helpgrowchange

Picking up past projects

I read an interesting article the other day about how Isaac Asimov could write as much as he did. One of the main points that struck me was how he wouldn't stay "stuck" on any one thing. If he did feel like he was stuck, he'd simply move on to another project he had on the pile.

With my renewed focus on writing and planning some future pieces, I decided to look through my unfinished projects to see if anything came up. This snippet of a fictional story I started about 2 years ago stuck out, which I think you might find quite interesting.

I would love to know what you think?

Sam couldn’t wait to get out of the soaking rain and into the air-conditioned train. She couldn’t handle the rain matting her hair and ruining the collar of her favourite work blouse. Once aboard the train, she located a row near the back of the carriage where a tired looking, dark haired man sat by the left window, trying to fall asleep. An old man in a beige trench coat sat at the right window. She decided to sit next to the old man, thinking that she wouldn’t have to contend with snoring, or awkward positioning from the potential sleeper leaning over in his sleep.

Sam usually didn’t mind sleeping passengers on her commute, she just didn’t feel like it today. She had had a rough night with her toddler. He had come down with a fever yesterday and tended to overreact when he wasn’t well. After being woken up throughout the night, Sam was not in the mood to contend with discomfort.

“Good morning," said the old man with a smile as she sat beside him. Wow, what a voice, she thought to herself. She smiled and replied, “and to you”. “You look a little tired this morning, bad night?” he continued. Soothing, like honey on a warm slice of toast. “Yeah, my 3-year-old son is sick, and has a tendency to keep the household awake.” “That’s a shame,” he said. “I remember when my boy was that age. He would be very similar to your son.”

A crystal-clear image of a young boy emerged in her mind. This man’s voice. It’s rapturous. Why do I have such a perfect image in my head? The man continued with his resonating, pure voice “He would cry and cry. In his eyes, his mother was the only person who could comfort him”.

Just then, Sam was sure she heard a crying child – softly, almost as if it was at the far end of the train. The crying died down to a whimper, and a mother’s soft soothing murmur could be heard. Out the corner of her eye, Sam thought she saw a woman sitting in the empty seat across the aisle. She rocked gently, whispering soothing words in this child's ear. But when she turned to look, there was nothing. What the hell? She shook her head telling herself that the lack of sleep must be playing with her head.

The dark-haired, sleepy passenger across the aisle opened his eyes as Sam was watching. He glanced at the seat beside him, just where Sam's vision had been, shrugged his body uncomfortably, and closed his eyes again. Did he notice it too? Surely not, she thought.

Who is the old man? Why is his voice so captivating? Did Sam really see the woman and child?

Intriguing, I think I might just carry on this little project.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this snippet. 🙂

Persistence almost made me cry

It is amazing how dogged persistence gets results. They can be good or bad, but they are results nonetheless. My wife and son showed persistence recently that had me frustrated, bored, and close on tears from their shear willpower. They showed me how persistence will get you what you need in the end.

My wife was on the lookout for a logo for her new business venture (coming soon!). It involved a search lasting almost a year, scouring the web for possible pictures, me sketching a few ideas, and even asking our friend over at iCreate to draw something. Then, finally, on a fateful rainy day, an image was found. It was simple, effective, and perfect for what my wife wanted as the face of her brand.

There had been many possible logos throughout her search, but they never felt quite right. She had an image in her mind of what she wanted, and wouldn’t settle for anything less. It was both admiring and frustrating to see the dogged persistence.

Her story showed me we should not settle for less than what we deserve – especially when we can change it. So often, do we compensate our needs because we don’t want to ‘rock the boat’, or deal with too many challenges for any length of time.

We make do with average, or never feel the true happiness of achieving and having something we know can be better.

Similarly, persistence is needed to push someone else out of their comfort zone, which brings me to potty training and making me cry (well, almost).

It was time to rid my 3 year old son of his nappy during the day. My son has one of the strongest stubborn streaks of anyone I know, so this training was always going to be a battle royale – our parental persistence against his stubbornness. Bear in mind that potty training generally takes up to 5 or 6 days, more due to bladder-control accidents rather than stubbornness.

The first day started off like any normal potty training, with some cajoling and accidents. The second day was flat out refusal from my son to co-operate. It didn’t improve after 3 days, 4 days, 8 days. He would randomly agree to potty, but it was never consistent and always after lengthy battles between parent and child.

On the 10th day my wife and I were at our wits end. Still with no improvement, we were on the verge of tears, almost giving up in the process. We were especially frustrated because we knew he was being defiant. We seeked guidance and consolation from friends and family, but were told to ‘leave him be’, or ‘he’ll get there in time’. We simply could not accept this outcome because if we gave up now, we would have to start all over again another time.

We persisted.

12 days in to potty training, and success! My son finally grasped the concept that it was easier for everyone (including himself) to not be restricted by a nappy anymore. This was a classic sign of how we stay in our comfort zones for far too long.

Sometimes it takes the persistence of others to break through our barriers and pull us to new horizons.

In any type of persistence, there is frustration, there are challenges, and there comes a time when you think there is no end in sight. But the great thing about persistence is exactly that – persistence.

Carry on driving your message. Continue to pursue your goal. I’m not saying it will work out in the end, but looking at one more picture might get you your logo, or continuing training for one more day might get your child potty trained. The simple act of trying just one more time might get you what you want or where you want to be. What will you persist with today?

Do one thing today

When you wake up in the morning, once the grogginess of sleep has left you, there is a thought that appears in your mind. A thought of something that you would love to achieve that day. One thing that you’re excited about and will make your day feel like an achievement. It could be painting a picture, tinkering with the bike engine in the garage, adding a feature to your website, or even washing the car.

But then the day begins. We get bogged down by tasks that have to be completed, or emergencies that must be dealt with now. The children demand food and attention, the boss wants his report by tomorrow, or we need to buy bread on the way home.

And as we lie in bed that night, we commiserate that we never did that one thing we really wanted to do. We lambast ourselves for not being good enough, we bemoan that life is tough, and that it sucks not having the chance to do the things we want to. Why does life have to get in the way?

Think

Life will always get in the way. It will never cease to hamper our plans, throw curve balls in our direction, and crush our aspirations. We cannot let ‘life’ run our lives (ironic, I know). We have to be smart about it, devious even. We cannot wait for life to make time for us, we have to make our own time, shove a wedge in there to create space in order for us to do the things we want to do.

The only way we will be able to achieve that is to change the way we think and the way we go through our day.

Make time

When you wake up the next morning, and you think of that one thing you want to do, make it your purpose of the day to actually do it. Find the time inbetween the children and the boss’s report. Squeeze just that little bit of extra time to do what you want to do.

It’s hard, there will be sacrifices you will need to make, but you need to do it for you. I know you want to help everyone, making sure they are all tucked in to bed at night, but it is all no use if you can’t look after you. If you’re burned out, angry, and depressed, nobody will be able to benefit from your compassion.

Do it

So, instead of doing the umpteenth thing that absolutely has to be done today, scrap it and do one thing that you want to do. You don’t even have to complete it, but if you worked on it, you will get excited, elated, and feel that you’ve done something you wanted to do. Life won’t feel so bad, and you will have confidence when you get up the next morning. Confidence that will be vital to tackle the hardships of the next day, but remember…

Do one thing you want to do.

[Featured image: Alexander Shustov]

Working With Distraction

I’m writing this at 7:20 in the morning. I’m sitting on the couch while my two young sons run around the room, shouting and playing. Mickey Mouse Clubhouse is airing on the TV. And the cat keeps nuzzling into my lap, knocking my arm while I’m trying to type.

This got me thinking about distractions, and working through them.

So many sources of information state that we should get rid of all distractions before we can work, write, create, or perform any sort of task.

This is the real world. There is no such thing as ‘no distractions’.

We have children, colleagues, emails, mobile phones, day dreams, open plan offices, the Internet. We can’t all retreat to our mountain lodge with only ourselves and the bare essentials.

