Friday, 29 May 2009

Happy Birthday to Meee... Oy!

It is a little known fact, but as from sunset last night, I was celebrating my birthday.

But before you panic, check your calendars (given the number of occasions I have missed the birthdays of my nearest and dearest, there really is no need) and rush to the shops to buy me a card, the birthday I was celebrating was my Hebrew birthday.

I had been asked the date of my birthday a few times at the Kabbalah centre (astrology is a big part of Kabbalah) and when I replied with my boring old Gregorian annual celebration of the day I was born, I would always hear the question "Is that your normal birthday or your Hebrew birthday? What's your Hebrew birth date?" As if I should know. Well I do now. I looked it up on the Hebrew Birth Date finder on the slightly out of date Kabbalah centre Astrology page. Or maybe it's not out of date - perhaps it is working on Kabbalah Time too.

Working out the Hebrew date is slightly different because they are based on Star Sign. So, for instance, my date is 6 Sivan - or the 6th day of Gemini.

Which just happens to fall on the Holiday of Shavuot, the date upon which the Torah was given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and also the anniversary of the birth and the death of King David (what a bummer of a birthday that must have been). When I attended Shavuot at the centre last night and said 'guess what - it's my Hebrew birthday today' the response was unanimous: "Oh wow! Tonight? You do realise that is very special?" and they looked at me with a kind of ... well, wide-eyed awe and expectation that I was about to do something wonderful, I guess. Like channel some divine source of wisdom, or something. A mischievous part of me feels that perhaps I need to learn David Blanes' trick of levitation and float whilst giving an announcement in Shabbat.

The whole 'special' thing doesn't sit very well with me. Yes, I have always felt this kind of higher sense of purpose, but no doubt so did Darth Vader (although I promise, I will never be lured to the Dark Side of the Force...), but I can't say that I feel particularly special. Which is probably just as well.

The Shavuot connection ended in the early hours of the morning and I stayed with a friend. As Hebrew birthdays start at sunset on one day and continue until sunset the following day, today was still my birthday (I have to say, I am liking this system). So in a 'it is still my birthday' kind of mood this morning I caught the bus from Chelsea to Liverpool Street in the blazing sun to make my way back home.

If you are due to visit London anytime soon, I can highly recommend the No. 11 bus from the Kings Road to Liverpool Street - it was the best sightseeing trip I have ever been on, and all for the princely price of £1. The route passes the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, Downing Street, Whitehall, the Museum of the Household Cavalry, The Royal Courts of Justice and St Paul's Cathedral. And probably much more besides.

There were no irritating tour guides cracking bland jokes and inviting me to 'look to my left' - just a continual display of spectacular architecture for almost an hour. I couldn't think of any better way to spend my birthday.

If anything that totally explains to me why it always pisses down with rain on my birthday in June (almost without fail). I've simply been celebrating the wrong day!

So! Don't settle for one birthday!! check out your date and celebrate twice! Astrology page

Monday, 25 May 2009

Love Thy Neighbour

Being a student of Kabbalah, I am ever mindful of my thoughts. The theory is that what you put out there, you get back. Tolerance is key: when someone or something pushes your buttons, there is a lesson to be learned and potential Light to be revealed. Hence the term 'Love Thy Neighbour'.

Yes, that's right.
Love thy neighbour - even if they are a drug addict.
Love thy neighbour - even if they play their music loud and you have to overcome your usually timid nature to ask them to 'keep it down'
Love thy neighbour - even if they are teenage, with hoods pulled over their heads and scare the living daylights out of you.
Love thy neighbour - even if they are continually depressed. (Hey, I didn't say 'hang around with your depressive neighbour and allow them to bring you down with them').

'Loving thy neighbour' doesn't mean being a victim or a doormat in sycophantic loving acceptance of everyone and everything - to me it means more of just being able to see the other viewpoint - to walk in someone else's shoes and not judge them no matter how much they push our buttons.

And let's face it - there are plenty of people who push our buttons. But I wasn't expecting my actual neighbour to be one of them. Quelle surprise.

My neighbour Ron was pointing the side wall of his house this afternoon, standing in my back garden to do so. Ron is a mild-mannered Scot, in his mid fifties (I think), with a Sean Connery voice (I would love to ask him to say "Mish Moneypenny", but daren't..). We've stood and chatted a couple of times - he's a nice chap, is Ron.

I spotted him when I was hanging out the washing late this afternoon and poked my head around the conifers to have a quick chat and see what he was up to. Once again, polite conversation (although he does make me bristle by shortening my name - but I suck it back and let the moment pass) and then somehow we start talking about living off the land and I mentioned that if there were to be an enormous crisis, I wondered how many people would actually know how to grow their own food.

