Thursday, December 20, 2012

JDS Insights: August 2012

This year's summer holiday was not really any different to others. I read, I explored my writing a bit more, I shopped, I spent time in coffee shops...the usual.

As well as that - we celebrated ten years of being together and five years of marriage. I can't believe it's gone so quickly. It did make me reflect on my relationship the stuff I'm proud of and not so proud of and how much it does take work. We have to intentionally make an effort on our relationship.

I also took a lot of my clothes to be altered...so now I have trousers that not only fit me in the waist but also are the correct length. I don't know why I didn't do it earlier! I did this because I was browsing a few mens' fashion blogs - I had no idea there were so many.

August is also the month of school results. This year it seemed as if it was a 'the market correcting itself'. No 'record years' and all that. Nope. Far more sober and in keeping with the fact we're 'in a recession'.

I still say to the boys I teach - whilst good results are useful - they don't have to dictate their future unless they let them or want them to. Some pupils define themselves by their results; others less so. As a teacher I suppose I 'should'...but I don't.

This month I'm trying a different layout for the insights* below. They're not supposed to be read in a linear fashion - more like - see what jumps out at you - which words, which phrases - and read them. I've noticed that's what I do.

It might seem like a wall of text but our brains being pattern-identifying-machines fixate on single points and then attempt to make sense of it. IMHO it's an interesting way of interacting with the ideas contained within.

Enjoy!

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Aug 01: Creation happens all the time - whether we like it or not. Aug 02: Destruction happens all the time - whether we like it or not. Aug 03: Intentional creation is true freedom. Aug 04: Understanding your Self is most of the battle. Aug 05: Bringing something into existence can be hard work or simple. My choice. Aug 06: Once I get started it's easier to keep going. If I don't even start the game is over. Aug 07: No thing is permanent. Every thing is created. Aug 08: Without something to push against there can be no rebellion. Take away the thing to push against and see what happens. Aug 09: If I didn't care I wouldn't get angry. I don't have to let it guide my actions though. Aug 10: My past is nothing to be ashamed of. But it doesn't have to make me who I choose to be in the future. Aug 11: How can I argue with your version of reality? Aug 12: Impose your opinion on someone else and see how they react. Aug 13: The past is rarely exactly how it happened. It's more how it serves your ego to remember it. Aug 14: Enjoy a nostalgia trip for what it is: a trip - the drug being who you thought you were. Aug 15: Speaking the truth is different from living the truth. Aug 16: My future is mine to create. Avoiding life happening to me is the challenge. Aug 17: When I let go of judging other people's situations I am able to contribute appropriately and as needed. Aug 18: People are not always interested in my contributions. Especially when I assume they are. Aug 19: Thinking I have the answer and speaking to others like I do, limits my experience of them and their experience of me. Aug 20: I am never tired of what I think I am tired of. Aug 21: Being lazy isn't necessarily easier than taking action. Aug 22: Comparing myself with others causes upsets. Aug 23: Parents want the best for their children. They just do their best with the tools they've got. Aug 24: It's much easier to believe that people think less of us than they actually do. Aug 25: It doesn't matter how old we get, our issues are always with us. Aug 26: Being able to articulate my feelings gives me power over my self. Aug 27: Being able to articulate another's feelings gives me true relationship. Aug 28: Dishonour how you feel in the moment and watch your energy for life drain away. Aug 29: I can only listen when I am silent. Aug 30: Waiting for the other person to finish before I put my point across is not listening. Aug 31: Assuming how I come across *is* how another perceives me, limits a relationship.
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*mine

Thursday, December 13, 2012

JDS Insights: July 2012


It's December. It's nearly Christmas and here I am writing about July.

Sometimes I wonder is it better never than late?

July was a memorable month for the country. Who could forget Olympics? The Olympic Ceremonies represented London and this country: horribly good, fantastically real, brilliantly understated and similarly unique: a total oxymoron.

I think everyone has their 'moment of the games': Jessica and Mohamed were mine.

Apart from that drama - I saw Faith No More. First gig in a while (since Deftones I think!) It was brilliant. The twisted cover of Tom Jones' Delilah was a delight. The crowd were slightly older, but the band were enjoying themselves. If Heath Ledger's Joker was the front man in a band, he'd be Mike Patton of Faith No More: hilariously twisted, maniacally funny, and disturbingly lucid.

School was out. A friend got married and I explored an opportunity to start writing.

Enjoy the insights.*


Oh and in other news...
22nd February 2012, 11st 3.2lbs, 22.8% body fat
31st March 2012, 10st 5.6lbs, 19.1% body fat
28th April 2012, 10st 2.8lbs, 18.4% body fat
26th May 2012, 10st 3.4lbs, 18.4% body fat
30th June 2012, 10st 5.8lbs, 19.0% body fat
28th July 2012, 10st 4.4lbs, 18.7% body fat

21st February 2012, 36.75in waist
31st March 2012, 33.75in waist
28th April 2012, 32.75in waist
26th May 2012, 32in waist

30th June 2012, 32in waist
28th July 2012, 32in waist

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Jul 01: Success is itself a compelling reason to continue.
Jul 02: Authentic acknowledgement of who I am is sometimes easier to deflect than accept.
Jul 03: Tiredness is no excuse for fear, anger and upset. There is always something else at play.
Jul 04: Tiredness doesn't cause anything. It's the result of something else.
Jul 05: Anyone can find a bunch of people to agree with their opinion. That doesn't make it the truth. 
Jul 06: Opinions make little difference to the big picture.
Jul 07: Comparing myself to others is a recipe for arrogance or apathy.
Jul 08: We are more influenced by what we are born into than we consciously admit.
Jul 09: Nature and nurture together are not all powerful.
Jul 10: Just because we can't articulate something or explain a phenomenon doesn't discount its existence.
Jul 11: Consciousness changes everything.
Jul 12: Everything changes consciousness.
Jul 13: Knowledge is pointless without application.
Jul 14: It really is never too late. Even after you think it is; it isn't.
Jul 15: The need to be right is a potent drug.
Jul 16: Agreement cannot be forced.
Jul 17: When I embrace my natural strengths, I create.
Jul 18: Denying one's natural strengths stifles growth and happiness.
Jul 19: Neglecting inner growth is easily done with outer success.
Jul 20: Discovering my strengths doesn't have to limit me.
Jul 21: Everyone has something to contribute.
Jul 22: Doing something because you said you would, consistently, builds discipline.
Jul 23: There is no right way to do life.
Jul 24: Maintenance can be as important as growth.
Jul 25: Little actions done regularly over time can alter one's life as much as a huge success or trauma.
Jul 26: Managing the little actions consistently over time is more difficult than the huge successes or traumas.
Jul 27: Being unclear about what we want is often a cause of no progress.
Jul 28: Listening and honouring our very deepest truth is amongst the biggest life challenges.
Jul 29: We all know what's best for ourselves - but don't always do it.
Jul 30: Only I can know if something is worth the risk.
Jul 31: The possibility of failing makes life interesting and frustrating in equal measure.
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*Mine! All Mine! Mwahhahaha

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

JDS Insights: June 2012

No screens!
Following on from the wonders of exams, June is full of report-writing for teachers. Most of mine had been done a little earlier because the pupils I teach tend to go on exam leave before the rest of the school.

It *should* have felt more like the summer was approaching, winding down time of year. But it didn't. I think it was purely because of the weather. Instead of me feeling too warm in my suit and tie, I was still wearing a jacket to and from school. Sometimes even a jumper!

Outside school, three interesting things happened this month.

First, we had our downstairs decorated through this month. It was difficult at first because the place was a mess. Me being the control freak that I am, I find this state of affairs always difficult to deal with. That and dust on my clothes left me more than a little perturbed.

