About Cake

Brigitte, Cake and Kimono (not sure why).

“You can’t have your cake and eat it.”

I heard this a lot growing up.

For Brigitte, who is Swiss, and probably for other non-native speakers of the language of Shakespeare, this is actually a very confusing statement.

“I can’t understand it at all,” Brigitte has said on many occasions.

Which is understandable.

Because we English often use the verb “have” to mean “eat,” as in “have breakfast” or “have a sandwich.”

So for her, it’s like saying, ” You can’t eat your cake and eat it.”

Which doesn’t make much sense.

If we choose another verb, such as “keep” then the idea behind this little gem of popular wisdom becomes clearer.

Now we have, “You can’t keep your cake and eat it.”

But it’s still nonsense.

After all, what are memories but things we have consumed that we keep?

* * * * *

On a visit to England last year, I had lunch with a friend and his mother, who is now well into her eighties.

“You can’t have everything,” she said.

And then she said it again.

And throughout the conversation, it came back again and again, like a kind of limiting mantra.

Eventually, I couldn’t let it pass.

“You can’t have everything,” she said.

“I don’t see why not,” I replied.

And later, when she said it again, I said, “I don’t see why not.”

It became quite funny.

We all chuckled.

* * * * *

These are the kind of limiting beliefs which make up our education and sometimes our lives.

But we can de-mask them.

Of course, if we say, “You can’t have everything,” or “You can’t have your cake and eat it,” enough, then it becomes a kind of truth for us and it’s very unlikely that we will have everything.

It’s important to keep the door open.

It might be difficult to “have everything,” which of course means different things to different people anyway, but it’s not impossible.

There is no objective reason why we shouldn’t have everything.

So what happens if we start to challenge all those unhelpful comments which surround and inhabit us.

“It’s normal that you do less as you get older,” a favourite of my mother’s.

Is it?

“You’ll never be a star.”

Why not?

“I’ll never be rich.”

Why not?

And so on.

I think we can push back the barriers at any age and our world will be brighter for it.

And if our world is brighter, then it will be brighter also for those around us.

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

Long Hours and Life or Death

I was talking to my mother on the phone this morning.

She’s just returned from a two night stay in hospital after collapsing in town.

She’s 91.

Fortunately, after undergoing a barrage of tests, there doesn’t seem to be any serious fundamental problem.

But she was talking about the hospital staff and how she couldn’t fault them and what long shifts they have and this has prompted me to write this post.

Because there’s something I can never understand about healthcare.

I think we can all agree that healthcare is one of the most important services available, if not the most important.

If you can think of a more important service, let me know.

So explain to me why, when it’s vital for workers in this field to be at their sharpest, as they are often making life or death decisions, and at their physical best in order to guarantee precision in surgery for example, do doctors and nurses often work ten hour shifts?

Your garagist doesn’t work a ten hour shift, so does that mean that repairing cars is more taxing than repairing humans?

In no other profession are there such long shifts, and yet in none of these professions is it so important not to make a mistake.

This is something I’ve never understood.

It’s an indication of the absurdity and mixed-up values of our modern world.

It seems to me that doctors’ and nurses’ hours ought to be shorter than other people’s in order to ensure that they can provide the best service possible, not longer than for anyone else.

After all, if you have to go to hospital, wouldn’t you like to know that the people overseeing your health are properly rested and in a fit mental and physical state to look after you properly?

I know I would.

But then, as Bob Dylan put it, “People are crazy and times are strange.”

May your life never become an endurance test!

Love

Richard

Start Before You’re Ready

I saw this wonderful video by Marie Forleo on YouTube:

Can’t Seem To Get Started? This One Idea Could Change Your Life

Never a truer piece of advice.

And well worth spending the seven minutes to watch.

I’ve already talked about Marie TV in a previous post:

Performance Tips (No, Not That Kind…)

As I mentioned before, the channel is really targeted at entrepreneurs and business activities, but many of the pieces of advice are relevant to any sphere of activity.

Marie is quite a character, has a big following with her YouTube channel and is fun to watch.

A little personal story here.

Almost exactly a year ago, I brought out my second full album of original music, MY TITANIC.

Now bringing out the first album, THE LESS YOU DO, in 2010, had been somewhat of an uncomfortable experience. I’d gone into the studio with eight musicians and an arranger and it had all got rather complicated.

