When You Know You Have to Fire Your Client, Your Collaborator or Your Colleague from Your WorkLife to Save Your Sanity, By Carmel O’ Reilly

A client, collaborator or colleague that drains you with too many demands, derails your morale, and demands too much attention, needs to be fired from your WorkLife. Because for all the time you waste salvaging deteriorating relationships, you could instead be opening yourself up to doing great work with great people, and living a happy and healthy WorkLife as a result. 

Another Friday afternoon meeting with the client from hell, another weekend ruined by unrealistic demands. Those were Tony’s thoughts going into his meeting with George, and boy was he right. But this time he knew it was the beginning of the end of their relationship. 

Tony knew he had to fire George as a client. He had to do it for his own morale and his mental health. He had to save himself from this toxic relationship, but as a freelancer this wasn’t going to be easy from a financial perspective. But let’s back up a little to understand Tony’s story, and how he found himself in this position.

When You Know You Have to Fire Your Client, Your Collaborator or Your Colleague from Your WorkLife to Save Your Sanity: A Case Study:

You’re Fired

Tony’s position as Marketing Executive at a non-profit organisation had been made redundant two years earlier. He had worked there for five years and really enjoyed his time. He was part of a small team, which meant he got exposure to all aspects of the job, and he had worked with really interesting companies, from business startups to SMEs in developing and building their marketing strategies.

It was always his dream to work for himself. The skills he’d developed, the experience he’d gained, together with the redundancy financial package he’d received, put him in a good position to work towards making his dream come true. And so he set out to find his first client. Enter George.

It was at a tech networking event that they first met and got chatting. Tony told George he was setting up as a freelance marketing executive, having worked in the industry for five years. George said he needed support with his marketing, suggesting this would be good experience for Tony, and that he could introduce him to fellow business owners. His first gig as a freelancer, Tony couldn’t believe his luck, he was on a high, and over the next few days he prepared for the first of what was going to become the Friday afternoon meetings with the client from hell.

In fact when Tony reflected on those initial words, “It’ll be good experience for you,” he now knew these words should have been a red flag. He didn’t need experience, he had five years of experience; and he soon came to learn, that experience as a freelancer doesn’t pay the rent, and that in his haste to get his first client he had sold himself short. He hadn’t read between the lines.- George’s lines, that is. Working for experience means working for very little money. And as for the introductions to George’s fellow business owners, well, that was never forthcoming. It was simply another ploy by George to sucker him in, and suckered in he was. Tony thought to himself: “boy, did he see me and all my naivety and misplaced trust coming!” 

The Friday afternoon meetings became a weekly thing. They weren’t needed, nor were the 6pm calls George constantly made, by way of checking in, checking up, and most often making changes to what they’d agreed. But George insisted on the meetings, and he insisted they needed to be face-to-face at his office – a taxi ride across town in Friday afternoon London traffic. 

There was so much wrong with this relationship. Apart from paying very little, George never paid on time. The Friday afternoon meetings, the late evening calls, the constant changes to the brief they’d agreed on, and the continuous demands for more work on Tony’s part, without sufficient financial renumeration was having a really negative impact on Tony’s morale and his mental health. His relationship with his girlfriend was suffering, because he never had time to spend with her, and he couldn’t remember the last time he’d been to visit his parents, or seen his friends. 

Time and time again Tony questioned why he was doing this. He felt it was because George was his first client, and he felt that he owed him. He also felt if he couldn’t deliver on this work. If he failed his client, he would be failing himself, he would be a failure, his freelance business would be a failure. And so he persisted, telling himself it would get easier, that George would come to recognise and value the good work he was doing, and that they’d develop a better working relationship. 

That wasn’t to be. That Friday afternoon meeting was to become the final, fateful meeting from hell. 

As Tony had come to expect from these meetings, George wanted to make yet more changes to the brief that they’d agreed on. He demanded more from Tony, and he said all of this needed to be completed by Monday morning. Tony said that wasn’t possible. He had a friend’s wedding the next day, and immediately after the meeting he was catching a train out of London and wouldn’t return until Sunday night. He had already told George this. In fact he had wanted to travel earlier in the day, and had asked George if they could have this meeting remotely. George refused and insisted Tony come to his office. He then kept Tony waiting for an hour. 

George’s behaviour was always unsettling, but today it was completely erratic. He kept getting up from the table and pacing back and forth. When he was sitting, he just kept tapping the table. He didn’t engage in any eye contact. He wouldn’t listen to anything Tony was trying to say, and kept cutting him off and talking over him. Then about an hour into the meeting, when he demanded Tony work on the latest changes he needed over the weekend, and Tony told him he couldn’t, telling him again about the wedding he was going to, George completely flipped, shouting at Tony that he needed it done, and that if he didn’t do it, he wouldn’t pay him for any of the work he’d done on the project; and he’d tell everyone he knew how bad Tony’s work was. His final words were: “if you don’t do this, I’ll destroy you, and I’ll make sure you’ll never work as a marketing consultant again.” 

Tony was dumbstruck. He had been feeling anxious throughout the meeting, now his blood pressure had risen sky high. He still doesn’t know how, but he somehow managed to hold it together. He got up from the table, and said: “We’re finished, this relationship is over, I’m terminating this project. We both know you owe me for the work I’ve done, I’m going to write that off, because I don’t want to have anything to do with you ever again. If you want to pursue this, if you want to bad mouth me, there will be repercussions, that I can guarantee you. I’ll be seeing my best friend who is a solicitor at the wedding this weekend. I’ll brief him fully on the situation. Here’s his card. Anything else you’ve got to say, say it to him.” With that Tony walked out of George’s office.

He never did hear from George again. Tony recognised he was a bully, and in standing up to him, he had disempowered him.

Although shaken by the whole experience, Tony also felt a great sense of relief. He felt he’d gotten his WorkLife back, and was determined not to lose it again. He knew he needed to define what that was – what it was he wanted, and as importantly what it was he didn’t want. In terms of the people he wanted to work with, and the work he wanted to do, and also making time for the people he wanted to spend time with outside of work, and the things outside of work he wanted to make time to do. 

Book Wisdom

Tony picked up a copy of Small is the New Big by Seth Godin. One of the first questions Godin poses is: “How Dare You? How can you squander even one more day not taking advantage of the greatest shifts of our generation? How dare you settle for less when the world has made it so easy for you to be remarkable?” Going on to say: “I Dare You. I dare you to read any ten of these essays and still be comfortable settling for what you’ve got. You don’t have to settle for the status quo, for being good enough, for getting by, for working all night.”

This question, these words echoed loudly for Tony. He was determined to draw on the wisdom of the essays, the stories Godin shared, to give himself the feedback he needed to make his WorkLife work for him.

Tony drew the following wisdom from the essay/story: Do Less. 

“Years ago, when I started my first company, I believed in two things: Survival is Success and Take the best project you can get, but take a project. I figured that if I was always busy and I managed to avoid wiping out, sooner or later everything would work out.”

“Maybe you need to be a lot pickier about what you do and for whom you do it.”

“Consider the architect who designs just a few major buildings a year. Obviously he has to dig deep to do work of a high enough quality to earn these commissions. But by not cluttering his life and his reputation with a string of low-budget, boring projects, he actually increases his chances of getting great projects in the future.”

“Take a look at your client list. What would happen if you fired half of your clients? If you fire the customers who pay late, give you a hard time, have you work on low-leverage projects, and are rarely the source of positive recommendations. Would your business improve?”

“Leaving off that last business project not only makes our profits go up, but it can also dramatically improve the rest of our lives.”

Words of Wisdom

Knowing when to pull the plug on toxic work relationships gives you more time to find good people to work with. That can be colleagues, collaborators or clients.

Sage Wisdom

“The ability to change fast is the single best asset in a world that is changing fast.” Seth Godin

Epilogue

Do something that matters with people who matter. This is Tony’s motto for his WorkLife. This is the motto which guides him in deciding every project he takes on, and in how he lives his WorkLife today.

