Friday, 30 March 2012

Thinking Time

A man is not idle because he is absorbed in thought.  There is a visible labor and there is an invisible labor  ~ Victor Hugo

This week has been a fast one. I attended the Spring Conference hosted by the Chartered Institute of Marketing on Wednesday and yesterday, I had an office day with my financial services company. Both of which I enjoyed hugely. It never ceases to amaze me how The Universe conspires to throw new ideas at me at any given opportunity. Mind you, give me an opportunity to learn something new and I am a very happy bunny. I am an eternal student and I embrace any learning opportunity.

I have been feeling a bit impatient with myself for not getting on with planning my Event, getting things sorted. The Conference on Wednesday reassured me there were good reasons for going softly, softly. Much of my idea is still amorphous and that's not a bad thing. It's meant I've had the time to think things through. What I learnt on Wednesday, I'll be able to put to good use. How exactly, I'm still working through. 

What has come through very strongly, is that the business model is changing. Consumers are making the best use of the Internet and are not only making informed decisions about what they buy, but they're also telling other people about their experiences: both good and bad. They are more invested in the companies they purchase their goods and services from. The old business model, the big corporations telling people what they want and how they'll get it, is giving way to the new. Consumers are asking pertinent questions about business values, ethics and provenance and voting with their feet.

Cost of the new product and service is being taken into account, but, it's not about the cheapest. It's about value. The crop of new, smaller businesses who are providing the unusual, choice and can show provenance like Unbound, Has Bean and Naked Wines are bloodying the noses of their more traditional competition.

It's a very exciting time. And it's a very scary time. The Old ways are a-changing and do we have the resources to keep up? That's what I'm going to be looking at over the next few weeks. Have you any thoughts on the subject? If you're feeling shy, e-mail me. It's on my profile page, or leave a comment on here. I would love to hear of your experiences and thoughts on the subject...or actually, on any subject (this does not include Spammers. If you Spam me, you will be deleted).

Oh yeah, and I've very much appreciate it if you would support my Facebook Page and twitter (I'm @lighthouse_n), I need your luvin! 

Monday, 26 March 2012


"Do we not all agree to call rapid thought and noble impulse by the name of inspiration?"
George Eliot

In my writer's heart, I know I need inspiration as much as I need my next breath. If I'm copywriting, I'll often start off with searching for a quote to set the tone of the piece of writing. As an NLP Practitioner, it's not enough to say to a client "I know you can change, you can get yourself out of this rut." Part of it involves showing the client a new vision of themselves, with the changes they've made already installed, the other is making that vision so desirable that they are propelled into it.

I stopped watching the news on the television and I will occasionally scan media websites to keep myself partially informed, but no more than that. I find it completely uninspiring. I could tell you that if I launched the BBC News Page or the Guardian and scanned the stories I will find: somewhere, someone has committed more atrocities against their fellow human beings; the economy is up shit creek without a paddle; there's a sex scandal involving a politician; the government is saying we can't afford these necessary things...and paying for something really silly.

I don't watch the news because I find myself losing all faith in humanity. And it contradicts what I know in my heart to be true: The World is not going to Hell in a Handbasket. I believe in the innate goodness of people. I believe in their ability to be kind, to be caring and to be loving. I hold on to this belief as much as I hold on to the belief that the sun will rise for me tomorrow.

Perhaps that makes me a dippy-hippy, an idealist, a fool. I'm okay with that. I know these things to be true because I've experienced them. I have had first hand experience of kindness, caring and loving behaviour from the people around me and also complete strangers. It has been these experiences which have inspired me to change my behaviours. It has been these experiences that have inspired me to inspire other people that these things are also true for them.

The basis of NLP is modelling. That is, the founders of NLP tracked down and bugged the heck out of successful people from a wide variety of different disciplines and backgrounds. They studied their behaviours, they looked in minute detail at the way these people organised their thoughts and actions and then they set out to teach other people to do the same.

In that same way, I know how much the role of inspiration has to play in inciting personal change. I know this, because I've experienced it. I am not a personal development guru. I am a person who has had to work really hard for my peace of mind. The issues I faced up to are not unique to me (though some of it is). Here's the thing: if I can do it, then there's no reason why other people can't do it too. 

