Elephants in London…

Herds of Life-Sized Elephants Roam through London’s Parks for a Global Conservation Project

To see for yourself, click here

I would have so loved to have walked amongst these elephants in London over the summer. Still, I only stumbled across the story a few days after they had moved on. The owner’s dispersed the herd and auctioned off each elephant sculpture to raise money to support grassroots organisations in India.

But it did remind me of a story I first came across some years back about the phrase:

An Elephant never forgets

I’d never really given the origin of this saying much thought until I came across this article, and it got me thinking:

“Have you ever wondered how animal trainers used to control a five-tonne elephant? They did it by controlling the animals thinking. When a baby elephant was being trained, a rope was tied around its leg and then tied to a wooden post that was securely fixed in the ground.”

The article then explains how the baby elephant, being weak, would struggle and struggle, straining to break free. Eventually, it would learn to believe that to ‘struggle was futile and that it could never free itself. 

So now fast forward to a fully grown elephant, weighing five tonnes or so; whenever somebody tied it to a wooden post, it always believed it could not break free. The elephant remembered the struggle, and though it had the strength and capability to break free, it would never try.

I wonder how many of us are like the trained elephants – able to ‘break free’ and fulfil our potential but deciding not to try?

It makes me think that wherever you are in life, it is always worth flexing your muscles and testing the limits of what you can achieve. Just because something wasn’t possible in the past doesn’t necessarily follow that it is not possible now. We all grow, change, and adapt as we progress through life.

So, are you like the five-tonne elephant permanently tied to a wooden post, not fully realising your potential or using the power you have? If so, what will you choose to do about it?

Until next time
Janice Taylor

My life as a list

I had almost forgotten this piece of writing – an early exercise from my life Writing course in 2017. Seeing this list, I remember enjoying the random nature of the activity and being surprised at how much flowed out of it. 

There is, I think, beauty in recalling random memories. Life is, after all, a series of moments, and these are some of mine.

I remember:

  • The scuttling of mice in the night – before being caught in our traps
  • The police on our doorstep
  • At age five, the grey Ford Anglia my father, left in the last time I saw him
  • Our African Grey parrot escaping – an open window on a hot summer’s day was all it took

I remember:

  • Long Saturday afternoons transferring sodden clothes from the washtub to the spin tub  
  • Hearing mum’s final instructions to the repairman about our twin-tub
  • Cobweb, spooked by a flying plastic bag – bolting across the field with my little sister and her little friend on her back
  • Three ducks, Gertrude, Bill and Jemima – chasing each other around in a tight circle
  • Trying not to gag – each morning, I collected eggs from their hutch

I remember:

  • Coming home from school to find, Fred our tortoise crawling along the road
  • Frozen fingers trying to fish out the pennies owed in change to customers on my paper round
  • Walking into a wall of laughter the morning – I entered the school common room with my new Afro
  • The green salad bowl mum used to cut my sister’s hair and give it shape
  • Three-inch black platform shoes and having the money to buy them
Mum

I remember:

  • Cooking fat and chips from my holiday job at Allhallows caravan park
  • Mum hovering by the kitchen doorway the day my A’Level results arrived
  • The Stanley knife on the top deck of a bus – was it meant to threaten or impress?
  • My first job appraisal after graduating – I very nearly blew it

I remember:

  • A shower of rose petals on my wedding day
  • A clear patch of radiant blue sky – the day I handed in my letter of resignation
  • Floating away on a cloud of Pethidine
  • Hearing, ‘she’s Tachycardic,’ as they wheeled me in for a Caesarean

I remember:

  • The Liverpool Care Pathway letter – handed to us at mum’s bedside
  • Sitting in the kitchen the evening she took her last breath
  • Jelly legs, the morning we arrived at the children’s hospital reception for our daughter’s operation.
  • Seeing my brother for the first time as he strolled towards us on the bus, we hired – in Mandeville
  • Horse riding in the sea at Runaway Bay, Jamaica

So, what would your life look like as a list?

Until next time

Janice Taylor

What is making you smile right now?

Realising that I needed to shake myself up a bit this month, I decided to list the things currently making me smile, making me feel better about the world and my place in it.

So, in no specific order, here is my list as we move towards the summer 😊.