Today’s Book of The Blog is: Small is the New Big by Seth Godin

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are, By Carmel O’ Reilly

Maria was in her early 50s when she began her return journey to the world of acting. Over thirty years earlier, on finishing school, she had gone straight onto drama school, gaining a BA (Hons) in Drama & Theatre Arts. Soon after she married and started a family. She chose to be a stay-at-home mum, and to put her dream of becoming an actor on hold.

Over the years she kept her hand in by being involved in her local community theatre, mostly behind the scenes, helping out with whatever needed to be done on productions, as General Production Runners assistant – from making costumes, to office administration to promoting ticket sales, and cleaning up. 

Start With Where You Are With What You’ve Got and With Who You Are: A Case Study

Start Where You Are

Her dream of becoming an actor had never gone away, and in recent years she had successfully auditioned for small roles in her community theatre productions. This reignited her quenched fire and she knew she wanted more. She wanted bigger roles in her local theatre productions, and she also wanted roles in bigger theatre productions, as well as roles in film and TV. 

To achieve this she knew she needed to develop her skills, and so began her quest to learn, and learn and then learn some more. And so, she took class, after class, after class. This helped to give her the confidence to successfully audition for those bigger roles in her local community theatre productions.

Three years later she had taken every course possible at all of London drama schools offering part time courses, and she’d played most of the leading roles in her local community theatre productions. She had put all of the skills she had learnt to good practice, both on stage in the theatrical productions she had been involved with, and on screen by becoming involved in student short film productions. 

She was at a point where she wanted to perform on stages other than those that were considered to be amateur dramatics productions, or even fringe theatre. And she wanted to move away from student films to be part of mainstream films and TV productions. 

This was when she hit a barrier. She didn’t believe she could achieve this starting from where she was, with what she had, and with who she was. She believed she needed to attend a leading drama school, undertake a full-time course – the courses she identified would take two years. This she believed would allow her to start from a better place, with what she needed, and with who she would be by the end of the course.

Maria identified three London schools she wanted to apply to, each of them offered two-year courses, and so she began to prepare for auditions. She was successful in being offered a place at one of the schools.

Over coffee, Maria shared her good news with her trusted friend Bella. They’d attended Drama School together all those years ago. Bella had gone on to become an actor, and played roles on stage, film, and TV. In between times when she wasn’t performing, she taught acting at a leading drama school. 

Bella wasn’t convinced that Maria’s belief that she needed to attend a leading drama school and undertake a two year course was true, or that it was the only option that Maria had, or indeed the best option. She had been to see Maria’s most recent stage performances, and she’d watched the short films she’d acted in. Bella was impressed with her performances, and she thought that Maria was actually holding herself back, and that she was in danger of becoming a perpetual student. She gently broached this with Maria, sharing these:

Word of Wisdom

While learning is wonderful, it can sometimes hold you back, it can be your comfort blanket. 

She went on to ask Maria to consider the following questions:

What will going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will not going to a leading drama school for the next two years give you?

What will you gain by doing this?

What will you lose by doing this?

Can you get what you want in any other way?

Maria was thrown by what Bella said. Before they met she was convinced that going to a leading drama school, and undertaking a full-time  course, was not only the best option, but the only real option she had. Now she was less certain. Because she valued Bella’s thinking, she knew she needed to give the questions Bella had posed serious consideration. 

Reflecting on these questions, this is the feedback she gave herself:

Going to a leading drama school for the next two years would give her great credibility. To have been accepted onto the course in the first place was a great achievement. The audition process was tough, places were limited. She knew from the feedback she’d been given, that the school had seen something in her, for her to have been successful in being offered a place. Building on this over the course of two years, Maria could only get better because of the intensive training she would undertake. 

Not going to a leading drama school for the next two years, would give her – well it would give her two years to focus on getting the roles she aspired to getting, on stage, on film and on TV. A head start as such. If she was good enough to be accepted into this school, well maybe she was good enough to begin to get small roles, which in turn could lead to something bigger.

She would gain more skills and more confidence as a result, by doing this.

She would lose the opportunity to be out in the real world auditioning for real roles, and gaining real world experience of the industry, and potentially being offered roles by doing this.

She could get the experience in another way by identifying her learning gaps, learning what she needed to bridge those gaps, then putting that into practice, enabling her to learn and grow.

Maria was confused, she really didn’t know what to do for the best. She had two months before she needed to accept her place, she also had the option of deferring for one year.

She and Bella met for coffee again, and Maria shared the feedback she’d given herself, prompted by Bella’s questions. Bella had brought along a book which she believed would be helpful to Maria.

Book Wisdom

The book was The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss

“Moss shares the techniques he has developed over thirty years to help actors set their emotions and imagination on fire, resulting in performances that are powerful, authentic and career changing. From the foundations of script analysis to the nuances of physicalisation and sensory work, here are the case studies, exercises, and insights that enable you to connect personally with a script, develop your character from the inside out, overcome fear and inhibition, and master the technical skills required for success in the theatre, television, and movies.” These words from the back cover spoke to Maria. Immediately she made the decision to spend the two months she had before she needed to make her decision, learning as much as she could from Moss. She wasn’t convinced she could get the learning she needed from a book, but she was willing to give it a go.

Sage Wisdom

“I call this book The Intent to Live rather than the Intent to Act because great actors don’t seem to be acting, they seem to be actually living. You know you’re in the presence of the best actors when you forget you’re sitting in an audience watching make-believe and instead you are catapulted onto the screen or stage and blasted into the lives of the characters.”

“I want to tell you another, more personal reason for the title of this book. When I was a young actor, I had many negative feelings about myself and about my life. I made a decision not to destroy myself but to understand and heal the pain that at times seemed so overwhelming. In other words, I made a decision to live. And one of the things that helped me was learning the craft of acting.” Larry Moss

Epilogue

Maria did in fact learn a lot through the book. Not as much as she knew she would learn attending drama school full-time for two years, but enough to allow her to know that her best decision at the end of the two months was to defer for one year. This would allow her time to put the learning she had gained into practice, and to continue this learn/practice loop by continuing to identify her skills gap. She made the decision to start with where she was, with what she had, and with who she was.

Today’s Book of the Blog is: The Intent to Live Achieving Your True Potential As An Actor by Larry Moss.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

The Importance of Taking a Stand for Something You Believe In and How This Helps to Develop Your Personal Brand True to Your Identity, Values and Beliefs, By Carmel O’ Reilly

Taking a stand for something you believe in, speaking out about something, doesn’t mean you have to be a social commentator on everything. But from time to time it’s important to say, here’s what I believe about this thing, and when you do this, what you gain in trust will be far greater than what you lose. Besides if you believe in something, shouldn’t you be prepared to take a stand for it?

In doing this, along the way you’re building your own personal brand; and the beauty of the brand you’re building is that you don’t have to explicitly say who you’re trying to connect with. People will figure it out for themselves.

The Importance of Taking a Stand for Something You Believe In and How This Helps to Develop Your Personal Brand True to Your Identity, Values and Beliefs: A Case Study:

Your Identity Your Brand

This is something I always knew, without knowing what I knew. Without fully comprehending, and without being able to verbalise what I knew to be true. In that when I’d be asked by business advisers or marketing people about the demographics I wanted to reach (e.g. who was my ideal client in terms of age, location, gender, occupation, annual income, education and so on), I wouldn’t be able to reply, because I didn’t know the answer by looking at it in this way. But I did know this wasn’t the way for me to look at. This was usually judged that by not knowing who my ideal client was, that I thought everyone was my ideal client. This wasn’t the case, but I wasn’t able to define my ideal client either. I just knew this way of identifying and finding my ideal client – or people I wanted to work with, as I’ve always preferred to say (I have a tendency to rebel against any kind of label) – wasn’t right for me.

So, I continued with my WorkLife, helping people manage, develop and transition their WorkLives in both good times and bad, through continuous learning and growth. I found ways to incorporate the arts into my work – the arts are a part of my identity, and have played an integral role in my own learning, growth and development, and because of this I knew this would benefit other people. 

Throughout this time I was doing lots of reading, writing and research, and through this one day I came across the notion of psychographics.