Second, my reading material moved on from brain-based stuff to...more brain-based stuff! Same guy as last month, but this time with his attention turned to the babies.



Fascinating stuff of course - and goes some way to explaining the behaviour of some of the boys I teach. As I mentioned in May's Post, the evolutionary, biological viewpoint makes his explanations compelling. He also advocates some interesting stuff given the 21st century - such as avoiding *any* screen contact for babies until the age of two...

The third thing for this month was a foray into men's style. Now, I enjoy dressing up, choosing clothes and - dare I say it - shopping. I actually spent more on clothes than Wife last year. And Sister is persistently taking the credit for my sense of style. (To be fair to Her, She probably got it started with me - and I value Her opinion. She finds it harder to explain Her thought process though because She's so instinctively stylish...)

My journey started with losing weight a few years ago - a great excuse to spend money on clothes. In fact it became a necessity. Again - interest has increased because of my more recent weight-loss - but there was a more compelling reason this time.

Back in March I met up with the other two wise monkeys and had a brilliant time. We met again this month - but with a specific purpose: To Pimp The Monkey. Angry White Teenager Monkey was going to get styled by Circus-Bacon Monkey and Mixed-Up Desperate Monkey. It all started (as these things often do) with a silly conversation making fun of what Angry White was wearing. We took pity on him and set a date to meet early on a Saturday morning in Oxford Street. We were going to be his Personal Shoppers.

In preparation, I sent out an email to get the others thinking. The feedback I got really surprised me. In fact the whole day surprised me. I spent most of it spouting opinion and thought and bouncing ideas of Circus-Bacon (all in service of Angry White). At the end of the day, from the feedback, I realised that I had:
1) provided real value - a whole world of style had opened up,
2) created a strong foundation for the day with an insightful, well-structured email, and
3) knowledge and expertise that could be useful for other well-intentioned men out there.

We also realised that we'd never actually been shopping for clothes with other blokes. Not only did we discuss style, clothes, shopping and all that jazz - but also our experience of masculinity as it related to style. We were growing together aware of our own emotional-backwardness.

Apart from all this, it was absolutely hilarious.

Needless to say, I'm investigating taking this idea further.

Enjoy the insights.*

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Jun 01: Craving admiration kills fulfilment.
Jun 02: Awareness is always growing.
Jun 03: All parents do the best they can with the tools they have.
Jun 04: Parents want the best for their children. They don't always know how to express it.
Jun 05: It's possible to upgrade the tools we inherited for living.
Jun 06: Doing more than one thing at a time dilutes my experience.
Jun 07: Evolve or stagnate - personal choice.
Jun 08: Nothing will always be filled with something. Nothing pulls for creating.
Jun 09: Style is not fashion.
Jun 10: I can be fashionable but have no style.
Jun 11: Style is as much about understanding who I am as it is what I choose to wear.
Jun 12: Nothing is ever a done deal.
Jun 13: We are all uniquely similar and similarly unique.
Jun 14: Just because I think it's a good idea doesn't mean it is.
Jun 15: Just because I think it's a bad idea doesn't mean it is.
Jun 16: We find it hard to recognise the truth - even when it's right in front of us.
Jun 17: We tolerate more nonsense in our lives than we are willing to admit.
Jun 18: Embracing change is amongst the most difficult things for a human.
Jun 19: Keeping things messy is a great structure for staying upset.
Jun 20: I can always go further than I initially realise.
Jun 21: Everything in our lives has its proper place.
Jun 22: The more things are in their proper place, the more space for interesting things to happen.
Jun 23: Every choice I make is an expression of something. To choose consciously is true creation.
Jun 24: Fear is not wholly unhealthy.
Jun 25: It's a challenge to realise that there is more to life than survival.
Jun 26: Spending more time on my intellect than my appearance makes less difference than being present.
Jun 27: We make more of a contribution to others than we are aware of.
Jun 28: We could live like everything someone says to us is a contribution to us.
Jun 29: Contribution to others does not happen in isolation.
Jun 30: If I can't see results of my actions it's difficult to keep continuing. Success is creating a compelling reason to continue.
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*All Mine

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Untrilogies

Each uniquely similar and similarly unique.
I enjoy films a lot. I love the escapism, the reality, the hyper-reality. I love the story made (almost) real. I feel personal relationships with some characters in films. They are part of me.

For my generation, films provide an easy talking topic. A joint point of reference. Popular culture is part of our lives; combined with the pace of (technological) change and our defining moments are blurred.

We are post-modern.

I think I was in the post-university, pre-married phase. It was that time when I'd shaken of the shackles of school and started developing my own personality. I was having a film-based discussion with one of my friends. This was a guy who studied English literature and read *LOTS*. He also loved films. During our geeky discussion he said something like, "I've always wanted to watch the first film from one trilogy, the second from another and the third from yet another - just to see if anything interesting happens."

Of course we then began debating which films to watch...

I forgot all about this discussion for a while and then, during a particularly geeky film debate (argument) I was winning with CircusBoy I mentioned the idea of watching three semi-unrelated films. I can't quite remember who gave birth to the phrase but the word 'untrilogy' was born.*

Over the years we talked about it. We had twitter discussions about it (#untrilogies #untrilogy of course!) and continued arguing about minutiae.

Also over the years, it's become a fascinating discussion and guaranteed easy ice-breaking non-controversial discussion between casual acquaintances or good friends. It even makes friends from acquaintances.

The wonderful part of this discussion is that anyone can suggest pretty much any set of films and get creative about how they link. It's an excuse to talk about our favourite films, formative years, and particular influences. It reveals our personalities to people in an interesting way.

Our generation always has opinions about films. Our joint point of reference. Popular culture is part of our lives; combined with the pace of (technological) change and our defining moments are blurred.

We are post-modern.

Taking this all a step further, I began to record untrilogies. I then met AlcockMichael at TheFella's recent birthday meal. He suggested creating a tumblr around the idea. So I have.

Submit, quote, tweet, link and add all your untrilogies there.

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* A few friends and I even watched the first Untrilogy: Three Kings, Dr. Strangelove and Apocalypse Now.** We made the mistake of watching the Redux edition. I think that put us all off watching an untrilogy because we never did it again.

**The link was 'war'.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

How much can you know about yourself if you've never been in a fight?


How much do you know about yourself?
In the film Fight Club Tyler Durden poses the question, “How much can you know about yourself if you’ve never been in a fight?” By that measure I knew very little about myself. I knew nothing of what it actually meant to have someone ‘front me up’ or ‘give me some verbals’. Yet these experiences are common in the urban environment we find ourselves in: drunken, drugged-up people leaving clubs, opportunistic, bullying muggers, or groups of ‘hoodies’ are all somewhat stereotypical. Still, I think we’ve all experienced them (perhaps first-hand) to know how intimidating the world we live in can be.

We’re also bombarded with statistics about knifepoint robberies, gun-crime and general intimidation of members of the public going about their every-day lives. Sometimes, the way the media portray our wonderful city you could be forgiven for thinking we live in a war-zone. Some part of me wanted to address this gap in my experience. I frequently asked myself: what would I do if I got into a difficult situation? I’d met The Fella at a Circusboy’s birthday party and started following him on Twitter. He’d posted a video of some Urban Krav Maga. I’d watched with interest and thought I’d give it a go.

It was with these facts in mind that I entered the Virgin Gym in The Plaza, Oxford Street one Wednesday last September. I was more than a little nervous. Perhaps it was because my only experience of any Martial Arts classes had been a few Karate lessons as a round, nervous ten-year old. More likely it was the unknown: I really didn’t know what to expect.

