I’m Sorry . . .

It appears I might have been confusing you.

Someone caused me to think about this the other day and it’s about something I was taught by, among others, Mary Morrissey.

When I first attended ‘Dreambuilder Live’ in Baltimore a few years ago we were taken through an exercise called the ‘Time Machine’ – and it’s a technique I now use and encourage my clients and colleagues to use on a daily basis.

I often precede something I’m talking about with “I am” which may be confusing because it is often an affirmation, rather than a statement of current fact.

The idea of ‘future pacing’, which is what the ‘Time Machine’ is about, is you and I framing our visions, our goals, our ambitions and everything we wish to be, do and have in the present tense.

Never “I will be” or I’m going to be” but always “I AM” – and the capital letters are part of it.

You see the subconscious mind which is ‘in charge’ of manifestation doesn’t understand the conscious concept of time.

If you or I say “I will . . .” or “I’m going to . . .” then those words will be taken literally as something which ‘will’ happen and it remains something which is ‘going to happen’ for ever – so it never actually ‘happens’!

What we asked was for it to happen in the future, not now, and just as we cannot go back to yesterday it is also true that ‘tomorrow’ never comes.

Everything we say or write about ourselves, who we are, what we do, what we have, must be affirmed in the ‘now’ because to the Universe, to Source, ‘Now’ is all there is.

I talked recently about timelines which may also have led to confusion because they are more to do with sequence than time.

In project management we sometimes consider ‘dependencies’ – one event being dependent on another, or one state of being having to be extant before another state of being can come about.

This idea does not necessarily have to do with the idea of ‘time’ which although it helps the conscious mind get a grip on things is not something other states of consciousness are concerned with at all.

Consider this: if you are building a house there is a distinct sequence of changes of state for the building to go through to cause it to become a fully functional ‘house’. Whatever the stage of build, it’s still a house, not something else.

Likewise, many websites are ‘under construction’ but they are still websites.

So if you or I give ourselves a particular title, or tagline, perhaps describing what we do and who we are – and what we do is still ‘under construction’ we are not being ‘pretentious’ or bragging, but positively affirming our intention to be and do whatever the title describes – at some point further along the ‘timeline’ we are travelling.

Other things – our goals and plans – have to be made true before whatever is ‘under construction’ can fully exist.

I AM whoever I say I am, You ARE whoever you say you are, and the more you and I buy ourselves and others in to those affirmations the closer we become to their being completely true.

To some people we encounter this may seem like lying as you or I may not, at that point along our timelines, appear to be who or what we say we are or seeming to do what we say we are doing.

But so long as we are true to our intentions it’s really not our problem, or our business, what other people might think.

Well, in a way it is because it sorts them out into those who believe in us and those who don’t, it helps us identify who we can trust.

I find sometimes that I don’t ‘fit in’ to some other peoples’ ideas of who I should be or what I should be doing. Have you ever felt the same?

I’m sorry I don’t fit in to their frameworks, not for me but for them, I’m sorry they have ‘conventions’ and frameworks they feel everyone should ‘fit’. I’m sorry they allow others to define what they can and cannot do – who they can and cannot be, and I’m sorry they meekly accept the labels they are given – or choose.

The thing is there are no ‘labels’ other than those we choose, and as Patrick McGoohan said in ‘The Prisoner’ – “I will not be pushed filed stamped indexed briefed, debriefed or numbered . . !”

You and I are different.

I AM different, and I’m sorry for anyone who can’t cope with that. Being ‘different’ however implies something else, which I’ll discuss next week.

One of Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ favourite phrases in the NCIS television series is “Don’t apologise, it’s a sign of weakness” but I believe sometimes it’s a sign of strength – depending on how it’s done, and why.

How about you?

“Mind the Gap”

This phrase is always evocative of trips to London with my grandparents as a small child.

I wonder sometimes if the change of this to “Please mind the gap between the train and the platform” is not an indicator of the general ‘dumbing down of the nation, but it was perfectly clear to me as a five-year-old what it meant.

This phrase has two meanings

Most people take it as ‘avoid’ the gap but what it really means is to be aware of or ‘mindful’ of the gap

Because there is always a ‘gap’

The trouble with ‘gaps’ is that many people see them simply as some kind of ‘void’ in time or space usually seen as an interruption of some kind in the expected progress of things

Like the ‘gap year’ many young people take between school and university, which may or may not be used constructively.

‘Gaps’ of course require filling – or bridging. They don’t take well to being ignored, getting wider or deeper if left alone thus becoming more difficult to fill or bridge.