To this end, I am in the early stages of planning an Event for the end of October. I want to gather together a range of diverse speakers, who will share their thoughts and experiences to the audience to inspire and to motivate. On the back of that, I'll be gathering together all kinds of groovy practitioners to put on workshops so that people can experience these things for themselves. So they'll be inspired and motivated to do something different, so they'll realise there are resources available to help. They are not alone. And that the Life they are dreaming of, is theirs if they want it and work for it.

That's the Plan.

Watch this space!

Sunday, 18 March 2012


Act as if what you do makes a difference.  It does.  ~William James

I have been blessed in my Life. I have been blessed with true friendship and with people who have acted as Lighthouses. They've guided me home, to safe and calm waters, when all around me has been storm and dangerous rocks. I am one lucky woman. 

My experiences have led me to believe that it really is true: no person is an island. We can't do things on our own. We are not meant to. It is through our relationships with other people that we learn who we really are. This is why it's so important to choose your friends and lovers with such care. Your friends and lovers act as mirrors, reflecting back at you, your values and beliefs about yourself and the World in general. 

If your mirrors are distorted, your view of yourself and your World will be distorted. There are some people in Life who are whingers and whiners. Don't get me wrong, I love a good whinge and whine with the best of them. Let's face it, Life really is hard. Shit happens to good people. I think it is important to be able to say so, to acknowledge the situation as it really is. But staying in that whinging and whining mode for any period of time is not a good idea. It saps you of your energy, motivation and lets in helplessness and depression. 

Having people around you who reflect your natural goodness back to you, acts as a reminder that although Life might be shit, you are not. It's also a very good thing to have someone lay it down. If you are acting up, out of your pain; having a good friend give you a kick up the backside is one of the most loving and most helpful things they can do.

My NLP work, I believe is my opportunity to give something back. I've learnt the hard way, so my clients don't need to. And frankly, everyone needs a cheerleader in their Life and it is a privilege to do this.

Monday, 12 March 2012


Because that's what kindness is.  It's not doing something for someone else because they can't, but because you can. Andrew Iskander

The thing I've never gotten over, and I hope I never do, is how kind the people in my Life have been to me. In my darkest hours, the kindness of strangers has helped more than I believe they ever realised. It's come from people you wouldn't expect. I certainly didn't and I was grateful to receive it. The reason I've never gotten over it, is simple. The acts of kindness given to me have enabled me to survive, to grow, to blossom. In short, it's only through kindness that I have the Life I have longed for.

Kindness from strangers: a smile, an act of courtesy, a helping hand, a five minute passing time conversation, an encouraging comment on my blog or on Facebook; they all add up. Strangers become friends. 

It's a vastly under-rated virtue. Where do you see it on the wish-list in the dating profiles? Is it there next to good sense of humour, good looking? It took me awhile to figure out that it's one of my main requirements in my relationships...and I don't mean just with men. Kindness must be the cornerstone of all relationships, both with yourself and with other people.

It's impossible to hold on to anger with someone else if you're kind. It's impossible to be horrid to yourself, if you're gentle with yourself.

Kindness is not by any means weakness. Some people get the two mixed up. More fool them. Kindness is also the swift kick up the backside to encourage movement, growth and to halt stupidity. Yes, I've had a few of them too. They've been hard to take. But then, what I did to myself and other people was worse. Kindness in the face of anger and rejection is hard to do, but so worthwhile.

I don't believe this World is going to Hell in a handbasket. I've been shown far too much caring, compassion and kindness for this outcome to be a given. Can you imagine how much things would change if we were kind to each other on a global level? Perhaps soldiers would put down their weapons, pick bandages and heal wounds instead...and their governments would let them. I don't believe anyone ever got PTSD from kindness.

But let's get real for a minute, how much can one act of kindness change things for everyone? You'd be surprised how kindness ripples out. I was taught kindness and now I try to pass it on. If I've smiled at someone in the street, perhaps I lighten their day, perhaps when they go home, they hug the person they love? Perhaps the person they love goes into work the next morning a little bit lighter? Why not? And what's wrong with that?

Life is hard. That's a universal truth, whoever you are. If you accept that, you've then got two choices: you can fight - yourself and other people, or you can do what you can to lighten yours and other peoples' burdens. It doesn't mean you need to don robes and shave your head, in fact unless you receive a spiritual calling, it's probably not a good idea. It just means that you bring a little kindness to your daily life.