Psychographics considers shared belief systems, shared values and shared interests. A group of people spread across all kinds of demographic lines, linked together by common beliefs, values, interests, as well as challenges and struggles, successes and failures, wins and losses, all of which give a sense of belonging through a sense of shared identity. 

In  the blog or podcast, where I first came across the notion, the person speaking said that other brands were using the phrase “we’re a podcast for badass women’, and that other podcasts can attract badass women, but that they’d never use that phrase, because they don’t want to alienate men, or women who might think yeah, I’m awesome but I’m not badass.” This spoke to me, simply because I don’t like anything that, at best, excludes a person or a group of people, or at worst discriminates against them.

The blog/podcast went on to say: “State your values on a regular basis.” This is something I’ve always done, not necessarily explicitly. In fact more often it’s implied through how I go about my daily WorkLife. For example, showing people respect and kindness, and treating people fairly are among my core values, and I think the way to demonstrate this is actually to do it quietly, because I think if you feel you need to say (or shout!) that you’re respectful, kind, fair, then you’re not. It’s the same as saying you’re funny, you’re deep, you’re intelligent. If you have to tell people that, then you’re not. 

However, there are some values that I do share more explicitly in the words I write and speak. My inspiration to create WorkLife Incorporated came from a lifelong passion for learning, which has taught me that the one thing that can never be taken away from you is your learning. This is something I’m explicit about. I also speak up and speak out against inequality, discrimination, and so many kinds of ism’s: racism, homophobism, sexism, ageism, bodyism, machoism, egoism, even feminism, because I believe in equality for everyone, women and men, and as I mentioned earlier I don’t like anything that excludes or discriminates against any person or any group of people.

Live your WorkLife true to your beliefs and values, whether that’s implicitly by quietly going about your daily WorkLife in everything you do and say, or at times more explicitly by taking a stand on those things which are important for you to voice more strongly. By doing this you can trust that the right people will find you, because they will be drawn to you through a shared sense of identity. At its core lies shared belief systems, shared values and shared interests. This goes across demographics of age, location, gender, occupation, annual income, education, and much, much more, and importantly doesn’t exclude or discriminate against any person or group of people. 

Build a brand around yourself, your message, psychographics based on a shared purpose and passion, identity, beliefs and values, things you stand for and things you stand against, things you’re in agreement with and things you’re opposed to.

In your WorkLife identify the values and beliefs of the people you want to be around, the people you want to spend time with, the people you want to work with. Remember in business and marketing speak for self-employed people, that’s your clients. For employed people, that’s your colleagues. However you want to think of it, it’s important, especially if your personal brand or business relies on a personal connection, or at least benefits from it. 

So, identifying the values and beliefs of the people you want to work with can be much more effective than the old demographics way of thinking about it. Because if you can make an emotional connection with people, it extends far beyond your idea, product or service.

You can begin by reflecting on the following questions, and then allowing your self-feedback to inform you as to how you can connect to these people.

What are the things you and the people you want to work with stand for?

What are the things you and the people you want to work with stand against?

Of all the things that you and they believe in and value, what are the things that go to the core of your shared identity or personal brand?

Sage Wisdom

“If you don’t like the way the world is, you change it. You have an obligation to change it. You just do it one step at a time.” Marian Wright Edelman 

Use the self-feedback you receive through the answers to these questions to allow you to know the steps you can take, to take a stand for something your believe in. You can do this quietly in the actions you take as you go about your WorkLife and/or at times you can do it more loudly through the words you speak. You can do it alone or you can do it with other people. 

Words of Wisdom

Community brands are built on relationships, often individual relationships. 

Book Wisdom

The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz tells the story of a woman on a lifelong quest to understand global poverty and find powerful new ways of tackling it. She began her WorkLife in Investment Banking. After three years, she left banking to explore how to make a difference in the world. She fell or was knocked down time and time again. Each time she had to pull herself back up again, each time she had to find her voice, each time she had to fight to have her voice heard. The book talks about the demeaning stories people shared about their lives. It talks about how people were put in categories – the worst being a box marked “other” – a description given to people who couldn’t save themselves for trying, a description given to them by the people who were supposed to be using their “expertise” to help them. At this point in the story Novogratz was in Rwanda, a country where women comprised half the population, yet had no access to banking facilities. She quickly came to understand the importance of giving women access to loans, believing not only that it was an issue of justice, but also by lending women money instead of giving handouts, this would signal the high expectations for them and give them the chance to do something for their own lives, rather than waiting for the “experts” to give them things that they might or might not need. Her story continues by telling her story of how she took a stand for something she believed in, at times quietly by doing things behind the scenes, and at times speaking up and speaking out. At times she worked alone on this, and at times she worked with other people. The book is a firsthand account of her journey from international banker to social entrepreneur and founder of Acumen.

Epilogue 

Jacqueline Novogratz’s story is a story that demonstrates the importance of taking a stand for something you believe in and how this helps to develop your personal brand true to your identity, values and beliefs. 

Today’s Book of the Blog is: The Blue Sweater by Jacqueline Novogratz 

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Speaking Listening Understanding, The Impact of Ism’s, By Carmel O’ Reilly

Along with many people throughout the world I’m shocked, sickened and saddened by inequality, discrimination, and so many kinds of ism’s: racism, homophobism, sexism, ageism, bodyism, machoism, egoism, even feminism, because I believe in equality for everyone, women and men, and I don’t like anything that discriminates against any person or any group of people.

In trying to understand the atrocities so many people are experiencing throughout the world because of some despicable ism, I thought about my life.

The Impact of Ism’s: A Case Study:

Equality

Born in the 1960s I grew up in Ireland. I had a simple and idyllic upbringing. I’m one of ten children – five boys and five girls. We were all treated equally, at home, within our community and within our country. Of course, Ireland is a small country and the population when I was growing up was around three million people, the majority of whom were Irish. That has now grown to a population today of five million. This is attributed to international businesses setting up operational plants in Ireland. 

So, growing up in Ireland I wasn’t exposed to, or really aware of isms. My experience was that people thought of each other as equal, and treated each other as such. But then there wasn’t much diversity, and maybe had there been, my experience would have been different. I’ve lived in the UK since 1993, and so I can’t talk from experience of changes brought about by a larger population, and as a result more diversity. Of course, staying connected to family and friends allows me to have a sense of how Ireland has navigated though this. I believe Irish people are by and large, open, accepting and welcoming, but as with every country in the world I also believe there are exceptions to this. In particular around religion, being a largely Catholic country, there remains strong held beliefs that same sex relationships is wrong. But thankfully I believe that’s among the few and not the many.

Growing up in many ways I was even oblivious to the troubles in Northern Ireland, which ran from 1968 to 1998. In the beginning I was too young to understand, and in later years, I was busy growing up, living and loving my life. I really never gave it much thought. I think like many, I became conditioned – it was on our TVs daily, but it was almost as though it was happening somewhere else. Living in the south of Ireland, it felt as though we were removed from it. Very few people from the Republic of Ireland actually went across the border from the south to the north. 

During those years I only crossed the border twice. The first time was uneventful. I was taking a return flight from Belfast to Spain, and caught a bus which took me across the border. The second time I was visiting a friend in Drogheda – a town just south of the border. We decided we’d go shopping to Belfast and so drove across. The journey there was uneventful but on the way back we took a wrong turning, got completely lost, and ended up at a barricade in what to us was the middle of nowhere. This was manned by British soldiers, we were asked to get out of our car, and we were questioned at gunpoint, as to who we were, and what we were doing there. It was unnerving, but being in our 20’s we were quite naive, and though a little bit frightening, I think our naivety served us well, in that we didn’t panic in any way. So after a while we were allowed to continue our journey. We were in fact escorted to the border. It was only on our return when we shared our story with our friends, that we began to realise the potential danger we had put ourselves in. It’s widely believed in Ireland, both then and now, that there was a shoot-to-kill policy by the British police and army stationed in Northern Ireland throughout the Troubles. Our friends believed that had we said the wrong thing, or given a wrong glance, that we wouldn’t have been in the pub that night sharing our story. Over the years as I’ve become more politically aware, that belief has crossed my mind from time to time. When it does, I’m thankful for our naivety, because had we had this awareness back then, we may well have behaved differently, resulting in me not being here today, telling this story.