"Oh, there's already something on the way" says Ron, with a glint in his eye that told me he was holding some enormous secret.
"How do you mean?" I ask innocently. He smiled and hesitated. "Come on, what secret are you holding? What do you know that I don't" I laughed.
"Has nobody round here told you about me?" he asked "Has nobody told you what I am?"
"Noooo.........." I said, thinking that maybe he was a high ranking civil servant or was friends with a cabinet minister or somebody else in the know.
"Hmmm... okay. Well.... I'm a Jehovah's Witness"
he said.
"Oh right." I said "Well I've been studying Kabbalah" I blurted. He'd never heard of it.

And then we compared Bible stories. Oh what fun. Suddenly cleaning the bathroom became a very attractive prospect and I was itching to get back inside.

He really knew his stuff (and like Dot Cotton out of Eastenders, he gave me chapter and verse - literally). I'll give him his due - he has never mentioned his faith before and seemed reluctant to reveal himself.

But I'm going to give myself a little credit too - I listened to what he had to say about the fundamental beliefs of Jehovah's Witnesses, even though I really, really, really didn't agree with what he was saying and would have loved to have cut the conversation short. And even when I explained a little about Kabbalah and he said "Och, Kabbie, you really need to be careful what you are gett'n' yerself in to there" as though I was getting sucked in to a dangerous cult, I took a deep breathe, smiled sweetly and said "Please, Ron, there really is no need to worry about me".

We both accepted that I didn't want to read his book and he didn't want to read mine. I have absolute faith and certainty in what I believe to be true, and so does he. He thinks I am totally doomed. I felt frustrated that he appeared so rigid in his views so as not to see any similarities between our two beliefs.

Bless him. We eventually (and very politely) ended the conversation, agreeing to disagree. Then we looked at the pointing again and disagreed on that too - I think he is doing a great job, whereas he is not so sure.

It was all getting a little too easy loving my neighbour, I guess, as far as unemployed, depressive, junkie, hoodies are concerned. So the Creator threw in long conversation with a Jehovah's Witness just to test my mettle.

So another one to add to the list:
Love Thy Neighbour: even if he thinks you are dooomed!

All the same, the conversation was (as us Essex birds like to say) 'enough to give me arse an 'eadache'. And it rained on my washing.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Practice what you preach

This week I learned that there is more to being a good trainer than meets the eye. Or at least, more to being an excellent Goals UK Trainer than meets the eye.

Goals UK provides a motivational package aimed at getting people back to work (and then some). When I took the course last week I was skeptical at first. I had seen all of this material before - I thought I knew it all: affirmations, goals, yeah, whatever. But by the end of Day 2 I was sold and emerged refreshed, invigorated and Rah-Rah-ing over positive language and positive thoughts. The course is very cleverly designed and highly choreographed so that it can be delivered consistently by all of the trainers. So learning to train the course is a little bit like learning how to perform a two day soliloquy. Well, almost.

This week I ended up with a double dose by attending the Train the Trainer course. And to train the course, you need to be walking the walk AND talking the talk - which means catching every negative - I mean, less than positive - phrase by the tail as it launches itself out of your mouth, drag it back in and reword it.

Harder than it sounds. Or should that be: Not as easy as it sounds. *sigh* See what I mean?

At the end of Day 1 of the trainer course, the team were told to pair up and prepare the delivery of what we had covered so far. I was aghast (or is that 'not very happy'?). I mean, I know that this was a Train the Trainer course, but they didn't tell me I would actually have to train anything! I had only been invited along for Day 4 - surely I shouldn't have to take part? I had been a participant on the course only once, had heard the material once more, and now was expected to train it to a room full of people who knew the material backwards and would be able to spot every single mistake that I made? Like, Hello?! Does anyone else see the injustice in this? Life suddenly became very unfair and I found myself making excuses. And excuses are simply not allowed in Goals. Excuses are what children make in a whiny voice. And as I re-read the paragraph above, I think "Good point, well made".

So I built up a raft of excuses to float on - to myself, to my presentation partner and when that didn't seem to let me off the hook, to the chap who ran the training. It made no difference - I was told to do the best I could and advised not to do any preparation either. "Well that is just fucking ridiculous!" my Ego whispered, "you're going to look like a complete tit!" and in its best Catherine Tate's Nan voice: "What a load of old shit!"

And it was at this point that I stopped myself and thought 'What am I worried about here? Everyone knows that I have seen this only once. They know I don't know the material, so, who gives a shit? In the grand scheme of things to fear, this shouldn't be that high on the list. If all else fails, start singing "I dreamed a dream" from Les Miserables, and really make a fool of yourself'.