I suppose I'm not interested in small details. I'm interested in the big stuff, which is why I tend to blog. It gives me the scope to explore these ideas. It explains in part why I became an NLP Practitioner, though I suspect that's a whole other blog post.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Norwich's First Coffee Festival

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee's frothy goodness.  
~Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

Anyone who follows me on Facebook and twitter, soon discovers that most of my status updates start with 'Drinking coffee in my pink, fluffy dressing gown'. For me, any day which starts with a cup of good coffee, is a good day. I have been known to have a small nervous breakdown when my coffee machine packed up. I like my coffee, like I like my men: strong, hot and steamy. I used to have Taylor and Harrogate's Hot Lava Java and thought that was heaven. Until, I met Dave, who showed me where to get truly great coffee in Norwich.

Ladies and Gentlemen, there is truly great coffee to be had in Norwich. I will not voluntarily set foot in a coffee house chain again. Not when there are local business serving fantastic coffee with the fanaticism of a wine connoisseur. Not when they source coffee that takes Fair Trade to the point where their suppliers fly around the world, out to the coffee plantation to meet with the farmers and pay over and above what's considered a fair price for awesome coffee.

Going to The Window is like rocking up to Hayley's front room. There's just enough space for 8 people to sit comfortably (hoping everyone doesn't mind touching elbows and knocking the occasional knee). Hayley recently tweeted that she got 15 people in there. Not sure how she managed it, but she did. She knows her customers by name and it's a place to be sociable. I've met some fantastic people, doing amazing things with their lives. I get my morning coffee from The Window; I'm currently drinking her House Blend. 

Strangers Coffee House, is a slightly different experience. Firstly, there's more space, which means I've been able to drag people there for quiet World Domination meetings. The coffee again is outstanding. Alex is truly a master barista. His coffee is a work of art. I knew I was with the right person when I took a picture of a latte and Dave didn't think me odd.

Is this not a thing of beauty?
You think I take my coffee seriously? Dave is a judge for the UK Barista Championships and he travels the country judging baristas' offerings. The things I've learnt! I'm glad I'm not a judge, 4 good cups of coffee is my limit. Even then the caffeine jag is hard to bear. The thought of having to judge an espresso, a cappuccino and a signature drink (the drink by which the baristas get to play with coffee) for anywhere from 10 to 16 competitors. I'd be intolerable by the end of the day. 

Yesterday, Norwich hosted it's first Coffee Festival and the Midlands Heat of the UK Barista Championships. I had a World Domination meeting, so I didn't start my day there, but went for the afternoon session. It was held at The Space, up at Rowndtree Way. The main auditorium was filled with coffee suppliers and stands from local businesses. There were opportunities to try out coffee prepared with an aeropress and also, the competing baristas happily made coffee for attendees for contributions to a coffee charity. 

What a brilliant event to have in Norwich. Now granted, I'm biased. Alex, from Strangers was competing and I did want to see him strut his stuff, but even so, I was very pleased to have spent an afternoon wandering around. I like spending time with people who are passionate about their trade. It was a warm and welcoming event. Now bearing in mind I knew Dave, who was judging and Alex, who was competing (and no, Dave didn't judge Alex, everyone was keen to ensure the impartiality of the competition). By the time the event came to an end, I was on first name terms with the suppliers and most of the competitors. I was a bit lighter in the pocket and I had some great samples of coffee, which I shared. Competitors were keen to talk shop, but in a friendly and out of a genuine love of their craft. Check out this:

It's a dragon, innit. Amazing considering it was done in a paper cup.
One of the baristas was on the Coffee Bar and I couldn't resist showing off one of Alex's masterpieces. Well, who told me to do that? The next thing I knew, I was in the midst of a Latte Art Smack Down. Out came the mobile phones as they showed off their creations. Everything from multiple hearts to Indian Chief heads. Amazing. And I can vouch that the dragon looked and tasted great too.

I am especially pleased to announce that Alex placed second in the competition! The bar was set high and for his first time he performed really well. Now, we wait for the results of the remaining heats to see whether he makes it to the semi-finals. It's done on points, so we've got a bit of a wait. I'm keeping my fingers crossed though. But what a great result for Norwich! He did us proud.

Fingers crossed, this will be an annual event. I'm already looking forward to it!

PS. I have permission to name names, but please be aware that this post represents my own opinions and only them.