A few years later I dated a guy from Northern Ireland. He always travelled south, I never travelled north. I’m Catholic, he was Protestant. It wouldn’t have been safe for either of us to have been together in Northern Ireland. However, despite the use of the terms Catholic and Protestant to refer to the two sides, it wasn’t a religious conflict. A key issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists, who were mostly Protestants, wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists, who were mostly Catholics, wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland. I still remember his amazement at the freedom we had going out together, when he came to stay, and how different he’d say it was to how he lived his life on a daily basis at home. There were places he couldn’t go, people he couldn’t be with, ways in which he had to behave, so as not to draw any untoward or unwanted attention to himself. I also remember how his mother used to call me: “The wee girl from the free state”. Referring to a freedom of living that I had always taken for granted, and because of that I had never questioned it.

I moved to the UK in 1993 and began working in London. I immediately loved the diversity. I didn’t experience any isms. Perhaps I was oblivious because I was living and loving life, meeting great people and having great experiences. 

Then I met my ex-husband Carlos, who is from Ecuador, and I began to notice things. For example, if we were driving through London and there was a checkpoint, every time I was driving we’d be waived through – no stops, no checks. Every time Carlos was driving, we’d be stopped, and asked questions – where we’re going, does he live here, and so on. I’d become really angry within myself, and I’d voice that by asking, why when I’m driving are we never stopped, but when my husband is driving, we always are. Carlos would quietly say to me: “just leave it Carmel”. He was extremely polite and respectful in answering all the questions, and we’d be allowed to continue our journey. I would say to him, you shouldn’t let them treat you like that, they shouldn’t treat you differently to how they treat me. He would calmly respond, that’s just how it is Carmel, to them we are different, our appearance allows them to know that, they may not know immediately you’re Irish, maybe they think you’re British, but with me they immediately know I’m not British, and so immediately they treat me differently. I would be angry on his behalf, he would just be accepting of that was how it was. There were ways in which he had to behave, so as not to draw any untoward or unwanted attention to himself.

So, I suppose I can say I have some experiences in my life that allow me to begin to understand the atrocities so many people are experiencing throughout the world because of some despicable ism. But it is just the very beginning of an understanding. There is so much more for me to learn. 

I believe because of my upbringing, the values, and beliefs that have grown with me throughout my life, that I’ve never practised isms, I certainly hope I haven’t in any way. But nowadays I question if by something not existing within me, in my heart, my mind, or at the core of my very being, has that made me obvilous to it, until I experienced it myself, and is that OK? The conclusion I’m coming to, is that it’s not OK, and that I need to be a lot more aware of the atrocities people are experiencing through the practice of isms.

Book Wisdom

Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World by Jacqueline Novogratz provides a benevolent tonic for those looking to rise above the troubled waters of the age and embrace the ‘beautiful struggle’ of rebuilding a broken world. When we look at the world’s problems, it’s easy to be discouraged, and maybe even conclude that positive change is futile. Positive change isn’t just possible, it’s happening all around us. Novogratz introduces the quiet warriors for a better world, and shows how each of us can be part of the moral revolution. 

Sage Wisdom

Novogratz shows the power of listening to everyone who can help you to see new possibilities. 

Words of Wisdom

Whether or not we’ve witnessed, experienced or suffered a despicable ism in our lives, the last few months have been a time to reflect and assess. We’ve wondered how our lives will change in the coming months and years – what will change around us and how do we want to change our lives. We’ve come to realise when we don’t make connections, we don’t build communities. To build strong communities we have to have a really good conversation with each other, to build a sense of calm, a sense of reassurance that we can take the right action to move the road together. 

Ask questions such as:

What would you like to see more of?

What are challenges or struggles you’ve faced?

To help understand each other. 

Then listen and allow the answers and feedback you receive to allow you to know what you can do to help, what you can do to make a difference in the world in ridding it of despicable isms. 

Epilogue 

People are talking, they’re speaking up, and speaking out, and sharing their stories. Conversations are taking place. I’m determined to listen and to learn. Because I believe things happen through talking, through conversations, without which nothing happens. Through better conversation we listen to connect and to understand each other, as opposed to listening to reply.

I believe this because of the Northern Ireland peace process. In 1993, the Joint Declaration on Peace was issued on behalf of the Irish and British governments. In 1994 talks between the leaders of opposing parties in Northern Ireland led to a series of joint statements on how the violence might be brought to an end. These talks had been going on since the late 1980s. The Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. At the beginning I was sceptical, after thirty years of war, thirty years of injuries, violence, murders, bombings, massacres, thirty years of so many atrocities. I wasn’t sure if the peace process would last. But there is one ism I subscribe to, and that’s optimism. I wanted to believe it would last and thankfully it has. 

Today’s book of the blog is: Manifesto for a Moral Revolution: Practices to Build a Better World by Jacqueline Novogratz

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Both Part 2 By Carmel O’ Reilly

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Constant: 

Jeff Bezos said: “I very frequently get the question: What’s going to change in the next 10 years? And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: What’s not going to change in the next 10 years? And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” 

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument In Favour of Change:

In his talk about Finding Your Purpose, Tim Cook said:  “As you go out into the world, don’t waste time on problems that have been solved, don’t get hung up on what other people say is practical. Instead, steer your ship into the choppy seas. Look for the rough spots, the problems that seem too big, the complexities that other people are content to work around. It’s in those places that you will find your purpose.”

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Both: A Case Study:

Change VS Constant Constant VS Change The Argument in Favour of Both

The story that led to the:

Book Wisdom 

Of Historic Heston by Heston Blumenthal.

I don’t remember how Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant ‘The Fat Duck’ came on my radar, but I do remember I bookmarked pages from the website and immediately put it on my Joie De Vivre list. It was their Christmas Experience that spoke to me. Like Heston I have wonderful Christmas memories from growing up, and I become very nostalgic at this time of the year.  Here is some of what I saved from those bookmarked pages:

The Trip: Your Itinerary

“The whole experience is a Journey, centred around a nostalgic trip full of playful memories, filled with curiosity, discovery and adventure. This nostalgic trip is based on a collection of some of my favourite childhood holiday memories, taking place over the course of a day. The menu is your itinerary for the day, represented on the map you’ve just seen on the homepage.

“I don’t know about you, but I always got really excited in the build up to going on holiday; for me, this is where the journey begins.

“My story is only there to act as a catalyst to help bring your childhood holiday memories to life: where you were, who you were with, what you ate and how you ate it. Hopefully, it’ll get you reminiscing, making connections, sharing experiences, and bringing back some wonderful memories.

“Nostalgia is a key element that lies at the core of what we do at The Fat Duck. Our role is to help our guests recall their happiest memories. We aim to be the spark that ignites nostalgia. This is the most exciting thing we have ever done.

“Through storytelling, we have been able to build human relationships based on the observation and exchange of real emotions. Over the past 25 years, we have taken our guests on a journey through food and emotions, enhancing our understanding of nostalgia. This has allowed us to create new experiences and embrace hardwired human shared beliefs.

“This year The Fat Duck will mark the festive period by bringing to life the story of Christmas in a wondrous experience revolving around the focal role played by the Christmas tree. Evolving from the story of Heston’s childhood holiday journey, The Fat Duck will devote the entire experience to a celebration of Christmas and the stories that revolve around it.

“Our Fable Tree is a celebration of Christmas, with nostalgia and traditions at its core. We aim to evoke nostalgic memories following the life of a Christmas tree, our deep rooted connection to it and what it symbolises. It is a celebration of the childlike excitement, anticipation and positive memories of the festive period that leads to elevated emotions and human connectivity.

“Our story begins in nature where seeds turn into a Christmas tree and we are then transported to our magical Christmas memories where we celebrate with family and friends around the tree. Following the journey of the Christmas tree from the woods into our home, we explore our connectivity with nature, the symbolism of the tree and the emotional connections between friends and family during a special time of the year.”

These words, this description, I think will help you to understand why I immediately put a visit on my Joie De Vivre list.

I explored the website further because I wanted to learn more about Heston, his work and what else he did. This is what I discovered: 

Events

“We love creating new experiences and if there is such a word as Wonderosity, then this is the feeling we want our guests to have at the end, beginning and middle of their time with us…and far, far into the future too! We like to think of ourselves as storytellers, creating fantastical edible stories and in the job of narrator, our events team are here to guide you through – carefully planning your story from the first page to the very end. So, if you are sitting comfortably, then let us begin… 

“The Mountain Gourmet Ski Adventure 

“Join Heston’s chef friends for another journey of friendship, food, fine wines and the best fun on the mountain.”

Yep, that went on my Joie De Vivre list too.

I wanted to know more about the man, so I explored further, this is what I discovered:

He’s entirely self-taught, over a period of ten years he worked in a number of relatively undemanding jobs by day and taught himself the French classical repertoire by night. His interest in cooking had begun at the age of sixteen on a family holiday to Provence, when he was taken to the three Michelin-starred restaurant L’Oustau de Baumanière. He was inspired by the quality of the food and “the whole multi-sensory experience: the sound of fountains and cicadas, the heady smell of lavender, the sight of the waiters carving lamb at the table.” 

A pivotal moment came when reading On Food and Cooking: the Science and Lore of the Kitchen by Harold McGee. This challenged kitchen practices such as searing meat to seal in the juices, and it encouraged Heston to “adopt a totally different attitude towards cuisine that at its most basic boiled down to: question everything.”

He advocates scientific understanding in cooking, for which he has been awarded honorary degrees from Reading, Bristol and London universities and was made an honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is a pioneer of multi-sensory cooking, food pairing and flavour encapsulation.

Blumenthal uses British history in his dishes. He became interested in historical cooking in the late 1990s upon obtaining a copy of The Vivendier, a translation of a fifteenth-century cookery manuscript that contained unusual recipes, such as a chicken that appears roasted but wakes up as it is served. He said, “I’d had little idea the cooking of the past could be so playful, audacious and creative.”

The opening of Dinner presented him with far greater scope for historical cooking, and its menu is composed solely of dishes inspired by the recipes of the past. 

Book Wisdom

This brings us to his 2013 book Historic Heston 

Blumenthal, a renowned chef who has made his name creating such original – and some might say bizarre – dishes as Snail Porridge and Nitrogen Scrambled Egg & Bacon Ice Cream, decided it was time to go back to his British roots and to focus his creative talent on reinventing dishes that represent the essence of British culinary heritage. 

Blumenthal, whose name is synonymous with cutting-edge cuisine, chartered a quest for identity through the best of British cooking that stretches from medieval to late-Victorian recipes.  This has been the secret to his success at world-famous restaurants The Fat Duck and Dinner, where a contrast between old and new, modern and historic, is key.

Sage Wisdom

“Question Everything.” Heston Blumenthal 

Epilogue

In researching this story, I came across an article by Esquire magazine in which Heston returned to the source of where his journey had begun for him: L’Oustau de Baumanière.  Waiting to be seated, a waiter approached and wondered if he would prefer to eat his lunch in reverse, beginning with petits fours, then pudding, followed by cheese, then main courses, starters, finally amuse bouche. The wine would go backwards, too: dessert, red, white. 

Blumenthal was immediately taken by the idea of the backwards lunch. The notion had a whimsical, topsy-turvy, Lewis Carroll eccentricity to it, which is very Heston Blumenthal. Also, it offered a chance to experiment on the taste buds, to surprise them into action, offer them something unexpected, and confounding, and fun, all of which is quintessentially Blumenthalian. 

For Blumenthal, it was a homecoming which took him back to the summer of 1982, to when he first fell down a rabbit hole, as he puts it, into a world of multi-sensory wonder. The rest as the saying goes is history, well history the Heston way that is – where throughout the burrows history and science converge. 

Words of Wisdom

Blumenthal advocates the notion of the “monomyth’ – the idea that all our foundational stories tell of a hero’s journey. That was why he felt he needed to go back to the beginning, so that he could start again.

He says in questioning everything, that it’s about the journey, the process of discovery, the curiosity. And that turned out to be his drive.

Maybe you can take a page out of Blumenthal’s book, and question things in your WorkLife. His favourite questions include:

  • What if I do it this way? Then,
  • What happens if I do the exact opposite?

Try it, reflect it on it, let the feedback inform you what it is that you want to change in your Worklife and what you want to keep constant. 

Today’s book of the blog is: Historic Heston By Heston Blumenthal 

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Both Part 1 By Carmel O’ Reilly

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Constant: 

Jeff Bezos said: “I very frequently get the question: What’s going to change in the next 10 years? And that is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: What’s not going to change in the next 10 years? And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.” 

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument In Favour of Change:

In his talk about Finding Your Purpose, Tim Cook said:  “As you go out into the world, don’t waste time on problems that have been solved, don’t get hung up on what other people say is practical. Instead, steer your ship into the choppy seas. Look for the rough spots, the problems that seem too big, the complexities that other people are content to work around. It’s in those places that you will find your purpose.”

Change vs Constant, Constant vs Change, The Argument in Favour of Both: A Case Study

The story that lead to the:

Book Wisdom 

Of The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen

My first introduction to Steven Raichlen was as a man who is half historian and half chef. This is his story of how he earned that description, which I’ve adapted from his interview on the Big Questions podcast with Cal Fussman 

in 1975, Steven Raichlen earned a Bachelor of Arts in French literature from Reed College. He received a Thomas J. Watson Foundation Fellowship to study medieval cooking in Europe, and was offered a Fulbright Scholarship to study comparative literature. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris. Raichlen said the beauty of the Watson Fellowships is that they can’t be academic: so he couldn’t’ say he was going off to Oxford to study medieval literature, instead he proposed to study medieval cooking in Europe. This was because he had written his thesis on a medieval poet, and he was into all things Middle Ages. When he was researching the poet, he found a medieval cookbook and thought that it was amazing people were handwriting recipes in cookbooks six-hundred years ago.  

Each year the Watson Foundation looks for someone that burns with a passion, who has enough street smart and worldly wiseness to make it happen. He was given $7000 to eat and drink his way through Europe – in 1975 that was a lot of bucks. And so off he went to study medieval cookbooks in all the great libraries of Europe. 

The language in the books would say: “Add a bit of this and a bit of that”, but he wasn’t sure how much of this and how much of that. So he figured he needed to go to cooking school and learn the grammar and vocabulary of cooking. He enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu and La Varenne cooking schools in Paris. He said to him cooking is a language and vocabulary needed grammar, and that was how he learnt what he needed to know; and  with that he was able to go back to the medieval recipes and figure out how the stuff went together. 

On his return to the US, he went on to become a food writer and a restaurant critic. It was, he said, a continuing education. Every time he went out, he learnt about food.

During his restaurant reviewing years he developed a cholesterol problem, so he developed a style of cooking that was low in fat. He said the barbecue idea just came to him, and that grilling is one of the oldest and most universal cooking methods; but that everywhere you go, in every country it’s done differently. And so he thought: “wouldn’t it be cool to travel around the world and document those differences.”  His work eventually became the book: The Barbecue Bible.

Book Wisdom

The Barbecue Bible by Steven Raichlen is big and it’s filled with recipes from all over the world, and that’s where the wisdom comes in. It takes you, your taste buds and your mind to different places, all the time nurturing your curiosity. 

To give you a flavour of what to expect:

“… On the end of a barely inhabited island located a few miles off the Côte d’Azur. The lle de Porquerolles is where to go to escape the crowds and traffic of the Riviera. Immortalised by the mystery writer Georges Simenon …”

“… I’d heard that Sunda Kelapa was one of the best restaurants in Jakarta, but I would never have guessed it by the neighbourhood. The ride there took me through a dilapidated stretch of the port section of Batavia, past derelict warehouses, down trash-strewn streets lined with shanties …”

“… Duckling a l’orange … the traditional preparation calls for oranges, but I also like the exotic flavour you get with tangerines…”

Words of Wisdom

He became dedicated to one subject that he became a master in, devoting his whole life to barbecue, and to spreading all of his knowledge.  He said that he writes recipes because that’s what sells the books, but that what really interests him is the history, the anthropology, the culture behind the food. 

