Sunday, 20 June 2010

Errr.... Surprise?

What's the saying? The best laid plans of mice and men....

Last week I received a Top Secret email. Oo. Curious.

Unbeknownst to me, my teacher at the Kabbalah Centre was an avid cyclist, spending hours on Sundays out on his bike, notching up the kilometres. Until he had his bike stolen.

Let's just say that he was absolutely gutted, but being the guy that he is, didn't moan about it to a single person.

Of course, nothing stays secret for long in the One Percent, and one of his students heard of his plight and wanted to help out, hence the Top Secret email.

The plan was to ask around his students as quietly as possible, get the funds for a new bike and give it to him as an early birthday present.

Oo I just LOVE secrets! Not even the Chevre at the centre knew about it. It was secret, secret, double secret!!I In fact, it was so secret, that I started to panic about being struck with Secret Tourettes whenever I was around the centre, fearing that suddenly I would shout his name and "BICYCLE! SECRET EARLY BIRTHDAY SURPRISE!!!!!" at the top of my voice in the middle of shabbat. It was one of those secrets that I was so excited about that if I'd have grinned any more, the top of my head would have fallen off.

I was also sorely tempted to start talking about how much I liked cycling whilst he was within earshot ("Isn't it just the best way to get around? Wind in your hair, whipping through the traffic...."), or to tell him I had just bought a bike and wondered what was the best bike insurance...

Within the space of a week, the funds had been gathered, which gives you an idea of the admiration that his students have for him, and messages were written in a card.

The next part of the plan was to actually present the card to him, with minimal fuss. The guy who arranged the collection said that the best time would be 9:30 am Sunday (today) after morning minyan. And it would be great if we could be there.

So the trick was, how to show up at the centre at the end of a men's connection, and be there for the presentation, without arousing any suspicion. Hmm, tricky. I had never been to the centre on a Sunday and had no reason to just drop in. A thousand What If's raced through my overactive mind. What if I totally blow the surprise? being one of them. I cannot lie for toffee. Plus, I was still grinning like the Cheshire Cat.

I agreed to meet a friend outside of the centre at 9:30am, in the knowledge that in Kabbalah Time (where all events start at least half an hour later if not more), the presentation would take place no earlier than 9:45. And if I showed up with my friend, then I knew that she would find a reason to be hanging around in the bookstore for no apparent reason whatsoever.

She was late. Not only that, but by the time I arrived, I could already see the men leaving the centre. So now what do I do? I rang my friend. "Go in!" she urged "I'll be there in two minutes! They might be doing the presentation now! Go in!"

The door was locked, but another of my teacher's students - also hanging around in the bookstore for no apparent reason whatsoever - opened the door and let me in. It appeared that prayers were still going on. Or at least, something was still going on.

My friend arrived seconds later and we hovered excitedly in the bookstore, waiting to be called, not wanting to be seen.

So it was a slight surprise to us when our teacher walked through the bookstore on his way out, wheeling a bike.

I could literally feel all of us silently screaming "WTF?!!" whilst straining to look totally normal.

"Hello ladies" he said, looking slightly bemused "Why are you here? Are you flyering?"
"Err. Yes.. Yes.. No.. Zohar Project" we all gabbled, nodding frantically at each other for support. Well, that was natural. Not.
"Ah, okay. So do you need me for anything?" he asked.
"No, no! we're fine!" we all chimed together.

He said goodbye and left, leaving us partway between hysterics and total confusion. What? So did he have the presentation or not? Had he received the card? What was with the bike? Was that his bike? What was going on? The guy who had invited us to the presentation was nowhere in sight.

One of the other teachers appeared. Did he know what had gone on? We tiptoed around the subject and found that he had overheard little bits of conversation and had an idea what was going on. And before we could stop him, he said "I'll call him, hang on" and then in horror heard him say "Hi. Yes, did you know you have your students here to give you an early birthday surprise? Yes, they are here now! Waiting for you". Noooo! Noo Noo Noo!!!! We waved our arms frantically, but it was too late.

Oh blimey, were we going to blow all of this and ruin this Top Top Secret Surprise?

Well, apparently not. The presentation had been given at 9:25 just before we had all arrived. And the surprise was so great that he was simply in shock. I don't even think he had registered the names on the card and put two and two together when he saw us. And the bike? An old one that he had borrowed.

So. Mission Accomplished. Secret maintained, teacher blown away by surprise gift, Kabbalah Time wins again.

I think it might take a while to recover from the sight of him walking through the bookstore pushing a bike.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Penny Power - Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me

Only 1 2 3 4 5 6!! more Big Sleeps until my Birthday. Hey Ho. It's strange that I have reached an age where I no longer want to celebrate.

