U is for Uncommon Courtesy

No Rude People Allowed Photo by Wayne kelly
No Rude People Allowed
Photo by Wayne Kelly

Common courtesy. What is it? Well, for one thing, it certainly isn’t as common as it used to be (I now realise that statement makes me sound about a hundred years old, and you may now be picturing me smoking a pipe, squinting into the middle distance and chuntering about ‘the good old days’).

In reality, I’m a mere 36 but I don’t think that precludes me from bemoaning the moral decline of manners and decency towards others. I was brought up to be polite and show consideration to others – a fairly standard part of being a human being – or so I thought. I was obviously mistaken.

Just a few examples of my gripes:

1) Smiling and saying hello to someone, only to be ignored, rebuffed with a sullen grunt or to receive a menacing stare.

Two words: Miserable. Sods.

2) Holding a door open for the person behind you, for them to sail past without acknowledgement or gratitude.

Oh, I’m sorry, I forgot I’m invisible. I must remember to wrap myself in bandages next time I want to be seen.

3) Following an individual in to a building only to have the door closed in your face.

Remove your head from the dark place in which it currently resides and notice the similar-looking organisms that surround you – they’re called people, you self-absorbed imbecile.

4) Using your phone to listen to music in a public place – particularly on the bus – without the use of headphones.

Firstly, the kind of person likely to do this usually has awful taste in music. Secondly, music played through a tiny phone speaker sounds terrible anyway. Thirdly, headphones were invented a LONG time ago. Use them, you inconsiderate troglodyte.

And, at the risk of once more donning my ‘Old Man Withers’ pipe and slippers, it only seems to be getting worse. What next – someone using my shirt sleeve to wipe their nose? It’s coming . . . mark my words.

What are your pet hates when it comes to lack of etiquette and civility? Or perhaps you regularly indulge in some of the behaviour I have outlined and think I’m being a little over-zealous? Let me know your thoughts below.

This was my 21st post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – V for Vinyl. Why I love to put The Needle on The Black (with song and lyrics)

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S is for Satisfied and why you shouldn’t be.

The superb actress, Miriam Margolyes
The superb actress, Miriam Margolyes

In a recent interview with the BBC, eccentric and brilliant actress, Miriam Morgolyes was asked a very simple question:

“Are you satisfied?”

Miriam has had a very successful career, gaining critical and public acclaim, including winning several prestigious awards. She has a wealth of experience in radio, TV, stage and film as well as completing a world tour with her one-woman show celebrating the female characters of Charles Dickens. She is now in her 70’s and shows no sign of slowing down.

Despite all of this, Miriam was genuinely surprised by the seemingly simple question. Her reply?

“Of course I’m not! I’m deeply unsatisfied and that’s how it should be!”

And of course, she’s right. Being satisfied would imply it’s time to sit back and relax. To stop looking for the next challenge, or the next way to improve yourself or your life. There is a pattern amongst highly successful individuals:

They are never satisfied.

This phrase is often used in a negative context, but why? No matter your age or goals, you should never allow yourself to be satisfied. Oh, you’ve achieved everything you set out to do in life and your 25? Great – now pick some more goals and move on. Maybe you’re 65 and you’ve finally worked out how to use a computer and the internet. Brilliant – now learn how to set up your own blog.

There’s always something new to get your teeth in to – no matter how big or small. Never stop learning, never stop improving. Never be bored, but most of all . . . never be satisfied.

What do you think? Are you hoping to retire, sit back in your comfy chair and say, “I’m satisfied?”

This was my 19th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – T is for Thief. There’s no such thing as a new idea.

O is for On My Own – Why we all need time alone

Megan On Top Of The World by Wayne Kelly
Megan On Top Of The World by Wayne Kelly

As Greta Garbo once famously said, “I want to be alone!” Cue sharp intake of breath from those around you as they stare in stunned silence like you’ve just told them Lassie is dead. Ok, maybe a slight exaggeration, but why is wanting a little quality time for yourself seen as being just a little strange?

How rude!

In today’s world of inter-connectivity, social media and being ‘plugged in’ at all times, it seems that the idea of deliberately taking yourself off ‘the grid’ for any amount of time longer than a toilet break would be insane. I would argue that is precisely the reason that you need to step away from all of the madness on a regular basis.

But what about the children?!

The other guilt-stone that will be thrown at you by well-meaning relatives and friends is that you really should be spending all of your free time with your family. Well, at the risk of being disowned by my own loved ones, I think that although the majority of your quality time should be devoted to family and friends, you really should make an effort to balance that with some well-deserved ‘me time’.

Ok, I’m on my own . . .what now?

That’s the fun part . . . it’s your time. Try to do something that’s difficult to focus on when surrounded by technology and family distractions. Could just be a nice long walk. Read a book. Listen to that album you bought 6 months ago, but haven’t made it passed track 3. Write – writing’s always good. Sew, paint, exercise. Here’s a good one . . . think. Yes, quality thinking time is one of the most valuable commodities known to man. If you’re anything like me, often the only time you really get to think something through is as your trying to get to sleep – a perfect recipe for insomnia.

Short bursts, big gains

In an ideal world we would get a few hours or a whole day to ourselves, but if you have a family and a busy work life, it’s highly unlikely that you will get much more than half an hour or an hour at a time, but sometimes that can be enough to recharge your mental batteries and spark some creativity. You’ll also feel refreshed and better able to give quality time to your friends and family. Make sure you encourage them to get some time to themselves and you will be amazed at the difference it can make to your life.

Nobody wants to be lonely, but sometimes being alone can do wonders for the soul. How do you get your ‘me time’ and how do you find it helps you as a person?

This was my 15th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – P is for Pigeon-Hole. Stop trying to put me in a box!

M is for Maybe I Don’t Need To Know (inspired by Dreams of a Life)

Documentary 'Dreams of a Life' was inspiration for this song.
Documentary ‘Dreams of a Life’ was inspiration for this song.

Another song written with George Odom, ‘Maybe I Don’t Need to Know’ was inspired by the haunting and desperately sad documentary, ‘Dreams of a Life’. You can listen to the song here.

If you are unfamiliar with ‘Dreams of a Life’, it deals with the discovery of the body of young woman, Joyce Vincent, in her tiny London bedsit, 3 years after she died, alone and surrounded by half-wrapped Christmas presents. Nobody noticed that she was missing and the only reason she was found at all was because of being in arrears with her rent. The film examines how this tragedy could have occurred, using interviews with the many friends of Joyce inter-weaved with dramatic reconstructions.

It’s a powerful film that raises as many questions as it answers, including how a vibrant, sociable person could simply disappear without being noticed. It couldn’t happen to you – or could it? I would highly recommend it.

I was inspired to write this song because of one particular character – an ex boyfriend – who is racked with guilt that he didn’t stay in touch with Joyce, believing that he was simply respecting the boundaries of a very private woman. It’s heart-breaking to see him trying to deal with his complicated feelings towards a woman he obviously still cares for.

The post is long enough, without adding the lyrics to the song, but please have a listen and try to seek out the documentary – if you are in the UK, it is still available on 4OD here.

Has a true story or documentary influenced your writing? Have you already seen Dreams of a Life? Share your thoughts below.

This was my 13th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – N is for Night Time of The Soul.

L is for Lies. Go Home and Tell Some Lies (song)

The video clip is myself and fellow songwriter, George Odom, playing a song we wrote a couple of years ago called ‘Go Home and Tell Some Lies’. The song began life as nothing more than a title which popped in to my head one day on the way to work.

Suitably inspired, George came up with a nice chord progression and we wrote the song in half an hour or so. Lyrically, I wanted to show the male side to an illicit affair – as this often gets overlooked in songs. In my scenario, the man is single but is involved with a married woman – he desperately wants her to leave her husband or end the affair, but she is content to go home and tell some lies.

Here are the lyrics:

We both know what you’re thinking

When you say you can’t make this time

You ain’t never ever gonna leave him now

So go home and tell some lies.

I know you warned me from the start

That we weren’t playing for keeps

So don’t you worry about my fragile heart

Just go home and tell some lies.

 

Yeah go home

Go home and tell some lies

Yeah go home

Go home and tell some lies

 

Do I love the real you,

Or for who you appear to be?

On the face of it I’ve got nothing to lose

So go home and tell some lies.

Sometimes I see you’re dying to tell me

The things you hide inside

Unless he finds out what you’ve been doing

You’ll go home and tell some lies.

CHORUS

And though you dismiss this thing as fantasy or fun

But when the devil comes knocking at your door

Will you be hiding anyone?

Anyone?

 

So try your best to hurt me

I won’t be sticking around to fight

You’ll be alone and old ’cause of the lies you told

So go home and tell your lies.

What inspires your writing (songs or otherwise)?

This was my 12th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and more songs with audio recordings. Next post – M is for Maybe I Don’t Need To Know.

I is for Imitation – the sincerest form of flattery. Honest!

I really am a very sensible, mature individual. Honest.
I really am a very sensible, mature individual. Honest.