Sage Wisdom

“Some critics say they go into a restaurant with the thinking: prove to me that you’re not a terrible restaurant. I go in cup half full, my thinking is: I’m here, I’m excited, show me what you can do.” Steven Raichlen 

Epilogue

Raichlen said he’s a big believer in lists, and so on posing the question to himself, “what else do I want to do with barbecue,” the self-feedback that came to him was: 

  • He needed a website – check out www.stevenraichlen.com for recipes and programmes; 
  • He could do a TV show – he’s done a few now, including: Barbecue University, Primal Grill and Project Smoke;
  • He could publish his work internationally – his books have been translated into 17 languages;
  • He could create products – you can check those out on his website;
  • He could speak about his work – he says he gets sent to nice places all around the world to speak;
  • He could start an international barbecue community – He’s the founder of Barbecue University, which offers courses on live fire cooking;
  • He could write more books – He’s written quite a few by now.

Eventually all of this became a business. He says: “the beauty about barbecue is that it’s a subject that is very broad and very deep and you can instantly form a bond with people over barbecue.” 

As a man who is half historian and half chef, Raichlen recognises and appreciates what is good about ‘constant’ and ‘change’. His story demonstrates the argument in favour of both.

Today’s book of the blog is: The Barbecue Bible By Steven Raichlen 

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Thinking is One of the Greatest Superpowers By Carmel O’ Reilly

Confidence in Thinking for yourself leads to confidence in Doing for yourself. Creative thinking promotes creative doing.

Thinking is One of the Greatest Superpowers is part of a series about superpowers. Thinking, learning, knowledge, experience, potential, happiness, self-awareness, observation are all superpowers. This series will consider how these superpowers can help us in our WorkLife, and how they helped people to navigate their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride.

Thinking is One of the Greatest Superpowers: A Case Study

Thinking is a Superpower

Confidence in Thinking for yourself leads to confidence in Doing for yourself. Creative thinking promotes creative doing. 

Because I help people in WorkLife transition, I sometimes get asked by people if I’m always able to tell people what job they should be doing and I have to explain that that’s not what I do. What I actually do is facilitate the process that allows people to come to this realisation themselves. In essence I help people to have clarity in their thinking.

My programmes also support job search, and I get asked if I always get people a job, to which I reply: my role is to support people in getting the job themselves. This may all sound very cliché, but when I’m performing in my role at my very best, I’m merely the facilitator in helping people do things for themselves. I meet with my clients weekly, fortnightly or whatever timeframe that allows them to carry out the objectives agreed on in our session. I always say to clients that the best work takes place away from the sessions, whether that’s research, networking or marketing themselves. These are the actions that will drive their programme in line with their needs and objectives outlined at the outset of our work together.

I sometimes use the analogy of a sports coach and the world of WorkLife, Career, Leadership and Executive and Coaching all evolved from the world of sport.  Many of my clients will have worked with a sports coach or personal trainer or will have an understanding of how these people help their clients (individuals or teams) to get the most from their performance. They don’t go out and play a game or do their fitness programme for them. They do, however, walk alongside them, supporting their motivation, determination and persistence in achieving their goals. They help them to continuously improve their performance and to be in a position to achieve things for themselves. 

Clients will want to achieve the objectives outlined at the beginning of their programme for themselves. This gives them great satisfaction and the skills they gain throughout the process remain with them and indeed help to progress their WorkLife to the next stage, because of their ability to recognise what’s unique about themselves in terms of their skills, experience, knowledge, attributes and potential. This allows them to be confident in communicating this and effectively marketing themselves, whether in writing – job application, CV, and cover letter, or in person – interviews, or in networking situations. The experience they gain in building their networks in their chosen field also remains with them and gives them the impetuous to continue to develop strong relationships, allowing them to easily navigate and progress their WorkLife when the time is right. 

I believe for every problem or question we have, we also have the ability to find the solution and the answer within us. To demonstrate this, I will tell you a story about Jack.

Book Wisdom

In my book Your WorkLife Your Way in Chapter 15 I share Jack’s story:

Some years ago, when Jack was just seven, his primary school decided they were going to form a school council with two representatives from each class. This was announced in the morning at school assembly, and the students were told that anyone who wanted to be considered would have an opportunity after lunch to speak in front of their class to be considered for nomination.

Jack relayed this to me at the end of the day when he told me he was among the candidates nominated from his class. I asked what he had done and said that resulted in his success at this initial stage. He said at lunch time he had found himself a quiet corner in the playground, and thought through what he might say. But when he stood in front of his class and saw everyone staring at him, he froze and could not remember what he was going to say. I asked what he did then, and he said: “Well I just started talking and I don’t remember what I said, but at the end everyone clapped, and I was nominated”.

He was on a high and went about developing his campaign strategy. Then one day when he came home from school, he seemed quite subdued. When I asked what was wrong, he said: “Today Owen [one of his opponents] brought cookies to school and gave one to anyone who promised to vote for him”. He asked his dad and me what he should do. We just looked at each other and wondered if we should perhaps go out and buy chocolate for Jack to give to his friends. We did not do this though, nor did we have the answer to give Jack; and so he went about working on his campaign.

At the time Jack was into both The Simpsons and The Rugrats, and he made up stickers, leaflets, posters and banners saying ‘Vote for Jack’ using these animated characters. He had the whole family involved in his campaign. Jack took himself away from the immediate problem of how to compete against Owen and his cookies by busying himself.

Then the morning of the election came, and when I dropped Jack at school I asked what he was going to say in his election speech. He said he did not know, but he was concerned that his classmates would vote for Owen because they would get another cookie. 

I waited with bated breath all day, hoping he would not be too disappointed if he was not successful. When I picked him up in the evening, I asked tentatively what happened. And Jack said: “Oh yeah, I was elected,” in a no-big-deal sort of way. “But what did you say?” I asked.

Jack answered: “Well I stood up and everyone was staring at me, and I said, Owen has promised you cookies if you vote for him, these cookies will last a couple of minutes,  I can promise to help make your dreams come true, these will last forever.” “My god Jack,” I asked, “Where did that come from?” “I don’t know,” he said. “It just came to me”.

Therein lies my belief that if we have a problem or a question, that we think we do not have the ability to cope with or the answer to, we actually do.  Quite often the solution comes to us when we take ourselves away from the immediate problem or question, and busy ourselves with something perhaps related to the issue – just as Jack did by working on his campaign. Or we may just need to distance ourselves from the problem. I find I have my most inspirational thoughts in the bath, or when I sleep on it, or when I go for a walk. The 3 B’s of creative thinking are: Bath, Bed and Bus.

Words of Wisdom

Develop a practice of continuous self-feedback to free your mind to think about what matters most, to help your creative wheels turn faster. Develop a practice of insightful self-questioning to unlock your imagination, to explore your options and to look at your possibilities. Probe your thought processes with questions that encourage creativity. Ask yourself:

If it were possible how would I do it?

If I knew the answer what would it be?

Sage Wisdom

Everything you do depends for its quality on the thinking you do first. Create time and space for thinking, time and space to look within yourself for the solution to your problem or the answer to your question.

Epilogue

I truly believe Thinking is one of the greatest superpowers, and once people are confident in their ability to think for themselves and believe they have the answers they need within them, this instils the belief they can do for themselves. The ultimate satisfaction for me in my work is when my clients are confident in thinking and doing for themselves, and creative thinking promotes creative doing.

As for Jack, well at the time he was successful in being elected to represent his class on the school council he loved Jackie Chan films and earned himself the nickname among his classmates as ‘Jackie Chan the first school council man’.

Today’s book of the blog is: Your WorkLife Your Way By Carmel O’ Reilly

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Feedback the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly, By Carmel O’ Reilly

Feedback can build you up or knock you down. It has the power to reconstruct or destroy your WorkLife at all stages. 

