I Didn’t See The Signs…

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If you live in the UK you could share in one of my particular frustrations: the sheer volume of signs on our roads. It’s like we have made an industry out of producing and erecting them, often clustered together within just a few meters of each other.

Even when driving at a steady pace, it’s difficult to take them all in, or remember and apply the information or instructions they convey. (Just to clarify, I do recognise speed limit signs – I don’t want my license revoked thanks to this blog!).

The signs are there to protect both road users and pedestrians, and I have no issue with the notion of protecting ourselves. But there is a danger that the more signs we see, the less we pay attention to them.

We sign to say we have read and understood the terms and conditions, when in fact we’ve done neither. There are too many of them to read, so we don’t read any of them – researchers in Norway found that, on average, it would take over 31 hours just to read the terms and conditions associated with the most commonly used smartphone apps.

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Happy Endings!

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Everyone wants a fairytale-style happy ending, right? Everything turns out as planned, for the best, everyone’s happy, dreams are achieved. Movies are great at creating the perfect happy ending, against all odds, where it all just “comes together” in the closing scene.

In real life we too want happy endings, our dreams achieved, challenges overcome, happiness secured. However, real life is not the same as a movie; we have two big stumbling blocks:

How do you define happy?

When exactly is the ending?

Happiness tends to be far more complicated and elusive in real life than in a movie. Nothing is ever really perfect; there will always be some lingering issue or concern. The stuff the characters presumably have to deal after the credits roll and the movie theatre gets cleaned up ready for the next showing.

And what is an ending in our lives? The end of the week, the month, the holiday, the wedding, the big event…?

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Time: Capital or Income?

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“How are you spending your time?”

“Has it been a valuable use of your time?”

“Time is money, you know.”

We use economic terms to describe our use of time, so why not extend the economic terms to our definition of time, not just our usage? Do you consider time to be capital or income?

How you view your time can impact significantly how you spend it. If you view time as income, then it is in essence never ending. Yes, we all know that eventually our time “comes to an end”, but that point is hopefully far off in the distance. And we don’t want to morbidly spend our time considering our demise. But if you view time as income, it gets refreshed, every minute, every hour, every day, week and month. There’s always more time, in the same way that our income gets refreshed each month (hopefully!).

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Do I Have Your Vote?

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The freedom to vote is a freedom I cherish. For me it’s not just about the freedom to vote, it represents a wider set of freedoms that accompany living in a democracy. You only have to switch on the news, or look at what is being shared on social media to recognise the value of democracy.

In the UK, and many other countries around the world, we have an amazing level of freedom, and it grows all the time. I am grateful every day for the freedoms I enjoy which allow me to live my life on my terms and pursue my goals and dreams.

Yet I have friends, some very close friends (you know who you are), who don’t exercise their right to vote. It’s not something they cherish. And I guess, when I think about it, the freedom to vote also includes the freedom not to vote; after all if it was compulsory to vote it would probably not feel like a democracy at all.

And my friends are not alone. Many people feel completely disengaged with politics, and feel that there is very little point in voting. What does it really change? Aren’t politicians ultimately all the same? Does it really make a difference?

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Breaking News

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We are living in what is being termed the ‘connection economy’; never before in human history have connections been so important. Social media platforms such as Facebook are worth hundreds of billions of dollars and generate billions of dollars in profit from advertising. We are connected to our mobile devices and the value of our connectivity is immense.

These technologies have also transformed how we consume the news; Facebook, Twitter and more recently Snapchat have become huge news sources, allowing us to see news stories unfolding in real time from anywhere on the planet. Generally with no editorial, we can watch news events – sometimes horrific in nature – in real time, like some strange reality TV show.

Another storm has hit, another person stabbed, another child missing, another shooting.

Another bad thing has happened…

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Shuffle and Skip

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The music industry has transformed at an inconceivable rate over the course of the last few decades. The MP3 player, the iPod / iPhone and all manner of streaming music services have completely changed how we listen to and consume music.

