Now that's a first!

This week I delivered my first webinar on several key strategies taken from my first book.

There will a second webinar in a few weeks, whilst at the same time I work on my second book.

I love this quote from Henry Van Dyke: “Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best.”

That was me for years - silent! It’s different now - you can’t shut me up!

What changed was that I overcame my doubts, fears and anxieties which for long enough had been my reasons for not even attempting the ‘first times’ of so many things.

I vividly remember my first driving lesson in that white and orange Talbot Sunbeam (I know!). As I followed my instructions of “foot down Craig, into one” and I brought up the clutch pedal, gave the engine a little power and slowly released the handbrake I can still recall the sensation of how that tiny car was so enormous to me and also how totally clueless I felt.

I can easily recall my first attempt at a solo Sunday roast dinner. Oh dear me! Everything was either under cooked or overdone and nothing was ready to plate up at the same time – not that any of it was worth putting on the plate.

The memories of my first ever talent contest are as clear today as they were when I was 14! I was so overwhelmed with nerves that I didn’t eat for the two days prior to the performance and was shaking like a leaf as I stood by the side of the stage waiting to be introduced.  My 5 minute routine of ‘comedy’ impressions impressed neither the audience nor the judges. That’s showbiz for you!

Those first time experiences all had the potential for me to not have a second go. It happens.

The fact is that although I’m no World Champion Racing Driver I really enjoy driving these days.

The evidence is that whilst I’m no Michelin Starred Chef I enjoy messing about in the kitchen and can plate up some really nice meals these days.

The thing is I went on to perform in theatres, summers seasons, pantomimes and cabaret all over the UK and these days I ‘perform’ in the roles of Speaker, Author and Trainer AND really enjoy it.
What I accept as normal ‘these days’ was only possible because the results from the first times were not  allowed to mean there was never a second time.

My point is this … if you have decided that after the first time you are not going back for a second go at public speaking, cooking, driving, martial arts, golf, painting or running or anything else … perhaps you might change your mind.  You never know you could even get to enjoy it!

Avoidance is far easier than resistance

Those of you who have read my book ‘Improve Your Life! 21 Strategies That Will Make The Difference’ (amazing value at just £9.99 each or ‘special offer’ price of 2 for £35.00 – which would be very special for me but not for you!) will know that each strategy is laced with a generous helping of pertinent quotes from the great and the good.

I use them because I think that a beautifully crafted quotation is worth its weight in gold when it comes to conveying a powerful point in the fewest words.

Three of my favourites include:

From Strategy 8 - Maintain Perspective: 
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
Maya Angelou

From Strategy 14 – Believe in Yourself: 
“Just believe in yourself. Even if you don’t, pretend that you do and, at some point, you will.”
Venus Williams

From Strategy 20 – Be a Daydream Believer: 
“It pays to plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the Ark.”
Peter Drucker 

Anyway, with the commercial over it’s on to the main feature!

Sticking with the theme here is the same thought expressed by two famous and extraordinarily theatrical extroverts of their time.

“I can resist everything except temptation.”
Oscar Wilde

“I generally avoid temptation unless I can’t resist it.”
Mae West

For me it has been, and always will be, far better to avoid temptation rather than to try and resist it.
What I mean by that is if you know that once you open the bottle of wine you are not going to stop at the one glass; or if you DO open that tube of Pringles (other ways to get chronic indigestion are available) then you will make them disappear faster than Penn and Teller could; or if you do allow yourself to have a look at Facebook for ‘a few minutes’ - after the early evening news – and then … the next time you focus on the telly it’s the 10:45 p.m. review of the front pages of tomorrow’s newspapers … well then this short message is just for you!

You see, some things in life are really complex and some are really not.

So, why keep feeding the habit when you KNOW from countless experiences what the ending will be? Often simply side stepping ‘it’ will get you a very different and far more beneficial and positive outcome.

Lesson over! Just keep the cork in the bottle, keep the lid on the crisps and keep your finger off the
Facebook icon AND wait to see just how much better will you feel about yourself as a result.

The fact is that only you really know what would make you FEEL better about yourself by NOT DOING it. The key, whatever ‘it’ is being don’t try and resist it, instead choose the habit of avoiding it altogether in the first place.

You’ll be amazed at how your success rate soars when relying on will power alone is not the only option!