I have a problem. It has been with me for as long as I can remember and over the years it has been the cause of both embarrassment and harassment. Many people would (and have) argued that it only requires some self-control and discipline to prevent it occurring, but I genuinely do feel powerless to stop it from happening.

The condition to which I refer is variously described as FAS (Foreign Accent Syndrome), Extreme Social Empathy or Childish Mockery. It’s usually the latter term that my friends and relatives like to use, but I can only assume that this is because they are insensitive bounders, ignorant to my plight.

You see, to put it bluntly, when I find myself in the company of people with foreign or regional dialects for any amount of time, I feel compelled to mimic their accents and speech patterns. I have “why aye’d” to Geordies, “Have a nice day’d” Americans and even said “How-you-say” to an English-speaking Frenchman. This is usually met with bewilderment, derision, embarrassment and – on at least one occasion – aggression.

Playing to stereotype, the threats of violence were the result of ordering “a wee bit of haggis” from a Scottish chip shop.

However, now I have a powerful ally in my claim to innocence: Science. Several studies have now shown that it is simply human nature to adopt the accents, etiquette or dietary preferences (ok, I lied about the last one) of those around you. The theory is that as a social species, humans have developed the ability to empathise with different types of people, just as we adapt to different environments and surroundings. It’s really nothing more than an evolutionary survival instinct.

So, in some ways, I’m actually a very highly developed example of the human race. Or just an immature man that likes to do silly voices. You decide.

Am I alone in my affliction? What embarrassing social ineptitude are you guilty of?

This was my 9th post for the A-Z Blog Challenge. Follow the blog during April for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. Next post – J is for Jokes. Being funny is no laughing matter.

A is for Action! Stop waiting for permission to start living your life.

clapper board from MGL Media
Action!

By day I’m an Editor and Producer for a video production company, producing documentary, corporate and promotional films. It was during filming on location a couple of years ago that I had the sudden realisation that changed my entire outlook and attitude to life.

It was in the fleeting few seconds after the cameraman had confirmed he was ‘rolling’ . . . the presenter waited expectantly . . . a silence fell across the set . . . and we waited for the director to utter the word that would begin the scene.

“Action!”

It was in that moment that I realised that up until that time, in some strange way, I had been waiting for an imaginary director to call ‘Action!’ on a production that was unimaginatively titled ‘My Life’. You know – my ‘real’ life. The one where I challenge myself, get fit, try new hobbies, write that novel – all those things that I’d stuffed in to the file marked ‘when I’m older/have more time’. If you haven’t worked it out for yourself, I’ll let you in to a little secret. That file you’ve been saving for the future is labelled incorrectly – it should read ‘REGRETS’. And as someone far more eloquent than I said, ‘I would sooner regret the things I did do, rather than the things I didn’t.’

I see now that I was subconsciously waiting for a different part of my life to start, twiddling my thumbs expecting someone or something to tell me when it was time to begin. I don’t think I’m the only person labouring under this misapprehension. It seems that most people are waiting for that new scene to commence, the one where you are the star and everything comes good in the end.

DON’T WAIT.

You are wasting time.

Here’s another cliche for you – ‘There is no dress rehearsal for life’. You’re living it. Right now. That marathon you always talked about doing? Go run it. You wanted to learn to play the trombone? Go play it. You wanted to cover yourself in feathers and spend a day being a chicken? Well . . . that’s slightly weird, but whatever floats your boat, sailor.

For me, it was losing weight, getting fit, running a half marathon, writing fiction and anything else that I can think of day by day and minute by minute – because that is exactly how you should be approaching life.

Be. In. The. Moment.

Still waiting for someone to call ‘Action!’ on your life? Well, here it comes . . .

ACTION!!

Also to celebrate the first day of the challenge I’d like to send out a special thanks to the founder Arlee Bird, click over to his site to show your support.

Follow the blog during the challenge for more writing tips, inspirational life posts, short fiction, film-inspired articles and even some songs with audio recordings. In the meantime, I would love to hear how you have called ‘Action!’ on your life, your writing and anything else you would like to share, so feel free to comment below.

Generation ‘WHY’ – the most powerful word ever.

Generation WHY?


Everyone keeps talking about Generation Y. I think it’s time to think more in terms of Generation WHY?

Concerned Parent: Megan, it’s time for bed.

Megan: Why?

CP: Er . . .because it just IS!

Sound familiar? It’s definitely a regular occurrence in my house and I have to confess I am often too lazy to give a reasoned answer.

