If you are a regular reader you may remember my 40 Things to Do Before 40 List, and the fact that I left a couple of spaces spare for things that come up in the next few year. Well, a big one has, well, big in terms of the amount of time that is is taking.
I have designed a product and launched it on Kickstarter. Yes, I am a Designer, an Innovator, and a Risk Taker (I would never actually describe myself as any of those things!). I designed a coaching coach for use at work, and realised that the idea might have legs and set about launching a crowdfunding campaign. Apart from the time taken to design the product, and brand it, I took months preparing for the campaign, trying to ‘build up a following’ with new Twitter and Instagram accounts, getting involved with coaching communities, and researching branding, marketing and how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign. I trawled websites and help pages, made budgets, had a prootype printed, learned how to make videos, record audio and make infographics.
It’s been great fun, I’ve learned loads, and with 6 days to go I’m 75% funded. If you are not familiar with Kickstarter, basically you market a prototype product and people pledge to support you in return for a reward, but you get the money upfront before having to pay out on manufacturing costs. It’s a way of having a guaranteed market and not having to front your own money. Kickstarter is just one crowdfunding platform, there are others, but this one operates on an all-or-nothing basis, so if you don’t meet your goal the project remains unfunded and no-one parts with their money. I’m trying to act cool about it, telling everyone “yeah, I don’t mind if I don’t fund, it’s all about the experience and I’ve learned loads”, but in reality I will pretty gutted and see it as public failure! I always tell my team at work “if you’re not failing something you’re not trying hard enough to push yourself”. I need a good taste of my own medicine!
But, whether it funds or not, I will still be a Designer, an Innovator and a Risk Taker, and ‘run a Kickestarter campaign will be going on my list with a big fat tick. No-one said it had to be a successful campaign…
So, if we’ve never met and you want to see the real me, for a short time only, check out my campaign video below or check it out directly on Kickstarter here:
Well, I’ve completed the first thing on my 40 things to do before 40 list. I completed it a while ago, I just haven’t blogged because I’ve been focused on another project which I will share in another post. Anyway, I finished a 1000 piece jigsaw!
Now, technically, it was a 999 piece jigsaw. Although this was brand new (I’ve been burned from charity shop jigsaws before), I’m not sure whether I lost the piece or whether it was a manufacturing fault. I’m giving the manufacturer the benefit of the doubt, as on balance the piece is most likely to be on the floor of Bella Italia where I started sorting out edge pieces. (Can you spot where the missing piece is?)
Here are all the good things about doing a 1000 piece jigsaw:
Everyone helps. Although technically this was my challenge, jigsaws are a nice community thing, as other people just can’t help interfering. My husband and kids took great pleasure in helping me out. It was good family bonding.
It kept me away from my phone.
It forces you to look at things in a different way. This is especially great if you select a picture of a painting, as you have to look at the brush strokes in minute detail. And when you are looking for pieces, they quite often end up not looking how you expect them to look. You think you are looking for pink pieces for a pink wall, but actually in the shade the pieces are red, or even grey. You might think looking for writing is easy too, but partial letters don’t look how you expect them too. You really have to go down to the micro level with a puzzle, and see detail you might never have noticed before. There might be a metaphor for life in here somewhere…
…And on that note, this is the closest I get to mindfulness. I’m sorry, I HATE mediation and mindfulness, I really do. They make me massively uncomfortable and generally have the contrary effect to that which they proclaim to have. However, doing activities that mean you focus without worrying about everything else going on is a form of mindfulness, and this is as close as I will get to it.
It requires focus: After doing all the outside pieces you just have to break the puzzle down into sections. When you are sifting for parts of a pavement, don’t get distracted collecting bits of the sky for later, or you’ll never get it done.
They require a lot of room. Our dining table was half covered for about 2 weeks, and we had to squeeze around the puzzle to it. I considered buying one of those roll mats so you can tidy it away, but that seemed like too much commitment to puzzling. I’d be a puzzler. At 35. That said…
I’d do it again! I really enjoyed finishing a puzzle. I’m not a completer finisher by nature. The sight end line of a race doesn’t incentivise me to sprint; it makes me want to stop, because I’m basically at the end, if not quite. But the puzzle, and knowing that I would write about it tested my perseverance, and I mastered it.