Why am I going on about gaps?

This time last week my coach Phil asked me a question. “What’s your gap?” he said, “What’s the gap between where you are now and where you wish to be?”

A just question indeed.

What and where are the gaps and cracks, the potholes and obstacles on my Way ahead?

What needs filling and what needs bridging, and what do I need to find a way around?

After all, it’s all very well you and I putting a lot of effort into understanding who and where we are and in visualising who and where we wish to be if we don’t, at the same time, identify and understand the gaps between the two.

Unless you and I, ‘mind the gap

The thing is – some of the gaps are glaringly obvious, but many are hidden.

There are two ways we can approach this, or perhaps two extremes of approach.

We can charge ahead, stumble over the obstacles and fall into the holes, working it out as we go and dealing with the cuts and bruises we get on the journey


We can study our situation, work out where the ‘gaps’ might be, and follow a plan of action based on what we’ve found. – it may take a bit longer but certainly saves on the sticking plaster.

In ‘Life Mastery’ we recognise four domains of life and there are ‘gaps’ in each one of them. If there weren’t, we would be ‘perfect’ and have no purpose on this planet in the first place.

The task I’ve been given is to set about identifying all the gaps and create a composite view of my ‘Gap’.

Then I shall need to find a means of dealing with the ‘whole’ gap by filling, bridging or circumventing each element one by one.

The four domains are each divided into sixteen sectors so I can take each of those one by one to examine what, if any, deterrents there are to my desired progress.

So can you

But you’d probably like to know what those four domains are.

The first is all about your Self – where and what are the ‘gaps’ in your knowledge and understanding, in your health and wellness, in your fitness, nutrition and general stuff that concerns only you and what do you need to do to deal with them?

The second is about everything that is ‘outside’ you – the environment, the planet, plants, animals, people, society, cultures and so on. Where and what are the gaps in your ‘relationships’ with all of these – and what are you going to do about it?

The third is about what you ‘do’, what you ‘give out’ to this ‘outside. Your job, business or career, your engagement in sports, societies and other groups in terms of what you contribute. How you teach, mentor and ‘bring up’ your family and so on. What are you going to change to ‘mind’ the gaps you find here.

And finally the fourth domain in about what you ‘receive’ – what you ‘get back’, your ‘lifestyle’, how you life, your finances and your freedoms. How are you going to deal with the gaps in this domain?

Believe me, there are many gaps in all these areas. Some ‘big’, some small, some requiring minor adjustment to how you live, some needing ‘major’ life changes.

The Beatles sang in ‘A Day in The Life’

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all

Time to count your ‘holes’, your ‘gaps’ –

And figure out what to do with them.

‘Mind’ your Gap

The Way Forward

After about 15 years ‘helping out’ the UK rail industry I found myself in a contract with Metronet, project managing signalling renewal on the London Underground.

Driving down from Cheshire to Tottenham on a Sunday afternoon and staying in a bedsit until driving back on Saturday morning, I began to question what I was doing.

My clients felt that if they couldn’t ‘see’ me in their Holborn offices every day from 8am then how did they know I was actually doing the ‘work’ they were paying me for involving about half my time on ‘field’ visits to Underground staff and the rest in ‘meetings’, planning, and writing reports.

I could have gone to London for two days and done the rest from home but that ‘wasn’t the way it worked’. Despite generous remuneration I decided that I had better things to do with my time and better ways of running my life.

So I said goodbye to that ‘career’ and moved on to career path number nine.

Earlier, in 1999, I’d been introduced to the weird world of Network Marketing (aka MLM) and I found it challenging but invigorating and very ‘social’ and supportive.

I managed to build a respectable ‘team’ but it turned out the company we were working with wasn’t entirely ethical (they were later investigated by the DTI) and a bunch of us ‘jumped ship’ to a UK company in the utilities sector.

I built a substantial business, leading a team generating around £2m a year for the company and became one of the top ten ‘customer gatherers’ for around seven years which earned me lots of nice incentive rewards, cruises, weekends abroad and so on.

Although I’ve ceased to be active in this, I still receive a substantial commission payment each month based on the bills of those customers I introduced who are still with the company.

Make no mistake, network marketing (with an ethical company) works, but it’s much harder and more intensive of time than they make out in the first place. Building that monthly four figure commission took around eleven years, mostly full time, plus a significant monetary investment in marketing and advertising, not to mention travel.

You can’t create a ‘replacement’ income out of this without a significant period of full time engagement. Been there, done that, got the T-shirt (well a few actually!).