I introduced myself to an intense, Scottish man Stewart McGill: the instructor. Who. You. Would. Not. Mess. With. He seemed like a smiley, humorous kind of guy but I had a vague sense of previously committed past mayhems. The tamed Dark Side. He professed a love of heavy metal and that set my mind at ease being a fellow fan. He guided me into the gym for the start of my first class and asked me to remove my watch and labret piercing. This did little to calm my nerves as I looked around the class and saw people from a range of sizes, and backgrounds and a few women too.

I have worked as a secondary school teacher for seven years now and I can’t help but judge the quality of any learning situation. Whilst the gym setting was unfamiliar and unsettling to me, it was still an educational environment; there were certain things I was expecting. In the back of my mind I had three areas I was (sub)consciously judging to see if Urban Krav was something I was going to commit time, money and effort to.

Firstly, is the teacher credible? By this I really mean do they know what they are talking about. OK Stewart might have looked the part but there are enough people walking around London who look like they can handle themselves in a fight. In teaching a subject, one of the ways I distinguish my knowledge is technical language. Stewart explained the technical aspects of each move, and demonstrated them. Not only that, he would walk through each move step-by-step giving a detailed running commentary on each aspect of the move.

Fair enough. If you’ve participated in any Martial Arts classes before, I’d guess that would be what you’d expect. However, what really enhanced the technical expertise for me, were the reference points from other Martial Arts. Stewart frequently includes in his instructions phrases such as: “Traditional boxers would…”, “MMA guys approach like this…” or “Ju-Jitsu teaches…” This breadth and depth of knowledge established credibility very quickly – but the guiding purpose is Stewart’s phrase “In a street-fight…” peppered with the word “nasty” (his Scottish accent increases its brutality). This gives the classes a practical slant for instant applicability to the urban melee.

But knowing your stuff isn’t enough. I know people who are incredibly intelligent but absolutely terrible at passing on their knowledge. This relates to the second area I was judging: what’s the teacher’s relationship with the class like?

From my own teaching experience, I know that when pupils respect the teacher and enjoy the classroom environment, they’re far more receptive to learning. Beginning to learn Urban Krav is no exception. Participants fully embrace the serious subject matter because of the dark humour and very colourful (but totally realistic) language that permeates the classes.

Make no mistake – I think undertaking any kind of Martial Arts training should be tough. Doubts about my own ability perhaps fuelled my nervousness. Training needs to be mentally and physically stimulating and Urban Krav certainly is. However, the balance between pushing oneself and building confidence can only happen in a space where learners are comfortable and safe. This is especially true where people could seriously injure themselves. Stewart (with the other instructors who are frequently in attendance) maintains control over the environment with a watchful eye whilst we train. His authoritative air is (relatively) easily established because everyone knows he could hurt any one of us. Badly. And with ease.
McGill teaches the attacker the error of his ways...

Despite that slightly disconcerting background awareness, Stewart and the instructors invite questions with humility and humour. I’ve always felt able to approach and ask for help or feedback on a particular move. In truth, the class is an environment of collaborative learning; I have gained a lot from other participants too. This is actively encouraged and there is a refreshing absence of ego.

Nevertheless, a knowledgeable teacher, and an appropriate relationship are just the foundation – the proof of the pudding is in the eating: did I learn anything and will I continue to learn something? This can’t get answered from the first class – it has to be pursued.

Yes, after the first session I felt I learned something. A few months on and I’m still learning something new from each class. As a teacher, I plan for progression with my pupils. I have an idea of where they should be by the end of term. To the untrained eye it seems as if Stewart and the instructors are making it up as they go along. In truth, they’re completely guided by the group in front of them. The balance of beginners and experienced attendees can vary wildly by session. Serious formal planning for each class makes no sense; rather there is a deeper awareness of the individuals in the room. Stewart and the instructors are constantly observing class members and have developed an instinctive understanding of what’s needed. This is high-level instruction.

That doesn’t mean there is no structure. There is a syllabus and in my last session I was formally assessed at Level One. This involved several minutes of pressure-testing, handling the Ten Most Common Street Attacks. I didn’t pass. This time. I was a little frustrated but the instructors have a clear commitment to high standards. Anything else would do me (and anyone who attends) a disservice.

So, I highly recommend Urban Krav Maga: credible, knowledgeable teachers, an effective relationship between instructors and pupils in a mutually respectful environment and a clear commitment to learning. This training is varied, challenging and fulfilling – if you stick at it. Last September, I remember leaving my first session thoroughly tired and slightly giddy having experienced getting my hand in someone else’s sweaty face (and vice versa). Everyday life does not offer us the chance to experience our own naked aggression. The closest I usually get is a heavy metal gig. Urban Krav is different. Each week, I am invited to unhinge, embrace and eventually learn to control and use my aggression. It leaves me a little more confident each time.

Hopefully, I won’t have to use any of the techniques I’m learning. But I’d happily look Tyler Durden in the eye and say, “I know more about myself.”
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For more details: check the Central London School of Krav Maga and,
the YouTube Channel or,
buy Urban Krav Maga 6-DVD Box Set: defending the most common street attacks.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Class of 2012: Home Truths

Tonight - Touch The Sky
Each year another set of Year 13 students steps beyond the castle walls and escapes to university to begin Life After School. Each year group likes to think that they will be remembered fondly in teachers hearts and minds. Truthfully, year groups have a tendency to blur into one another. This article is not only to acknowledge the boys, but also to take the chance to deliver a few Home Truths...

Firstly, every year when The Leavers are planning their ritualistic Last Day of Practical Jokes, they think that the ideas they come up with are truly original. Home Truth Number One: they're probably not. Moving rooms and equipment around are to be expected; water pistols teachers have been there, done that.

However, this year the banner was wholly unexpected - charming, humorous and excruciatingly painful to read. It was also very memorable. With the picture taken by 5* the willing participants with big smiles were: 3, 19, 20, 14, 16, 26, 18, 9, 23, 2, 12, 1 and 6. Head Boy (15) was meant to be in the picture but was asked to help with the new Head Boy interviewees and couldn't be there.

This leads to Home Truth Number Two: teachers all remember something about each year group; we just have to think a little to recall it. Perhaps the banner may not be all that we remember from this year group: 10 and 24's unfailingly attractive dress sense (lacking in Top Buttons), 11, 13 and 4's unique intellectual banter, will also be remembered.

Part of the reason we have to think a little before we can recall particular year groups is because of Home Truth Number Three: every year, roles repeat themselves. It's as if there are certain archetypes individuals must conform to within a group of Leavers. Every year there are variations on a cast of characters: the funny one (19), the creative one (25) the dark horse (8 and 7), the sensible one (15), the one-who-is-always-there (22), the wild one (23), the sleepy one (17), the could-try-harder one (1) and the don’t-mess-with one (21).

Bonjour!
Maturity encompasses Home Truth Number Four: in their hearts, Leavers are ready to move on - whether they realise it or not. Our annual occasion is the formal recognition of this. This year was no exception as Teachers and Leavers exchanged anecdotes about starting in Year Seven, how they have grown into young men and their hopes, aspirations and dreams – all whilst sipping alcoholic beverages on the Thames. (Photographic evidence can be found in this video presentation).

The final Home Truth is that experiences at school do not happen in isolation. Leavers (and Teachers) cannot single out one story to capture their time at Our School. The boys take from Our School a collection of friends, various incidents, conversations and (life) lessons, remembered forever, that are a strong foundation for later years.