Gone are the days of buying an album and listening to it all the way through, carefully listening to every new note and nuance by an artist you loved. It would sometimes take several listens for you to appreciate an album; you might not have liked some tracks at first, but through an investment of repeated listenings they would grow on you in time.

Now we live in a world where everything is on constant shuffle. We are all too quick to skip a track, hoping something better will come along. Quick! If a song hasn’t grabbed you in the first ten seconds, skip and move on.

The advent of music streaming services exposes us to music that we wouldn’t previously have committed to purchasing. It presents opportunities to easily discover and explore different performers and genres. But for the artist it also becomes a tougher world. As listeners and consumers we can all sit like judges on a talent show panel, ready and able to dismiss with one click of a button if we’re not instantly impressed. What if this mentality seeps into other aspects of our lives?

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Clouds

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Too many clouds in the sky block the sun, but too few and we burn. Clouds may frustrate us sometimes, but the right amount of cloud cover is just what’s needed to create the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises.

I was flying into Warsaw recently and a cabin crew member peeked out of my window to see what the weather was like. We were still above the clouds so we really had no idea what it was like below. From our vantage point the sun shone brightly against a pure blue sky. I took the picture above at that very moment.

But, as we began our descent, we quickly sank into the heart of a thick cloud.  As all visibility seemed to fade, I began to wonder how dense the cloud was. For a while it seemed that we were stuck, suspended mid-cloud. I didn’t know where I was, or how far from the ground I was, or what it would be like when I finally emerged from the cloud.

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The Cupboard Potato

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Did you think I’d got the above phrase wrong?

Cupboard potato?! Surely I must mean couch potato. That’s the phrase most people are familiar with. Generally used in reference to a person who sits lazily, motionless on the couch. As if they were a potato.

I don’t like the phrase; I think it’s unfair to potatoes.

You see, potatoes never just ‘sit there’. It might look like they do, but they are in constant motion. Once out of the ground, with no access to water or nutrients from the soil, they are in a race against time. It may look like they are doing nothing, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Once I was rummaging through a kitchen drawer, in search of something, when I felt something unexpected, something unfamiliar, brush against my hand. A little shocked by the sensation, I withdrew my hand quickly. Clearly, my mind reasoned, there was some rare breed of man-eating spider in the drawer.

However, upon further investigation I found that it was something entirely different. It was a pale tendril, a  sprout from some plant or other. It was huge…

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The Disposable Mindset

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There is a large area of the Pacific Ocean, roughly the size of Texas, known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This vast area has formed as oceanic currents have gathered up enormous amounts of marine pollution – predominantly plastic – and trapped them within the whirl of its gyres.

For the most part, plastic is seen as a disposable substance. It’s cheap to manufacture. It’s everywhere. And, as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch attests, we seem happy to dispose of it carelessly, without a second thought.

So many things in our lives have become disposable. Many people reading this blog post will have had more than half a dozen different mobile phones during the last decade. Mobile phone companies now provide buy-out clauses to make it even easier for you to move to the latest handset, before you’ve even finished paying for the one you’re using currently.

Imagine being in a restaurant when, half way through your meal, you learn that the chef has created a fabulous new dish, so much more tasty than the one you’re eating now. “Quick – dispose of your food and order the new dish!” It sounds crazy, doesn’t it?

Nonetheless, the disposable mindset can be found everywhere…

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The Jumping Off Point

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Consider the Olympic diver.  They spend years of their lives in training, in practice, to be ultimately assessed on what amounts to a few, tiny moments of activity. All that time and hard work invested,  and then it’s over in a matter of seconds.

It’s difficult to imagine what it must feel like, after all the time and effort has been invested, to stand at the edge of the diving board and make that jump.

But we all have ‘jumping off points’ in our lives. Those moments of action. Those moments of finally doing something. Perhaps something you’ve been waiting years to do.  Sometimes it is the seconds in our lives that can define us – not the years. Those seconds, those moments when you… jump.

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