Career path ten (where I am now) started when I separated and divorced some seven years ago, largely because we wished for different things out of life but also because, as a friend of mine put it recently about her relationship, ‘the love had gone’.

When my printing business (career path three) was coming to an end and before I married, I had conceived the idea of going in my current direction, but somehow it was put on hold – probably because the ‘time wasn’t right’. Now I was free to go where I wished with my life, I realised that it was ‘time’.

There was, and is, no ‘master plan’. I’ve migrated from path to path, timeline to timeline and sometimes it ‘worked’, sometimes not, but what I have gained is a vast amount of experience, knowledge and understanding in many fields of activity which I can now put to use advising, guiding and coaching others on their paths of achievement.

I sometimes surprise myself with what I remember from the ‘past’ timeline and how effectively, as I ‘look back’ I can apply it to the ‘now’.

With the guidance of my friend and coach Phil Olley who helped me ‘focus on purpose’, I have, over the last three months, gained complete clarity about who I am, my purpose in life and the Way in which I shall achieve it.

That doesn’t mean to say at this stage I know exactly ‘how’ I’m going to fulfil my Purpose, but I do know the ‘Way Forward’.

There are some ‘holes’ to be filled in each of the four domains of life and this is where I need to take my own advice.

Generally speaking, those of us in, as Peter Thomson puts it, the ‘helping industry’, are much better helping our clients and other people achieve their aims and goals than we are with our own!

The thing is, to ‘make it all come true’, you and I have to put our trust in, and have faith in, other people if we really wish it to happen.

Coaches need coaches, healers need healers, therapists need therapists and so on. Even Virtual Assistants need their own VAs!

You or I are not the be all and end all of what we do, yes, we have our unique skills and there are many things which, as Sir John Harvey-Jones explained, only we can do, so the next step for me is to find that ‘inner circle’ of associates and ‘partners in believing’ whose ‘way forward’, and indeed whose ‘Way’ aligns with mine.

I’m clear on my ‘Way Forward’. How about you?

Showing the Way

The ‘mid-life crisis’ came upon me after I turned 30. My partner Sue had left the business, and me, to pursue other interests and I was beginning to become aware that change was in the offing.

I’d learnt to Scuba dive and was really enthusiastic about it and thought this might be the ‘way forward’. I ‘put my heart and soul’ into it soon becoming an Advanced Instructor and Diving Officer of the local branch of the BSAC.

It’s not a cheap sport but I managed to sustain it by doing some typesetting work for a few of my former printing customers. Diving revived my interest and enthusiasm for teaching, and I relished the opportunity to help people learn to dive safely.

One of the things I learned during my diving career which continued for several more years alongside other occupations was the skill of helping folk adapt to different circumstances while understanding they may not see things in the same way as I.

I felt completely at home under the water from day one, most of the people I trained and taught didn’t.

I suppose as a printer my role was similar to that of a web designer or IT support person in the current era. My customers didn’t need to know how the process worked – they just needed a good job done although there was some discussion up front about how best to produce the outcome they were looking for.

I think that’s where I began to develop my marketing skills because it wasn’t just about ink on paper.

With diver training it was different because even as a recreational diver you do need to know how being underwater affects the body and how to use the equipment properly to avoid a possible life threatening situation.

Meanwhile (I had a few timelines running) one of my ‘staff’ at Anvil Press had introduced me to spirituality, known then as ‘the occult’, and I began reading avidly all I could find on the subject of who we really are and how we ‘work’. Early days, but the path I’m now on started then and thanks to Blair for pointing me in this direction.

A lot of things came together and fell apart for me personally over about four years from 1977 – a number of short term relationships and the acquisition of an Irish Setter and eventually setting an intention to ‘get married’.

I’m not sure I knew what I was doing but application of some of the learning I’d gained from the spiritual books led me to apply to a ‘computer dating’ agency as I wasn’t really ‘meeting’ anyone in Liverpool at the time.

One of the six ladies I was introduced to, took a liking to me and I soon found myself married and living with her and her two children in Knutsford.

The ‘backdrop’ of my life changed from being part of a vibrant city ‘scene’ to a quiet and sedate ‘posh’ Cheshire town. Something of a culture shock!

Back in the ‘real world’ I decided I needed to learn about and understand this new fangled ‘computer stuff’ and that’s where I headed next to the Bolton Institute of Higher Education.

A newly qualified Systems Analyst I found employment at United Biscuits, back in Liverpool of all places! This and my subsequent post at ICL in Manchester continued my theme of ‘showing the way’.

Helping the systems engineers and programmers understand what it was the customers wanted them to do, and what the outcome was the customers wanted – which was usually much at odds with what the engineers thought they wanted or they should have!

‘Herding cats’ for about ten years as Senior Programme Manager did rather help develop my management skills.

Although I wasn’t really aware of it during this time, I was learning a lot about myself and about life. The spiritual studies had stopped when I married, although, rebranded as ‘personal development’ they did come back later.

I was made redundant from ICL on my 45th birthday. For me this was a great release and I never took up formal employment again, instead forming my own company as a project and information management consultant.

ICL had been good enough to pay for me to study and graduate with an MBA from Warwick Business School definitely helping establish my consulting career especially as they employed me part time as a marketing and information studies tutor on their MBA programme for 20 years.

I spent the next 10 years or so working mainly with the UK rail industry after the break up of British Rail, helping to show them the ‘way’ forward (railway pun intended).

There’s been a lot in this about ‘my story’ but I’ve only described about a tenth of it.

In developing ‘My Way’ a large part of it has become ‘Showing the Way’.

Then, I came to the second life crisis, the one when we ask ourselves “Is this ‘it’? Is this all there is?

I’ll describe how I answered next time.

Meanwhile – do you know your Way, and is anyone helping you find it?

‘My Way’

‘My Way’

In my opinion the best rendition of this song was by Sid Vicious – well, at least the most memorable!

Hear the song at funerals these days, often wonder whether the ‘departed’ chose it or someone else thought it might be appropriate.

Think I might put it in my Will – to play or not to play – that is the question!

Yes, I’ve done a lot ‘my way’ and usually been dissatisfied when I’ve not been allowed to.

You see, my ‘Way’ or your ‘Way’ is really the only way to go, the only way we can go if we are to be fulfilled as individuals.

In the Bible, the verse (John 14:6) “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” has a remarkably consistent translation across all English versions.

(Wow, that was a bit of a leap from Sid Vicious to Jesus!)

As usual though, the translation may be consistent, but the interpretation isn’t.; especially that of ‘Father’ and the first and last words ‘I am’ and ‘through me’.

To my way of thinking, the ‘Father’ is not an external entity I am supposed to commune with but the enlightenment I find within my Self, and when Jesus of Nazaraeth said ‘I am’ he was talking about himself and his own journey as a man to find that enlightenment.

He was not commanding people to ‘follow’ him or to do what he told them, although in a way he was.

Do as I do, find your way, find your truth, live your life, that is the Way to your fulfilment.

He did not set out to start a religion, that was created by others who picked up on his teachings for their own ends, much in the same way as the followers of other prophets and philosophers.

So, what about my Way?

How did I find it? How many timelines have I travelled to get it all together?

Because I have found my Way, I do know my Purpose and I am making progress now on that journey. What’s more I am happy to declare that with confidence.

When we come into this world, we have no idea what’s going on and no knowledge and this first age up to about 5.

In one of the last scenes of Star Wars III (the third of the prequel trilogy) an order is given to have C3PO’s mind wiped because otherwise in A New Hope (first of the originals) the droid would have remembered people from the previous films which would have been anomalous with the script of the movies made before.

When we decide to return to this world we know our Purpose and our Way, but while we’re waiting to be born that information gets wiped and we spend a large proportion of our lives on earth in rediscovering why we are here!

In finding our Way.

Between the ages of 5 and my mid-teens I put a lot of effort into getting to ‘know’ stuff – learning – with not much sense of purpose or direction, just going with the flow, through the school system, because that’s the way it is.

Then by the age of 21 I was given a piece of paper which convinced me, now I’d been through the mill, that I knew it all, all there was to know, and I could pretty much go off and do anything.

So I did, my way.

I decided not to ‘get a job’ but to start my own business.

Correction, I did get a job as a schoolteacher for a year in a ‘Secondary Modern’ as they were then, in Widnes. I hated every minute of it, not so much the teaching itself, I enjoyed that bit, but the system under which we had to operate. (Rant avoidance process activated)

My partner and I spotted a gaping hole in the market and set up a business primarily to provide print and associated items to Student Unions who wanted stuff that most local printers would respond to with a sharp intake of breath, usually because it wasn’t just straight black and white.

We, or more to the point I, thought we knew it all, took very little advice, but managed to work it all out for ourselves.

We stayed in business relatively successfully for quite a while in what, in the 70’s, were quite harsh economic times.