In a similar way, it’s not one single teacher that creates the unique familial atmosphere at Our School: it’s the whole community of teachers that make a contribution to a leaving year group. This year’s Leavers understand, appreciate and embody this. Moving on to the experiences of university and Life After School, we can be sure they have enjoyed their time at Our School and made the most of it. They move on with our best wishes for the futures they will create.
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*Names have become numbers to protect the innocent (and hide the guilty).

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

JDS Insights: May 2012

It's in your head...
For a teacher May is a month brought sharply into focus because of those little things called exams.

The particularly depressing weather through the month didn't really help matters - in my mind it was supposed to be warmer, sunnier and feeling like the end of the year was approaching. Instead it felt like one long extended spring - with no end in sight!

Teachers also start to get a bit tired about this time too because we move into writing reports - which can seem like an endless task.

May was also quite emotional because the Year 13 were leaving. Each year it's slightly different; the range of emotions seems to widen. Check my blog post about the leavers for more. At least it warmed up...for a while.

Apart from teaching, there were a few birthdays. Sister was turning another year older, another year wiser and another year closer to the truth. Of course I am ahead.

Another friend turned thirty - which brought home to me not only my own age but also how much things change. She's accomplished a lot in the time I've know her. Birthdays are occasions where disparate groups often come together with one key person at the centre. Sometimes the disparate groups gel, other times they don't. Our individual friendships have a significant effect on us. I think this is because who we are is defined by how we relate to people, places and stuff that happens. I feel as if the trick is to keep in mind that I have a choice about how I relate to something. Not always easy to keep in one's experience.

During May I also enjoyed some reading material. After the experimentation of previous books, I looked at something slightly more academic and psychological. I can't quite remember how I heard about this book but Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home and School is solidly written and has practical application - especially for me as an educator.

It's written by John Medina - a "developmental molecular biologist" - who practices what he preaches. I found it very accessible and interesting but also academically rigorous. He only uses studies that pass his 'grump' factor - properly peer-reviewed and replicated stuff.

Check out the Brain Rules website.

Not only does it challenge a lot of the nonsense I hear/ read amongst the chattering teachers, it also (far more disturbingly) made me appreciate my parents even more. There are parts in the book that could have been written by my Dad. The difference is - my Dad came to his own conclusions - not peer-reviewed scientific research!


Suffice to say I was sufficiently inspired to buy him a copy - which has brightened his retirement. I also recommended it to Sister (she of Paediatric Occupational Therapy fame). Actually I did more than recommend it - I told her she *had* to buy it. Which she duly did.

Being proved right is better than any drug. Having your children tell you is probably better than that.

Enjoy the insights.*

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May 01: I can learn deeper truth myself through appropriately expressing my anger.
May 02: Anger, fully expressed, is part of being human.
May 03: It's all a competition. And then we die. Wow.
May 04: I set the rules for my life. I'm competing with myself - no-one else.
May 05: What I see, has already happened. Reality is always a step ahead.
May 06: What I see is mostly creation.
May 07: Sensory input is infallible. Sensory interpretation is not.
May 08: My senses are not the best pathway for understanding truth.
May 09: My senses tell my one thing about my body but my mind can tell me another.
May 10: I am not just my body. Neither am I just my mind. Nor am I just my spirit.
May 11: People will believe whatever you tell them.
May 12: Discipline is not boring - not producing results is.
May 13: I am always producing the results I want. I am just not always clear about what I want.
May 14: You can only really discover aspects of yourself in prepared conversation.
May 15: Planning cannot account for real life.
May 16: Accidents happen. The real fun is how we respond to them.
May 17: Consistently taking a particular action defines us.
May 18: Repetition creates learning - including learning mistakes.
May 19: Writing something down gives something more reality because it's out of my head.
May 20: We spend a significant chunk of our lives in our head.
May 21: Believing my thoughts and opinions to be true keeps me blind.
May 22: Not all growth requires pain.
May 23: Beauty is everywhere.
May 24: We are mostly unconscious to the truth.
May 25: Underestimating the impact I have on others diminishes my power.
May 26: A Family creates conversations we have no choice but to participate in.
May 27: Conversations don't just happen. We are always making something up.
May 28: Commitment starts. Action moves. Truth sustains.
May 29: Self-discipline is nothing without a commitment to something.
May 30: It's not hard to produce the results I want. I just complicate everything.
May 31: We all think we are not good enough. We just have different versions.
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*My own creations

Saturday, June 30, 2012

JDS Insights: April 2012

I had an interesting time this month.

I received a cheque in the post from Google for £60. It's taken me a few years but it was generated from this blog.

It did make me think: could I write some stuff here that could generate enough interest to make some money? It's an interesting question to engage with and apply some intellectual effort to.

This is also a reason why I have various links across my posts. And it's made me ask myself the question: could I do something entrepreneurial? Pretty obvious given that I'm a Business Studies teacher.

April also saw communication open up with people who I had not communicated with for a while.** I'm not unfamiliar with this scenario and it's quite inspiring to be part of it. It always has ripples out further than I can see but at the same time requires sustained effort. Giving up is easy.

This month is also the time for Easter Holidays. All those non-teachers saying how much time we get out of work. Well not me. Each Easter I have the "wonderful" job of reading, marking and annotating Controlled Assessments.

For the uninitiated, Controlled Assessment is coursework done at school. To prevent cheating.

I'm not sure if I'm the only teacher who finds marking a brain-demanding activity. I find very good work much easier to mark than very not good work.

I got through it.

In other news...
22nd February 2012, 11st 3.2lbs, 22.8% body fat
31st March 2012, 10st 5.6lbs, 19.1% body fat
28th April 2012, 10st 2.8lbs, 18.4% body fat

21st February 2012, 36.75in waist
31st March 2012, 33.75in waist
28th April 2012, 32.75in waist

Enjoy the insights.*
-----
Apr 01: Do enough to make what you want reality. Anything more is wasted energy.

Apr 02: Relentlessly questioning everything ultimately leads to realising the truth about life: it's all made up.

Apr 03: Adapt your actions according to your goal. You'll get there quicker.

Apr 04: Most of us limit ourselves to three or four approaches when dealing with people. Truthfully, there is no limit to how we can behave.

Apr 05: It's easier to limit ourselves than be responsible for altering ourselves.

Apr 06: Perceptions are malleable. Opinions are malleable. Personality is malleable. And yet there are things that are not.

Apr 07: The way someone reacts to me is not always personal. It's up to me if I take it that way.

Apr 08: Everyone has problems they can't handle. When I assume mine are bigger than there's I give away the ability to empathise.

Apr 09: For deeper insight listen to what's not being said.

Apr 10: Just because the weather is a particular way doesn't mean I have to follow.

Apr 11: Families change, evolve, die and are born. I can't expect things to stay the same.

Apr 12: Being one way in my family as a child can be difficult to alter as an adult. Difficult but not impossible.

Apr 13: Conversations with grandparents can explain almost everything. But it requires careful listening.

Apr 14: My wisdom (or lack of) has nothing to do with my age.

Apr 15: Young can contribute to old. Although it's unintended more than intended.

Apr 16: Extended family exert an influence no matter what the time frame. We share some roots.

Apr 17: It sometimes feels as if humanity shared no roots. Yet at the same time we are inextricably linked.

Apr 18: My body responds to input more amazingly than I realise.

Apr 19: We are what we eat, think and do regularly. Therefore we can be anything we choose.

Apr 20: Where are the boundaries between my body, mind and spirit?

Apr 21: Anything can become a bodily experience. Pay attention.

Apr 22: Anything can become a mindful experience. Pay attention.

Apr 23: Anything can become a spiritual experience. Pay attention.

Apr 24: My body responds more to what I ingest than how I exercise. Dammit.

Apr 25: Focusing on something straightforward and doing it repeatedly clears my head.