Thank you Pixabay.
  • Landing a substantial piece of work to facilitate online workshops supporting diverse staff to move forward in their careers – a fantastic project to be involved with, and I am excited to see how my groups progress.   
  • My husband and I have now had our second jabs – and apart from sore arms and some tiredness, neither of us suffered any major side- effects. It is a massive relief for us to be ‘jabbed up’ and ready to go.
  • A functioning B flat key on my piano after replacing my ten-year-old Yamaha with a new Roland, the bottom of the range, but still a Roland. Now I can learn to play Beethoven’s German Dance in B flat Major😉.
  • Coaching clients, landing the roles they apply for – always good to hear this as a career coach.
  • My writing mentor continues to supply me with helpful and insightful feedback on my collection of stories. He has given me lots to think about and fresh/new way to look at how I craft my stories.
  • Holding Zoom catch-ups with some people I first met and studied with over thirty years ago – despite the years, these conversations have been a blast.
  • Remaining safe and well with my husband and daughter.
  • An evening with Hilary Mantel via the Guardian Live talks online. It was marvellous to hear her anecdote about the final scene of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy coming to her while she was queuing at the check out in Sainsbury’s. 
  • Booking our first live comedy gig of the year – I am over the moon to see the return of Brighton Comedy Garden, and we have our tickets for July.
  • For the first time in my professional life, I am delighted to be working as part of a team of coaches where I am not in the minority – enough said.
  • A chance remark (via Zoom) about the files on my shelves has led me to start some serious decluttering. I was shocked to find bus tickets and taxi receipts from twenty years ago.
  • Cold showers in the morning are still working a treat in terms of preparing me for the day.
  • Clear blue skies, warm enough, so it is possible to work outside and listen to the birdsong – even the odd caw of a seagull is welcome.
  • Schitt’s Creek, as a family, we love watching this Netflix series. It is our ray of sunshine – a place to go when things seem bleak, and the world outside is a bit too much.
  • Gogglebox – who would have thought a programme about people watching TV would be such a hit? And I am particularly enjoying Jenny and her notebook as she watches the final episodes of Line of Duty with her best friend, Lee.

What is making you smile this month?

Until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

The enduring power of journaling

What do you do when things do not go as you hoped? How do you manage your disappointment and look after yourself?

The first things I do is write it out of my system. Get it out onto the page; far better for it to be on the page than churning around inside me. And knowing that I am the only person with access to my journal gives me the freedom to fully express my feelings.

Thank you Pixabay

I have been keeping a daily journal since December 2017, when I became a member of a weekly writing group and then continued with it as I realised the benefits it held for me. For me, there is something both powerful and wonderful about regularly and consistently putting your thoughts down on paper, rather than having them interminably rattling around inside your head. 

So, at different times my journals are:

  • A repository of ideas for future posts and articles, gives me a sense of building something of value.
  • A brilliant place to dump worries, concerns and anxieties until I can review them properly.
  • A place to play with ideas and alternative perspectives.
  • A place to reflect on the day’s experiences. The highs and the lows.  
  • A way to look back and see how far I have travelled.
  • A place to order my thoughts, work things through and note down any plans.
  • A safe place to explore, rant, swear and fully express my feelings.
  • An excellent place to store the things that make me laugh.
  • A repository for learning, both formal and informal.
  • A place to say thank you and express gratitude.

I like to write by hand, and it seems that there are some real benefits to writing this way, as outlined in Nancy Olson’s article:

Three ways that handwriting with a pen positively affects your brain. Click here

I find it therapeutic to write by hand and see my words emerge from the tip of my pen. There is something about physically creating words on a page, something meditative, which I believe positively contributes to my health and well-being.

I also prefer to write within the confines of a hardback notebook, A4 size, with unlined paper. Writing in between lines irritates me and somehow gets in the way of my flow as far as I am concerned. I don’t do lines, and this might have something to do with school.

Additionally, late in the evening works best for me. I know others who write first thing in the morning. But I don’t think it matters when so long as the timing you choose supports your writing. 

Neither am I too prescriptive about what I write. In the early days, I chose not to put myself under too much pressure to write about a specific topic. I was more interested in establishing a regular pattern that allowed my brain the time and space it needed to create and dream. Journaling, I find, is a powerful technique for getting out of my own way.

And professionally, I find that I can use my journaling to:

  • Reflect on current reading and embed the learning.
  • Set down quotes that lift and inspire.
  • Set down and explore ideas and future possibilities.  
  • Track my learning and development. As a career coach, I encourage clients to do precisely this. 

I have also made my journals as searchable as I can. A4 size makes it easier to scan the pages and find what I need, especially if I have circled or highlighted topic headings. Pages are numbered, and all entries dated. Post-it notes make brilliant bookmarks, especially as you can write on them to denote the topic to which the bookmark refers.