Feedback the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly is part of a series of people’s stories of how feedback impacted their WorkLife at different stages. How it enabled or disabled, how it championed, criticised or crushed. How it left them feeling encouraged, deflated or broken. 

Feedback the Good, the Bad and the Downright Ugly: A Case Study

Feedback The Good Bad and Downright Ugly

Feedback can build you up or knock you down. It has the power to reconstruct or destroy your WorkLife at all stages. 

I was listening to Scott Budnick on the podcast Big Questions with Cal Fussman. He shared the story of the feedback he’d received at the end of his summer law internship. This is the point you find out whether you get an offer to come back at the end of law school. It’s a big thing because most people want to set themselves up for those jobs. 

Budnick was the last of the interns to be called in to discover his fate, which in effect was his future. The managing partner began by saying: “When we don’t give someone an offer we know how that can be damaging to someone’s career, and it puts a black mark on you. We take it very, very seriously to not give someone an offer. In your case it’s different. We’re not going to give you an offer. We didn’t stress about it, it was an easy decision. I personally don’t even think you should finish law school. I think you should drop out. I don’t think you have the interest or the aptitude, or the demeanour, I don’t think that’s what you’re meant to do with your life. I don’t think it’s for you. I actually think you should come back here. I think you should start a business and you should come back here as a client. I think you’re more salesman than lawyer.”

Budnick said at twenty-five years old it was a gut punch, and yet in that moment he knew he was right.  He went back to law school and finished, and he realised this was not going to be his life. He changed direction and ended up in the talent business, going on to have a very successful WorkLife.

This story brought me back to a story I shared in my book Your WorkLife Your Way. In Chapter 19: Rejection Recovery Resilience I shared a story about Sir Anthony Sher, who I had recently seen play the lead role in Death of a Salesman in the West End. His performance was phenomenal, and without exception the entire auditorium was on its feet for the final curtain call. His performance earned him five-star reviews. Shortly afterwards I read an interview he did with the Guardian newspaper, where in response to the question “If there was one thing you would change about your appearance, what would it be?” he answered, “Everything”. I was saddened by this because no matter how good actors are, the critique will continue. If they cannot be critiqued on their performance, they will be critiqued for their appearance. When it comes to actors, the whole world are critics. This in effect is feedback – feedback of the downright ugly category. 

In the interview when Sir Anthony was asked “What was the worst thing anyone said to you?” His reply was: “When I auditioned at RADA they urged me to seek a different career, and not to give up my day job.” Thankfully for him (and us) he followed his heart, and has since been knighted for his contribution to the Arts.

These stories highlight the disturbingly different approach the head of drama at the drama school took in contrast to the managing director at the law firm. In delivering the feedback they needed to give, both had a responsibly to their student to say what they needed to say with empathy and an understanding of the impact this would have at what was the beginning stage of both their WorkLives. One gave this feedback in a manner that was good, the other in a manner that was bad. 

Book Wisdom

In the book Choose Yourself by James Altucher, he talks about how every day, in all aspects of our lives, we are rejected. He says: “Rejection is probably the most powerful force in our lives. Think back on the times you were rejected and how your response to it changed your life completely.”

Sage Wisdom

He shares the response that many people have to being rejected, which is to ask themselves: What can I do differently? What can I learn from this rejection?

He then goes on to share these:

Words of Wisdom

IMPROVE: 

Ask yourself the following questions:

Can you improve your offering? 

Can you take a step back and improve what you’re doing?

Maybe you can, and maybe you can’t. But brainstorm first. 

What are the ten things you can do to improve what you are doing?

Take time to reflect on these questions, then through self-feedback take the actions that come to you in knowing what you need to do to be able to choose yourself in pursuing your best WorkLife. 

Epilogue

While both men have thankfully gone on to lead WorkLives that have been fulfilling to them at all stages, the memory of the words spoken at this initial stage has remained with them throughout. 

Budnick said he is thankful to the managing director for his honesty, because over a short space of time it helped him know that this was his truth – that a career in  law wasn’t for him, which made the decision to pursue a WorkLife in the talent business easier for him. 

Sher said that while he was totally crushed by the feedback the head of drama had given him, that his burning desire to become an actor that came from knowing his purpose  from an early age, gave him the drive to push beyond this in pursuit of his passion. In the interview he was also asked: “What book changed his life”, and he replied: “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare because it led him to the RSC, which allowed him to fulfil a dream he held since a young boy”.

Today’s book of the blog is: Choose Yourself by James Altucher.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

Body Language Speech Patterns and the 7/38/55 Principle in WorkLife Interactions By Carmel O’ Reilly

Charlie wasn’t happy with how his first meeting had gone. He had been tasked with helping to improve morale within his department, but he’d come away from the meeting feeling he’d achieved absolutely nothing.

Body Language Speech Patterns and the 7/38/55 Principle in WorkLife Interactions is part of a series of people’s stories about how the ability to read the situation and the other side in the moment is key in all WorkLife interactions: from exchanges to conversations, conflict to cooperation, differences to understanding, refusals to negotiations, and much, much more.

Body Language Speech Patterns and the 7/38/55 Principle in WorkLife Interactions: A Case Study

Body Language Speech Patterns 7/38/55 Principle

Charlie wasn’t happy with how his first meeting had gone. He had been tasked with helping to improve morale within his department, but he’d come away from the meeting feeling he’d achieved absolutely nothing.

But let’s back up a little to understand how Charlie found himself in this situation.

Morale at the auto-parts factory Charlie worked at had never been great. The general consensus among workers was that it was a job, no more, no less. People were thankful to have a job, especially within this industry which had been impacted by so many downturns in the economy, causing downsizing in many companies. Workers turned up for their shift, did what was required of them – no more, no less, that was about it really.

Oscar as new plant manager wanted to turn this around. He wanted to get to the bottom of what was going on – what people were thinking and feeling, and why they were thinking and feeling this. He felt the person to uncover this needed to come from within the organisation, rather than bringing in an outside consultant. He believed people would be more open to someone they knew and trusted as opposed to being closed and non-trusting to someone external – who would most likely have been viewed as a trouble-shooter, and people would be suspecting of the motive behind this. 

Oscar chose Charlie for this role, simply because he was an affable person, his warmth and friendliness drew people to him, and there was mutual respect between him and his co-workers. Oscar didn’t have a budget to facilitate any training Charlie would need, instead he made himself available as a coach and mentor to help him through the process. 

After his first meeting with Xavier, Charlie went to Oscar for help. He felt Xavier was holding back. When Charlie had asked him how things were going, Xavier had responded ‘OK’, but his tonality and body language didn’t match the words he was saying. Charlie didn’t know how to get beyond this to get Xavier to open up about how he was really thinking and feeling, which was the task Oscar had set him.

Oscar shared the following:

Sage Wisdom 

“What you do doesn’t depend on you – it depends on the other fellow.” Sanford Meisner

Having been involved in the drama society at college, Oscar had become interested in the principles of the Meisner technique and how they could be applied in WorkLife. He recommended a book that he believed would be helpful to Charlie, and suggested they meet in a few days to work through the first exercise from the book, by way of helping Charlie to prepare for his next meeting with Xavier. 

Book Wisdom

The book was Meisner in Practice by Nick Moseley. Moseley says: “Meisner exercises are designed to strip away the artificiality of theatre and return you to one of your most basic human abilities – to receive and respond to messages from others, and allow the actions of others to be the principle determinant of how you yourselves act.”

Charlie read through the book, but as the belief within the world of performing arts is “Acting is doing”, Charlie and Oscar met to work through the first exercise:

Mechanical Repetition

Moseley says: 

“In the first exercise, you and another actor sit on chairs facing each other, at a distance from one another that allows you to see not just the face of your partner, but their whole body. After a while, one of you makes a simple statement about something you notice about the other actor. This will be a physical, irrefutable fact, such as ‘red socks.’ The other actor repeats the phrase back to you exactly as you have said it, copying your intonation, volume and pronunciation exactly. You then do the same, repeating not what you think you said the first time, but what you hear from the other actor, and so it goes on until the teacher stops the exercise.

“With this understanding, you can embark on the first and simplest of the Meisner repetition exercises.

