Fragmented Thoughts


Within the space of two hours today I've been addressed as brother and, as part of a group, ladies. Neither is correct. On both occasions the speaker made an assumption about me. In the case of the former that assumption was based on my appearance. And in the latter, on my name.

I know that the intention behind the use of each of these words was to be friendly and welcoming, but that's not necessarily how they are received.

I wanted to share this experience to encourage you to take a moment to think the next time you find yourself default to using gendered language. Especially when it's in conversation with a group or someone you don't know. Who are you addressing? What assumptions are you making about them? What non-gendered term could you use as an alternative?

This is day 39 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Everything is changing all the time, and we keep wanting to pin it down, to fix it. So whenever you come up with a solid conclusion, let the rug be pulled out. You can pull out your own rug, and you can also let life pull it out for you.

I've been sitting with this quote from Pema Chödrön's book start where you are for a few weeks now. Today feels like the right time to put some of my thinking down into words.

Why today? Well, on this day seven years ago I packed all my worldly belongings into my car and left town to start a new life. It was a leap into the unknown after the future I thought I was stepping into was taken away.

I've always described this experience as having the rug pulled from under me. It was the lowest point of my life and at the time I couldn't see how I was going to get out of it. I'd been holding so tightly to one specific outcome and suddenly it felt like there was nothing in front of me. Everything was fuzzy. Everything was uncertain.

When I was in the midst of it, it was hard to imagine life being any different. Anything beyond the day in front of me felt unclear. Somehow I knew that all I could do was to take things one day at a time. To put one foot in front of the other and slowly make my way forward. As time passed, the world started to open up again and I was eventually able to start making plans further into the future. To rebuild my life on my own terms.

With the perspective that each new year brings, I can now look back on that time and feel grateful for what the experience has taught me. I learned:

  • to allow myself to sit with uncomfortable emotions
  • to focus on what is in my control
  • to open up about how I'm feeling and ask for help
  • and, that no matter what I'll be OK

Five years on from this, I chose to pull the rug out myself, to make another leap into the unknown. I moved from the security of employment to the rollercoaster of running a business of my own. It was a step I'm certain I would never have taken without that previous experience.

What I think I've learned over the past seven years, and what I read in the words that started this whole piece, is that the less tightly we hold onto certainty, or a fixed outcome, the easier it becomes to deal with both planned and unexpected changes in our lives.

This is day 38 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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At the end of last week, I managed to rupture the tendon of my right index finger. Apparently it's an easy thing to do. The upshot of this is that my finger is in a splint for six to eight weeks while the tendon heals.

This morning I joined Sanctus' daily journaling session where the prompt was 'What are you aware of?' It got me thinking about how the splint has affected me over the past few days as I've been getting used to doing things a bit differently. Most things are OK as I can still grip with the remaining three fingers and thumb. Where a bit more dexterity is needed, for handwriting, eating and tying my laces etc, I'm having to modify my technique.

What I am most aware of is:

  • the level of patience needed as everything is naturally taking me longer
  • how it's forcing me to slow down and be more deliberate in my actions
  • that I will inevitably need help with some things and must be prepared to ask for it

I'm only a few days in to this but I can already feel I'm going to learn a lot over the next couple of months. And that those lessons will apply more broadly to life than just what I can or can't do with my hand.

This is day 37 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Last week I did a couple of things that I've not done in around six months: slept in a bed that's not my own and went to the pub for a pint. When the roadmap out of lockdown was announced we booked a few nights away in a holiday cottage for the earliest available opportunity. And the time to take that opportunity rolled around last week.

Until we arrived in this peaceful spot, I hadn't realised how much I needed both the change of scenery and the time to fully disconnect and immerse myself in the beautiful countryside of Northumberland and Cumbria.

View from the cottages at Common House Farm

Our only neighbours on the farm where our cottage was located were a family of friendly goldfinches and a field full of sheep and their lambs.

We had some wonerful weather for walking and did a couple of varied routes. First, a loop from Lambley Viaduct that included sections of both the Pennine Way and South Tyne Trail. We got to go under and over the viaduct at varuous points on the route.

Lambley Viaduct from below View of South Tyne river from Lambley viaduct

Our second walk took us along a section of Hadrian's Wall, from Walltown Quarry to Great Chesters. We walked back along the vallum and crossed farmland to Tipal Burn and returned to the start via the ruins of Thirwall Castle.

View of Hadrian's Wall looking East towards Turret 45a

We ended our stay with visits to RSPB Geltsdale and Talkin Tarn.

View over Tindale Tarn from bird hide Derelict buildings at Forest Head Quarry

Other than walking, we did a lot of birdwatching. Over the week we saw:

  • lapwings
  • a curlew
  • a snipe
  • a red grouse
  • partridge
  • tufted ducks
  • whinchats
  • wheatears
  • a reed warbler
  • a great spotted woodpecker, and
  • a skylark

When we weren't outdoors the main activity was reading. I chose to take Matt Haig's The Midnight Library, which I devoured, and Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways, which helped me think about the paths we we walking in a new way.

I feel ready to return to work next week rested and recharged. Also with a renewed commitment to get out here more regularly for longer walks to top up my personal battery.

This is day 36 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #holidays #gratitude

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On my walk earlier today I was listening to an episode of Planet FPL. You'll often find me consuming this kind of content, especially towards the end of the week, as I make decisions about my Fantasy Premier League (FPL) team. Towards the end of this particular episode, one of the hosts reminds listeners to play your own game.

The reference here is to the tendency among FPL managers to fixate on, and even copy, the transfer and captaincy decisions that other managers make. Ultimately, however, the decisions we make about individual players have to be made in the context of our teams as a whole. Just because a manager ranked in the top 10 is transferring in a certain player, it doesn't mean that it's right for your team too.