If you can and want to write by hand, find a comfortable, smooth pen that fits you. After three years, I still love the Uniball as it seems to glide across the paper and makes the physical act of writing both easy and a pleasure. That’s my preference but find what works for you.

And remember, your journal is for you, your thoughts, your dreams, your reflections. 

Enjoy

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

The tip of the iceberg..

‘The tip of the iceberg, ‘my metaphor for how I see my daughter coping with her studies and Dyslexia. How I imagine she and others study within a school system that mostly does not cater for Neurodiversity, despite the rhetoric. To manage within a system that primarily does not cater to their needs, much less their strengths.

Schools are not, in my opinion, fully resourced to support each child assessed as having a Specific Learning Disability. From my experience, the support boiled down to extra time in exams, which was hugely welcome and appreciated at the time. But there was not much else. 

Does it need to be this hard?

After four years, the phrase also describes what I am learning about Dyslexia and how it affects our daughter.

Thank you Pixabay

Even as a parent, I do not see all the angst/anxiety. The effort required to appear as though everything is alright – to mask what is going on beneath the surface.

Everyday life can be energy-sapping and exhausting if your brain processes information differently; if your brain has an alternative way of making sense of the world.

The energy-sapping, exhaustion of everyday life can happen if you think differently if your brain processes information in a different way. It might not take much for someone to suffer from overwhelm, as they struggle to organise themselves if they are easily distracted and forgetful.

I can now recognise how tired our daughter was at the end of a school day and exhausted by the end of each school year. It all makes more sense, now.  

The ‘tip of the iceberg,’ for me represents the mountain of effort it takes to poke through the surface and appear as though we are coping, managing.

And this can result in limiting what we do, limiting ourselves.

So what have I learned in four years?

  • I am Dyslexic, though I only came to realise this for myself two years ago.  
  • To work with our strengths and accept where we both struggle. Accept our Dyslexic brains.
  • Dyslexia is ongoing; some struggles are daily. But then so are the things at which we excel.  
  • Patience, this is something that is occasionally in short supply, especially during these times. And I have no excuse to offer, even with my own Dyslexia.
  • To leave enough space for her to think, to avoid filling in the blanks and not jump in with my conclusions  before she has had time to gather and process her thoughts.
  • Unlike me, I now understand that she needs to process her thoughts verbally. She appears to need to hear herself think.
  • Coach her towards creating strategies that support her learning.
  • We both need to do our work in short, sharp bursts. And then we need to move physically, for an alternate focus.
  • Like me, I think she needs to prime her brain to be at her best. We can both cobble together something off the cuff if necessary, but being repeatedly asked to do this can be anxiety-inducing and exhausting.
  • To coach her to start, get something down on paper even if it is not perfect. Editing and reviewing are our new best friends. Trying for perfection first time is unrealistic and stops us both in our tracks. It is a kind of procrastination and avoidance.
  • We both need routines, but specifics work best for my child, not abstract ideas. We also need a clear structure – a container within which we can work, along with permission to break out at times.
  • To-do lists are helpful but not so long, they overwhelm and distract.
  • If you are the parent of a child with SpLD, it is probably down to you to drill down to understand what it means for your child. 

But most of all, I have learned to respect and love the brains we have. 

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

A letter to the Queen………..

I first wrote about this incident in 2014, and again in 2016 to celebrate the Queen’s 90th.  Now in 2020 with the global pandemic and the general state of Christmas, I feel compelled to give it another airing.

It still makes me smile to this day, so without further ado, I give you: 

A letter to the Queen………………..

“Your majesty.”

Is how I imagine the letter of complaint about me and the service I was running might have begun? Unfortunately, at the time, I did not have the foresight to take a copy of the letter, or I might not have had the opportunity.

This incident which occurred in 1997, taught me one fundamental lesson. If you are going to put ‘pen to paper’ and write a letter of complaint – then go straight to the top, do not ‘mess about’ with the people in between.

As believe it or not this letter of complaint addressed to our Queen at Buckingham palace made its way over a few weeks (It did not take long) to my employer at the time. The first I heard of it was when my line manager waved a copy of it under my nose one morning and asked me to give him some background. Warning me that I was to be questioned further by Senior Management.

Luckily for me, or maybe due to some prescience, I had laboriously copied out all the correspondence between myself and the author of the letter and so had a thick file of correspondence to present to Senior Management.