So for the second album, I wanted to go a different direction and I was thinking about trying to record some tracks on my own, but I didn’t feel ready.

I was wondering what to do when I discovered a remarkable and now unfortunately defunct site called CrowdAudio which allowed artists to run mixing competitions.

As it happened, I’d recorded a ballad with just a piano-voice arrangement a fews days previously, so I decided to put it in and see what happened.

147 mixes and much listening later, I’d discovered the engineer with whom I went on to record the whole album. 3ee happens to live in Romania.

Now I wasn’t at all sure about recording the album on my own at home. But I liked the initial mix and I thought I could maybe try to record a few more songs before getting stuck and hiring session musicians in to a studio. Although I worried that the song arrangements would be too thin and the instrumental playing too weak, I persuaded myself to give it a shot.

So I started recording the album and sending the results off to Romania.

I decided to get each song mixed and mastered before moving on to the next.

Gradually, the number of completed songs built up.

And finally, I reached a tipping point where I said to myself, “What the hell, let’s do the whole thing like this.”

And the interesting thing was that the experience of recording at home generated new songs as I went along, songs that perhaps I would not have written otherwise.

In the end, many of the songs that I had initially wanted to record didn’t get on the album because I was enjoying the process of writing songs from scratch and recording them, all within the space of a few days. Some of them really sped through the “factory.”

Did I feel ready to record the whole album by myself before starting?

Absolutely not.

Is the result perfect?

No.

Could the arrangements be better?

Probably.

But it doesn’t stop me from being proud of the album and grateful for the experience.

And as Marie points out in her video, there’s really only one crime.

Everybody has to begin somewhere. Everybody makes mistakes. Everybody has to change things around.

The only real crime is not starting at all.

Love

Richard

Performance Tips (No, Not That Kind…)

Hi Everybody,

Wow, 2017. Happy New Year.

Seems like the new millenium was only last week.

Anyway, I just had to share this video which I think you’ll enjoy and find useful:

Why Smart People Underperform

Did you make any New Year’s Resolutions?

I’m proud to say I didn’t even think about it this year.

But if you did, we’re in that New Year’s resolution dicey patch, when they’re already starting to fall apart.

While this may have little to do with your NYR, it contains simple practical tips on how to get your life back on track.

Sorry, if you’re looking for tips on how to keep it up for longer, then you’ve come the wrong place. We’re not really talking about that kind of performance.

On the other hand….

And don’t worry about the “smart” or the business blurb in the opening speech by Marie Forleo.

The advice from Dr. Ned Hallowell is valuable for anybody.

Here’s the link again:

Why Smart People Underperform

Enjoy.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

The Dreaded In-Between (continued)

If you read my post a couple of weeks ago about reducing those floating moments (minutes, hours, days?) between actions, then you might be interested in having a look at this video:

3 Signs That You Will Become Rich One Day.

Don’t be put off by the mention of money in the title and the business-inspired aspect of the video.

This advice applies to anybody and anything.

It’s about the importance of time and using it to our best ability.

The remarks at the end about going out and doing things rather than wasting time on social media are spot on (although, I suppose, if you’re reading this, it’s technically a form of social media. Oh well, mummy knows best.)

Hope you find the video useful.

And don’t beat yourself up if you didn’t achieve all you wanted to do today.

Just try again tomorrow.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

The Fragility of Life

I had the misfortune to run over a cat on Friday last whilst driving through a small village on the way to the lake.

Well, strictly speaking I suppose, the misfortune was really the cat’s, mine being only minor in comparison.

Suddenly, there it was without warning, a sandy blur racing across the road only a meter or so in front of the car.

I braked hard but to no avail.

There was a sickening sensation as the right front wheel went over something and then it was in my rear-view mirror, throwing itself in the air and leaping around as if charged with electricity.

I stopped the car off the road and went back to check out the poor beast, dreading what I would find.

Mercifully, for both of us, the cat was dead when I got to it, so it can’t have suffered for more than twenty seconds, thirty at the most.
I had had a vision of it being horribly mutilated but clinging on to life and me sitting with it while waiting for a vet to come and finish it off.

We were both spared that.

Fortune in misfortune.

I picked the cat up and put it gently on the pavement, so it wouldn’t get run over by other cars.