Why a really little question can make a really big difference

As I write this it’s 9:34 am, Saturday morning of a May Bank Holiday weekend with the sun shining down from a beautiful pale blue sky scattered with light cloud.  The temperature in the office reads 26.4 degrees C. And now for the shipping forecast!

After a hectic week I was out working with a client yesterday morning, returned home and after a quick late lunch and catch up with Pam made some calls and did what was needed to follow them up until 6:30 pm. After dinner I got changed into my scruffs and headed out to do what was needed in the garden. Grass cut, ivy trimmed and weeding completed I came in at 9:00 pm, had a shower then went back into the office to add my little bit to the Newsletter that Pam had been working on all Friday afternoon. Office door closed it was time to pour a drink and watch a couple of bits of TV we had recorded before bed.

That short summary is typical these days of my busy life which seems to be getting busier by the week. It’s also very typical of lots of other people I talk with. Life can feel like a relentless and never ending conveyer belt of all the many things that need to be done. On top of everything else you somehow also need to do your best to fit in a little rest and relaxation along the way.

So my long Bank Holiday weekend will be spent working my way through a list of work tasks, things that need to be done in the house, some family time and a little bit of relaxation and ‘me time’. I am happy and upbeat about it all and that’s nothing to do with the feel good factor created naturally by the sunshine outside, instead my mood has got everything to do with what’s going on inside – me!
Years ago having absolutely nothing to do except relax and enjoy myself would have been the only way that I would have been in a good mood at the start of a long sunny Bank Holiday weekend. Then, I’d probably still get in a strop about something anyway, so I’d end up in a bad mood regardless. Please!  But now I understand why I did that, it wasn’t a random set of behaviours; it was pre-programmed in and was an inevitable result of my poor thinking habits.

Busy days with loads to do and easy days with nothing planned are both at the mercy of our mood minute to minute. What has really helped me cope well when life seems relentless is taking charge of how I choose to feel about the inevitable list of things ‘To Do’. Likewise, what enables me to relax and enjoy - and much more importantly to appreciate – my down time is taking charge of how I choose to feel about it.

For me the affirmation which is in the form of a question: “Just how good a day am I having today?” is my pre-programmed default setting. It really works – for me.
The key is to find a style of affirmation, mantra or positive statement (call them what you like, it doesn’t matter) that works for you.

You might prefer, as I often do, the Why style of affirmation to help you choose your mood. This uses a question starting with the word Why to give your day a really positive and powerful frame of reference to operate within. For instance, saying to yourself “Why am I having such a great day today?” hands over to your unconscious mind the instructions for it to operate on all day. Just as asking yourself “Why is everything going so wrong today?” will give your unconscious mind new instructions to work on.

You can download our ‘Essential Guide to Positive Mental Attitude’ through the web site at for more information about affirmations and how to use them.
Anyway, this task is about to be crossed off the list and I’ll get on with the next one - happy to do so because that’s what I choose to feel like. By the way, with impeccable timing, the sun’s just gone in!!

“Why am I having such a brilliant day today?”

The wisdom of frogs!

‘They’ say that the older you get the quicker the time goes.

This week, as Pam and I celebrate our 21st Wedding Anniversary, what ‘they’ say does seem very true to me it feels no more than about 5-years ago we stood together in front of the Registrar at Louth Town Hall, but no in reality it’s 21 years.

As I think about our big day on May 25th it also strikes me that I only just put the Christmas tree back in the loft a couple of weeks ago, but again, not so much.

In the immortal words of the little green philosopher … Kermit the Frog … “Time’s fun when you’re having flies!”  That clever twist on the original saying goes to prove two things to me, first that Kermit is no muppet and second that I must be having lots of fun for time to be flying by quite so fast.

Author Brian Tracy’s hugely successful book on time management ‘Eat That Frog’ (sorry Kermit) is packed full of ways to increase your personal productivity. This short and easy to read book offers many strategies designed to help anyone who is interested to get more from their day.

For me though the one strategy that has consistently provided the greatest benefit and results is to create chunks of uninterrupted working time.   I can get more done in say one hour or 90 minutes of totally focused and fully concentrated effort than I used to manage in a whole day.