Apr 26: Truthfully, most of the time I have no idea - I just make it up.

Apr 27: As we age we become more reflective about our lives. Now imagine being 93.

Apr 28: If I can't handle the truth and consequences of my own actions, I'll deny it. And little by little go insane.

Apr 29: The truth is relentless and has a habit of unravelling a life of lies. Best not to live a life of lies then...

Apr 30: All it takes is one mistake. But always remember mistakes can be cleared up and mistakes contain learning.
-----
*All mine


**Naming is not an option

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning 3 of 3: 2012: Clearing and Clarity

Direction: Coming from and Going To*
This part three of three. Parts One and Two deal with what happened last year.

Yeah yeah ok...So this post was *meant* to have been completed aaaages ago. For some reason, for the past few years this post is delayed by a few months. I've been trying to 'get it right' and choose the 'right' things I 'should' be focusing on this year.

I've been toying with one or two themes this year already but I've only really got it coherent recently. Perhaps it's due to my impending appraisal at work...
So here are my themes for 2012 (even though we're almost half-way through!)

1) Being a clearing
What I mean by this is being a space for things to happen. I read something somewhere about our bodies not actually being discrete entities - but more 'spaces' where more of us occur. Said another way, the greatest concentration of me is where I am right now...but I'm actually spread everywhere. The old Star Wars insight 'We Are All One' makes more sense when I think of it this way.

Being a clearing is consciously creating a space for something to happen.

The best metaphor for this is shown at home in my kitchen.

I do a lot of washing up at home. After dinner, after She has cooked something that tastes great, in the morning, last thing at night, during family gatherings - it's a lot of pots, pans and plates.

Washing up isn't enough though.

This year I've added in drying up and putting it away too.

What this creates in the kitchen of course is a clear space...

...to be filled up with more amazing cooking from Her and mess. Think about it: the empty space of the kitchen almost *calls* for someone to cook in it.

It's become a habit.

The empty page *calls* to be written on.

The purpose of meditation (amongst other things) is to empty our minds to achieve enlightenment.

Animals are admired in martial arts for their absence of thought - pure action.

Malcolm Forbes said "Education's purposes is to replace an empty mind with an open one".

This year is about me clearing a space for things to happen: a promotion at work, more money, great pupils and learning, brilliant family gatherings, parties with friends, happiness, a lean body...whatever I can think of - and commit to.

2) Providing clarity
Having a more senior role at school and being taken (slightly) more seriously has made me reflect on the purpose of leadership and management. Even more so being a teacher.

It's made me think about the longer-term - 3-5-10 years down the line in my life.

I thought about where this came from and realised it was something I learned from my Dad. His mind seems to work at amazing pace; he's constantly engaged in evaluating, judging and thinking about the future; choosing his course of action from a potential 98; considering the risks of each and finding the best course consistent with what he wants. It's not effortless and not always pretty - but he approaches it with the grace of a Grand Master of Chess.

From the Teachers I deal with, to my Wife, from the Pupils to my Parents, from my Friends to the people I train with at Urban Krav - if I'm providing clarity for them: about what I'm doing, what they need to get their things done - whatever it is - maybe it allows for cool stuff to happen.

In any of the roles I have in my life, this year is about providing clarity for everyone else so they can get on with what *they* want; what *they're* committed to.

Perhaps both of these things together is what it means to make a contribution to someone: providing them with a clearing and clarity.

Let's see how the rest of 2012 opens up.

The Trilogy is Complete.

----------
* I actually took this picture.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

JDS Insights: March 2012

Hard Sell
This post is not *trying* to sell you anything. But I do acknowledge the self-indulgent nature of blogging and my own self-interest.

So sometimes I will sell something: a book, an idea, a particular paradigm - whatever. But make no mistake - I am selling it. There are openings for action on my blog that I could gain from financially. You're media-savvy and sophisticated enough to see that.

But don't let me stop you from acting on something that inspires you.

(Equally and perhaps more insidious, don't let yourself stop you from acting on something that inspires you).

If you do choose to act - then take action.

If you discover materials to help you on your personal journey, then help me out by clicking a link and ordering.

If not, don't. Read and enjoy.

(There's a reason for that preamble which will become clear in May's post).

----

Anyway - it's true that this post is long overdue and lots has happened, and it is exciting. This month was the beginning. And it was about three things: numbers, truth and a lot of fun.

During March, the madman experimented.

I am referring to the experiments of the Four-Hour Body I mentioned in February AKA 21st Century Healthy Lifestyle AKA the Avoid Becoming Even More of A Fat Bastard Plan.

To call this book ridiculous is an understatement. The subtle subtitle 'diary of a madman' is appropriate.

Bottom line: it works.

Now, I am the particular kind of weirdo that reads books and does what they say. I love the medium of the written word for collecting, understanding and reasoning. I love it for its ability to evoke laughter and tears.

Most of all I love it for the ability to communicate information. And I'm an information junkie; I love to read, absorb, interpret, debate and get behind the truth behind the truth. So reading is great for me.

As I said last month though - I was hesitant and sceptical. So when I read the book, I was deeply aware that it wasn't just the material I was testing; I was testing my own ability to alter my behaviour and habits. This is no small feat.

This is *really* what the book's about - putting aside all the controversial stuff about what he does - on a sample of one - and it's applicability to the whole of humanity - the main idea is that if you want to achieve a particular goal, find out what you need to do to get there and do it. It's the *psychology* behind producing personal results.

Nothing particularly revolutionary there then.

But I do think that the vast majority of people who buy books like this - and any other practical guide book/ self-help book - don't actually *do* what the book suggests. I complicate everything. We complicate everything.

So when I read what was needed and shared it with Her - to my surprise She was up for giving it a go. We were both of the mind of giving it a trial and seeing what results got produced; measuring, monitoring and tweaking. (In the book he's big on the whole idea of measuring; this is not a new idea to me - it's all over the business literature as the only truly effective way to produce results on an ongoing basis...Peter Drucker's the man...)

There is a deeper context to this: namely diabetes. Not only it is rife in my family and Her family; it's rife in my cultural/ racial background. Yep, people of Southern Asian descent have a lot of diabetes floating around...all that ghee...and the fat tummies to match - I'm no exception.

So I was primarily interested in reducing the measurement around my waist - as measured around my belly-button. (Interestingly, recently, a lower waist measurement has been suggested to be a better predictor of a long life and fewer health problems. The ideal is less than half my height.).

Now I've lost weight before - and I was clinically obese*. Have a look at the pics and description in this post and in this post. But back then - it was easier because I was so unhealthy. Since then, I've not been *as* unhealthy but my weight crept up.

Pretty much since last year, I've been trying to get down to my original target weight of 10st 10lbs - but without compromising fitness and strength whilst doing Urban Krav Maga.

And pretty much since last year, I've failed consistently. I was up to 11st 6lbs.

And the reason? I had no framework; no paradigm; no guidance for my lifestyle. Nothing.

I'd exercised lots - You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises (mentioned in this post) had produced results but only partly. I was still pudgy, chubby and sludgy (despite having better punching technique). Although that book mentioned nutrition and its importance - I had no way of matching it practically to my lifestyle. It was all too hard.

That's why The 4-Hour Body fitted perfectly. It gave me a framework that, with a bit of effort and thought, I could integrate into my lifestyle.

Here's some truth:
22nd February 2012, 11st 3.2lbs, 22.8% body fat
31st March 2012, 10st 5.6lbs, 19.1% body fat

21st February 2012, 36.75in waist
31st March 2012, 33.75in waist

Numbers don't lie.

Buy this book and experiment - like the six or seven boys I teach have done.