“I’m so sorry,” I said aloud, “I’m so sorry.”

I thought that perhaps someone in the village would know whose cat it was, so that the owner wouldn’t wonder for months what had happened or if it was going to walk through the door at some point.

Closure.

Later, I informed the police of the accident.

*********************************************

I learnt to drive in 1979.

In all the time since, I’ve never run over an animal. No humans either, I should add.

I hit a rabbit in Ireland once.

We were driving along a country round and there were rabbits everywhere, like the terrestrial equivalent of Hitchcock’s “The Birds.” One of them suddenly took it into its head to leap under the car from a bank by the road, but fortunately I was driving so slowly that it was only a little dazed and soon hopped off again.

Only recently, I was thinking how grateful I was that I’d been spared.

And then this.

No warning.

Sometimes, I have inner warnings to slow down while going through a forest, for example.

Once, when I had a premonition, several deer glided like grey shadows in the winter light from the forest and across the road, invisible until the last moment.

But I was ready for them.

Not this time.

No premonition.

No warning.

A hedge at a right angle blocked any vision of the cat until it was in the road.

What could the animal have been thinking? To dash across the road with a car so close.

I shall never know.

The film goes round in my my mind.

There’s that split-second when our eyes met just before it disappeared under the car….

***********************************************************

And what lesson can be taken away from something like that?

First and foremost, such an experience underlines the fragility of life.

One minute here, full of health and energy, the next gone.

It makes you think.

It makes you define your priorities, or it should do.

It could happen to any of us.

***********************************************************

And, rather disturbingly, it also makes you realize how much the colour red is present in food.

I wish you a safe week, wherever you may be and wherever you may drive.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

The Dreaded In-between

I’m trying to cut down on my in-between times these days.

It’s quite a challenge.

But what are ‘in-between’ times?

If you’re looking for a definition of the ‘in-between’ and what to do about it,
check out this video from the ModernHealthMonk:

Feeling lazy? Use the 3 SECOND rule

Much depends, of course, on how you view time and when it’s well-spent or not.

Basically, I think my time would be better spent if I could move seamlessly from one activity to another with little or no down-time in between.

A lot of you probably feel the same way.

The problem is all those moments, minutes and sometimes hours spent vaguely thinking about what to do next.

You may even have something in your sight line that you know you should do, but you think about doing it instead of doing it.

– You check your iPhone for messages, even though you only did this ten minutes ago.
– You look at the BBC News app for the third time that day.
– In fact, you do anything to avoid getting on and doing whatever it is that you’re thinking about.
– And then you think about all the other things you have to do and this makes you feel so exhausted that you can’t raise the enthusiasm to do any of them.

And so on.

I’m a great believer that identifying the problem is 50% of the solution, and this is where Alex’s video is a help.

Giving a name to these in-between times helps you to be more conscious of the process and therefore to do something about all this time wasting and procrastination.

And he suggests that once you have made yourself aware of what you are doing (or rather not doing!), you should count to three and then do whatever it is that you’ve been thinking about or putting off.

This is not to say that you should never daydream.

Daydreaming can be very creative.

But too much in-between time ultimately gives you a sense of frustration with yourself.

You know you could be using your time better.

So try to make a habit of catching yourself when you’re having an ‘in-between’ moment.

And move on.

Have a great week.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

Scandinavian Logic

We’ve just come back from a trip to Stockholm, Sweden.

While there, we coined a new term: Scandinavian logic.

It describes situations where a certain amount of information is given but not enough to be really useful.

Example: The parking at the hotel.

The lady at reception indicated that it was in a red building across the road, that the name of the hotel was marked and then she gave us a code to enter the car park.

We drive across the road.

It is dark, so all colours are relative.

There’s a brick building that seems to be a car park but no mention of the hotel.

We drive around for a bit and eventually come back to the building.

We enter the code in the command box which is accessible from the car.

Nothing happens.

I get out of the car and approach a man working on a lorry nearby. He informs us that there is another command box.

In fact, we discover that there are three in all. For two of them, including the hotel one, you have to get out of the car to punch the code in.

The name of the hotel was taped onto the command box, but not visible anywhere else outside.

A number of similar things happened to us during our stay, hence our coming up with the term.

The problem seems to be an incapacity to put one’s self in another person’s shoes.

People seem increasingly unable to think about anyone else but themselves.