You need to make sure that you have all that you need to hand so you don’t waste a second in searching for bits of paper or information on the computer. You also ensure that all distractions are eliminated and this might mean pre-warning colleagues that you are not available and putting a polite notice on your door, together with the basics like turning off e- mails and mobile phones.

If, like Pam and I, you work from home - and have cats that allow you to live with them - then you may also need to remove the little bundles of fur before you begin work. This will prevent the almost inevitable desire that they will have to lie across your keyboard right at the peak of your concentration and efforts! As I say, eliminating ALL distractions is vital.

The habit of creating these chunks of uninterrupted, highly focused work time is like a gift that keeps on giving. For a start you actually get stuff done! Then you experience the great feelings associated with achievement which make you want to do it again and so like Kermit getting things done can also be ‘fun’.

The things I take for granted!

In the first week of November 2016 The Daily Express ran a headline predicting that the UK was
about to endure an ‘arctic blast’ which was about to blanket the country with ‘120 days of snow’! I think in Louth during the entire winter we got a few hours of the white stuff on a couple of occasions which gave a decent covering once and about enough to fill a half an dozen egg cups the other time.

What happened to the remaining 118 days I’m not exactly sure.

One evening in mid-December whilst we were in the grip of this Artic Hell (I remember it well partly because we had enjoyed a BBQ that afternoon – yes, sarcasm – sorry Daily Express readers) the power went off for us and certain other homes on our estate. To be clear by ‘our estate’ I am referring to the collection of houses and bungalows that surround where we live, as opposed to our 600 acres of land!

I went into ‘Hunter Gatherer’ mode and set about foraging through drawers and cupboards searching for a torch. I found one only to wish it actually had batteries in it! I eventually laid my hands on a torch which did work. Result! I then lit the candles in the special Christmas holder and ‘there was light’!

In the meantime Pam had found the number for the power people and had discovered exactly what the problem was and approximately how long we were due to be without electricity – about 4 hours. Very pragmatically Pam decided the best thing she could do was go to bed!

I on the other hand noticing that there was quite a lot of activity out the back of the house went to investigate – torch in hand, of course! Quite a few of the neighbours were milling about and some of the more elderly residents were getting quite excited and vocal about the current state of affairs. I tried to spread the word about what Pam had gleaned but to be honest the facts didn’t appear to be as interesting as this unexpected excitement and the chance to chat to people in the street wearing miners helmets – with lamps lit – it’s true, I swear.  After about 10 minutes I left the neighbours to it half expecting that on the back of this unusual burst of community spirit they’d be organising a street party to mark the restoration of power. That would, of course, have had to have been called off anyway because of all the six feet high snow drifts. (I just can’t let it go, can I?)

That event was a great reminder that I take electricity completing for granted and when it’s not there I miss it – a lot!

You might recall back in 2012 when the tankers drivers’ strike led to massive fuel shortages and chaos on the forecourts. For that short period my ability to put as much diesel in my car as I wanted, whenever I wanted to came to sudden ‘emergency stop’! One more thing I take for granted that when it isn’t there causes real issues.

I remember the summer of 1976 which was a genuine ‘scorcher’ to the point that the UK was in the grips of a drought. The National Water Council decreed that if we had to have a bath then we were not allowed any more than 5 inches of water. Not only was the nation encouraged to limit the quantity of bathwater but we were also asked to share it! T-shirt manufacturers went into full swing with slogans like ‘Save Water – Bath With A Friend’!  Genius.

I still remember the stand pipes and Dad watering the garden with the washing up water. Just another example of something I take completely for granted … until it’s not there anymore.

The real purpose of sharing these memories is that like electricity, fuel and water my good health is something that for all these years I have taken for granted. Not any more!

About 6 weeks ago I developed a twinge in my back after a six hour car journey. Long story short, I had sciatica which has been the single most physically painful experience of my life. If there was a better word than excruciating then it would be that word. For 2 weeks I could not sit down – at all, I could stand but was in permanent pain, I could only lay on my stomach - but getting into that position was really quite something to behold. Thankfully now due to daily walks, Yoga (I’m not kidding) and strong pain killers I am almost back to normal. My point is that I will never EVER again take for granted my ability to sit down, stand up or lay in bed. What a lesson and what a way to have to learn it.  