I was not worried, to be honest.  I genuinely felt that we had done the best we could in the circumstances. We were operating in a time before emails, video links, Skype etc. So perhaps our mistake was in being too optimistic in agreeing to support this student living in Hong Kong.

With hindsight, I probably should have taken this to my manager at an earlier stage, after being sent the same pieces of work three or four times. Each time with the same mistakes, comments and corrections by the tutor, nothing seemed to move on.

Presented with my file, Senior Management could see what had happened, could see there was no fault attached to either party and decided that it made sense to refund his fees in full. They also wrote to the Queen’s office to assure them that the matter was now closed.

As for me, I continued with this employer for a few more years before deciding to move on and start my own business.

But it tickles me that somewhere within the vaults at Buckingham Palace there is a letter of complaint about me and it tickles me that it found its way to my employer. Today I also feel a sense of pride that I live in a country where anyone from anywhere in the world can write to our Queen and potentially have their cause taken up.

Now that is what I call accountability. 😊

So, there you have it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

https://www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk/

No Novelist here, thank you very much

‘It could be a novel, then?’

Six words that stopped me in my tracks recently while I was talking to someone about my writing, and my work in progress.

For three years, I have been telling myself that I am merely writing a collection of stories, nothing more, nothing less. And it is this mind trick, this sleight of hand that has enabled me to put down some 100,000 words for my project, alongside the writing I do for my blogs and the work I do as a career coach.  

In twelve years, I have published hundreds of posts on the four different blogs I manage. I have no idea how many words that represent, but if I had set myself the task of writing a novel, I would not have written a single syllable.

The idea of being a novelist does not sit right with me, and maybe that will be the subject of another post. But interestingly, it took someone else to point out the obvious that I have practically written a novel. At some level, I must have realised that setting this as a goal for myself would have limited me, held me back. Ironic, that I had to use a tale to write my own.

Though being Dyslexic, I tend to write in short sharp bursts; I cannot write 1000s of words in a single day, let alone in a single sitting. Which is why I started with one short story, this seemed manageable, doable. Then with the encouragement and support of my writing group, I kept writing and adding stories.  Putting down a few words, a few sentences every day. Spurred on by one remarkable piece of advice from one very dear member of the group:

‘Do something related to your project every day – does not have to be writing, could be research, note-taking, editing – but do something on it every day.’

Once I was further into my project, the same person then suggested I write a summary for each story. And this has helped me structure, my work and focus on what I wanted each to convey.

Bloody hell, my work in progress is now at 100,000 words, apparently the same size as a PhD thesis. Mum would be pleased 😊; she always wanted me to complete one 😉.

I have tricked myself into getting this far – now let us see what happens next.

So, there you have it until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Quotes for life, Quotes for work

No act of kindness, no matter how small is ever wasted – Aesop

I still remember the kindness of the people I worked with, in my first full-time job, thirty years ago. One was a senior manager inviting two penniless recent graduates around for Sunday lunch with him and his wife. Two, whoever it was that voted to give me a second chance after a poor performance review. I would have been in big trouble had I lost this job; instead, I ended up staying with them for over four years.

So, who do you remember with gratitude and affection?

You get in life what you have the courage to ask for – Oprah Winfrey

This quote reminds me of a young woman who came into our Learning shop one day to ask if we were taking on volunteers. As the manager, I could see how nervous she was, in approaching us, but I still admire her for having the courage to come in and ask.

It also reminds me that it was during my first degree that I learnt to ask for more from life, the single most empowering thing that came out of those four years. 

So, what do you need the courage to ask for?

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall – Confucius

It took seven attempts for me to pass my driving test almost thirty years ago, but I am so glad I stuck at it because once I did it flipped a switch and I then went on to achieve a whole host of other things.

So, how will you pick yourself up today?

Instead of seeing the rug pulled from under us, we learn to dance on a shifting carpet – Thomas F. Crum

Makes me laugh as I imagine myself hopping and skipping about on a moving carpet. It is how I  think about change and the need to embrace it, go with it willingly rather than being dragged along.

So, how good are you with change? 

I’ve learned over the years, that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear – Rosa Parks

Reminds me that there are times when you need to commit and go for it. Direct your energy and focus on producing the change you want, rather than worrying over it.

So, what do you need to commit to today?  

A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it; it just blooms – Lao Tzu

Reminds me that far too many of us are needlessly comparing ourselves to what we see other people, doing on Social Media. We are perhaps struggling with Fear of Missing Out and the accumulation of ‘likes’ on our feeds.  Now more than ever, I believe we need to focus on our own journey and allow others to do the same.   

