Sunday 27 July 2014

#78 Passing Go

Rolling over, I lifted the pair of black boxers off of the top of the alarm clock to reveal the unforgiving glow of the numbers 11:47. "That's actually not too bad" I thought to myself as I writhed back into my original position in the bed. Realising that this made me nauseous, I rolled again so that my head was lower and slightly over the edge of the bedside. With one arm reaching down, I pressed the phone and started swiping through the morning post. Couple of comments on last night's photos. 

By around 3pm I was feeling better and walked leisurely into town for a set 1 fry-up. That's the one with just one sausage, one egg, one rasher, some beans, a solitary little hash brown and some toast. It would be awesome if English cafes served American style hash browns. It was pretty much as hot as it had been yesterday. I grabbed a coconut juice on the way back to the house and searched around for some kind of ginger cake. Ended up settling for a Barney, the bear-shaped cake with chocolate in the middle.

I spent most of the rest of the day fiddling about with the Indian visa application, checking I had the documents, printing the forms, getting photo paper, printing the photo, measuring it, resizing it, printing it again, etc. Organising adventures is boring.

Monday 14 July 2014

#77 Flashback

The first big party that I ever went to was out at some girl’s parents’ house in the middle of nowhere. My friend’s dad had to drive us out through the countryside to the house. It was cool though, with a pool and a massive garden. Hard to believe her parents were letting her have free reign. They weren't coming back 'til later. To be honest, I was nervous on the drive up there. This wasn’t some gathering of close friends in my bedroom. It was a proper party with tons of the coolest and baddest people from the local comprehensive, hot girls and big, pint cans of beer. My friend and I had cautiously taken six packs of half pint cans. At the risk of looking sad, we didn’t dare to walk around drinking pints. We were still young and had no real idea of how much we could handle. This didn’t stop some of the other guests.

It was 10pm and Dan Bryant was staggering around with a large can of lager in his hand. He spotted my tiny little half-cans and sniggered as he passed me. Dan was one of the stockier guys in our year. He had a rough edge, on account of being raised in a pub. Another consequence of this was his diet. It wasn’t uncommon for Dan to get through three packs of crisps in a day. Apparently he once managed a dozen packs. I cheekily suggested that his beer can was the same one that he’d been carrying around since the party started several hours ago. He sternly denied it and trotted off down the garden. I think I’d hurt his feelings or something.

Back in one of the tents, one girl was in a bad way. She’d necked part or all of a small bottle of neat vodka and had started throwing up. When I heard this, I strolled over to see what was going on. I found her lying on her side, practically unconscious, except that she vomited out a small amount of hard, yellow goo. It looked like dough or something. One of the guests called for an ambulance, which eventually came and took the girl away to have her stomach pumped. Why was Ben laughing? It didn’t seem the most appropriate time. I asked him this question. He just looked at me and laughed. I asked him if he was drunk, which he obviously was. He just carried on laughing. I grabbed one of my friends and brought him over. “Hey look at Ben. He’s just sitting around laughing at everything”. Ben looked at me, smiling. Then he looked over at my friend. Then he looked back at me. Then back over at my friend. Then he just burst into another fit of laughter. We couldn’t get a word out of him. I’d never seen anyone enjoy a party so much.

The party girl’s parents didn’t have much more luck in getting Ben to talk at the end of the night. They’d arrived home to find their garden messed up, an ambulance parked in their driveway and some half cans of beer spilling out into the pool as they slowly bobbed up and down on the surface of the water. “Ben, what’s your parents’ phone number?” “0…” Ben replied, paralytic. “We’re gonna need more than that fella” they urged. “0…” he replied, eyes closed as he lay in the deckchair with his arms down by his side. “0…”. They never got it out of him and had to wait until Ben’s parents’ car pulled up at around midnight.

Sunday 6 July 2014

#76 The self-help industry: a two sided coin

On Saturday morning, I went with a friend to the Excel centre to check out a personal development seminar. The lead speakers were Duncan Bannatyre, Les Brown and Chris Gardner from the movie The Pursuit of Happiness. It was a pretty packed event, full of small business owners, mostly in their thirties and over. It was my first time at something like this.

First up was Duncan, who had a pretty good story to tell, from his first job as a paperboy right the way up to property management. He'd had a couple of scuffles along the way and described with shameless bravado how he hospitalised a fellow trader during his time as an ice cream salesman and then later misled his bank manager by convincing able-bodied members of the public to occupy beds in his nursing home so that it looked full. I remembered how Richard Branson similarly wrote in his autobiography about ilegaly evading tax on the records that he transported across the channel in his early Virgin Records days. Overall though, the Duncan seemed to be a legitimately good businessman and his Scottish accent lent charm to his story.

I enjoyed Les Brown's talk too. The guy had a good sense of humour and I don't have a problem with listening to encouraging soundbytes underpinned by common sense. It's a signature routine of an industry whose followers are convinced that they know the true power of belief, especially when it's accompanied by a few practical tips. Like religion, the critics see no proof that it works. In a sense, they are right and for every celebrity that loudly endorses their own accomplishments as an example, there are many others who wouldn't bother for the same reason that only a minority of the attendees at these events will become very rich. After all, if every bee were a Queen, there's be no-one out collecting the honey. 

I ended up missing Chris as I had to leave for a friend's BBQ. In between Duncan and Les, was a chap that purported to be the world's leading authority on public speaking. I doubted whether Duncan or Les had used his services but knowing how to speak to groups was doubtless a good skill for business people to have. What concerned me was how this guy managed to hype up half the crowd and get them to flock up to the stage in order to convince some of them to buy his product during the next ten minutes. I'd already decided to stay seated when he announced sincerely that his DVDs were worth £5k... but that he'd offer them right now for just £100. I found this mildly amusing. Somehow he'd managed to amass a personal fortune without having any understanding of basic economics. I hate being marketed at. Especially at 9am on a Saturday.

I think the encouragement and general messages are mostly ok though if correctly interpreted and can sometimes be put to good use. My own experience of self-help is after listening to a load of Tony Robbins' audio a few years back, I ran a marathon, started dating and decided to move some savings around to get a better interest rate (which I use to justify the purchase of the audio, since I made more than I spent). Still, maybe I would have done those things anyway. Maybe it was my friends Mark and Tim that really inspired me to do all that running. 

A full day's or week's course run by some millionaire who knows NLP shouldn't be compared with an MBA, a doctorate, natural talent or good old fashioned hard work but such courses have their place in society. At the very least, they do provide some tips, inspiration and enthusiasm for business owners and others that need somewhere to turn to. I had fun at the seminar and might go to another one sometime. Self-help content, if consumed, should be done so responsibly, with a healthy amount of skepticism and as part of a varied diet and an active lifestyle.