Not sure what is next on my list to do, but I’m working on the juggling thing at the moment.
I discovered this year an alternative to creative New Year’s resolutions, the One Word strategy. The idea is that you select one word that will be your strategy for the year, all the activities you do should work towards that strategy, and you stop doing things that contradict that strategy. So for instance, if your word is ‘minimalism’, as you stand in the shop debating whether you really need an owl-shaped lamp; ask yourself “is this meeting my minimalism strategy?”
I really like this idea, it’s easy to remember, and helps to focus you. There is no one specific goal, no barometer or test to beat yourself up with at the end of the year if you fail. There is simply a continual realignment of activities towards your strategy.
My word for the year popped up for me immediately. It is ‘acceptance’; mainly acceptance of myself, but for good measure, acceptance of other people, including my children. This word had popped up in a few conversations in the few weeks before I decided to pursue ‘one word’; with my counsellor, who has made me realise I cannot inure myself to the feelings of others until I accept myself for who I am; and with my friend when discussing how to detail with my anxious 6 year old.
But just telling myself that I had to accept myself wasn’t enough to make me do it, and indeed it might take me all year to reach a level of acceptance that helps, so I had to do a little more rationalising around it. Enter the Pareto Principle.
The Pareto Principle is a rule of thumb that states that 80% of effects come from 20% of causes. It’s commonly used in business to describe effects such as “80% of sales come from 20% of products”. I’m not sure how much scientific accuracy can be attributed to the figures, but as with most heuristics it is simply a pragmatic way of thinking about things.
I’m going to bastardise the Pareto Principle for my own ends and proclaim the following:
a) I am good enough for 80% of people
b) I am good enough for those people 80% of the time.
Essentially, I estimate about 20% of people find me annoying (some of you might consider that an overgenerous estimate). Of the 80% who like me, they probably like about 80% of what I do. For you thick skinned, carefree humanoids out there this might be no biggie. But for me, with a pathological need to be liked, these figures are crushing. But part of my acceptance piece is to realise that this is normal. No-one is universally liked. And even good people get things wrong sometimes, like Michael Gambon as Dumbledore. Or the Sex and the City movies.
So this year will see me putting into practice my strategy of acceptance, at least 80% of the time. And if I don’t, I will accept myself anyway.
Psychologists will tell you that making New Year’s resolutions don’t work. People usually try and change too much, which is unmanageable and ultimately leads to failure, or they don’t make specific enough goals and therefore don’t achieve anything. I trot this out every year when people ask me about resolutions, but while logically I know all this, there’s a little part of me that loves resolutions. I just love fresh starts, fresh pieces of paper, the national New Year mentality. When making goals people often recommend the SMART method. That means goals should be:
By setting smart goals, you are more likely to achieve them. You can shoot for the moon – it worked for NASA – but most people would look up, realise it’s a really long way and they have no way of getting there, and just go and have a nap instead.
I haven’t set any New Year’s resolutions, I’m going one better. Well, actually 40 better. It’s 4 short years till I turn 40, and I am going down the incredibly cliché route of attempting to do 40 things before I hit the big 4-0. Turns out finding 40 challenges is actually quite hard, so I did a bit of research on the many other lists of Things to Do Before an Arbitrary Date. Travel came up an awful lot, as did doing stupid-assed things like throwing yourself out of a plane. Problem is, a lot of these things cost quite a lot of money, and while I’d love to go on a safari, trek Machu Picchu, and eat at a Michelin starred restaurant, I would also have to add ‘win the lottery’ to the start of my list. So I needed a more realistic list, such as 40 (realistic) things to do before you turn 40. And while I’m no fan of glossy magazine usually I liked Cosmopolitan’s list.