At the end of that decade, changing technological forces caused a decision to be made to close and sell off the business as continuing would require significant change.

In any case it was time to do something else.

I was approaching stage 4 – the ‘mid-life crisis’ – when I realised I knew very little and understood even less.

Where were you coming up to age 35?

I’ll tell you where I was next time.

Strands of Time

Have you ever thought you might be going in the wrong direction? The path you’re taking might not be leading you where you intend to go?

I have.

Have you ever thought you might be ‘chasing shadows’, what or who you think you see ahead might not really be there at all?

I have, and very recently.

Have you ever found yourself following more than one course at a time, juggling two or three different work streams or interests? Have you ever thought what you ‘dp’ in life is not producing the desired effect?

I have.

And have you ever ‘jumped ship’ – left a job, business or relationship to pursue a different intention? Has anyone done that to you – left you in the lurch from a personal or business point of view?

Happens all the time doesn’t it?

“That’s life” – as ‘they’ say (whoever ‘they’ are!)

Well yes, it is, due to the choices we make, all these things occur on our journey through life, on our path, our ‘Way’; and it’s not surprising with all this going on so many people get ‘lost’ along their Way – even if they had any idea what their Way was in the first place.

I’m lucky enough to know my Way, to know my purpose in life to know the experiences I’m looking for. It did take me several decades to discover but I do now know where I am going, or more to the point where I have chosen to go, even though seven years ago I had no idea!

Can you say that – with certainty and confidence? Only very few who can – a percentage of the global population in the low end of single figures.

I’ve explained time doesn’t exist, but this is something else – your ‘Way’ is a ‘Timeline’ although it has nothing to do with time; more like ‘sequence’.

Imagine a multicoloured cord with six strands (pick any six colours) and imagine yourself – now – at the point where the strands converge to weave the cord.

Behind you is the cord, ahead of you are the strands going off in all directions towards infinity.

Around you are other people, their cords behind them and their strands ahead, sometimes coming close to or crossing your strands.

Whichever strand you’re on, as you move forward, your other five strands come together to weave the cord.

Here’s the thing. You cannot go back and undo the cord.

Once it’s made it is made – you cannot step in the same river twice, you cannot ‘undo’ the blockchain.

You can of course turn, even go around in the opposite direction, but you are still making new cord, not in any way undoing what has been done.

At any moment you or I are on one strand, one timeline, representing our current activity.

We can ‘steer’ the strand in the direction we wish to go, and we can jump on and off other strands we have running in parallel, like switching lanes on a motorway.

We can even be in two lanes at once, but it’s not advised!

We can be ‘with’ someone else’s strand as if they’re in the same car, the same business or the same relationship.

When this happens, the cords of our lives join together until our individual sets of strands separate, when children leave home for example.

Look at your cord.

Where has it joined up or separated from someone else’s?

Whose cord did you come from into this life? Your parents, grandparents and so on – the ‘family tree’

Like a family tree the cord goes back and back to one root, one source – the Universal Source where everyone ‘started’.

That’s all very well, it gives us ‘lessons’ from the past, but much as some would like to ‘go back’, the future is not the past. ‘History does not and cannot ‘repeat itself’, we cannot ‘replay’ our cord, it’s done, and cannot be undone.

We have to find a new way, a new direction, and choose which strand of life to travel right now.

Who are you travelling with, are you headed to the same destination or do you have different journeys to make? Are you getting tangled up in other peoples’ strands?

Understanding your direction, and bringing your strands together, increases certainty about your ‘future’.

Alternatively, like most people, you can carry on jumping from strand to strand not quite knowing what’s going on.

Where’s your timeline headed?

Are you on the ‘right’ strand, the one leading to the ‘Best You?

Wrong Number

You and I place a lot of attention on numbers.

You could say everything we do, how we live, how we choose to be governed, is based on numbers.

But are they the ‘right’ numbers?

You see, you can do pretty much anything with numbers.

I used to know quite well two Economists, professors at neighbouring Universities in the North West. Give them the same set of numbers and they’d manipulate, sorry ‘model’, them in different ways coming up with two completely opposing conclusions and recommendations.

Every time

It was of course what they were paid to do, one as advisor to the Conservative Party and the other to Labour.

We can make numbers prove or disprove anything we like.

But what are numbers?

Finite numbers are a device we have created to help get our heads around how the world works. When we go beyond into the infinite, most people lose the plot.

I was never that good at maths, just scraped a pass at O Level. Sure I could manage addition, subtraction, multiplication and division and even a little algebra and geometry but when it came to calculus, that’s where my brain said noooo!