BTW - on the side of the book it says, "Do Not Read This Book Unless You Want Immediate Results". It's a blatant hard-sell pitch to insecure suckers.

What does that make me?


----
Apart from all this fun - and it has been fun - I had a wonderfully mad Saturday where I went on a part of a Monopoly Pub Crawl, took Her out to lunch and met up with two, old, great friends. It was a wonderful day, spent with a great group of people.

Rediscovering two friends was brilliant as well - because we're a nice motley crew: one state primary teacher, one independent secondary teacher and a circus teacher**; one Jewish (who loves bacon), one English (who's really an angry white teenager), one mixed-up (who desperately wants to fit in); one government-funded, one privately funded and one independently funded; all thoroughly opinionated.

Even though we're all guys none of us are traditionally 'alpha-male'; we aren't afraid to express ourselves with each other. This means the level of conversation can move from being an intense debate about the state of the economy, calling each other on our nonsense, through mindless silly misogyny and full-on geek film discussion. I truly appreciate the level of mutual respect and love between us - but more than anything - I appreciate not having to wade through all the machismo *nonsense* I have to deal with when speaking with most guys.

Mostly, men are insecure, emotionally backward monkeys. The three of us are that too - but we *know* we are and aren't afraid to admit it.

Needless to say, we've decided to hang out at least one evening per month. Invigorating and refreshing.

They've also bought, read and consumed the Four-Hour Body too. What does that say about us?

Oh one more thing...at work during March, we had the (minor) matter of an inspection. Which went well apart from one cock-up by me that I took full responsibility for.

March is the month when The Year Really Begins.

Enjoy the insights.***

----------

Mar 01: Life moves at the pace you set.

Mar 02: I make things way more complicated than they need to be.

Mar 03: We have become so divorced from our bodies we can't hear what they're saying to us.

Mar 04: There is far more to a healthy life than exercise and diet.

Mar 05: When we are stimulated enough (but no more) by our inner world, we find an outer expression of peace.

Mar 06: Inner turmoil begets outer disturbance. The opposite is also true.

Mar 07: Enjoy what there is to have now. Tomorrow will be different.

Mar 08: Actual, physical stuff is less enriching than a great conversation.

Mar 09: In conversation, anything is possible.

Mar 10: Reality starts with a conversation.

Mar 11: A great conversation is a spiritual experience.

Mar 12: The degree to which we are honest reflects our strength of character.

Mar 13: Only when I am ready to embrace and own the true depths of my idiocy am I ready to understand my greatness.

Mar 14: Things don't have to change because someone is watching.

Mar 15: Things always change because someone is watching.

Mar 16: A big action can provoke a big reaction.

Mar 17: Lots of small actions can be more effective than one big action.

Mar 18: Standing still doing nothing takes energy.

Mar 19: At least work out the correct direction before you start running. It saves so much time.

Mar 20: It's frustrating to see, but I am always honouring what I say. I am just not always aware of what I've said.

Mar 21: Life always responds to your fundamental thought about it.

Mar 22: Identifying what truly motivates us can provide the keys to freedom.

Mar 23: Don't forget to actually do it once you've planned.

Mar 24: Much to my frustration I cannot plan for everything.

Mar 25: Not everything needs an explanation.

Mar 26: Words cannot articulate everything.

Mar 27: Comparing myself with others to validate my experience is a path to misery.

Mar 28: Embrace the actions that produce what you want and get rid of the rest.

Mar 29: Self-awareness is the greatest gift we can get from our parents - however they give it to us.

Mar 30: Self-awareness requires a willingness to ask a question of oneself and not be satisfied with the first answer.

Mar 31: Self-awareness unreflected in a changed life is: at best - navel-gazing; at worst - masturbation.
--------
*Defined as having a BMI of 30 or more - according to the World Health Organisation

**Follow CircusBoy1


***All my stuff.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

JDS Insights: February 2012

Perhaps the fact I'm getting round to putting down what February was all about towards the end of March speaks to what a non-month February usually is.

If January is post-apocalyptic, then February is the deadly silence that follows the post-apocalyptic trauma.

And so it should be as we slowly emerge from Winter and move into Spring.

That's not to say the month wasn't uneventful.

My February this year was once again consumed with thoughts of a cramped space on a coach, smelly boys and cold snow - yes this year's ski trip was upon me - and I was asked along...again! Last year I had to be all serious and I had to repeat the same feat again - me Deputy Trip Leader? I'm used to being the one that clowns around not dishing out discipline. Still, I take it as a compliment as it speaks to me of the respect and faith my colleagues have in me.

One perk: I had a better seat on the coach. Marginally.

The trip was really enjoyable but left no room for much other than the trip! There was a vast amount of snow - two feet on one day as I recall. The temperature also changed from something like -18ºC to -5ºC! Aside from having 'jihad' shouted at me at various points by another (white) member of staff, I discovered I can ski ok. One particular highlight was receiving a special certificate for 'Endless Energy' - a proud moment - as I skied every single available day.

February also saw me continue my journey into the world of integrity. I started in January actually with a training seminar examining this concept but also applying it to my life. Through February I cleared up stupid stuff I'd done with a few people. Not always easy because it threatens the existence of my opinion of myself and general desperation to avoid looking like an idiot. Note: it's not unique to me - it's a human experience.

Even more interesting is that owning up to my own cock-ups allows me to embrace my humanity.

Have a read of the insights below. They help.

At work - apart from the skiing - I got to have a pleasant social evening with our governors. For all the usual divisions and cliques that inevitably get created in *any* workplace, they're a nice bunch of people with a job to do. I did my usual and had a some great conversations.

Not only that, it was also an evening to socialise with teachers from across the school - something we don't always get to do. I think it did give us a sense of community. It helped that the food was great and the wine was flowing (for everyone else) and we all made the effort to dress up.

What summed up the evening was the presence of a caricaturist who captured the nuances of various people's personalities. I think he did me justice...although perhaps a bit *too* evil.

Is it me? Am I evil?
The various pictures of people provided a lightness to the atmosphere that had the potential to remain awkward all night.

I also had some reading material to stimulate my thoughts through February. It was a book I'd been avoiding for a while, that I'd told some boys about at school who had promptly gone and bought it after I'd shown them the trailer. I'd had a couple of close friends read and recommend it too. I'd also been looking for some framework that fitted with my quest for a 21st Century Healthy Lifestyle (which basically means habits for me to avoid diabetes when I get older AKA The Avoid Becoming Even More of a Fat Bastard Plan).

The book is this one:

Now I've mentioned another one of this guy's books before but once I downloaded it for my Kindle it intrigued me. It actually had me from the opening *sentence* because he describes being backstage at a Nine Inch Nails concert. That was all it took. I'm a simple guy.

The book carries the hidden subtitle 'Diary of a Madman'.

I'm also that special kind of weirdo that follows a book's instructions.

There will be much more about this journey in March's post but suffice to say it's interesting and completely appeals to my style.

This was February*
-----------------
Feb 01: I find my Self in relationship with others.

Feb 02: We live in listening.

Feb 03: The degree to which I choose not to let my buttons get pushed, is the degree to which I am free.

Feb 04: It's all the same, it just gets re-worded every so often.

Feb 05: I repeat the same mistakes until I learn.

Feb 06: I learn the same mistakes until I create.

Feb 07: It doesn't have to continue the way it's always been. My choice. No pressure.

Feb 08: Different action makes something different happen.

Feb 09: Simple choice: accept blindly or verify with experience.

Feb 10: Energy levels have more to do with our state of mind than we realise.

Feb 11: People forget we are all human.

Feb 12: The stories from the past inform my actions in the present if I let them.