And so I turned up the next day feeling completely relaxed (which is totally unusual for me - perhaps I have been abducted by aliens?), and only started to feel slightly sick when the first couple performed brilliantly.

And then it came to my turn. And what happened? I was amazing, word perfect, stunning and innovative. They were floored by my abilities and begged me to train every course available for the next six months!

Oh don't be silly - I looked like a complete tit. I went blank as soon as I stood up and had to claw my way through the material, stopping midway through sentences, losing track and having to re-deliver the points from the start. It was the most disastrous -*ahem* least successful - presentation I have ever made. Or so I thought.

According to the feedback I didn't come across that way. They said that despite the fact that I didn't know the material I held it together well and came across as really confident.

Rookie: 1 Ego: 0

On Day 3 I presented material with which I was more familiar, and so the challenge was then how to train well, how to keep the participants involved and engaged. Much better - even though I have never trained a classroom session. Or should that be even though until now I have not trained a classroom session (Never is - as Supernanny says - "unasseptable", and should be replaced with 'until now').

The entire week was pretty intensive and I have a lot to think about - like where the Universe is going to take me next, and how to formulate entire conversations with positive sentences before I open my trap. (I'm not complaining - sadly I love this stuff!)

In the meantime, I am trying to relax a little this weekend, as I am absolutely knackered.

*sigh* What I meant was: In the meantime, I am enjoying a relaxing weekend although I could really use some more energy....

Sunday, 10 May 2009

TiVo Or Not TiVo - that is the question...

Today I decided that I would finally tackle setting up the TiVo box. And it feels like a big deal. Why? Because me and my TiVo box have a bit of history.

The only place that you can buy TiVo boxes in the UK (due to the rampant success of Sky+) is on eBay. I bought mine over three years ago, with a Lifetime subscription and a 250Gb Hard Drive, for the princely sum of £350.

And it was wonderful. It recorded everything I wanted it to record, plus a million other things that I didn't want it to record. Keeping up with the TiVo recordings became the main event of every evening - thumbs up, thumbs down, keeping films to watch at a later date, catching up with every episode of every drossy soap opera transmitted via terrestrial TV. Even though I only had 5 channels at the time, it was amazing how many hours of viewing I could amass on my 250Gb hard drive.

It was probably for this reason that the Universe decided enough was enough. Whilst watching a particularly gripping episode of Home and Away during a rather hefty thunderstorm, my house was struck by lightening, and the TiVo expired with a loud pop. It had ceased to be. It was no more. If it hadn't been plugged in to all of my other appliances, it would have been pushing up the daisies. It was an Ex-TiVo. And this was only four months after I had bought it. I was bereft - not only for the loss of viewing hours, but because in the UK TiVo only supply a helpline and not a maintenance or repair service, so I was rather gutted at paying £350 for a glorified doorstop.

Another six months passed, and a friends neighbour came home with a standard TiVo box that had been left outside the local charity shop. He had a TiVo of his own and so asked if I wanted it. I willingly accepted and went home to set it up, getting excited when I discovered that it too had a lifetime subscription, and although it only had a 40Gb hard drive, something was better than nothing. I would just have to watch more TV on a daily basis to keep up with the recordings, perhaps.

But halfway through the setup stage, the process simply hung. It looked as though this TiVo box didn't want to play ball either.

Then a conversation with the Unix guys at work brought positive news. They loved TiVo themselves and one of the guys assured me he could fix it, re-installing the boot script and swapping out the hard drives so that I had a working, lifetime subscription box once more, with a 250Gb hard drive. I handed over both boxes just as I was taking redundancy from work, and went off travelling safe in the knowledge that I would be in TV heaven when I found a place to live on my return.

When I did returned home and found somewhere to live, the box wasn't fixed because the chap fixing it was rather busy on completing a loft conversion. This didn't worry me because I had, by now, got out of the habit of being glued to the next episode of Neighbours. So I waited. And waited.

During this time I started to feel ashamed over my work situation until it got to the point where I was reluctant to email him because I didn't want him (or any of my old colleagues) to know that I was still out of work. And so time passed until a couple of months ago, when the boxes were rediscovered, fixed and returned.

So today was the day where I finally decided to face my TiVo fears. Despite there being no connection diagram for a TiVo connected through a Virgin cable box, I thought positive and started pulling out cables, connections and appliances.

And I hit a few stumbling blocks. I couldn't get two skart plugs in to the back of the TiVo, until I realised that all I had to do was swap them over. I thought that I didn't have the right cable for the phone line, but then I found two. Every block I hit, I took a deep breath or a short break, and the answer came to me.