One of the most amazing gifts of youth, the constant need to ask that one simple question must surely be one of the main driving forces behind our development as a sentient race and yet we are often far too quick to dismiss it as simply a distraction or annoyance. For many of us, this means that the desire to constantly question tends to recede with age. We become fearful of looking stupid or of upsetting the status quo.

Speak UP!

Unfortunately being so self-conscious and tip-toeing around the feelings of others can lead to missing many opportunities and lessening the impact of the projects and ventures you are involved with. After all, that one question could be the one thing that everyone else has missed – the killer idea that takes everything to a new level.

If you take just a couple of minutes to think about all the successful people that you know, you may realise most of them have managed to retain this innate ability to continually question why things are the way they are and to ask if there is another, better way of doing something.

WHY are you so annoying?!

Sure, it can get very frustrating to be around someone like that; ‘We can’t make that deadline, boss’ – WHY? ‘There’s just no way of making this work any better’ – WHY? And it would be unrealistic to say that every conceivable problem can be solved in this way – but the point is you can only discover that if you take it all the way and keep asking that one question:WHY?

Getting to the bottom of your problem

It doesn’t just need to be scientific discoveries or better work practices that benefit from this approach either. It can apply to any life situation and even your emotions and feelings. For example the phrase ‘I hate my job’ – WHY? Many people will just revert to the standard lazy parent answer: Because I just DO! Not good enough. Why do you hate your job? What exactly do you hate about it? Working hours? Pay? Your boss? The type of work? All of the above?!

Only by being specific can you move closer to ensuring that your next decision (in this case which career to try next) will be the right one. There is no point moving to another job in the same field just because it pays more, if it’s the actual type of work that you dislike so much. Then you’ll just be rich and miserable. Although, when you put it like that . . .ahem, no of course that would be the wrong thing to do.

If you can’t beat ’em . . . join ’em

My 7 year old daughter constantly questions the world around her. To her, it’s perfectly natural. Many things are still pretty new to her and like most children she looks at life in a very matter of fact ‘black and white’ type way. Like when she asked me if it was normal for me to go to work with my shirt on inside-out. Especially when I’d got an important meeting with a new client.

So I tend to listen to her a lot more now and even when I’m tired and irritable I also try to answer when she perks up with her favourite question: WHY?

I’ve also tried to increase the amount of times I ask that very same question on a day to day basis and hope some of you will do the same.

WHY, you ask? Good question. Keep asking.

You may also want to check out SmallBizBee’s post: Patterns of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs for other examples of success generating behaviour.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this or any of my other posts. So feel free to Tweet, subscribe, comment or just say hello.

Stop Moaning and Make It Happen! Change Your Life.

Find a job you love.

I have spent the last 3 years working as a Soundman/Producer/Editor for a video production company. Much to the annoyance of some of my friends, I actually love my job.

There are probably even some of you reading this now who will also find that statement a little smug. It really isn’t meant to be. I’m just stating a fact. It hasn’t always been the case, either, which is why I feel I’ve earned the right to say it. It took me over a decade to get my life sorted out and to find my way in to something that was right for me. It seemed like a very long time coming, involved lots of hard work and more than a little good luck.

My employment journey has lead me down the winding country road of lowly paid customer service jobs, across the bridge of retail management and into what was ultimately the cul-de-sac of a career in banking.

An interesting voyage which also lead to me having a bag of frozen peas exploded in my face and an illegal immigrant lady squirting breast milk at me. I’ll explain that later.

But now I’m happy. Here’s how it happened and why I think anyone can change the direction of their life if they really want to.

So you didn’t get a degree? Big deal!

I won’t dwell on the details but 3 years after completing my A Levels and having returned for a failed one year stint at University (Multimedia Computing?! What was I thinking?) I decided I would have a go at something I enjoyed. So I spent about 18 months touring around the country singing and performing with a cover band, whilst keeping a few hours going at the supermarket I had been working at since college.

It was great fun while it lasted, we even played on a cruise ship for a while – ok, ok it was a booze cruiser that went between Portsmouth and St Malo in France and we only lasted 10 days – but that really is another story for another day. I wanted to get my own place and that meant settling down to a ‘real’ job for a while.

Frozen Food Attacks & Breast Milk – my career in Retail.

It was time to ditch my Rock n Roll credentials (ha!) and turn to the dark side of Retail Management. So I became a checkout manager and also had responsibility for the then new initiative of Home Shopping. Let’s be clear, I tried very hard but it wasn’t really my bag. You try being 22 and attempting to get a menopausal woman with anger management issues to calm down after you’ve told her she has to wait for another ten minutes until her tea break.

