means I am closing on the final chapters of Police Time Management, which I am editing to make it more up to date. And I still eat wisely.

I was briefly amused by a report in the Welsh press about the Assembly’s desire to create 1,000,000 Welsh speakers by 2050. Nothing wrong with that, but such reports always give rise to swathes of comments about the pros and cons of that particular project.

Regardless of the debate on that particular subject, it made me think about children’s education in general. Universities are complaining that students are having to be taught ‘educational basics’ when they get into that top level of education, because they aren’t learning it/being taught properly at the primary and secondary stages of school. That may be so, but there is something even worse about those levels of education – they don’t teach our children how to live.

I am talking here about ‘Second Resolution’ competencies, competencies that enable people to live and serve others because they aren’t busy simply trying to live. Where are their money lessons? Where are their ‘how bureaucracies work’ lessons? Where are their driving lessons? (Okay, maybe that’s a logistical issue but simple drivers’ education may help them get jobs when they leave – and stay alive, perhaps.) And my personal favourite, how to manage their time to be most effective at getting what they want while providing service so that others can get what they want.

Years ago, it was suggested that education was warped because it had one malign intent – to prepare children for the workplace. Well, that horse has bolted. Kids are arriving at work unprepared for it. They have a Geography GCSE but its relevance in entry-level retail or repairing computers remains to be seen.

They arrive in work unaware that they are entitled to contracts (where applicable), that the money won’t last for ever and that maintaining a CV is a good idea. They occasionally work with an unfortunate, source-unknown sense of entitlement. We now have courses now where managers are taught how to manage ‘millennials’.

I am a dinosaur, I know, but here’s how to manage any new worker. Learn these lines:

“Do as I say until you can show me you can do it properly, then develop ways to make it better. Show me you are trustworthy, then I can let you have your head. Communicate that you won’t be a liability and cost me, and then I’ll leave you to it.”

Not: “I’m sorry I am asking you to do ‘work’, really I am, but that’s what we are here to do.”

Okay, over-reaction, but the message we need to tell ourselves as much as we need to tell our kids, is that all work is noble, we learn because we don’t know it all, we all get better by doing, and we are treated better if we show respect and earn trust.

Competencies can be learned. Character needs to be instilled – by parents, by peers, by education.

And isn’t it great when a school does that?

100-Day Challenge, Day 12. If you’re tired – work even harder?

I don’t think it is a scientific fact, but I believe that the best time to run is when you least want to, which probably extends into the philosophy that the best time to do anything related to self-discipline is when you least want to do that ‘anything’. There is scientific research that suggests that just as overextending a muscle increases the strength of that muscle, over-extending one’s willpower (self-discipline) increases the capacity of that willpower, over time. For that reason, going to the psycho-gym is a good idea (provided that by ‘psycho-gym’ you don’t mean attending a Dexter-led Course in dissection of other human beings).

So, go me, because I really did not want to run until about half a mile into today’s effort. And like many personal development experts agree, I felt a lot better after I’d used up a couple of hundred calories.

Yesterday was the opposite – I didn’t go for a run and, oddly enough, after I didn’t go for that run I did NOT feel better at all.

Other goals also got ignored yesterday, while all my goals have been worked on today. Extrapolating that, one wonders if the mere ‘existence’ of activity begets further activity. This fits in with academics being well-informed in multiple disciplines in addition to their specialisms; people writing while speaking while travelling while having happy family-lives; and other examples of massive productivity by already busy people, which puts the rest of us to shame.

The busier one is, the busier one can get. The more chilled one is, the worse one feels about even the smallest of tasks. I can even attest to that being true – I can sit around with no tasks allocated to me, bemoaning that lack of work – only for the genuine emotional response that when a piece of work suddenly arises, I am being interrupted!

This is why busy people are the ones to ask to do more work – because they can, while the unproductive will fight the imposition so much that you give up on their ever doing it.

In conclusion, therefore – in order to avoid being tired, get even busier!

100-Day Challenge – Day 10.

The First Resolution is: “To overcome the restraining forces of appetites and passions, I resolve to exercise self-discipline and self-denial.”

Since I started the (latest!) 100-Day Challenge I have discovered a slightly stronger ability to apply self-discipline in terms of exercise and diet, partly because I haven’t gone b4lls-out and tried to starve myself, and I haven’t tried to run a marathon on day one – my old strategy.

Instead, I am running 2 miles a day to establish an aerobic foundation (stupidity excepting, see days 5-6), and I am just eating less – small muesli breakfast, 2 pitta breads with ham and salad for lunch while watching Daily Politics, then a decent evening meal – and this seems to be working. I am not entirely denying myself much and, let’s face it, compared to my many friends’ apparent ability to enjoy life I haven’t had much to deny myself. In fact, I think I shall have to take up some kind of vice in order to then start ‘denying’ it. I barely quaff, I use no drugs, and I have never had enough money to spend on gambling, expensive toys, frequent pop concerts or such like.

Ideas, anyone?

Diet and exercise aside, one discipline that needs more conscious application is ‘studying’. I am preparing for another driving-related challenge, part skill and part theory, and I am finding it hard to concentrate. I suspect that the main challenge with the theoretical part is that I am reading and re-reading material that is sooooo familiar that it’s like treading grapes. Lots of ‘effort’ but minimal immediately-apparent benefit. I guess most study is like that – you go over and over the stuff, but until the exam/test/challenge the benefit is hard to see. And then, occasionally, how the question is asked has a big impact on providing the right answer.

But all of this is working so far, and for that I am grateful. Now some din-dins.

   Okay, if I DID have a vice – and some money…….

Bullying is not legitimised because of your target. It’s STILL bullying.

As there appears to be little to say ‘different’ on a daily basis, let’s just pause the daily updates on the 100-Day Challenge and get back to philosophisin’.

What do you call it when a person of power constantly picks at and picks on a person whose ability to reply is compromised? I believe in the world of work, school and society they call this bullying.

Now, when the person of power is the press or a comedian, and the person they are picking on is a politician, celebrity or athlete, you might be forgiven for saying it is different, because the politician (etc.) has power. I, on the other hand, disagree – conditionally.

First of all, I am not talking about reasonable criticism or analysis. That’s fair comment by any party. However, when the ‘criticism’ gets personal (appearance, language, verbal slips), or uses abusive language (idiot, idiocy, fool, disgusting, stupid, etc.), or is unendingly repetitive – then a line has been crossed.

The reason I say this is because the politician (etc.) has no right of equivalent reply, because the second they respond using the same kind of language they get attacked for that, as well. It is ‘unseemly’ or (the latest one) ‘unpresidential’. And no media outlet ever accepted they were wrong when they were wrong, in the history of ever. They just do it a bit more.

A bit like that bully who kept picking on you at school. The more you cried, the harder they hit. That is why I believe some press coverage amounts to bullying. From all sides and towards most politicians.

Poor old Diane Abbott made a right noodle of herself over policing costs, and the bullying went on for days. Part of that is because every different media outlet to which she spoke afterwards covered it, but in my view, they (a) asked the questions again and again and again and (b) weren’t remotely interested in her answer. I do not like the woman or her politics, but what the media did – and then those so-called liberal comedians who espouse ‘fairness and tolerance for all’, did – was to bully her.

And I have to ask whether that kind of bullying is made easier because we like it. We like it because the person being bullied is someone who we dislike or don’t agree with. Or we like it because they have money and we don’t, or they want our money and we don’t want to provide it. In sports, it’s because they aren’t ‘our’ team and therefore it’s okay to be nasty. Or we like it because it isn’t us.

In the final analysis, too many of us – and far too many so-called journalists – are just flipping kids.