On my list you will find a range of things, some that involve saving up some cash or major presents (just sayin’…), others just involve a bit of effort on my part, things I might not otherwise do without some sort of impetus, like reading a really challenging book, learning to juggle. Some activities are just made for doing with friends, so I am looking for volunteers for busking and karaoke. Do I think I will complete all of these before I am 40? Probably not, but actually that doesn’t matter, because if it gets me trying new things, that’s all that matters. Some might turn out to be unrealistic – I already took off ‘Be a life model’ because it turns out that is actually harder to get into that you’d think, they want actual professional. Preliminary googling suggests I can learn how to back flip or somersault just by watching some videos. We’ll see how that turns out… While 40 things in 4 years seems an intimidating list I am hoping I can combine some, like a road trip, star gazing, sunrise and skinny dipping, that sounds like a trip for DH and I to the Scottish Highlands or similar. And I might want to perfect juggling, somersaulting and steel drums before trying busking.
So, are my goals SMART? Well, most of them are specific (need to scope out that Like Myself one), nearly all of them are measurable (but how will I know if I like myself…?). Each one is achievable on its own, whether all 40 are remains to be seen. Realistic will depend mainly on finances. And they are all time bounded, I have 4 years. Well, 4 years and 4 months. That’s loads of time!
Here’s the really important thing for you, reader – DO NOT JUDGE THE LIST. So you might have done all of those things by 27. Maybe making yourself watch a classic movie is a just an average weekend activity for you. Perhaps just watching a sunrise isn’t enough for you, you want to watch the sunrise over the Serengeti? That’s nice for you. What is a challenge for me may not be a challenge for you, and vice versa. I can already bake the best brownies, I can crochet, I’ve seen the Vatican, and I’ve walked over hot coals. You do yours, I’ll do mine.
Finally, you’ll notice that there are only 37 things on the list. I’ve left myself space to add things in at a later date as I am bound to come up with new ideas.
Hot air balloon flight
Learn to change a tyre
Write something and send it to a publisher
Go skinny dipping
Have a trapeze lesson
Sing in a karaoke bar
Go on a zip wire
See the Northern Lights
Learn to juggle
Have a steel drum lesson
Go star gazing
Abseil down the Eagle Tower
Find a mantra
Have a make-up lesson
Read a classic book that intimidates me
Watch a sunrise
Go on a road trip
Do a new type of exercise class
Go on a silent retreat
Learn a challenging yoga pose (e.g. Pincha Mayuasana)
Make a fancy cake
Get a tattoo
Complete 30 Day Shred
Do a MOOC
Learn to play chess
Learn a piece of origami by heart
Learn to somersault or back flip
Go to a lavender farm
Buy 10 lottery tickets and give them away
Invest in some stock
Watch a classic film
Do a 1000 piece puzzle
Spend a day with just my mum
Go to a restaurant with a cuisine I’ve never tried before
Well, it’s annual “announce that I am going to start writing my blog and then fail to write any further posts” day again. How soon it comes round. I’m a sucker for a fresh start. There is something so exciting and optimistic about it. I am not a completer-finisher, but hey, you can’t be everything.
How much has changed for me in a year? Well, pretty much nothing. I’m in the same job, same house, DH and the kids are the same as ever. We just all got a year older. But that’s ok. In a year where friends and family lost parents, split from partners, left jobs, had operations and nervous breakdowns, I am grateful that nothing momentous happened this year.
Will I continue writing? I don’t know, but I do know I need to exercise my writing muscle, so I hope so. But if I don’t I won’t beat myself up. I don’t do that any more. (Ha ha, who am I kidding? Of course I do – but I’m working on it.) Let’s just take this one day at a time.
New Year is like a new notebook, a fresh start, with limitless possibilities. I no longer make new year’s resolutions; they rarely last and just serve to make you feel bad when you fail to meet the unrealistic expectations you have in the heady last few hours of the previous year. I have long been at peace with the fact that I am a starter, not a finisher – well, if not at peace, a resigned acceptance. While self improvement is no bad thing, there is no point trying to be something that you are not.