That wasn’t how I ended up with Birdseye vegetables rolling down my face though. That happened as a result of asking some lovely late night shoppers to make their way to the till as we were about to close. I asked nicely and they returned the favour by bursting a bag of frozen peas over my head.

The breast milk incident came as a result of helping to apprehend a shop-lifting Eastern European lady. A few security guards and myself went haring after the highly trained master thieves (3 women, with a push chair and a baby). When we caught up with them, one of them immediately started taking her clothes off until she was naked. The 2 security guards quickly released their grip on her from embarrassment and she ran off before being arrested a few minutes later by the local police (it was her bad luck that she ran past Starbucks where the officers were enjoying a Frappucino and a donut).

Meanwhile, my suspect tried a different tactic: exposing her lactating breasts and attempting to squirt milk at me. We somehow managed to bundle her into the security room at the store where she then proceeded to lift her dress and repeat the phrase:

“Me give you baby.”

No thanks.

I changed career shortly afterwards.

The Bank Job whilst I planned my Great Escape.

I decided to take a complete change of direction whilst I thought about where I really wanted to go with my life. That’s the best explanation I can give for deciding to train as a bank manager. Despite the bad press that they are currently receiving, my experience in retail banking wasn’t all bad. I met some great people and still keep in touch with some of them – usually when they get my number mixed up with that of The Samaritans. They’re having a tough time at the moment (I’m not talking about the multi-millionaire fatcats here, I mean ordinary folk just doing their job).

It wasn’t long after I started a career in Finance that I really started to think about pursuing a career in video. I have always had an interest in writing, editing and music and I had a close friend that had worked in video since leaving University, so I began probing him (with questions, gutter-mind).

Obviously, without experience or qualifications it was going to be an uphill struggle and for a long time I found it hard to maintain the faith in myself that I would be able to make it. I even met with a friend of my friend (now my good friend and colleague, Matt) with a view to helping him set up a new company, but at that time I had just become a Dad, and in truth I really wasn’t sure what I could add to his venture. That was the first lesson I learned: If you let doubts creep in, you will just give up and fail. Which at that time is exactly what happened.

Focus on doing what you love.

With each week that passed at the bank I knew that I was in the wrong job and that I would have to start making big changes if I was to turn things around. So I began to research, read and watch everything I could possibly find to do with Video Production. I knew that I had to turn theory in to practice so decided I would build a website and offer to produce music videos for local bands. I pushed against all of the nagging doubts and just went out and did it.

I began to learn how to edit and put shots together and I was starting to have a great time doing it. I suddenly found I had loads more energy and passion. It was about this time that fortune smiled upon me in that my working hours were changed and I had to work on Saturdays. On the face of it, this was bad news, but in reality it meant that I would gain a day off in the week. And how did I spend my day off? Relaxing and watching TV? No.

The guy that I had been unable to work with a couple of years before (Matt) offered me the chance to use that day working for him. This was an amazing opportunity that I grabbed with both hands. Here was a chance to get experience working for a video production company – to see how interviews were cut together, to learn professional software packages, to organise shoots and learn how to record sound with an SQN mixer.

Work hard – but on the right things.

However, don’t go thinking that this didn’t involve working hard. It did. I was working 6 days a week, as well as fitting in extra editing or accompanying Matt on shoots whenever I got the chance. I even went on shoots when I was on holiday from my main job. I worked hard, but it felt great because I was actually doing something, whereas before I just moped and hoped that something would just happen.

When I made a conscious decision to make changes and get off my backside and just go and do stuff, things did start to happen. Eventually my persistence and blind faith paid off. Matt reached a point in the business where he could offer me a full time job. It worked great for both of us: he had a trained member of staff and someone he knew could trust and I’d been able to learn the trade from the ground up whilst keeping a roof over my family.

I know I have been incredibly fortunate and I recognise that to a certain extent my ‘boat came in’ – however I still had to row out to meet it. Somebody took a big chance on me, but only because I had shown that I was willing to take a big chance on myself.

Well go on then – get on with it!

Whether you want to be a hair dresser or a trapeze artist, it won’t happen just by wondering about it. I hate to state the obvious, but you need to actually do things. Don’t look too far in to the future, trying to find potential barriers to your progress. Just take each day at a time and keep moving forward.

Stop moaning and make it happen. It’s never too late to change your life.

PS – Does anyone want to buy a Soap Box? Going cheap. I’ll even throw in a few overused cliches with it.

As always, I would love to hear your feedback. Please feel free to subscribe,  follow me on Twitter or just get in touch for a chat.

Suze Muze has written a great post on 10 Signs That You Have Found Your True Passion

Check out where I work – www.mglmedia.tv

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