My wonderful Yoga lady Sarah has taught me how to stand, how to stretch and even how to breath so that the sciatica has a very good go at staying away.

My health has now shot to the top of my To Do List where it will stay and will never be taken for granted again. If daily exercise is the price of not having sciatica then it’s one that I am more than willing to pay!  

Right, I’m going to make the most of being able to sit down again.

I’m off to call a friend – I fancy a bath!

Even for a later starter, it's never too late!

In hindsight I now appreciate that throughout my life I’ve followed a pattern of being a ‘late starter’.

I didn’t have my first girlfriend until I was 20.

I didn’t get married until I was almost 30.

I didn’t start my own business until I was 42.

I didn’t send my first text message until I was in my mid 40’s.

I didn’t have my first book published until I was 51.

I made up for lost time in both the theory and the practical elements on the girlfriend front! This year I celebrate having been happily married for 21 years! I have just started my 10th year in business!

I’ve now sent an awful lot of texts! I’m already writing my second book!

My intention with this article is to challenge you if you have a dream and have decided it’s too late for you to achieve it. All I would point out is that there have been some wonderful examples of late starters who have gone on to achieve great results. The United States has provided so much to inspire the world in its relatively short history (you see, even the USA itself was a ‘late starter’!)

Hollywood star Morgan Freeman was 52 years old before he got his big break alongside actress Jessica Tandy in the hit movie ‘Driving Miss Daisy’.

Actor Ronald Reagan wasn't even elected to his first public office until he was 55 years old. A few years later when he was sworn in as the 40th President of the United States Reagan had reached the ripe old age was 69 years and 11 months old. He served two full terms behind the desk of the Oval Office.

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s Colonel Sanders was already in his mid-60’s before he began the business that is today so famous all over the world.

The author Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t publish the first of her 12 Little House on the Prairie books until she was 65 years old.

Legendary American artist Anna Mary Robertson Moses, or as she was better known Grandma Moses, produced her first painting when she was 76 years old and continued creating her works of art for over 20 more years, well into her 90’s.  

I believe that like some of the best cheese and wine some people also need to mature a little longer to reach their best.

‘It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish’ is a song from the score of the 1973 Broadway musical ‘Seesaw’ and for me is a great contender for the ‘late starters’ anthem.

It’s only too late for you when you actually give up on your dream. We’ve already established that age is not a barrier to achievement and that plenty of other people have only begun their best work at a time in their lives when many others of the same age had decided that they had finished.

Here’s the big question – what is the dream that you have given up on ever achieving? Why not take inspiration from all the other ‘late starters’ and start today, where you are, with what you have and decide that it is going to happen and then make it! Listen if other people have done it, you can do it, too.  Go on, amaze yourself!

I am helping...whether you want it or not!

There have been numerous occasions over the years when I made up my mind that I was going to help someone.  They didn’t always know – they weren’t consulted – I’d decided.

I saw a need and it was my opinion that my assistance was going to be offered so that they could change! I’m just made that way.

Now, to be fair to me, in a small number of cases this has proven to be highly effective. My intentions were good, my aim was positive and my decision proved to be a correct one. The help helped!

However, in the overwhelming majority my ‘help’ was not actually ‘helpful’, I’d made the wrong decision.  What happened?  My intentions were still good; my aim was still a positive one.

Here’s the problem – you cannot change people, but they can change themselves.

So what, that you sincerely believe that you have a key to help them unlock their issue?

My ‘keys’ in the past have included ideas that I know ‘will work’, practical methods that are ‘easily implementable’, books that people ‘should’ read and assorted words of ‘wisdom’!

What I’ve discovered though, inexplicably, is that there are people who don’t want things to change!  Even if they are in a place that makes them, for example, unhappy – and they could change – they don’t want to!  How do you make sense of that?  Answer – you don’t need to!  It’s their life, not yours.

Of course it’s always admirable to want to be of assistance to another person that we deem is in need.  The fact is though people have to ask for our help in order to place any value on it.  And this is a major lesson in life that I’ve learned and that I continually need to remind myself of:

You can only help those people who want to be helped;
You can only offer advice to those who are prepared to listen;
You can only make a difference to someone who chooses for things to be different;
Always remember, to quote an old Lincolnshire adage “you can’t help them as won’t help themselves”!

Hope you found that helpful? (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)