Slogans and Labels

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We are more inclined to read slogans than labels. We like sound-bites rather than information. We’re drawn to quick wins rather than long-term solutions.

During the US Election campaign, some Trump supporters bought hats bearing the slogan “Make America Great Again”.  Reports suggested that some of the hats available online had labels stating they were made in China. These may have not been official Trump merchandise, and there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with hats made in China. But, if you believe buying domestic products is an important aspect of making your nation great again, it’s important to check the label, as well as read the slogan.

Politics has always favoured slogans. And all too often, the electorate vote for the soundbite, not caring about the truth behind it. It seems that, as long as it fits on a cap, t-shirt, or can be plastered in massive letters on the side of a bus, many people don’t care about the truth behind the slogan. In fact some commentators have gone so far as to say that we are living in a “post-truth era”. (Another “sound-bite”, I guess).

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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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Eyes On The Prize

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“Keep your eyes on the prize”, is something most of us have been encouraged to do at some point. Keeping focused on the end state, the goal, the prize can be an effective way of achieving a target. There is a risk, however, that the eyes on the prize mentality leads to a lack of focus on what needs to be done to get the prize.

Or, perhaps even more importantly, what will you do when you get the prize?

I know many people who have dreams of achieving success in a chosen field or discipline, and yet, when I ask them what they would do once they have achieved that success, they pause and look slightly confused. They’ve not actually thought about what they would do when they’ve attained their success – they’ve only spent time dreaming of it.

It could be that you have a target at work, and perhaps in achieving it you will get a financial reward. But then what? The business goes on and the next prize becomes the focus. This can lead to a feeling of constant pressure, and a sense that the “goal posts” are being moved.

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Quick Wins

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I’ve heard the phrase “quick wins” used for many years, usually in a business setting, when people refer to the actions that can be done easily and quickly to deliver the biggest results. Is there anything wrong with that desire? I mean, why not get the results you want in the shortest possible amount of time? That’s what we all want right?

It seems we also want this in our lives outside work. We’re always on the look out for a quick win, whether it’s to enable us to lose weight, make money or learn a new skill. It seems that whatever it is we want, we want it quickly.

The problem I have with “quick wins” is that, in my experience, a true “win” is rarely achieved quickly and if it is “quick” it generally isn’t that big a win.

We all have a desire for the best results with the least amount of effort, but I fear we have become lazy in believing that the best option is to always go for the quick win first. We become so obsessed with the concept of quick wins that we never get around to the long term actions needed to achieve our work targets or our life goals. As a result we jump from one quick win to another; seeking short term solutions to long term problems.

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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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Have You Ever Kissed Money?

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During a recent trip to Mexico City, I found myself stuck in stationary traffic – it’s something that happens quite frequently in Mexico City. As I sat there I noticed a man washing the windscreens of the cars as they slowly crawled along. For every car that accepted his services he received a coin in payment. Although the amounts given to him seemed to vary, they always appeared small. Nonetheless, he kissed each coin before putting it in his pocket.

It made me realise that I’ve never kissed money; I’ve never felt the need to. It’s not that I’m ungrateful for the money I have, but it made me realise that gratitude often depends on certain thresholds.

I can easily pour away a glass of water that I’m not going to finish drinking, but imagine how grateful I would be for that water if I was stranded in a desert?

Farmers in many developed countries are forced to dump tons of vegetables before they ever make it to the shelves of our supermarkets, just because they are the wrong shape! Imagine how grateful we would be for any food, regardless of its shape, if we were starving.

Let’s face it, there is a huge variance in circumstances throughout the world. Some have more, a great many have less.

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This Is Not A Number

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I love numbers. They’ve always fascinated me. I don’t know why, but there it is.

I enjoy using numbers to understand things differently and play around with different concepts, For example, the life span for a great many animals is somewhere between two and three billion heart beats. Whilst this is a broad range (for an average human heart beat it puts life expectancy between 53 and 79 years), it underpins the point that the slower heart rate equates to a longer life.

For me, numbers have really interesting qualities: they are so important to all of us in so many ways and they integrate their way into our lives without us even knowing it. Some numbers mean more to us than others, such as the number of years we’ve been alive, the number we see when we step on the weighing scales, the number that arrives in our bank every month (and then quickly leaves our bank!). When talking about almost every aspect of our lives, I find it’s almost impossible to avoid numbers.

Some numbers are so huge that you don’t see them often; some calculators can’t display numbers over a billion. Whilst computers can display far larger numbers than the humble calculator, I’ve been fascinated on more than one occasion with finding the largest number I can get a computer to display using the built-in calculator app. I did this the other week and, as I multiplied incredibly large random numbers by other incredibly large random numbers, the computer continued to display dizzyingly larger numbers… until something happened that I’d never seen before.

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In Reality

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The human brain is an amazing thing. Combined with the five senses we have the ability to imprint amazing memories on the mind. Millions of nerve endings in the brain firing away, capturing memories of faces, voices, sounds, smells, temperatures, tastes…

One of my favourite times of the year is Bonfire Night, the 5th of November. It’s a UK tradition every 5th of November to light bonfires, have fireworks, eat pie & peas, toffee and ginger cake.

One of the reasons I love it so much is because it impacts all the senses. The smell of bonfire smoke in the air, the sounds and colours of the fireworks, the temperature outside – usually freezing! – and the taste of the food. It’s been the same since I was a child.

Of course there are many other important, special and enjoyable days of the year – some planned for and others spontaneous: birthdays, weddings, holidays, concerts, sporting events… And yet, it’s struck me lately that the ‘reality’ of these special times and events don’t seem to satisfy us anymore…

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The Currency of Imagination

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Cash, reddies, wonga, big-ones, dough… there are many words used to describe the life blood of our economic world. Whilst money mainly flows through the arteries of our economy in electronic form, when you look at those digitised numbers on a bank statement or on a computer screen what they represent is cash.

And, whatever you call it, or wherever you live, we all know what cash looks like and what it feels like… possibly even what it smells like! Whilst there has been much written about how money can’t buy you happiness, it can certainly cause a lot of stress if we feel we don’t have enough of it.

So, what is money actually worth? Of course those numbers we see on bank statements, computer screens and our receipts all represent cash, but what does cash represent?

The intrinsic value of cash is next to nothing: the actual value of the metal or paper used is very small. But once shaped, cut, engraved, printed or embossed with certain words and images it suddenly becomes worth the designated amount printed upon it.

All cash is in essence an “I Owe You”, a promise to pay the bearer the amount stated in gold. In days of old, you could do just that – exchange your cash for the equivalent amount of gold. But since central banks don’t allow that anymore, we’ve all come to believe that the cash itself is actually worth what is printed on it.

But whilst gold is often referred to as being a place to store value, it is ultimately just metal. A rare form of metal, but metal nonetheless. We have had to collectively imagine and agree that gold holds a certain value for it to be worth something, beyond it’s classification as a type of metal.

Which to me suggests that it is actually the power within the human imagination that is the true store of value…

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