So, with whom are you needlessly comparing yourself?

Talk to yourself like you would someone you love – Brene Brown 

Because, why would you not? And you are the one person who is always listening. 

So, how are you talking to yourself? And would you really, speak to your best friend like this?

There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it’s going to be a butterfly – R Buckminster Fuller 

Do not allow others to define you; write your future out for you. Very little in my early life points to me having access to higher education, let alone running my own business. And this is from someone who had remedial reading classes in the days before we talked about Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and Dyscalculia.

So, how much do you believe in your potential? 

Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day saying, ‘ I will try again tomorrow.’ – Mary Anne Radmacher 

With everything currently going on, I can recognise there are people living lives of quiet desperation, who still turn up every day to do what needs to be done.

So, how will your courage show up today? 

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose – Dr Seuss 

Another quote that makes me laugh but also reminds me that we can recognise the resources, support, and power we already have. We do not have to wait for society’s permission to make a start. Start the research, the writing, the singing, the degree, the apprentice

That’s it, until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

Keep showing up, come what may

In the immediate aftermath of George Floyd’s killing – I found myself teetering between bone weariness and diabolical rage. I could not make sense of any of it, my outrage, my anger, my hurt, my dismay was all bundled up in a knot that took me some time to untangle.

I still do not know how this will affect me in the long-term, but one thing I am noticing is my fierce determination to keep showing up, come what may.

SSB 1 March 2019

In the early days, I watched in a daze as events unfolded around the world, on social media, and in the area where I live. I noticed and appreciated how some people were able to share their thoughts with care and consideration. I looked for and found leadership and guidance from those people who laid out their feelings in a coherent way. While I could barely string a sentence together, I was still in the middle of a rant, with thoughts like, ‘why bother?  Nothing is ever going to change,’ careering through my head.

So, what helped?

Two things,

I read – the articles and posts from other black people who were able to marshal their emotions and thoughts and express them so eloquently and, I followed others that were also struggling, realising that I was not alone in this.

I wrote, free-flow in my journal, allowing myself to put it all on paper. Get it out of my head, and my heart and dump it all on the page. Better to heave it out onto the page, my rage, my disgust, my fear, than have it churning around inside of me.

To quote, Alice Walker, ‘writing saved me from the sin and inconvenience of violence.’

Today, I am more contained and calmer as I have settled on a way of being through this.

So, as a black woman, I am fiercely determined to:

  • Keep showing up come what may.
  • Get my writing out into the public domain.
  • Have those conversations with white friends and colleagues.
  • Celebrate black excellence wherever I find it.
  • Remain vigilant, watch what people do as well as what they say
  • Continue to support those who speak out against racism.

So, there you have it

Until next time

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk

 

 

 

Standing by your colleagues

‘Jackie Robinson was the first black player in the US to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s colour barrier, he faced jeering crowds in every stadium. Playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he made an error, and his own fans began to boo him. As he stood humiliated at second base, ‘Pee Wee’ Reese came over and stood next to him, put his arm around Robinson and they faced the crowd together. ‘

Source: – UCB July 2014

I am still processing all that has happened in the USA with George Floyd, and I have more to say around this topic. But for the moment the story above reminds me of an incident that happened to someone I know, let us call her Sue (not her real name) while in a meeting at work.

careerresilience friends

The story then goes onto explain how the crowd grew quiet, the game continued, and Robinson acknowledged, that one arm around his shoulder probably saved his career. There are times when others need to step forward and stand with you. When someone made a racist remark in a meeting with Sue present, there was no one who ‘put an arm’ around her. Over the years, we have discussed this and recognise that in many ways, this was the most disappointing and upsetting aspect of the whole sorry business.

Clearly, some of the people in that meeting had not heard the remark, some were perhaps shocked, others might have been deeply embarrassed, and others still might not have taken the comment seriously. We will never know for sure – what we do know for certain is that no one challenged the comment publicly (not sure if anyone else challenged privately, either). On this occasion, there was no ‘Pee Wee’ Reese to stand shoulder to shoulder with Sue.

After some reflection, Sue did take it further with her manager, and there was eventually some resolution as people were able to sit around the table and sensibly talk through the event. Sue did come away feeling that she had addressed the issue to the best of her ability, I guess we both wished that ‘in the moment’ someone else could have stepped forward to stand with her and acknowledge the wrongness of the remark.

I believe that in situations like these, you are fine if you know, your friends and colleagues have your back.

So, there you have it until next time.

Janice Taylor

www.blueskycareerconsulting.co.uk