Hey!! I will get a lot of presents!! woo hoo!! *sigh* Seems a little bit ridiculous when I have just sold most of my belongings. Although I did receive a very beautiful gift the other day but have nowhere to hang it in my current abode. Perhaps when I turn the big 4-0 I will magically become more patient, too. My Dad worried me the other day by asking me what I wanted for my birthday and then saying "Too Late! We've already bought it!" Oh fab. It's either going to be amazing or truly useless - I guess the excitement is in not knowing which!

Hey!! I will get some money to go out and buy something special to commemorate this turning of age!! Woo hoo!! *sigh* Except that also seems a little bit ridiculous (I was thinking a nice piece of jewellery) considering that I cannot afford to pay my rent. Maybe I'll just have to write an I.O.Me and come back to that one later when my finances are looking more rosy.

I guess I was hoping that by the time I reached 40, I would have something more to celebrate than just reaching a certain milestone.

Anyhow, I digress. Last night I decided to turn up to one of Nick Williams "Inspired Entrepreneurs" social gatherings, as Penny Power, the founder of ecademy, was a guest speaker.

I have been a free member of ecademy for the length of time that I have been unemployed, and as it is aimed at small business support I didn't feel that it was really my forum. I receive the newsletters every day, and retained my membership knowing that if ever I did get a business up and running then it would be an excellent place to dabble.

My impression of Penny Power was that she would be very business-like and serious. A real ambition freak. I don't know where I got that impression from. Perhaps her success in business simply intimidated me.

She started to talk. The first thing that she did was to thank Nick Williams for buying each of his attendees a copy of her book "Know Me, Like Me, Follow Me". Then she started to explain that her purpose in life was to serve.

I hadn't expected her to use that word.

As she continued to talk, sharing pieces of her own history (like when her husband Thomas, and herself, were fired from ecademy at the time of the dot com crash, and lost their dream home) I really began to like her.

Yes, the fact that she was earning 100,000 a year when she was 23 still puts her in a different league, but what a warm and caring woman. And funny. Very funny. In fact, after ten minutes of her sense of humour, I knew that she would be one person I could spend a lot of time with.

She also made a couple of great points.
  1. when you look at all of the roles you play in life - in her instance, mother, daughter, sister, wife, founder, author, speaker, etc, etc - remember that they can all be boiled down in to one: Friend.
  2. Social networking is no different online than in traditional business: People buy from the people they like. If they can get to know you, and like you, they will buy from you. So be open, and be authentic. Let people get to know you.
As usual, I wasn't part of the crowd dashing to have my book signed during the break and to have a quick chat. I figured that the people who actually owned businesses would benefit from her time more than I would. But as she was walking out of the door, I stopped her and expressed my surprise to her, that I didn't expect her to be this way at all. A compliment where compliments are due.

Her response was simple. She laughed and said "It is so much easier just to be yourself"

Well, Amen to that.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

A day of Learning

Or should that be a lifetime.
  • You know that you need to pay more attention to the job-hunting process when you save a modified version of your CV after 45 minutes of editing, only to find that you applied for exactly the same job 6 days earlier.
  • You know that when trying to arrange payment for some work which the client was hoping to get for free, hearing "I'll speak to the customer and see what they say" isn't a good thing.
  • You realise that you ought to get a bit more familiar with the latest web application versions, when you don't realise immediately that WWE is not a web application, but instead stands for World Wrestling Entertainment.
  • You know that when you hear your Kabbalah teacher of 8 months say that he no longer knows how to help you, you're either very close to a breakthrough or totally screwed.
  • You know that on the last 30 seconds of "60 Minute Makeover" the screen will be filled with five people in every room plumping dozens of cushions and nudging colour coordinated vases two millimetres to the left, alongside one person still putting up wallpaper.
  • You know that half an hour after the film crew have left, taking all of the throw cushions and vases, the beneficiaries of "60 Minute Makeover" are going to have to work out where to put the seven boxes of kids toys, their entire collection of books and half of their clothes, now that two of the wardrobes have gone and storage space has been ripped out and replaced with something more 'aesthetically pleasing'.
  • You know that you really need to take more care of your bikini line when you say to the nurse during a smear test "Apologies for the state of my bikini line" and she doesn't reply "Believe me, I have seen much worse."
  • You know that you miss your sister when the nurse tells you to relax completely and think of somewhere sunny, and you immediately think of being on holiday with your sister on the same beach in Barbados, drinking nice little cocktails with umbrellas.
  • You know that it's not such a good thing when one experienced nurse cannot find your cervix and calls in a second nurse for assistance.
  • You know that it's even worse when the second nurse cannot find your cervix either and says "That's the best I can do" after ten minutes of twisting and rotating a speculum firmly against the walls of your bladder.
  • You know that it's a good thing when you don't wee even just a little bit throughout all of this poking and prodding.
  • You realise you will soon be turning 40 when you tell someone your date of birth and they say "Oh! Only 8 more Big Sleeps!"