At least five inspirational women have passed through my house since Christmas at my invitation. I am grateful that I know some of the wisest women in personal development and I asked them if they would like to do swaps, to help each other get clear on what we want for ourselves in 2012. Four of these were coaches of one sort or another. I scanned down the list of coaches I know (only about 150!) and hand-picked the brightest who – bliss – I also count as friends. Lucky, lucky me.
And the fifth was an old friend from the Seventies, now a Grandmother, who surprised and delighted me by transforming into a completely different and infinitely superior, wiser version of herself in my living room, before my very eyes. How wonderful is that? I love that my intelligent friends continue to grow as human beings even in our Fifties. Women of my generation are awesome and these women in particular are a constant source of love and laughter.
Here’s my output, my inspirations for 2012, which these five conversations have helped me to hone, with much love and thanks to Yvonne, Marion, Marie, Gill and Susie.
IN 2012 IT IS MY INTENTION TO BE:
1. A braver blogger
In the society in which we live, the hardest thing to be is a do-er. The easiest thing to be is a watcher, an observer, a commenter, a critic, a troll. Our critical faculties are amongst our most highly developed and it’s all just too easy to slag off someone else. But doing something and drawing heat from the commenters and critics requires bravery in my experience. I frequently stop blogging for long periods because I am fearful of the backlash which ends up in my inbox. But I will not let the trolls get me down in 2012. I shall blog fearlessly. No, that’s not true. I shall feel the fear but I will blog anyway. I wish it were true that the feedback makes me a better blogger; it doesn’t. All too often it just makes me sad about humankind which then, in turn, blocks my creativity.
My current inspiration to be a braver blogger is James Altucher who writes often about the trolls and his fear of comments, feedback and reprisals and general unpleasantness and beyond which turns up in your life if you write in the public domain, but he does it anyway. Usually 2000 words a day. And often he’s angry. And I don’t always agree with what he says but I do admire that he writes it anyway. And I would march on Westminster to protect his right to continue to say what he wants to on the web. So I will continue to model James. There are many other blogging inspirations but what I relate to is that I know James is not without fear, but he presses the Publish button anyway. So shall I.
Another thing I find inspirational about James is that despite the fact that he and I are different in so many ways – he’s an American, married, a father, Jewish, half my age etc., we have several goals in common right now, namely to get rid of all our possessions, to spend only half a hour a day on the internet and to live our lives entirely from only an iPad, giving up the laptop. Check out his Minimalism Manifesto here.
A while back I sold all my books for Children in Need, raising over £1,000. At the same time one of my businesses was able to raise thousands for Great Ormond Street Hospital, and even more for The Big Issue. It was a great feeling, and something I want to do a lot more of, going forward. I do what we all do. I sponsor a local child to learn martial arts. I sponsor a teenage girl called Sharia in Africa to have a blue bicycle so that she can go to school and I empty my PayPal account for Red Nose Day and Pudsey and friends running marathons and so on. And each year it’s more and more but I hope to be able to do WAY more in the future.
I have identified three projects which I would like to be involved with. No doubt I will talk more about these as 2012 unfolds. But the inspiration for at least one of these – the empowerment of women as a means to ending world poverty – came from watching the first half of this excerpt from an interview between the recently deceased Christopher Hitchens and Jeremy Paxman on the BBC:
3. An intrepid traveller
It is my intention to be abroad for up to five years and to depart the UK on or before 5th April 2012. I shall look forward to sharing these journeys with you on my new blog, Living My Vision Board. So not only a traveller then, but a traveller with with two blogs!
The best thing I watched on TV over the holidays has been the Christmas version of University Challenge, where they invited the distinguished graduates from ten universities to compete against one another. I managed to answer about ten percent of the questions correctly which simply isn’t enough. I’m pretty good at geography, books, music and a few oddball questions, but useless at the sciences, history, Greeks & Romans, art and everything else. But nevertheless I really enjoyed what I did know. And my intention is to learn more, especially about general knowledge because its very satisfying being able to dredge up the answer to something you didn’t know you knew. And I also want to learn French this year. I’m passable at it and I get by, but I want to be able to speak it properly. I am certain that mastering a second language will also improve my brainpower.
5. More Heroic
During my 2011 gap year I have been able to catch up with all sorts of TV programmes I missed when working too hard over the previous decades. It was only this week, for instance, that I caught my first ever episode of Grand Designs and then only because Micky Flanagan makes amusing reference to it in his DVD or publicity for his DVD, I forget which.
What the programmes I really love have in common is that the central people, even in Grand Designs, are doing something heroic. They are creating something which didn’t exist before, a beautiful home. And they start with their vision of it, often without knowing the extent to which they will be required to be heroic. In this category I also include The Manor Reborn (where they battled the National Trust to restore a lovely house to a living use for the public), Strictly Come Dancing (where you have to train for 40+ gruelling hours a week in the dance studio, transform your body and master the art of performing), Gareth Malone and the Military Wives (who went on to have the Christmas Number One, which definitely wasn’t in their plan at the outset) which is about the transformative power of singing, and community.
Of course I know that creating an element of apparent and probably highly managed “jeopardy” is what makes these programmes hook you. Don’t lets forget the Hairy Bikers breathing life back into the poor unloved Meals on Wheels as an example of what TV can do for good. But in some small way, we “ordinary” people are being inspired to be more heroic, to make our lives about other people, to have a bigger calling than just taking care of our own needs. I feel that tug. That’s all I’m saying for now. That and the fact that I am available. How may I serve? I shall write more about this soon.
That’s enough about me.
But I will end with another couple of inspirations which have come my way over the last few days. Firstly, when putting Christopher Hitchens’ autobiography Hitch 22 on my Wish List at Amazon, I looked inside and saw this quote from Richard Dawkins in Unweaving The Rainbow:
“We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of the Sahara. Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats, scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible people allowed by our DNA so massively outnumbers the set of actual people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds, it is you and I, in our ordinariness, that are here.”
And finally… I’ve been following a chap called Jonathan Fields on Twitter for a while and, despite that, failed to notice that he had published a book which is right up my rue. It is called Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into The Fuel for Brilliance. In the sample which Amazon sent for free to my kindle, there are three stories of people who felt uncertain but jumped or took action anyway with brilliant and, again, inspiring outcomes. But it was in the bit called The Three Psychic Horsemen of Creation (I am a Creator) that I read something which spoke to me very personally indeed:
“One of the single greatest determinants of high-level success as an innovator or creator in any realm is the ability to manage and at times even seek out sustained high levels of uncertainty, bundled lovingly with risk of loss and exposure to criticism. These three psychic horsemen of creation must often not only be sought, but embraced repeatedly with increasing levels of intensity over extended periods of time. In fact they are often signposts that you’ve entered your next big creation move. In the context of a single endeavour, you may need to live in this place for hours, days, months, or years until the project takes on enough form to prove the vailidity of the vision. In the context of the desire to build an extraordinary career, legacy, business or body of work, we’re talking a lifetime of returning to that place again and again. For those driven to create something extraordinary from nothing, there is no end. There are only ebbs and flows.”
So, Gentle Reader, here’s to the extroardinary things we shall create together and separately in 2012 and here’s to learning to love and dwell in the creative ebbs and flows.