Monday, May 15, 2017

Millennial Tension?

I heard about Simon Sinek's video on Millennials from my friend Jarvis. He was the first of my friends to post it on a social media profile - just as it was going viral. It's a clip that seemed to capture strength of feeling across my friendship group. Even Sinek seemed surprised at how much attention it got as he recorded a follow-up.

Put it this way - even the Principal of the school in which I teach had seen it - and mentioned it to me in school.

I then showed the video to my Sixth Form at school. The tutors thought it was great. The reaction from the students was somewhat subdued: here was another pressure, another thing to worry about, another reason to bury heads in the sand. It was a resistant consideration. (They have moaned that my assemblies are overly negative; I say I'm being truthful. Perhaps brutally so). The tutors, in contrast, really liked it. Playing the clip in an assembly like that highlighted the stark differences age groups in the room. And so it shall be: Baby-boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, etc. terminology may vary, but differences remain.

Who would be a teenager nowadays anyway? Things seemed so different when I was in Sixth Form. No-one was chasing a six-pack. Nobody went to the gym. There were no mobile phones - and there was no Internet - yes I'm that old. That meant no Facebook, no Instagram, no Snapchat and no pressure. Or at least the pressures were different. I had the weight of expectation to deal with (Asian pressure anyone?) I read books and watched TV during Sixth Form. My dad limited the time I spent on our computer (with 64 kilobytes of memory). But in my late teens I had discovered guitar and played a lot at home (mostly) by myself.

These differences inspired Jarvis and I. We hadn't seen each other for years until I received an unexpectedly uplifting and surprisingly gracious email from him. Him and his wife are expecting a baby - and he took the time to contact me to let me know. Davina and I have had (and are still having) a challenging journey on our way to create a family. Jarvis' email was an acknowledgement of emails I'd sent, and articles I'd posted about our difficulties with fertility. He found my thoughts, ideas and tips a source of encouragement. He told me how he kept referring to my writing.

It was the perfect message and the perfect time. I was drowning myself in frustration and mild anger. It was the end of 2016 - and I'm always reflective at this time. I start thinking about the previous twelve months: what did I achieve, what should I have done - but also thinking about the year ahead. It was a natural suggestion for us to meet up, so we set a date in January.

We agreed to meet at Monmouth. I'd never experienced their coffee. I was cynical - but the sheer number of people at the branch in Borough market made an impression on me. Needless to say, I loved the coffee, but enjoyed the conversation more. It was wonderful catching up with Jarvis - old friends, old conversations yes, but we were older too. We are at different life-stages now from when we first met. I remember we were talking about freelancing. I was mentioning that I felt I was coming to the end of my time in teaching, but I had no idea what I wanted to do next. Jarvis was saying how going freelance was one of the best choices he ever made - even with the concerns that immigrant parents have about security and future. I was enjoying a hot drink from another coffee place (we'd moved on by then) when Jarvis said (out of nowhere) "I think we should start a business together". I thought he was joking.

But he wasn't.

So we just starting thinking of ideas. Sinek's video had inspired us both and we knew we wanted to do something that looked forward; created a new future.

Our idea is to support millennials in their transition from university to job, or in the initial stages of their career. Specifically, Millennial Goans. Yes, we're focusing on our cultural community - because we've both been previously involved in making things happen in our youth. Perhaps companies would want to invest - especially given the research about millennials at work, but our community is a nicer place to start.

We're testing the idea. And the first thing we chose to do was record a YouTube video about our experiences moving from studying to career. Where we go next is uncertain, but we're creating...

Jarvis and James having a chat...

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Life and Soul: Memories of Marcus

Marcus creates...
Two weeks ago, I found out that my grandfather had passed away at the age of ninety-seven.

I'm lucky enough to have had all four of my grandparents in my life, well into my twenties. Living a long life like this, meant that my grandfather's passing, whilst shocking, was not completely surprising. His health had deteriorated over the past few years. He had moved into a care home, and then more recently a nursing home. The last three times I had visited him, he had not recognised me.

This brought my relationship with my dad into focus. Preparing for the funeral has been more about taking care of him than anything else. The main way I was able to do this was by delivering the eulogy at the church service.

This is pretty much what I said:

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As Marcus' grandson, I have three things I remember and I'd like us all to remember about Marcus.

He was the life and soul of many a gathering.

Firstly, he thought big. He wasn't afraid to go for things. And at the same time - he sometimes loved to be the centre of attention.

The area I always think of is all the work he did for the Goan community. That's how most of you might know him - as one of the four founding members of the Goan Overseas Association (GOA). But also - he founded something called the Standing Conference of Goan Organisations (SCOGO).

I remember asking him when I was about ten, "Why did you do all this? What are you trying to do?"
He said, "I wanted to bring together all the different Goan village associations, so that we could all celebrate what it means to be Goan".