Why am I writing about this? Well, often I find soundbites like this that are intended for a specific context actually have implications or applications in other areas of life. And today, for me, the reminder to play your own game is much needed advice for some business decisions I'm making. It made me realise that I've drifted off this path of late.

I've become caught up with what everyone else in the coaching industry is doing without really considering whether that's the direction I want to go in. And let me tell you readers, it is not. So from now on as I make choices for my business I'll be asking myself is this what you want to do or what you feel you should do?

This is day 35 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Six weeks on from our last virtual weekend away we were on our imaginary travels again this weekend. Our destination for this trip was Amsterdam.

Once more, our plans involved exploring the history, culture and cuisine of our chosen destination. Some highlights included:

Where next, who knows?

This is day 34 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it. ...whatever it is, don’t be afraid of its plenty. Joy is not made to be a crumb.

When I saw these lines in a recent newsletter from James Clear it made me smile. They're from Mary Oliver's poem Don't Hesitate which we had as a reading at our wedding.

It's a poem that asks us to remember that among all the terrible things that happen in the world and amidst all our errors of judgment, there's still possibility. There's still joy if we take the time to notice and nurture it.

Here you can hear Don't Hesitate read in full.

This is day 33 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #poetry #gratitude #noticing

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Most newsletters come out on a schedule that suits the creator. Daily. Weekly. Fortnightly. Monthly. Occasionally.

What if you as the recipient could choose?

I currently send my newsletter weekly, with one issue per month as a round-up of links to things I've found interesting, appealing or useful. If I added a list of my writing from the month to the link round-up I would be able to give readers the option to receive the newsletter either weekly or monthly. Either way they would receive the same content but on a frequency they preferred.

Do you offer this option already? I'd love to see some examples.

This is day 32 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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My typical approach to journaling is writing a one-line summary at the end of the day. However, at the start of the pandemic I decided to write a little more occasionally. Below is my first entry in what I labeled my 'Coronavirus diary' from exactly a year ago...

It's difficult to know what to think about, and do in response to, the threat of Coronavirus. At the moment cases in the UK are limited, but we have to expect or at least be prepared for the level of outbreak countries like China and Italy have experienced.

At the moment, I'm still going about things as normal. But I do get the feeling that generally there are fewer people about (that may be just a coincidence, of course). At the weekend I played hockey and we still shook hands and shared food. I'm going in to the office every day on the bus. In the next couple of weeks I've got plans to go away for the weekend with my hockey team, attend networking events and talks, and meet clients. And at the start of April we're away for a week with the whole family. I'm beginning to wonder whether any or all of that will still go ahead.

Ahead of a co-working day I was due to attend today we were sent advice from Public Health England about the scenarios in which you would need to self-quarantine. People in my networks are starting to talk about the plans their organisations are making to move to remote working and distance learning. Some of these involve having trial days before it becomes a necessity to make sure any issues are ironed out in advance. Should the need arise, I'm fully able to continue my work from home.

Working for myself however I feel one step removed from it all. I'm not aware of a heightened sense of fear, or anyone significantly changing their day-to-day behaviour. At the weekend though teacher friends did mention that their schools are receiving phone calls from parents demanding when they're going to close and expressing concern that their children are being put at risk. I'll wait to take my lead from Good Space (where my office is located).

I think my mantra will be to proceed with caution, not panic. It's hard to stay calm though when all around you are losing their heads. The stockpiling of toilet roll, soap and pain killers has begun. I will admit to getting Izzy to buy a few extra tins in the last shop, just in case... although I think that's more a response to reading The Siege than it is to fears the supermarkets will be empty.

One useful thing I have seen is guidance from the World Health Organisation around what the actual symptoms of the virus are and how they're similar/different from the common cold and flu.

This is day 31 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Over the weekend I read Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine May. It's a mix of memoir, nature writing and (the good kind of) self-help.

Reading this now got me reflecting on both the experiences of the past year and my own period of wintering which marked the transition between an old life and the new.

I bookmarked a few pages to return to both for the ideas and rhythm of the writing.

The starkness of winter can reveal colours that we would otherwise miss. I once watched a fox cross a frosty field, her coat shining against the gloom. Walking in the bare winter woodland, I am also surrounded by astonishing foxy reds: the burnish of bracken, its dry fronds twisted to lacework; the crimson leaves left on brambles; the last remaining berries on honeysuckle; and orangey clusters of rosehips. The iconic holly, its boughs so thoroughly raided each Christmas. There is also the bright yellow of gorse on heathland, glowing on until spring comes, the stately evergreens, and the tangle of green leaves that remain unnoticed on the ground. Life goes on, abundantly, in winter, and this is where changes are made that usher us into future glories. (from p. 81)

Some people thrive on a little sleep deprivation, but I do not. I now know that I can achieve far more after nine hours than I can in the spare time afforded by a short night. Sleeping is my sanity, my luxury, my addiction. (from p. 86-7)

I clear the surface of my desk and make a pool of light with my lamp. I go off to fetch matches and light a candle. One light is steady and sure, the other uncertain and flickering. I open my notebook and work between these two poles. On balance, it's where I prefer to be: somewhere in the middle. Certainty is a dead space, in which there's no more room to grow. Wavering is painful. I'm glad to be travelling between the two. (from p. 94)

In our winter, a transformation happened. We read, and we worked, and we problem-solved, and we found new solutions. We changed our focus away from pushing through with normal life and towards making a new one. When everything is broken, everything is up for grabs. That's the gift of winter: it's irresistible. Change will happen in its wake, whether we like it or not. We can come out of it wearing a different coat. (from p. 140)

This is day 30 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #books #quotes #reading

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