So, where have I been for the past two years? Well, I completed a Master’s Degree in Occupational Psychology (I can finish some things…), more on that in due course no doubt. Then after two years of relentless work, reading only text books and journals, I gave myself a year of doing not very much. Well, not very much includes working, looking after the kids, getting a new job, and reading lots of trashy novels. But there have been no big projects or commitments.
And so 1st January rolls around again and I find myself with an itch. No, not that sort of itch – a metaphorical one. I feel the need to write again, to exercise my brain, and articulate my thoughts. What better way to start the new year than with a new blog. I was going to set up a brand new one (my third attempt at such in the past 12 months), but I have always struggled with a lack of theme, or a niche. I just can’t commit to any one thing. I don’t have nearly enough knowledge about any one topic to sustain a blog on any of my varied interests. And then I remembered this old faithful; the whole premise of this blog originally was to write about various things, a Jack of all trades, master of none (well, Master of Science twice over, thank you very much!). So, here I am, back for a while. It’ll be like I never left.
…just for a while anyway. Oh, hey there. Can’t believe you are still stopping by, especially since I’ve been rather neglectful of my little blog.
It’s not laziness, you understand. Quite the opposite. You may know that I am in the middle of studying for a Masters degree in Occupational Psychology. What with that and my job and the kids, life has been pretty busy. So, I just wanted to put a sort of placeholder in to say I’m still here, well, not here, but around, and I haven’t forgotten. I just have a new outlet for my writing, one that includes a bit more talk of “procedures”, “dual encoding”, and “heads up visual display unit” than I care for. But, it’s a means to an end. And if anyone wants to employee a trainee Occupational Psychologist, I’ve got a feeling I’m going to be a thumpin’ good’n…
So my lovelies, until a less manic time, hasta la vista, baby. I’ll be back. And so should you.
I loathe going into town on a Saturday, but today I needed to get a present for my niece, so we popped in via the library where DH works. I wanted to get some crafty things for my niece and decided to try Wilkos. I love the shop, and for crafting stuff for kids it’s far cheaper than places like Hobbycraft. In store I found were some lovely stationery ranges, and I just wanted to share what I found as I love a bit of stationery!
This pad (£1), folder (80p) and pen (£1.25) are for my nieceThis craft paper is also for my niece. A big stack of lovely patterns for £3. You can use it for origami, although it is a bit thicker than origami paper. I also have some that I bought for myself a while back.
Ever on the quest for ways to get myself and the household organised, I fell upon this pad with glee. Doesn’t look much from the outside…
But look at the lovely list section, squared paper and diary inside! I love it, and all for a bargain £1.60!
This one is for my college work. There were lots of lovely pads and exercise books with funky designs, but I wanted a hardback one for doing my work. This one was £2.50 with a matching pen for £1.25.
And finally this word puzzle pad will keep Betty’s brain ticking over this holiday, and the mini one is for Iris. Who doesn’t love a new notebook?!
There were loads more lovely designs, with pen sets and stickers; I wanted to buy it all! If you’ve got children going back to school in September – or just want to get yourself in the Back To School mood (can’t come soon enough!) then take a trip and fill your basket! Hmm this all sounds like a bit of a sponsored post by Wilkos doesn’t it? It’s not I promise! I’m just a stationery evangelist!
So, I’ve been on the radio, been in the paper (national and local I might add), so my next step on my path to yarn bombing fame is…”Dilly Tante The Movie”! Well, no actually, it’s not. But I am in a book. Released this week, The Armchair Activist’s Handbook is Ruth Stokes’s journey to find ways that she can make a difference in the world “without getting dirty and cold, without getting a criminal record and without hurting herself or anyone else”.
You might remember at the end of last year Ruth came to visit me and I took her out on a yarn bombing mission. We brightened up some fenced of derelict land, and then popped to a cafe for lunch and a chat. Obviously the first thing I did when I downloaded the book was to search for the mention of me, and I was pleased to see I made the final cut! The book is available on Kindle for a bargainous £1.59. If you want to change the world, and do more than sign an online petition, but less than Occupy Wall Street, this book is a must read.