Fast forward thirty years, and we have the Goan Festival.

He wasn't afraid to think big.

The second thing: he always wanted to better himself. One of my memories of him is that he was always reading: always reading books, always learning, always pushing himself. Sometimes that made him pushy on me, and my sister and those around him, but he always wanted the best. Because of this reading, it meant he never failed to have an answer for everything. One of the sayings I remember from him is:
Sitting still and wishing
Will not make you great
The good Lord gave you fishing
But you must bring the bait

He pushed himself to develop himself.

Thirdly, he was known for being young at heart, being playful and slightly eccentric. I remember my sister and I were sitting in his flat - I can't have been older than eight or nine - my sister would have been younger - and there was a visitor there. And Lyndsey called him 'Marcus'. The visitor said, "You shouldn't call him Marcus - he's your Grandfather".
My sister replied, "No! Grandfather is in North London".
What she meant by that, was my mum's dad lived in North London. He was Grandad. But Marcus, always for us, was Marcus! As I got older, I realise why he did that. He wanted to be thought of as playful, so he made us call him 'Marcus' rather than 'Grandfather'.

He was young at heart.

So, I will take three things from Marcus' life - and I would like you to the same:
Think big,
Look to better yourself, and
Stay young at heart.

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I've written about Marcus indirectly here.

I've also written about people in my life passing away, namely my:

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Simon's Five Rules For Life

So there's this guy - Si Haines - he's my best friend. Or one of my best friends. He was Best Man at my wedding...and he asked me to return the favour at his wedding in August 2016. Of course one of the key roles of the Best Man is the speech at the wedding. When he gave a speech at my wedding in August 2007, it wasn't like other speeches of this ilk. I remember that he just spoke from the heart. It was funny and touching. I took a similar approach at his wedding, and it went something like this.

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For those of you that don't know me, my name is James - and I went to school with Si - so we've known each other a long time. Having been his friend for over twenty years, I'm going to share with you what I call Simon's Five Rules For Life.

Rule One: Use Your Voice
Simon has *never* been afraid to use his voice. As a non-drinker, when we went out, I was the designated driver. Simon would most often be in the front seat and with the window down, shout various phrases to the people walking innocently on the high street - the Surrey version of a drive-by.

This rule is also shown in Simon's ability to get on with anyone, in pretty much any situation. A job as a barman was perfect. Jobs in sales are also a good match for his skills. He is one of the few people I know who is comfortable talking with a bunch of people into Heavy metal, through to running a youth club. That takes a natural willingness to be with people.

Rule Two: Live By Your Own Rules
As the youngest child of the family, Si was never one to follow the rules *completely*. He knew what the rules were...and played with it. At school, A-Levels sometimes played second to his entrepreneurial endeavours. I remember his attendance wasn't as consistent as it, perhaps, should have been. Sometimes life is just better eating ice-cream and watching DVDs.

This of course doesn't stop Si from achieving things on his own terms. Leaving behind London, singing in Ska band, managing a convenience store, working in sales roles...these are all experiences that Si has done on his own terms, following his heart.

Rule Three: Keep Moving Forward
Simon's CV makes interesting reading. For those of you that don't know, Si has had over thirty different jobs over the years - yes being barman or working in sales...but also some more obscure roles.

I remember going out with a bunch of friends in our area. As we were moving from one pub to another, Si started talking to a Traffic Warden. The rest of us wondered what he was doing. He answered with 'oh yeah - I know him from work'. It turned out, Si had a stint working in 'revenue protection'.

Having said that, Si's recent promotion is testament to his ability to work hard - and always keep himself moving forward.

Rule Four: Value Your Friends and Family
Normally Si is a non-drinker. This does makes him a cheap date. However, Si has often seemed more comfortable behind the bar rather than in front. There was one pub we used to frequent as Sixth Formers on a Saturday night. Somehow, Si ended up working there. I remember buying a round for about five of us, and being charged £1.20.

Si is, of course a good friend - on an individual level and in a group. He is always ready with a story, an encouraging word and something to make us laugh. This is because he values the people around him: friends and family together.

Rule Five: Always Have An Answer
I have a recording of Ratrace performing. The crowd are going wild as they finish a song. In acknowledgement, and without missing beat, Si says to the audience, "Without you we're nothing. Without us, you're nothing".

With Si, just when you think he's said everything, he comes back with a quip. Always having an answer can be frustrating as hell, but it really illustrates that he's been listening, he's comfortable with his family and friends, he thinks of others...and he knows how to work a room.

So Charlotte - remember these rules - he is a great bloke with his heart in the right place. Si take care of her. I love you, we all love you and we wish you all the best for the future.
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I'm posting this a few months after his wedding - after having said I would post it much earlier. Completing this partly from memory may mean I didn't quite say it like this...but it's close!

Enjoy!