32 things I have learnt this year

what I learnt2013 is almost over. Now is the time for quiet reflection on our achievements, beating ourselves up about the things we didn’t do and planning what we must achieve in 2014.

I’ve learnt a lot this year. Below is my list in no particular order.

  1. To be more thick-skinned. You can’t be all things to all people. Not everyone has to like you. If people don’t like you – its their problem.
  2. When people say they will ‘try’ to do something it really means that they can’t be bothered to do something. (Yoda was right – ‘Do. Or not do. There is no try’)
  3. Olives taste horrible. I keep checking. I have relearnt this again this year.
  4. Some people just drain your energy. Avoid them and spend time with people who give you energy (and you give energy to – in a positive energy exchange – yay).
  5. Hobbits are 3ft tall.
  6. I really can’t sing at all. And I really enjoy it so I’m going to keep doing it anyway.
  7. What people say and what people mean can be two different things. If a British person tells you that your idea is interesting they really mean that they think you are crazy.
  8. Sometimes we make bad decisions based on emotion. This is normal. We all do it. It’s just life. Just work to put the bad decision right.
  9. Given the opportunity always buy a stranger a gin and tonic.
  10. It’s easier to get from North London to Paddington by going to Ladbroke Grove and then walking. Its only 5 minutes walk. Who knew?!
  11. Never buy cheap porridge oats – it’s a false economy. I had to relearn this one too.
  12. A way of making decisions is using the 10/10/10 rule.  It helps us to think about how we feel about our decision 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now and 10 years from now.  It helps get perspective. I’ve used this a lot and its good.
  13. Worry about the things you can change and accept the things you can’t. I worried about turning 40 for ages. It was pointless. And it turns out that being 40 is fine.
  14. How to make cheese.  And that it’s not that straightforward to buy ash for the cheese on the internet because the internet thinks you might use it to make bombs – not cheese.
  15. The things that scare you most are the things that you should absolutely do.
  16. To appreciate whisky. In fact I love the stuff now.
  17. People and situations are not always what they seem.  And that’s ok.
  18. Awesome people find each other. If you are reading this you will know who you are.
  19. The kindness and compassion of strangers can be incredible. Be that kind stranger.
  20. Always wear waterproof mascara (or no make up) on a long haul flight. You will cry at films – and unless you are Alice Cooper – the Alice Cooper look is bad.
  21. The night buses in Argentina are fantastic. Who knew?
  22. Don’t compare yourself to other people. Just work really hard at being the best you that you can be.
  23. More people are making it up as they go along than you could possibly imagine. And that’s OK.
  24. Eating dinner in the dark is a learning experience. It’s harder and also funnier than you think and teaches you a lot more about human beings than just eating.
  25. If you travel on public transport, it will break at least half the time and you will get no refund or apology.
  26. Collaboration is good. It is not the same as decision by committee, which generally is very bad.
  27. I know the difference between rat poo and mouse poo (I could happily have gone through this year/my whole life without learning this).
  28. To construct sentences that do not need apostrophes because I am so bad at using apostrophes correctly.
  29. I know how to roast a turkey. I am actually now #princessofpoultry.
  30. Asking for forgiveness is normally better than asking permission. And it’s scary to do. (see point 15)
  31. Better to aim too high and miss the target than aim for something incremental and uninspiring and achieve it.
  32. A Snickers Duo bar is 8 and a half inches long.

If you are not learning – then what’s the point? What have you learnt this year that you would like to share?

See you in 2014.




We’ve got your back

improv cardsBack in February I wrote this list of 40 things. I’ve done quite a few things on the list. But there is still more to do.

Recently I completed no 7 – Do an improvisation class.

When I wrote the list it seemed like a really great idea. When ages ago I signed up to an ‘Improv for Beginners Evening Class’ with the promise of six weeks of a ‘fun friendly and supportive environment with no previous experience needed’ I thought great – what is the worst that can happen?

At the beginning of November in the afternoon before my first class I almost talked myself out of going. Too much work to do, too tired, too cold, too far etc (Ever done this? Sound familiar?). I tried to talk myself out of going because I was scared. I was scared of what I might have to do. I was scared of the unknown. I was scared that I was going to have to spend two uncomfortable hours in a room of extroverted drama students trying really hard to be funny. It would have been much easier to convince myself that it wasn’t for me and stick in my comfort zone. But I’m so glad I didn’t.

Improv isn’t doing comedy or being funny – although it can be. According to our friends at wiki it’s about creating action without pre planning. It’s about reacting in the moment.

And being able to react in the moment is a good skill for life. I’ve learnt way more than I can cover in one blog post in the last 6 weeks.

The biggest learning for me has been learning that it’s OK to fail. Because no matter what you say or do, whatever ridiculous thing blurts out of your mouth it’s the job of the team to accept what you say, work with it and keep building on ideas.  So whatever you do or say ‘the rule of improv’ is that your team has got your back. And that feels great.

Now just think about how cool that would be if that rule applied to ‘real life’.

I’ve written several blogs about the importance of learning from failure and building an environment where taking risks and failing is OK. And whilst we all generally agree with the theory, it is much harder in practice to push ourselves out of our comfort zones, risk failing at something and then stand up and shout about it.

But imagine how much more good work could get done if we were not so afraid to fail?

So if you are serious about creating that environment in your work; with your team or in your personal life, where it really is ok to fail, I absolutely suggest that you give improv a go. Because that’s how you learn, through experience, by taking risks, putting yourself on the line, knowing what it feels like to be part of a supportive team which gives you the confidence to experiment without fear because – your team has your back.

The guys that have my back are Hoopla! I love them and my new team so much I’m going to do their next course.

This blog was bought to you by the number 7. 

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