We must learn to focus through the din.

Now, after I’ve dealt with crying children and wiping water off the floor, the TV show has changed to Little Einsteins. At least the cat has moved to the other couch.

Keeping your focus is difficult. When disturbed, you have to try keep your train of thought until you return to your task. Sometimes it is possible, sometimes not.

But what if your rhythm is a broken rhythm?

Accept the fact that there are forever going to be distractions. You will remain a lot calmer when distractions do occur, and regain your rhythm quicker. Not accepting it causes you to increase your irritation each time you are distracted. Your stress level increases. And with that, it becomes harder to focus.

Go with the flow. Take it as it comes. Be flexible.

My eldest son is now leaning on my shoulder, fidgeting, moving, talking to the T.V., as well as providing a blow by blow account of what is happening (to nobody in particular).

Split your focus between your task and what is happening around you. The distractions will ebb and flow like the tide. As the distractions lessen, apply more focus to your task. As they increase, become more open to the changing situation.

At home, it is difficult to apply the split focus as young children tend to demand more attention. But it is possible, with a lot of practice and patience – especially patience.

Managing distraction at the office is a different kettle of fish. I can usually focus more on the task at hand, and phase out the background noise. In a way, the office is a lot easier, as the distractions don’t require your immediate attention – unlike young children.

The trouble in the workplace is providing attention to people who tap you on the shoulder, phone calls, and emails. Similar to home, you must learn to temporarily store your train of thought while your focus is diverted elsewhere. This can be a troublesome task. Constantly switching channels between the task at hand, meetings, or interruptions.

Let me carry on while my son wipes his nose on my shirt, and the other scoots around the room.

The way to retain your task status mentally is to have ‘checkpoints’ while you are busy with the task. Simple mental pointers such as ‘I finished the section on resource forecasting’, or ‘all I have left in this statement of work are the financials’, or ‘I stated the history behind the situation, now I must explain to Jerry what I need’.

Mental checkpoints will help you remember where you were before you were distracted. All you need is a pointer, a single reminder, and you will remember how far you got. Your brain is smart that way.

I’ve just had to break up a bickering session between the kids, advising them what sharing is, and how to do it. One tantrum by the youngest, and one sulking session by the eldest.

How to work with distractions:

  • Accept the fact that there will be distractions.
  • Be adaptable and flexible.
  • Be aware of what is happening around you. Apply focus when distractions are low.
  • Have consistent mental checkpoints while busy with your task.

Distractions are a pain in the ass. Accept the fact you will have them, and your day will be so much more productive.

And after all is said and done, both boys are with me on the couch, where they are receiving some parental love. Time for me to go onto my next task – some rough and tumble with my boys. And I’ve accepted the fact there will be distractions…

[image: Craig Garner]

Old-School Toys Are So Much Better For Our Children

All those flashy, bleeping, blinking, and [not-so]cheap toys should be thrown out the window. Forever. They inhibit imagination, innovation, and the learning of integral abilities that benefit our children later on in life. Old-school-type toys such as building blocks, wooden train tracks, and solid animals, are *a lot *better.

My two sons are currently of toddler age (yes, it’s a busy home) and I see the benefit of having these toys everyday. Building blocks are built differently everytime. Train tracks run a different route everytime. The animals have all sorts of conversations and do all manner of things that they were not intended for. All this, due to the imagination afforded to my boys by not being entranced and zombified by the flashing lights and tinny sound effects.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some flashing, blinking toys that are quite fantastic. But these are generally the ones that don’t have one syllable, or one monotonous motion. They enhance the playing experience.

There are many opinions and studies which support this theory that the ‘classic’ toys are better for our children, with some of the benefits being:

  • Improving the fine and gross motor skills,
  • Imaginative play,
  • Problem solving and puzzle skills,
  • and Creativity.

Even though my boys don’t have as many toys as some of their friends, it makes me genuinely happy when they are using their magnificently imaginative minds to create a new world every time they play.

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