“The purpose of this exercise is to create a situation in which your only guiding principle in moving the encounter forward is the instruction to reproduce what you hear as exactly as possible. This forces you to listen and to process, so that what emerges is directly influenced by the stimulus the other actor has given you. This is the first step in allowing the other actor, rather than yourself, to determine your actions. 

“The beauty of the first exercise lies in its simplicity. It is a task that is well within your scope and yet requires enough of your attention to keep you interested and engaged. Each moment is different from the last, and each moment influences the next moment.”

Charlie enjoyed doing this exercise. The simplicity and slowness of it really helped him to be in the moment. He felt much more aware of what was going on in front of him. He also felt much more grounded, all of which gave him a quiet confidence ahead of his meeting with Xavier. 

Oscar shared these:

 Words of Wisdom

Your ability to read the situation and your ability to shift your focus off yourself and pay attention to the other side, how they’re reacting to you in the situation, how they’re reacting to what you say, will allow you to begin to understand and question what you’re experiencing or what you’re sensing.

He went on to talk about the 7/38/55 principle about content, tonality and body language in the context of WorkLife interactions.

This is a link to a previous post: A Myth Misquoted Misinterpreted and Misunderstood: The 7% Rule: Fact, Fiction or Fallacy which explains the 7/38/55 principle.

Oscarsaid to Charlie that in usingthe principle of the first Meisner exercise in his next meeting, Charlie could build on this by asking himself the following question throughout the meeting: “Does delivery and body language line up with the words been spoken?”; then to reflect in the moment on whatever comes to him, and to use self-feedback to know what to say next in response to what he’s received. For example, if it doesn’t line up, simply say: “I heard you say everything was OK, but I also heard something in your tone of voice that made you hesitate.”

Charlie was a little anxious that he wouldn’t pick up on these contradictions in the moment, saying that he considered himself to be a more reflective than an in-the-moment person. He went on to say that he often got a sense that things weren’t quite as they seemed, but that he struggled to call whatever that was in the moment. Oscar pointed out to him that he had in fact picked up on something in the meeting with Xavier, when immediately coming away from the meeting he had a sense that Xavier was holding back. He went on to say that being more reflective was good too, he could simply say to Xavier: “Reflecting on our last meeting, I got a sense that when you said everything was OK, that actually something wasn’t. This is because while I heard you say everything was OK, I also heard something in your tone of voice that made you hesitate.”

This is precisely how Charlie began his next meeting with Xavier.

Epilogue

Xavier was taken aback by Charlie’s words and hesitated for a few moments before responding. When he did speak, he said he didn’t see the point to all of this; morale at the plant had never been great, he was OK with that as far as it went, and that was what he had meant in his response to Charlie’s question. 

This simple truth telling on Xavier’s part actually gave Charlie a lot of information. It reaffirmed what Charlie believed many of his co-workers were thinking and feeling. He knew he needed to find a way to move beyond this and that this would take time. What was different for Charlie in this meeting was that he had a greater confidence within himself to say what he was sensing in the moment. Knowing that when he couldn’t call what he was sensing ‘in the moment’, he could simply say: “I heard you say everything was OK, but I also heard something in your tone of voice that made you hesitate”. This instilled further confidence, as did knowing that it was OK for him to reflect on the meeting, and to come back and share his thinking and feeling from that at the next meeting as he’d done today.

Today’s book of the blog is: Meisner in Practice by Nick Moseley

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story. 

How to Answer Bizarre Interview Questions such as How Would You Count the Hairs on a Cat? By Carmel O’ Reilly

Are part of a series of stories of weird questions people were asked at interviews, how they answered them, and what the interviewer may have been looking for in asking these questions. This series also considers what makes a question, a good question from the point of view of being an insightful question. 

How to Answer Bizarre Interview Questions such as How Would You Count the Hairs on a Cat? A Case Study

Questions Bizarre or Insightful

William was asked this question when he was interviewing for a project management role at an investment bank in the City of London. He was given a pen and paper, and calculator to work it out! He was thankful for this because it gave him time to gather his thoughts, and while he didn’t calculate, he did scribble down a few thoughts.

His answer was: “I’d weigh one hair, then shave the cat and weigh all the hair I shaved off, I’d then divide the overall hair weight by the individual hair weight to get the number of hairs on the cat.” He got the job!

What the interviewers were looking for was a candidate who could demonstrate their ability to think on the spot, showing creativity and intuitiveness as well as logical and practical thinking, including how they would go about solving difficult and even unusual challenges that might arise, and also to have conviction in their answer and the confidence to communicate this. The interviewers were more interested in how candidates got to an answer, as opposed to what the answer might be.

Such challenging questions are becoming ever more commonplace in interviews it seems, as employers seek to get past the polish to hire the best candidate. With so many self-help websites, candidates can be quite polished on standard interview questions, making it difficult for people to stand out if they ask the routine questions. So doing things differently will help them get to the best candidate, or so the thinking goes.

I asked William how easy it was for him to know how to answer this type of question, and if there’s anything he does to help him prepare. He told me that he loves to think about things in different ways and to explore the hidden side of everything. He went on to share this:

Book Wisdom

The book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner is described as a rogue economist exploring the hidden side of everything, saying it’s all about using information about the world around us to get to the heart of what’s really happening under the surface of everyday life. 

They talk about building the initial two chapters around a pair of admittedly freakish questions: “What do schoolteachers and sumo wrestlers have in common?” and “How is the Ku Klux Klan like a group of real-estate agents?”. They say: “If you ask enough questions, strange as they seem at the time, you may eventually learn something worthwhile.”

They go on to say: “The first trick of asking questions is to determine if your question is a good one. Just because a question has never been asked does not make it good. Smart people have been asking questions for quite a few centuries now, so many of the questions that haven’t been asked are bound to yield some uninteresting answers.

“But if you can question something that people really care about and find an answer that may surprise them – that is, if you can overturn the conventional wisdom – then you may have some luck.”

In researching this story, and as part of my ongoing research into considering what makes a question an insightful question, I came across these:

Words of Wisdom 

If you’re on the other side of the table (the interviewee) you’ll need an arsenal of questions, too. Because at some point you’ll be asked: Do you have any questions for me? Lori Goler, VP of People at Facebook.

Goler goes on to share the following:

Sage Wisdom

The question “What is your biggest problem and can I help solve it?” is a question she posed when she cold-called Sheryl Sandberg. She was hoping to land a job, any job at Facebook. When Sheryl responded “Recruiting, we have amazing people, and we want to continue to build the team.” Despite never having worked as a recruiter, Goler jumped at the opportunity; and after a few months working as a recruiter, when the head of HR moved to a different team, Goler moved into the role. She has been Facebook’s head of Recruiting and HR ever since. 

Epilogue

William’s interview was some years ago now. A more recent HubSpot blog post, says: “Hiring managers have heard about using these curveball questions to identify the best candidates. Fortunately, for intelligent and qualified candidates everywhere, studies have found that the brainteaser interview questions made famous by Silicon Valley and Wall Street are just as silly as they sound.” It goes on to say: “There’s a need to get creative in asking questions to understand if, for example, a candidate is a team player.”

Because of my interest in insightful questions, this is a subject I’ll come back to again.

Today I leave you with the question:

What is an important question for you to have in your arsenal of questions to get your foot in the door of a company you aspire to work at?

Use the self-feedback that comes to you through reflecting on this question, to build your arsenal of questions for all of the opportunities you want to pursue in your WorkLife.

Today’s book of the blog is: Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Associate Programme. This means if you click through and make a purchase through my referral links, I’ll be compensated. Using the links won’t cost you anything extra, and it helps to keep the blog. Thank you.

WorkLife Book Wisdom 

The intention of this blog is to inspire you through people’s stories of their WorkLife experiences. Through these stories you will learn about people’s dreams and ambitions, along with the challenges, obstacles and successes they encountered along the road of their WorkLife journey. And how they used the power of book wisdom to help them find the inspiration and guidance to navigate their path to live their WorkLife with passion, purpose and pride. 

My hope is that these book wisdom stories will help you throughout the chapters of your WorkLife story.