Feb 13: The people we meet as adults are just templates of the first ones we met as children.

Feb 14: Everyone we meet is a shade of the two most influential people in our lives: our parents.

Feb 15: You are not your past - regardless of what everyone might tell you.

Feb 16: To have hang ups about myself is to be human. Depends if I have them or they have me.

Feb 17: There really is nothing that can't be forgiven. But that doesn't mean it should be forgotten.

Feb 18: Surely perfection is embracing and owning one's imperfections?

Feb 19: Having a destination can mean the end of the journey.

Feb 20: Choosing a destination for a journey is different from choosing a direction.

Feb 21: Some moments change everything before and everything after.

Feb 22: Silence enables action.

Feb 23: Do not mistake my silence for acquiescence. What makes you think I am listening to you?

Feb 24: Take my own advice: if someone asks me, tell them. If they don't, STFU.**

Feb 25: The experience of the journey transforms the destination. The experience of the destination transforms the journey.

Feb 26: Desperation is like running around a forest at high speed looking for the trees.

Feb 27: You're never *searching* for what you're not looking for, yet you're always *finding* what you're not looking for.

Feb 28:  You can only find something when you're clear about what you're looking for.

Feb 29: Validation is when other people's opinions are automatically valued more than my own.
----------------
*All Mine


**STFU = Shut The Fuck Up

Friday, February 24, 2012

JDS Insights: January 2012

I think January of every year has a post-apocalyptic feel to it.

It's as if we're emerging from the remains of something to create something else.

The whirlwind of December meant my January felt relatively sedate: back to school; mock exams; marking...and well embracing how mundane life really is. It just feels like a l-o-o-o-o-n-g month.

There was one event. I did venture out of the city to go and see Her. She has been living in Somerset for a while and we drove down on Friday to see Her. She thoroughly appreciated Our company - and We throughly enjoyed being there. And Her cooking is very good.

On Saturday, we experienced the Quantock Hills...with entirely inappropriate footwear. Proper townies in the mud. It is quite uplifting being around nature: trees, grass and rain and all. The great British Countryside.

Saturday night out in the town She lives in feels different. It made me feel different. I felt as if we stood out - and I suppose we did. It seems some people forget we're all human.

After that weekend, when a colleague suggested going out for a curry at the end of the month - it seemed like a proper-cool-urban-dweller thing to do. And so it turned out to be. It was a very nice way to bring January to a close and begin the process of opening up 2012.

Enjoy.*
 ---------------------
Jan 01: Life is paradoxical. Deal with it. (Or not).

Jan 02: The things you hate about someone are inextricably linked to the things you love about someone.

Jan 03: The unacknowledged rules us until we acknowledge it.

Jan 04: There's no point 'playing full out' until I set up the game I choose to play.

Jan 05: It's all just a game and then we die right? At least I choose how I play though right?

Jan 06: If I get specific about the game, the rules and how I win, it becomes a *whole* lot easier to play.

Jan 07: Young people are more insightful than we are willing to give them credit for.

Jan 08: Starting something and then completing it is at the core of being truly effective.

Jan 09: Starting something and not completing it avoids dealing with the future.

Jan 10: Starting something and not completing it keeps the "I'm *just* so busy" drama alive.

Jan 11: Sometimes I love humanity. Sometimes I hate it. Which one will I choose today?

Jan 12: Spend less time reacting and more time creating as a way to find peace.

Jan 13: Creation treats life as a long journey. Reaction treats life as a series of sprints.

Jan 14: Reduce external stimulation to deepen internal awareness.

Jan 15: Boredom stimulates creativity.

Jan 16: Never lose your ability to ask why. It stops life being boring and reduces the need for recreational drugs.

Jan 17: Any time you speak truthfully it helps. It's just not always easy.

Jan 18: I find that talking a lot, making others feel small and belittling them, an effective way of covering my inadequacy.

Jan 19: All feelings pass. To be replaced with others.

Jan 20: We are shaped by our past more than we know or care to admit.

Jan 21: Negative vibes are fed the more you talk about them. Same for positive vibes. Yet negative are easier to share.

Jan 22: Figuring out what drives me to be me, is a source of future effectiveness.

Jan 23: What I say, becomes who I am and who I am becomes what I say. If you choose to be conscious.

Jan 24: Living like it's all or nothing prevents the dullness of grey areas.

Jan 25: If I fall asleep to everyday life, I miss the everyday miracles.

Jan 26: Listen and the world listens with you.

Jan 27: Act and the world acts with you.

Jan 28: Speak and the world mostly ignores you. But never be afraid to speak your truth.

Jan 29: Just because it's a cliché doesn't make it true. Just because it's exceptional doesn't mean it can't happen to you.

Jan 30: What I say is all I've got. No-one can take it away.

Jan 31: Not listening to someone is a deeply effective way of depriving them of their sense of self.
------------------
* They really *are* all mine.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Beginning is the End is the Beginning 2 of 3: 2011

Part Two of the Trilogy...


6. House
We moved in 2011. It was stressful and wonderful in equal measure (but probably more wonderful). Our house is now our home and I'm so grateful for all the help we had. Especially from Them and Them. I can't imagine going back to a one-bedroom flat.

We've hardly needed/ wanted to do anything to the place and we're discovering all the wonderful maintenance issues that go with house ownership - but more than that - our house is becoming a home because we welcomed so many people into it.

I think that's been one of the coolest things: having the room to take care of people, creating a space for people to come together and enjoy themselves. We know it's entirely because of how we are together that people like being here - in our space.

7. Writing (and Reading)
The Calvin and Hobbes Tenth Anniversary Book (Calvin and Hobbes Series)
Through 2011 I found my voice. This is no mean feat for someone who writes. One of my colleagues has referred to me as a writer too! Another one of Her friends (the wildly impressive and creative Sloppy Dog) thinks I write very well.

2011 also saw me publish my first guest blog post - all about my Urban Krav Maga experiences. You can see it here. I'm quite proud of it, as someone I know has now attended a few classes and says that his experience matched what I described in my guest blog post which is very gratifying for me! This of course means you should click the link and then come to a class...just to see how my writing stacks up!

All this feeds into the ongoing idea in the back of my head for a book. In fact, I've talked about writing a book since I was about 19. I've had many different ideas for structure, thoughts for topics and musings for what should and shouldn't be in it.

But - I've finally settled on the short-story as my chosen format. It'll be a series of them. Connected and yet not. I've shared the first two with various people in my life and had some very good feedback. Apparently the short story is difficult form to get into but writing a blog lends itself very well to the short story style.

The discipline of a diarised monthly blogpost is great - it forces my creativity. It's kinda crazy to think that I now have two years worth of Daily Insights on my blog! Writing keeps me going, keeps me reflective and ultimately keeps me sane.

8. On Being Goan
There's actually enough on this one for a standalone blogpost; or a book; or perhaps a PhD into Weird-Mixed-Up-People-Originating-From-Western-India-and-Migrating-Across-The-Planet. I intended to write a post all about the 2011 Global Goans Convention - but I never did.

2011 actually saw me bring into the open some of my ongoing issues about my culture and identity (or cultural identity...or identified culture). One of my biggest frustrations with my community is that everyone finds it difficult to speak the truth. It's as if there's some congenital disease amongst the Goan Disapora* that prevents people from actually being open, honest and above all *real* about their experiences. Instead of continually moaning about it, I organised an event called 'Filling In The Cracks' the purpose of which to was to celebrate Goan culture - but with a twist. I had three different generations of Goan share their experience of what their cultural community means to them. This meant three very different perspectives about the same thing.

