#BEDM17 My favourite quote, and why

I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

“Everything will be okay in the end, so if everything is not okay then it is not the end.”

OK, so it’s an overdone one and although most of the Internet seems to be convinced it’s a John Lennon quote, while others seem to say it comes from an Indian proverb. I’m not sure what the truth is, and I’m not sure how true what the quote says is either but it’s a nice thought, and we should all hold as many of those as we can.

Each year about 6,500 people in the UK decide that everything is so not OK that it is the end for them. More men make the decision than women, making men about three times more likely to take their own life than women.

Back in 2010, at the end of May, my dad became one of those 6,500 people a year and, although I can still re-live each aspect of the day (and even the evening before, when I spoke to him by phone), I still can’t really put much of this stuff into words.

My dad, alone on that night in May, decided that everything was not OK, and that it was the end. And as someone who, aside from being very clever beyond that he’d ever have admitted or realised, was well known for being stubborn and dogged this quote, when I heard it in that film about India, joined up some neurons that’ve stuck.

It’s OK to not be OK. It’s OK to ask for help. And it’s OK to just do your best if people in your life need you to help them.

He’d have been 62 today.

#BEDM17 The call to PR: too late or too early?

I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

Today’s another of those posts where the title’s been in my head for a while, but I’ve never quite managed to put the words down. Maybe my #BEDM17 ‘write and publish’ approach will make it easier?

It’s something that at work I’m plagued with. Some people think that communications about a project should be a healthy step ahead of the reality while others are cautious to the point of concern.

There are risks either way: if you’re doing things no one else is then talking about them is a scary thing. It can go wrong, it can end up not happening or – even worse I think – when real people start hearing about it they can point out the down sides you’d not considered.

On the other hand, going too late carries a risk too because there’s a good chance that by the time you are confident talking about it someone else will have already done it, talked about it and made what you’re doing seem either normal or copy-cat-ish.

And that’s even before you consider the internal aspects: stakeholders’ objectives are often the complete reverse of one another, and the opinions of what you’re doing, introducing or changing ‘on the ground’ might not match with what you want to say too.

This is especially true of technology projects, where the tech might be good and even delivering good outcomes like you’d hoped, but the experience of using them – for someone who has done it the other way for 30 years – isn’t seen an improvement.

Sometimes it’s possible to manage them all: I pushed for the ‘go earlier’ approach on one particular announcement a few months ago and the coverage was great, even being picked up for a discussion by a professional body with some more positive coverage and discussion around it on Facebook.

It was, undoubtedly, positive for reputation.

But I had to manage internal issues for more than a month after, because the view internally was that it had made a bad impression and what we’d said was ‘spin’.

I’ve been through and checked and everything that’s been included in the release we sent out can be backed up with data. The release was signed off as it should’ve been, too.

So while it achieved my objective of scoring positive coverage for an achievement, it’s probably made things more difficult for line managers and perhaps even caused a ‘them and us’ situation.

It’ll probably make getting the next release signed off that title bit harder.

Going earlier isn’t always the right call, but in this case I think I’d not have been doing my job right to let it get delayed.

It’s a tough one.

Photo credit: Sean MacEntee via Foter.com / CC BY

#BEDM17 Encouragement

I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

Encouragement is great isn’t it? It’s an essential part of life, a part of why stuff happens and an absolute essential if you’re line managing people.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned that’s different about managing people in an office-type job instead of a shop-type job it’s that encouragement is not only an essential in the former and optional in the latter but also is something that people don’t produce all for themselves.

I’ve always been rather self-sufficient in this department. Lucky enough to only have to do stuff I enjoyed or, as I like to see it, I’ve been lucky enough to think in a way that means I can find a reason to do almost anything I’ve ever been asked to.

There’s no other way that I’d have survived those years sat in a call centre asking people what they thought about a recent visit to a bank branch otherwise.

But encouragement is a tricky thing, so it seems. I found myself mightily discouraged a couple of months ago by what the giver probably thought would be tremendous help.

You see, I think encouragement becomes significantly demotivating when it’s used to try and encourage something which is being viewed as impossible. I received just this kind of effect recently when my tutor emailed me about deferring my final submission on the CIPR Diploma in Public Relations which I was originally due to finish in April.

You see, work got a little bit hectic as we grew the amount of work we were doing by half and it all culminated on 31 March – the same day as ‘hand in’ for the 6,000 word final research project was due.

I enquired about deferring and my tutor gave me the information I needed, including confirming that there was pretty much no reason not to ‘go late’. No penalty, and a hell of a weight off my mind.