With everything finally plugged in the way I hoped it should be, I flicked the switches, turned on the TV and selected the AV1 input. And I received a message: "Just loading. Please wait a moment". I punched the air in celebration and said a silent prayer of thanks. Get In!!

And then I looked back to the TV and it was displaying No Signal. Bollocks. What now? I switched the Virgin box off - no change. I noticed that the TiVo box 'receiving' light was no longer on. I switched it off and back on again and watched the screen. Again, "Just loading. please wait a moment". I waited. Then another message appeared which I had previous missed during my premature victory dance: "Please press the TiVo or Live TV button on your remote to turn on the TiVo"

I grabbed. I pressed. I pressed again. No little red light. No sign of life. The f$*king remote isn't working. And yes, it has new batteries.

So here I am, in a room strewn with cables with everything good to go, and a duff remote.

*sigh* Right, what's next on the list? Clean the bathroom..... I guess...

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Miracles abound

This is an update to my last post on Connecting to the Ninety-Nine Percent where I begged the Light for a little assistance in my path, and saw immediate results in the form of a Goals UK motivational course offered to me for free.

The course was fabulous and has shifted me up a gear, (which after 'knowing' all of the course content - most of it was nothing new - was a bit of a surprise).
One other surprise was that as the course is usually run for the Long Term Unemployed (i.e. Me), people on Incapacity Benefit and Prison Offenders, I was expecting to be surrounded by people in the same situation as me. Instead, I quickly discovered that this was an Open Course, open to everyone including people who are considering becoming an Affiliate to train the course. Needless to say, it took a bit of pluck to 'confess' my situation to the person who would be introducing me (who instantly said "I would never have had you down as unemployed - I see you as a person already running your own personal development business". A surprise compliment indeed).

There were 5 other people attending the course, 5 other wonderful people. It was a great two days. Something that one of the guys said really stuck with me. He had been working on pushing himself outside of his comfort zone and at first it felt really awful, but he continued to keep pushing and is seeing the results, the feeling of discomfort has started to actually feel welcome. So much so, in fact, that now whenever he is about to do something new he has realised that "If it doesn't scare me then it's probably not worth it". What a brilliant way to look at challenges.

The material that wasn't familiar to me was surrounding finding work (funny, that). The following statistics surprised me:
  • 85% of jobs are never advertised (or if they are, it is purely for legal reasons and somebody has already been identified for the role)
  • You are 4 times more likely to land a new job if you are already in a job (no matter how relevant your skills)
  • Employers rate the following skills - honest and dependable, reliable, punctual, gets along well with people, accepts and handles responsibility - higher than: works well with minimum supervision, can solve problems, possesses entry level job skills.
Hence the importance of networking and volunteering/getting any job.

So I finished the course feeling practical - I need to write my goals and affirmations, and start taking action towards getting any job in a training or creative environment which will give me a chance to expand in to what I want to do. Then maybe a while down the line I will have enough knowledge and experience to set up my own training consultancy/personal development business. Running my own business is something that I know little about and there is no point in trying to run before I can walk.

So this morning I go to Shabbat, and the man who owns Goals UK came over to see what I thought of the course. I gave him my feedback and said that I was changing career. He asked what I wanted to do. Without thinking, I announced "I want to be an inspirational speaker. I want to run workshops with my own material."
"Why do you want to do this?" he asked.
"Because that is what I am here to do", I replied, hoping that I didn't sound too much like a giant ego on legs. (But as Nelson Mandela said in his inaugural speech "You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will feel secure around you"
"In the meantime", I continued "I need to find my 'shelf-stacker' job, in a creative or training environment, and I would love to find out more about how I would set up a training consultancy"
"We are running a train-the-trainer this week" he said "Do you want a free place on that? We go in to the course in more detail and on Friday I come in and talk about the business side of things"

A little voice inside my head popped up and said "You're not ready for this.... you have to sign on Thursday - they won't let you sign on another day. This course is going to be full of actual trainers to compare yourself to. You're going to feel even smaller. You were only looking for a shelf-stacker job - you can't launch yourself in to a training business. You need to have some money coming in right now. You're. Just. Not. Ready!!"
And the butterflies started whirring round my stomach and I thought - "Oo, I'm scared"

Which means that it is probably worth it. So I said Yes.

Then I was told that my timing was impeccable, because the Train the Trainer course only runs once every six months....

The Kabbalists say that the Creator will give you everything you need (note that I say 'need' and not 'want') but only if you meet him halfway. Well look at me, stepping up to the plate....