I failed statistics in my MBA exams, even though we were allowed to take in notes – had to upgrade them to get through it on the second attempt.

‘Lies, damned lies and statistics’ attributed to Sir Charles Dilke in 1891 and popularised by Mark Twain is where that starts. I’d add a 4th level of heinous lie – ‘Government statistics’ – which usually bear no relation to facts whatsoever! (Or sometimes even the actual numbers)

As an information consultant in the rail industry in the 90’s my contracts were usually about helping interpret the mass of data on the railways into information that board level management could use – they’d lost faith in the interpretations of the numbers by middle management as being something they though the top levels wanted to hear.

Understand now that this isn’t about ‘lying’ it’s about ‘interpretation’.

Or in my language manipulating the figures to prove or make a point.

But there’s another aspect to this which is how your mind interprets the numbers.

Marisa Peer says that ‘your mind only does what it thinks you want it to do’ which is a variation  on ‘you get what you think about’.

There is a philosophy in sales of ‘go for no’ – the belief that the more ‘no’ responses you get, the closer you’ll be to the ‘yes’, so count the ‘no’ responses and forget about the ‘yes’.

What does that do? Well you mind then thinks you want people to say No – and that’s just what happens.

This is based on the entirely false ‘Law of Averages’ I’ve discussed in an earlier insight.

It is good though to measure our results, as it is to keep track of our accounts.

Not for the sake of the numbers but to make sure we are taking the right actions to improve our results.

Trouble is too mane people just get lost in the magic of the numbers which can often lead to counter productive decisions or the wrong messages going out.

Back in the late 90s there were three major rail crashes and 42 people were killed. I wasn’t personal involved in the internal enquiries but our team of consultants were handed the brief that came out of it.

So what were the numbers they focussed on?

Not the total numbers of people travelling on trains on those days, not the total number of people on those particular trains, not the numbers of people who lived in the towns the trains departed from but purely an simple the numbers of people who died purely and simply because they were on those particular trains.

In all three cases the root causes were down to miscommunication between departments and those departments having different budgets and agendas.

We recommended a coherent organisation and alignment with better methods of information transfer and different forms of information.

Since then there have been no similar incidents on the UK railway system

Options like reducing the numbers on the trains, stopping people in the departure towns using the trains, shutting down the railway while new systems were installed, having fewer trains, or anything else that would have impacted the travelling public and the businesses involved were not even considered.

Those numbers would not have solved the problem, only complicated it beyond measure.

There was only one number to think about – 42

The problem, once discovered, was stopped in its tracks.

Maybe there’s a lesson here.

Shelf Development

At the back of the bookshop – this was when the only independent sources of information were bookshops and libraries –

At the back of the bookshop there was a poorly lit area signed ‘Self Help’ – just before you reached the ‘Occult’ section right at the back.

This was around 20BC – that’s 20 years before computers, at least before ‘personal computers’ appeared on the scene.

As a schoolboy I couldn’t really afford to buy the boos but I’d skim through the likes of Napoleon Hill and Dale Carnegie – I think one of the first that took my eye was ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ which I managed to find in the local library and borrow.

The response I got from my Mother was something like “Why are you wasting your time reading that rubbish” or words to that effect.

Self Help which we now refer to as Self Development wasn’t on anyone’s agenda back then.

After all, as Harold Macmillan said, “You never had it so good” so why would we need ‘self-help’?

I read it and took it back to the library.

It cropped up again after my A Levels, that weird period at the end of the school year after the exams when, the curriculum completed, we were ‘filling in time’ until the end of term.

I think it was the English Lit. teacher who in one of the ‘general studies’ periods told us the story of Napoleon Hill. I don’t remember much other than him talking about this ‘Napoleon’ who wasn’t Napoleon.

Later, when I’d done my Degree in microbiology and biochemistry and left University, I acquired several books by mail order from Finbarr Books in Folkestone, mostly about 100 pages with a mix of occult and self-development subjects. I still have about 30 of them.

I was looking for ‘the answer’ or maybe ‘the secret’ and reading as much as I could.

But I was getting it ‘wrong’.

You see the education system in most of the world is, to be polite about it, ‘misaligned’.

Bob Proctor points out we are taught a great deal of useful knowledge in the form of facts and then ‘examined’ on our recall of that knowledge.

‘Read it, learn it, regurgitate it’ is how it works.

As I’ve stated before it’s not until we get to master’s degree level in education are we expected to be able to understand and apply that knowledge.

Taking action on the knowledge we are provided with just isn’t part of the process.

I was listening to Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mind Valley, having a bit of a rant about this yesterday, mainly on the theme of why don’t they teach kids things that will be useful to them like how money works?

It’s not surprising that because people are taught all they need to do is ‘learn’ the knowledge, so many of the thousands of books we can loosely categorise as ‘self development’ do end up on the shelf!

People just don’t know, because they haven’t been shown, how to apply the knowledge to their lives and are reluctant to ‘take action’ when encouraged to do so.

They don’t know what they need to do and invariably ask the ‘H question’ – “How do I make this happen”.

Some writers are now including worksheets in books but most people just skip over them and read on hoping to find the ‘answers’ they are ‘supposed’ to fill in.

But isn’t that how we are taught in school? – ‘You’ll find the answers by reading or listening’.

We are not taught to think.

We are not taught to find the answers within ourselves because they are all ‘out there’.

Someone else already has the answer, you just have to find it.

Heaven forfend people should be encouraged to think for themselves and come up with their own, new, ideas which might challenge ‘established’ or ‘settled’ knowledge.

All the great inventors, philosophers, engineers and creative artists are, or have been, people who thought for themselves.

Not only that, but they put their ideas into action, into practice, and ‘made’ something out of their thoughts.

You and I can do this too.

Check out your ‘shelf development library’ – what ‘great ideas’ are there in there you can think about and really ‘develop’ by taking action and creating something ‘new’ for yourself or for everyone.

Just by taking action.

Never mind ‘what’ or ‘how’. Once you or I set an intention the answers to those questions will come.

The Grim Reaper

It was the salmon mousse

The dinner party scene in Monty Python’s Meaning of Life commented on death.

The idea one could refuse to accept it, especially when it appeared unexpectedly as the result of something seemingly innocuous or that there was no ‘fear’ of death involved is telling.

When I was young, I was terribly afraid of dogs.

My mother taught me – “they’ll bite”, “you’ll get rabies and die” (this was a while ago!).

I lost my fear when I acquired Amber, my Irish Setter, from the skipper of ‘British Diver’ in Plymouth, I think it was 1980.

Since then I’ve always loved dogs and don’t feel afraid of anything

I could say I have no fear – I find it extremely hard to get that feeling.

No fear of flying, spiders, bats, rats or anything else really.

Certainly, absolutely no fear of death.

But there was one thing, as a child I was frightened of pictures of rough seas, particularly waves crashing onto rocks or cliffs.

We spent a lot of holidays in Folkestone (my grandmother owned a hotel) and the sea was often rather rough and I was fascinated getting up close to the waves breaking over the sea wall and on the rocks and cliffs nearby – no fear whatsoever in real life – it was just those black and white pictures.

Odd, because I knew they couldn’t do me any harm and weren’t going to kill me – unlike the salmon mousse.

I knew from about 10 that death wasn’t the end of life, this didn’t come from some idea of going to heaven or anything like that. I knew then it was just a transition from one state to another and that the Soul goes on for ever.

When we transition we get a choice. We choose, as an immortal Soul, what we wish to do next. Lots of options I may have alluded to before.

I’ve seen a few dead bodies in my time and the first thing that strikes you when you see one is emptiness. A discarded shell of a creature that has grown and moved on.

Dying is not something terrible that happens to you, it’s about what happens to those we leave behind who believe that their existence is in some way dependent on us and we will deprive them of ourselves.

The tears are not for us, they are for themselves, their loss, not ours.

You and I lose nothing through death. We have reached the end of the experiential journey we came for and have moved on.

But fear of death is strong and is used by those who crave power to influence other people.

Don’t eat the salmon mousse – it’ll kill you. Don’t go near it, don’t look at it, don’t touch it, don’t even think about it or you’ll die.

But people still die, from something else they ate at the dinner party.

The last time I felt fear I was driving a boat off Padstow on a diving trip. We’d come to the end of the dive and picked up all the divers but two and I was heading towards their marker buoy to signal to them it was time to come up.

But the buoy was adrift, they weren’t on the other end of the rope.

‘Houston, we have a problem’

They should have surfaced by now, so we criss-crossed the area looking. We were in sight of shore and guessed they’d be swimming in that direction.

No sign.

After 10 minutes I sent up a flare to get help, then a second 10 minutes later.

I was getting frightened and I have to admit not for them; I was frightened for me. The paperwork, the enquiry, the retribution of their families, the damage to my reputation and business – the list goes on.

Fuel low – back to shore.

There they were, sitting on a rocky ledge neat the lighthouse, they’d been in and had a cup of tea, they’d seen the flares, so the lifeboat wasn’t launched, they knew it was about them.

It was probably the last time I’ve felt that level of relief.

Fear of falling and fear of sudden loud noises are all we are born with and the first doesn’t last that long. We are not instinctively afraid of death.

It’s something we’ve been taught. Dying is natural, dying is what we do, part of existence. We transition when we choose to and people have been known to ‘make mistakes’ and ‘come back’.

We go when we choose to go, and no amount of fear can change that.

Fear is always about us in this life, something ‘bad’ might happen.

Don’t do this or that – or do this or that or you might die.

But when you or I choose to die it’s not a ‘bad’ thing.

All the same, watch out for the salmon mousse.

What’s the Difference?

I was put in Pembroke House.

I don’t remember why it was called that, only that we wore yellow badges and the other ‘houses’ were red, blue and green. The badge was a Bishop’s mitre, the school founded in 1596 by Archbishop of Canterbury, John Whitgift.

There’s something about the ‘house’ system.

The only ‘difference’ recognised between the boys was the badge they wore. There were pupils of different shapes, sizes, abilities and ethnic groups all randomly distributed between the houses.

We never noticed the colour of anyone’s skin, just the colour of their badge.

The ‘house’ bonded us, giving us an identity greater than anything else and it taught us that although we might ‘look’ different there were no real differences between us.

We weren’t kept apart, we made friends in other houses and enemies in our own, but this was about personalities because, lets face it, some personality types just don’t get on and others get on very well.

Although we were ‘sorted’ into houses the system allowed us to ‘sort ourselves out’ into affinity groups interested in different things with a myriad of cross-house ‘after school societies’

Taking away the superficial differences allows true individual expression – we make our selves different and unique.

But today people in general are over conscious of ‘difference’. They fear difference and don’t understand it.

In earlier times the next tribe along the valley seemed a threat who might ‘take our lands or our women’. They weren’t ‘us’, they were ‘different’.

(Back then we had different ideas and beliefs about gender – we may see them as ‘wrong’ now, but we didn’t then, and some people still hold those beliefs.)

There is though a need for difference, but not as understood now.

If we were all identical clones, life on Earth wouldn’t make sense

People cry out for ‘equality’ but what they really mean, is they want everyone else to be ‘the same’ – the same as them – because then they think they will be ‘safe’ from the effects of difference – the tribe down the valley – or different ‘levels of society’ they themselves have created.

We are different, and we are not different.

There is no elite or hierarchy other than what we imagine and choose, and people don’t really want ‘equality’ or uniformity – more like “everyone must be equal, except me” (or ‘us’)

We are all the same, whatever we look like, whatever we can do, whoever we are. We are undergoing different experiences travelling different paths and it isn’t possible for two people to be ‘the same’ – the Universe doesn’t allow for it.

The ethos of school was that everyone had equal opportunity to succeed. Not all at the same thing, but to succeed individually at whatever they were ‘good at’ or preferred doing

Some were good at sports, some academically, some preferred ‘the arts’, others ‘science’. We weren’t all expected to be the same, indeed that would never do. We were expected to leave the school as rounded individuals ready for our chosen next step, whatever that might be.

We played games, competition between the houses and between individuals.

Some people have lost the plot when it comes to competition forgetting it forms part of the life experience.

We are all competing, even if it’s just with ourselves – we strive to ‘do better’, ‘to be the best we can be’.

Competition with others is always a game, something we invented to make ourselves better, a better footballer, cricketer, athlete or racing driver. Yes, we compete with others in these games, but only to make ourselves better.

The ‘house system’ created artificial groups, not groups based on specific characteristics, race, gender, size, religion and so forth. And the ‘houses’ were ‘equal’ not tribal.

But in global culture there is still the fear of ‘the tribe down the valley coming to get us’ – and these ‘alien’ tribes get blamed for all the ills in each societal group.

When something goes wrong or doesn’t work, it’s all ‘their’ fault – or even their ancestors’ fault.

They are the cause of all our problems, it’s never our fault, never anything to do with the choices we made.

We are all ‘different’ and unique individuals, responsible for the choices we make.

We are all the same as people and we are all different as individuals, and that’s how it is supposed to be, that’s why we are here.

There is no difference and there is no wrong or right, only what society decides at the time and we cannot decide for the past or for the future.

Sadly, society seems to have lost the plot.