And it’s not because everyone spends a huge portion of their day hunched over a mobile phone that communication is improving.

The opposite is true.

Communication is getting poorer and poorer with every new means of communication that we invent.

It’s important to reverse this trend.

Do not make assumptions.

The situation is not necessarily clear to the other person.

What you are saying is not necessarily clear to the other person either, even if it seems clear to you.

Try to imagine the situation from the other person’s point of view.

And try to use simple and succinct language.

In the example above, a few simple words of explanation could have avoided twenty wasted minutes of searching.

What can you do to improve your communication this week?

Have a great week!

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

The Strange Evolution of Fear

When I was thirty, I was worried about my pension. I’d worked full-time for a couple of years, gone back to university, changed direction, changed direction again, wanted to change again. Not at all what a well brought-up middle class kid should do. I was sure the heavens would take their revenge later on.

At about this time, there was an advert in the papers by an insurance company. It showed a picture of a little wizened old man with a barrel organ and an equally wizened little monkey and suggested that this might be my future lot when I reached retirement if I didn’t have enough insurance set by. It made me laugh and afraid at the same time, because I was pretty sure I wouldn’t have enough to retire on if my life continued as it had.

I was sixty at the end of May of this year and now I know for certain that I don’t have enough to retire on, in spite of all the investments and experiences in between.

But the thing is, the thought of ending up in the street with a barrel organ and a small monkey no longer fills me with fear. I’ve got my music and a good singing voice and I think that if I had to, I could get by on the street. In fact, there’s a part of me that is even attracted by the idea.

Perhaps the things that fill us with fear are actually the things we could fall in love with. Is it true for people?

Have a great weekend.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses

P.S. This post originally appeared, with minor alterations, in my discontinued WordPress blog, ‘Jack-of-all-trades.’

The Most Destructive Thing Since The Atom Bomb

I’m going to stick my neck out here.

What’s the most destructive thing to hit the human race since the atom bomb?

Answer: the mobile phone.

You may well disagree, and that’s your privilege, but the more I see people with their mobile phones, the more I am convinced of the truth of the above.

Television has been highly destructive in many ways. An incredible time waster, a wonderful way of controlling the masses and keeping them in a perpetual state of dissatisfaction, brain-washing them with mindless and endlessly repeated adverts to make them run after material objects that they frequently don’t even need or really want, just to keep up with the Joneses.

But the mobile phone is something else again. At least you used to leave the TV behind you when you went out. Now you can take it with you wherever you go. My wife and I went to see Coldplay in Zurich on Sunday. The concert was one of the best I’ve ever seen, spectacular in its execution with fireworks, light shows, imaginative use of screens and even light emitting bracelets. All this without even talking about the inspiring performances and an incredible atmosphere.

What did the man sitting next to my wife do?

He spent the whole concert watching a Euro football match on his mobile phone in his CHF 175.00 (£130.00, $180.00, 160€00) seat.

And this is where I really take issue with the mobile phone.

It prevents people from being really PRESENT. IN THE MOMENT.

It blurs the line between what is real and what is virtual.

And it’s gradually turning people’s brains into soup.

They don’t listen, they don’t read, they don’t remember, they can no longer think properly.

And they have absolutely no control whatsoever over their enslaving little device. A tool is no longer a tool if you have no control over it.

Who is really the master here?

And for an instrument which is supposed to facilitate communication, never has the standard of communication between people been so poor. I’m not talking about SMS messages detailing what you had for breakfast this morning, which station you have just passed on the train, or how you broke a fingernail, I’m talking about REAL COMMUNICATION.

You know, when people put down their phones, look each other in the eye and INTERACT with each other.

When they concentrate on the person in front of them and stop bullshitting about the values of multi-tasking.

When they’re in the present and fully human.

When was the last time you gave your full and undivided attention to another human being?

Don’t make the mistake of concentrating so much on the trivial that you miss out on the truly important, the moments that will never come again. Don’t miss out on real friends that are here, now, in flesh and blood and who may not be here tomorrow.

And don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you have instant access to most of the entire range of human knowledge on the internet you don’t have to bother to think, to remember, to work hard to master something worthwhile, or to decide what is bullshit and what is not.

I wish you a great, preferably mobile phone free, week.

Love

Richard

mesunglasses