Tasting Goa in London
I organised it in a restaurant that sells Goan food (the Palms of Goa) and there were about forty people. I called it Filling In The Cracks because too often my experience of growing up has never been shared. The Goan experience often 'falls through the cracks' in multi-cultural London. London is an amazing city - a true melting-pot of influences around the world. Each community has managed to establish its own distinct cultural identity. People have heard of and experienced Jewish, Irish, Sikh, Gujarati, and Italian communities - and there are many more examples in London. However, mention Goan and people either don't know or the word evokes images of holidays, hotels and hedonism - which is kind of annoying.

Equally, Goans themselves are so backward and insular they're too busy focusing on either themselves or their past to actually understand what's happening *now*. I've blogged about all this before in a previous post here. Reading that post again, I can see the energy that went into that frustration and anger finally found positive expression in 2011** - in fact that's what happened through organising 'Filling In The Cracks' - some space opened up. Hearing three generations of Goan openly and honestly sharing their experience: the growing up; the changing country; the cold; the uncertainty of being Indian and yet not; the problems of where one identifies oneself; the lack of community. For the first time in my life, I was amongst a group of Goans who were being honest about the issues that from our past we're dealing with, and the issues that face us as a 'hidden minority'.

A special point was that there were movers-and-shakers within the Goan community who came along. They sat. They listened. And they were inwardly shocked. Here I was articulating what they found so difficult (I was a kind of compere to the event).

What made it extra *extra* special (and particularly moving) was They came - and They loved it. I even got an email praising me for putting it together! All I can say is - They did a good job with me and Her.

I'm proud of this contribution I made to my community. From there it was obvious for me to attend the Goan Convention - which I actually found enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure. I met some great people (including Jason K. Fernandes - who was as offensive, cheeky and polemic as me!) What was most refreshing was that a group of Goans were collected together to actually Discuss Interesting Topics instead of getting drunk, dancing and arguing. It was revelatory - the thought that a Goan Intelligentsia existed across the diaspora (there's that word again!)

The future of my contribution is getting clearer. I'm going to participate in an oral histories project during 2012 - so I'll be discovering, opening up and letting go of even more this year.

9. School: Colleagues and Pupils
2011 saw me work with some great colleagues and some not so great colleagues. That's natural and part of every workplace across the planet. I've also had great pupils and not so great pupils. That's natural as a teacher.

I suppose what's also natural as a teacher is to stumble across times of reflection. We're taught to be 'reflective practioners'. What this means in practice (for me anyway) is to go through periods of complete (but not quite debilitating) doubt in my ability as a teacher and frequent bouts of frustration with not being able to put things across effectively - despite turning myself inside out to create interesting lessons.

Such is the 'Year 11 Effect'.

I learned from it.
2011 did actually see me go back to the drawing board. I stumbled across a brilliantly irreverent but profound book about teaching (simply called How to teach). Completely not aimed at someone as (supposedly) experienced as me. It was written in such a brilliant and hilarious way I could not but helped be taken in by it. I mentioned my experiences with it in October and November. It was so excellent I keep talking about it because from that I've added in liberal doses of creativity and taken out the Sound Of My Own Voice.

It's also rekindled The Fear that every trainee and new teacher experiences when they embark on this wonderful career. The tense pre-lesson feeling; the rising sense of panic as certain pupils enter the room; managing to stifle your own fight-or-flight response as the first (of several) paper aeroplanes flies across the room; the burning sensation on the back of one's neck and ears as the class refuses to get quiet...etc.

It does beg the question why I'd do this - but really - it comes back to the fact that I love people and want to contribute to the planet.

I've gone back to the drawing board with a wonderful sense of excitement and fear. I'm sure I read somewhere that they're actually the same...

Aside from my own practice, I moved rooms in 2011 - twice. I now share an office (yay) which means I have all my stuff in one place...although I am nomadic...and teach in eleven different rooms scattered across the school (no - there is no designated area for Business Studies, Psychology, Economics or PSHE).

Rooms are a very precious thing for teachers. If we have our own room it becomes part of us. It's our identity and our special little area. A bit like a dog with his territory we must mark it. In our own special way.

Of course I've marked lots of areas across the school...

I *do* feel like I've gone up in the world.

10. Community
2011 saw me complete my civic duty. In the summer I completed jury service. What a fascinating thing to be part of! I was pleasantly surprised by the other jurors. They reflected the diversity of background, culture, class, opinion and gender that I love about London and its suburbs. Admittedly, there were three secondary school teachers (including myself) and one primary school teacher...but it was great being with them.

I also learned how important it really is for the functioning of society.

Apart from this community service, I took part in something else that started and gradually stopped. It was one (of two) of those things where 'good intentions' were driving me - but saw little return - and that's the local Neighbourhood Watch.

When we moved in, I went to a local community meeting with the main police representatives for the ward. I got to see some of the local faces (and they got to see me). Another neighbour was there who volunteered to be the representative for our road.

I said I'd give her a hand. We spent one morning going round and meeting all the people on our road (a cul-de-sac). I did get to chat with a lot of the neighbours and I've established some kind of relationship with them...

...but done nothing with it since...

Perhaps that's all I need to do. If there's an emergency I know I could speak with someone.

But part of me feels like there's more I could bring...I'm just not quite sure what yet...

Since then - two more families have moved in on the road. Both really nice groups of people. They've established themselves on our road.

We all know each other...and yet we don't. We're all in close proximity to each other...and yet we're not. It's the paradox of the city suburb. It's made me think a lot about our isolation from the people around us and how it contributes to a lot of the problems we experience every day. But this is the topic for another post. Suffice to say 2011 made me think a lot about it...but do little.

11. Creating and Earning
Starting at the end of 2010 actually and through 2011 I began to explore the idea of creating more money. Specifically, looking at ways I could earn more. What's driving this, is the Very Male Thing to take care of one's family. I'm not one for massively getting into one's gender role but in discussions with Her, I can see that would like to be the Provider as she starts to evolve into the role of Carer.

But - 2011 saw me come up against my limiting beliefs about money. Thoughts like "the only way you can make money is with a job" or "it's not possible to make a living doing something you enjoy" and even "I could never run my own business" (oh the irony!)

Deeper than these - the truth is - I sometimes feel I don't deserve an abundance of money. Like it's bad for me to have lots of it, to earn lots of it and to enjoy having lots of it.

Too challenging to read?
Over the years, I've dealt with so many of my own opinions and truths about so many aspects of my life. Even with money, my world has shifted hugely. It's mainly due to discovering a hugely interesting and challenging blog ostensibly about money but *really* about psychology. I've implemented some of the stuff and moved forward - but then get stopped. I'm delving into but haven't resolved my blind spots...yet.


What I'm discovering is that as well as putting myself under pressure - it's *really* about creativity, having a systematic approach and understanding how irrational I can be - and anticipating it.

Recommended but not read...
I've been frustrated and surprised in equal measure. The truth is in 2011 I discovered (and I write this with not an insignificant amount of trepidation - because I've never really let this out) - I'd *love* to set up and run my own business (not completely sure what); I'd *love* to earn enough money to create and provide for my own family so She can focus on other stuff; I'd *love* to take care of Them and Her to support them as they move on in their lives; I'd *love* to challenge the conventional paradigm most people find themselves in and create my life how *I* want it.


But a different kind of Fear kicks in and stops me. As it did in 2011. I wonder what 2012 will be about?

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So that's it. Eleven from Eleven. My highlights and lowlights. My examples of, struggles with and learnings about Creativity, Contribution and Mastery.

Part two is over. 2011 is complete.

Now, what about 2012?

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*God I love that word - when I found out its meaning, I really see how it relates to my community.
** Don't worry - I haven't mellowed a fucking bit