But she followed it up with an encouragement to do as much as possible and try and head for the first deadline anyway. Most people loose momentum if they don’t finish it first time, and I might be surprised by what I could get done she reasoned.

It’s a fair call, but it continued. Having confirmed by reply that I wanted to go ahead with the deferral I was again encouraged to ‘get it out of the way’ and go for the earlier deadline.

As it was I managed to complete about 1,500 words ahead of the deadline – and all in the lit review.

While the (demotivating) encouragement didn’t really have a negative effect on my work, it really did make me question whether I was being monumentally stupid and missing something in making the decision.

She seemed very keen, and seemed to be inferring I was making the wrong call. I’m sure she meant nothing by it, and otherwise her advice has been spot on, but the issue remained.

So after a year of learning how useful encouragement can be (and that other people need it, too) this year also taught me that encouragement can be discouraging if someone’s made their mind up.

So if someone comes to me in a similar situation I’m going to make sure I encourage their decision, provided they’re not missing something of course, instead.

We all face so many pressures from so many directions that helping the tide of good decisions along probably isn’t a bad thing.

Photo credit: Foter.com

#BEDM17 Help me fix Christmas

I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

Today I wanted to write about something that’s been on my chest for a while, saved as a blog title for a while and which I’ve written 3 or 4 times now. There’s no good way to say this.

Every year, as December gets closer and the decorations start to go up (way too early, of course) in the shops the question that falls into everyone’s mind is, of course, “what do you want for Christmas?”.

When you’re young, that question is a very different proposition to what it is when you’re older. Back then the question was one of possibility, excitement and of a lifting of the rules on being ‘demanding’.

I can remember a good few hours each year scanning through the John Moore’s catalogue with a pen, ready to circle anything I fancied. The result: I got some of it, and forgot about the other bits because I’d never really wanted them anyway.

Having Christmas and my Birthday so close together was great too – combing presents together produced the ultimate value. No one is realistically going to leave a child without a present on their actual birthday are they?

As an adult, that’s all different. The question ‘what do you want for Christmas?’, I have to say, fills me with dread – because, as I usually answer, I don’t know.

But actually, I do – I’ve just had trouble articulating it, at least in part because I’m worried about how it sounds.

The things I want are time and people based. I want more time at home, fewer hours on trains and the chance to just ‘be’. I want to fix problems I can’t.

So the answer to “what do you want for Christmas?” is actually quite simple: a visit, an experience, a meal, a letter, a card. Or if none of that ticks your boxes then help some charities that mean some things to me do stuff instead.

  • I like the NSPCC, because my Dad believed so much in their work helping other children avoid some of the things he faced as a child.
  • And I like CALM because they’re campaigning for men’s mental health problems to be treated equally with women’s, and to persuade more men that it’s OK to reach out for help. 75% of suicides are men, despite the proportion of women and men suffering from poor mental health being about the same.

Photo credit: Foter.com

#BEDM17 Something you should read

I’m blogging every day in May, for no particular reason other than I can. I’ve come up with 31 topics and I’m going to bash on my keyboard about each of them. If you enjoy them then you’re welcome; if you don’t, then why are you still here?

If you’re remotely interested in how the Internet is affecting how people perceive stuff to have happened then there’s an article you should definitely be reading over on Buzzfeed.

It’s all about how left-wing sites like The Canary and ‘Another Angry Voice’ are shaping a certain section of the Internet with their ‘anti-Right’ coverage, how they’re very effectively making use of Facebook’s algorithm to keep people in a bubble, and provoking the inevitable thought about what will happen should the country not find itself swept with socialism on 9 June.

I make an effort to follow media I don’t agree with. During the last general election, I realised that somehow my social media had become significantly more left-wing than I am and this time round I’m noticing that perhaps I took it a little bit too far the other way.

But that’s not a bad thing: because I like seeing stuff I disagree with and, although like every other human I’m constantly trying to look at the reasons why it’s the article that’s wrong not me, I think it’s healthy to be challenged on what you think regularly.

While everything has its place (and if you enjoy The Canary then I’m very happy for you) what concerns me about many of these sites is their ‘logic jumps’. Some of them are necessary to make headlines which will get clicks, but other times it’s really hard to see how the evidence (and often it is very well backed up evidence) presented can end up in the place it does unless the intention was to get there.

Journalism doesn’t have to be completely impartial – it can take a line, it can present a story in a certain way or influence how quotes are presented – all the while presenting both sides, but what The Canary et al do seems to me to be more than that.

It’s spoon-feeding fully formed thoughts, rather than provoking them through (albeit, perhaps biased) writing – and that isn’t where I want the world to go to be honest.

Photo credit: quimby via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA