Category: Essays

01
May

Living Without Attachment

MANY REGARD LIVING WITHOUT ATTACHMENT AS A VIRTUE AND SOMETHING TO WHICH TO ASPIRE. But, in my experience no amount of striving, even for those who meditate, can bring you to this state. To strive for such a state is to be attached to it and so paradoxically the very thing sought carries within it a kernel which makes it an inevitable impossibility.

Just over a month ago I was living happily in Turkey. I loved both the people and the climate. Life revolved around domestic chores, servicing the needs of Irem my partner, and twelve year old daughter. Every day I would walk and make some photographs, cook lunch, write a little, wash-up and smile.

It’s now been a couple of years since the day when, whilst wiping up some dishes, I felt the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders and knew that, despite appearances, all is well and as it should be.

Attachment to Prematurely Editing Self-Talk
Simply Reinforces The Ego

With this realization came a detachment from the habitual self-talk in my head. I had listened to this intently in the past and let it create all kinds of emotions within. As a psychotherapist I come across articles by those who suggest we rewrite our self-talk – reframing these words to be more positive. It doesn’t really work because words aren’t the source of anxiety they are, rather, a consequence of it.

The words in my head didn’t stop with the cessation of anxiety. Now, however, I find I have the power to edit and rewrite them without adding a personal level of judgmental stress.

Happy in Hartland

Today celebrates my second week living in Hartland, Devon. I am still lodged in a B & B, but very comfortable here. I was roped into selling books in aid of The Small School, because my daughter is now a pupil. It was a wonderful morning in which I met all manner of sociable people living simple, ecologically-based lives. Certainly, there seemed no sign of the ambitious hurly-burly world of Istanbul where I was just two weeks ago.

I am amazed because the cold, some might say, inclement weather seems to warm my soul.

Abandoning A Mediterranean Beach

How can this be so? The recent past of swimming off a Mediterranean beach already seems a dream of yesterday. It’s fading, whilst life today is three dimensional. Were I attached to the past I would be enduring pain, rather than the bliss that comes from being open to possibility. Such openness is an unexpected quality of living without attachment.

Many in the Non-Dualist community claim we can do nothing to bring about such a way of being. Fundamentally, I agree, but since each of us is simply pure being experiencing a unique mysterious reality bubble in which we appear to be an individual who can make choices there’s no shame in going along with this game of life, provided we don’t get suckered into believing we’re really a person deciding anything.

Living The Dream

Think of a dream. In it you seem to make choices, even if the normal laws of physics no longer apply, or you have special powers such as the ability to fly. When you awaken, however, you tell yourself it was all a dream. Today I regard everyday reality as also a dream. For me life is like an infinite Russian doll in which being is layered upon being, a dream within a dream, within a dream.

So if you are riddled with attachment and negative self-talk, or believe that the world is a terrible place, why not pretend that you accept that what happens is what happens, eschew making up stories to explain events, and simply attend to what comes along.

Terry Cooper, a former director of Alpha House, the U.K’s first therapeutic community for those suffering addiction problems, once shared with me a metaphor that seems apposite. It dates from days when milk was delivered to people’s doorsteps in bottles.

Terry advised that when milk was delivered we should take it in and keep it fresh. We might put it on tea, or coffee. We could make porridge, or add it to corn-flakes. Later we might bake cakes, or even Yorkshire Pudding, or Welsh Rarebit. If any, then, is left we make a milky pudding. At the end of the day we wash the bottle and leave it on the step to await the morning and a new delivery.

We have choices about how we consume our milk, and even if we choose to wash out the bottle or return it unwashed to the door-step. But what happens at the dairy, or the farm, or in the families of milk or cowmen isn’t our concern, We cannot influence them, or even pretend to do so.

I think this a great metaphor for how to engage with life, even if milk-men now only exist in that dream we call the past.

 

28
Feb

Publication Today Is So Unlike ‘Helmut Newton’s Illustrated’

"Helmut Newton Grave headshot crop" by Ralf Liebau, stimmte der Veröffentlichung unter GNU zu, cropped Beyond My Ken (talk) - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

“Helmut Newton Grave headshot crop” by Ralf Liebau, stimmte der Veröffentlichung unter GNU zu, cropped Beyond My Ken (talk) – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

In 1987 Helmut Newton, often dubbed as the porno-chic photographer, embarked upon what he considered to be his ultimate folly. I’m unsure that June, his wife, would agree, but that’s not what this article is about.

No, Newton’s self-confessed folly was in creating his own magazine. He called it Helmut Newton’s Illustrated. The first edition was themed: ‘Sex and Power’.

No longer printed, Helmut Newton’s Illustrated was a business disaster!

He should have known better. He really should. For years he had hung out on the edges of magazine publication. He was a photographer under contract for Vogue Magazine. He worked for Jocelyn Stevens‘ ‘Queen‘. After this he was an in-demand freelance. He even had a heart attack working on an assignment for American Vogue, but that was later.

Ian Fleming probably had it right when he stated in an 1964 interview made for CBS that his villains were modeled on sadists and megalomaniacs, respectively dentists and newspaper publishers.

You see, to start a high quality magazine is the ultimate worship of one’s own ego.

There are exceptions. Many smaller publications were set up years ago, when desk top publishing became available, simply to meet local need.

picture-post

Picture Post, (Image Wikimedia).

Where Hulton’s  ‘Picture Post‘ had been Britain’s eye on the world, much like ‘Time‘ was for years its equivalent in America, so ‘The Blackmore Vale Magazine, founded by Alan Chalcraft did much the same for parts of Somerset and North Dorset.

A jewel of a publication Chalcraft started it in his kitchen, and although long ago sold to Northcliffe Media, it’s still published today.

Three of the publications with which I’ve been associated have, like Newton’s illustrated, come and gone. The first died when it’s lost its founder and publisher, the noted Tai Chi Master Linda Chase Broda. She was a driving force who could take the vaguest ‘hippy’ and slap them into focus, so making them take action.

Then there was Ieke Van Stokkum, a Gauloises smoking member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists who taught me more about publishing than I can ever repay her for. Her publication withered as her health left her.

Joe Sinclair ambitiously produced a magazine aimed at human potential. His main failing was that he insisted in typesetting it himself. He should have stuck to writing.

VanityFairNot all magazines are doomed, although everything has a life. Conde Naste‘s publication Vanity Fair was founded in 1913, (as Dress and Vanity Fair), but became a victim of the 1930s’ depression. In February 1983  it was revived under the editorship of Richard Locke, and currently it’s under the stewardship of the fourth editor since it was restored Graydon Carter.

Carter made a very curious statement recently in a film made to promote the Adobe Creative Suite. He said: ‘If I was starting a magazine today I wouldn’t even produce a printed edition.’

Go figure!

This article was first published on ‘Blokes on the Blog’ as ‘Publication Today, Is It Unlike: ‘Helmut Newton’s Illustrated?’,  Jan 4, 2012. Ieke Van Stokkum, journalist and owner of The Forum Publishing Co. died in March, 2015.

12
Jan

Horse Sense: The Art Of Living With An Open Heart

Living with an open heart means being responsive to subtle invitations from the world we seem to inhabit, like in the story of a horse.

Many people talk about the importance of planning, but when it comes to life changing events I find that the biggest don’t seem to be planned at all.

Take for example the chain of events that today finds me learning how to ride a horse. At 64 riding seems a pretty daft thing to do, after all I could easily fall and break my hip or sit down too quickly and squash my testicles; yet today I find myself in the saddle making a complete prat of myself. It’s my second lesson. How did this come about?

Unlike most who take up riding I held no love of horses nor, as a child, did I have any yearn to ride. When I was four my mother sold our house when Dad was out working and we had to rent a flat for the remainder of that year. Then I watched my father give apples to our landlady’s pony. He encouraged me to try, and told me to breath up the beast’s nose. All that seemed to do was to make the thing want to bite me and when I dodged out of the way it would hit me in the eye with a glob of spit.

Back then horses were for me rather like the prospect of school – when I grew up I would avoid both like plagues. And so I did until one day during my twenties as an organiser of summer holiday activities for troubled children I found myself at a riding stable supervising a party for a trek. I learned two things that day:

  1. Aggressive children have a greater fear of horses than mine
  2. Horses have their own agendas, are stronger than humans and are quite prepared do what ever is necessary to get their own way

Years past without me thinking about riding and then I found that I had fathered one of those girls who are illustrated in cartoons by Norman Thelwell.

I hoped that it was a phase; that being led around a field on a Shetland Pony when she was three would satisfy her life’s equestrian ambitions. It didn’t and slowly she moved to riding once, or twice a year, to every week. This was no mean undertaking because commuting to the nearest stables involved a total of three hours on the road, eating out, waiting for a horse to become available, or put on its makeup or whatever it is that delays horses from making their entrance, and ensuring when they do they are regarded as grand.

In those years we encountered lots of different riding instructors, and please don’t tell them I shared this with you, but quite a few of them were a little, I shall put this diplomatically: ‘funny in the head’!

John Wayne, Image Public Domain via Wikimedia

John Wayne, Image Public Domain via Wikimedia

But then who am I to write thus? My legs are killing me right now, I can hardly walk, and when I do it’s like John Wayne. And, can you believe this? – we actually got so pissed off with our weekly commute that we MOVED HOUSE to be five minutes away from the stables.

Little Miss Thelwell now rides every day, and you should see the antics that go on when I go to watch her. There are grown men standing in the saddle, waving their arms around like windmills, whilst little children of just six, and seven years gallop past them as confident as Comanches attacking a wagon train.

You won’t catch me making a spectacle of myself like that, I mused one day whilst sipping a glass of gin and tonic. But then fate turned the knife when my daughter wanted to give a carrot to a two year old she hopes to ride one day. Next door I discovered a grand old man, who was once paired with riders from the national team and now rarely gets what he considers a proper outing.

He reached out from his stall, gave me a shove with his nose before snotting all down my shirt. We became instant friends. Every day for a month I secretly visited him with apples and carrots after my daughter’s lessons.

During that month I found and read a copy of what, in 1995, the Daily Telegraph referred to as ‘The hottest book of the year’. It’s called ‘The Horse Whisperer’ and, even for someone brought up on Jane Austin, Dickens and Shakespeare, I thought Nicholas Evans wrote pretty evocatively. Through his writing, and with a little observation of what went on in the arena, I slowly became able to talk knowledgeably with ample women in jodhpurs as they called in from Europe, Russia, or even more locally from Istanbul, which is only 700 km away. During these moments my mind wandered to the novels of Jilly Cooper, who once wrote: ‘I love the long grass coming up to meet the willows’, which is innocuous save for the fact that she penned it.

By now I was in big trouble, my carrot guzzling friend took to kissing me. He found ways to take my fingers into his powerful jaws, but never champ down with his teeth. He looked at me balefully and I became hypnotized by his hazel eyes. I sought to discover what was going on in that enormous skull. It seemed to contain an alternative universe of such great dimensions that it might take several lifetimes to explore.

His owner put it to me more simply. One day her words confirmed my suspicion. “He is a very old horse who thinks he is still young”. The phrase resonated, for that’s pretty much how many people think of me – no wonder the beast and I share such an affinity.

Last week we made a plan, which I think was his intention from the outset. I would spring him from retirement. The cost of putting him to work is that I now must learn how to ride him. We’re not doing too badly, but I must still look pretty comical.

Unfortunately today our lesson coincided with a visit by a coach load of European journalists. If one day you find yourself eagerly anticipating having a tooth extracted, and in the waiting room discover a magazine with an article featuring a picture of an elderly man standing in the stirrups of an old horse waving his arms like a windmill, then you’re probably looking at a photograph me.

Did I consciously plan any of this? No, certainly not but there is a lesson here. It’s not necessary to plan everything in life if you can live with an open heart and respond to those around you, even when some of them are not even of your own species.

First published as ‘Horse Sense: The Art of Living With An Open Heart’. ‘Blokes on the Blog’, October 16, 2014.

12
Dec

Healing Dentistry

Last year my young daughter decided that she wanted to have her teeth checked over. I didn’t think it necessary but her mother Irem, who is always losing bits from her teeth, thought a check-up would be wise so we got a recommendation and went off to see a local dentist.

He was a rather feeble looking old chap, quite benign but the sort who revels in reading bad news in serious newspapers and then complaining about it.

I was feeling rather proud of my teeth because I rarely visit dentists, the previous time was around twenty years ago when someone almost succeeded in knocking my front teeth out, but that is another story. Anyway in the spirit of family camaraderie we all had our teeth inspected. Naturally I was pretty confident in the result so you can imagine my surprise when the score came out:

  • Irem: “One filling”
  • Amazon: “Three fillings”
  • Me: “You need to see a proper dentist, possibly in a hospital”

Yes, you read that correctly. My teeth were so bad that Dr. Death refused to consider treating me, which was somewhat a relief because I didn’t fancy the great depressive’s pork sausage-like fingers in my gob anyway!

Time passed, and a few of my teeth started to wobble. My father lost his bottom four front teeth at about my age. He had a plate that always chaffed his mouth so he would take it out into his workshop and grind bits off with a Black and Decker drill. From time to time the denture would collapse under his care and he would have to return it politely exclaiming:

“These bloody teeth you sold me are no good.”

To which his long suffering dentist would reply: “What the hell have you been doing with them?”

After a few months of attempting to ram my front teeth back into their sockets by biting on a plank of wood, Sarah Arrow  asked me to appear on a Google Hangout and discuss web site illustration. In the run up to the show Sarah and her co-presenter Ola Agbaimoni commented upon the gap between my two top front teeth. This gap has always been something of a matter of pride because as a boy it meant that I could spit further than most other children because I could squirt saliva through it like a water jet.

Ola thought it made me look like Terry Thomas, but then she was dressed like Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek, so I could easily find it in my heart to forgive her. On the other hand looking at my face up close on the screen did make me wonder about my teeth. They looked strangely crooked, and frankly dead!

Then at the opening of an exhibition of photographs I hosted earlier this year a young dentist had taken the trouble to drive a couple of hours to view my work. My wife introduced us and I instantly fell in love with her, and as you know love conquers all. Of course being of sound ego I knew at once that my love was reciprocated.

She had come with her brother, who proudly told me that his mother was a dentist too. “Oooh, I’m not interested in your mother”, I retorted, perhaps a little too impulsively for his liking.

Eagerly I grabbed her by the arm and introduced her to relatives, friends, and colleagues as ‘my dentist’. I meant it too, because I knew that, even if I had to endure the kinds of physical pain that ‘Babe’ the central character in Marathon Man played by Dustin Hoffman, unlike him, I could just lay back relaxed secure in the knowledge that whatever pain is love is a greater force. Think of the pain of childbirth chaps and you will understand instantly.

I arranged for a lengthy course of dental treatment so I could see my beloved frequently. The surgery was so far from where I lived that I brought my wife, not as chaperone but in order to share the driving. The whole experience was divine.

Upon arrival, for my first appointment, my lovely dentist made me a delicious cup of Turkish coffee, with a little lokum through which to suck it.

“We are friends”, she said in a way that made my heart pitter pat, and then smiled, which made it pitter pat even more.

“Let me take your photograph.”

She clamped my head in a kind of plastic box and a few moments later a dreadful picture of a skull appeared upon her computer screen. It was like something from a horror movie.

“Very good”, she said. “Steve, I will need to remove all of these teeth”. She pointed at the four teeth at the bottom and front of my jaw. “And these”, she added, indicating three teeth opposite at the top, and this one pointing to one further back.

Her enthusiasm was so infectious that I couldn’t wait to get down to it.

“We will be spending some time together”, she smiled. My heart went pitter pat again, and she invited me to take a seat in the dental chair.

“Open up, so I can take a look. Don’t be shy”, she smiled at me lovingly. My heart went pitter pat again, as I looked into the pupil of her hazel eyes.

“First I’m going to ask you to bite on this”, she said, proffering a horseshoe shaped implement covered with pink, and slightly malodorous goo. She shoved it into my chops and I bit as instructed. “Oooh”, she squealed in apparent delight, “One of your teeth has already come out – look!”

And it had. It stood proud and erect in the pink stuff.

Upon seeing this I immediately started to feel faint. It was not that I was scared, but merely that all the blood had deserted my brain.

“Are you O.K.?”, my dentist inquired with some concern. “What did you have for breakfast?”

The trouble was that in my infatuation I had forgotten if I was supposed to eat, or not, prior to undergoing a local anaesthetic. And what if she wished to use laughing gas?

I hadn’t eaten, or drunk, anything at all and now, mysteriously, the sight of my bloody tooth stuck on a horseshoe covered in what appeared to be ‘Bubble Yum‘ had caused my blood sugar to fall in an instant.

Suddenly we were not alone.

Within thirty seconds the dentist’s mother, a dental nurse, and a doctor from across the road were in attendance and urging me to drink a carton of orange juice, which proved to be a very welcome relief.

Everyone looked in my mouth and said how wonderful it would be. They were very keen, rather like architects when calculating how much money will need spending in order to renovate an old building.

“Ooooh, you look better Steve”, my dentist purred and I was relieved to find that my heart could still pitter pat despite having minutes before nearly collapsed completely.

“I am just going to give you some anaesthetic – here – and here – and here – here – here – here – a little here – and here – here – and some more here. Can you feel anything?”

My brain had difficulty in focusing, but I could still feel my mouth.

“Yeppsth”, I repled, “I can sppifth fill ewefinink”.

“Good”, she said pulling out the first tooth with what looked like a chromium plated plumbing wrench.

“Am I hurting you?”

What could I say?

“Nophth at all”, I curled my mouth in what I imagined to be a smile, but probably looked more like Bell’s Palsy.

A third tooth dropped into a surgical tray. She was really getting into her stride now. I studied the area around her eyes. She looked incredibly focused but there was still a softness both in the muscles to the left and right of her eye lids, and in the iris itself, which appeared to jump when she realized that I was reaching into her with my gaze.

I heard the fourth tooth drop. It sounded like a wheel nut being dropped into a hub cap. Love and anaesthesia, a good combination I mused.

“You may wash your mouth out now”, she said. The spittoon filled with blood. I rinsed my mouth again, and more blood bled. More blood later I lay back for the second half, expecting that now she would pull the top teeth, but instead first another horseshoe filled with gloop was forced between my jaws. Fortunately, no teeth came away so I was not obliged to faint again.

I washed my mouth to try to get rid of the taste of gloop, but failed to do so.

And then something remarkable happened. It was to become a regular feature of my dental treatment. The mother appeared, and started to treat me.

After remarking that my mouth was ‘very beautiful’ she whisked out the three top teeth faster than James Butler Hickok shot Davis Tutt.

Wild Bill Hickok vs Davis Tutt

Wild Bill Hickok vs Davis Tutt

From that moment on my mouth became a battle ground by which mother and daughter would negotiate and fight for control. Imagine trench warfare with my bleeding gums as the lines and my open mouth as no man’s land and you will get the picture. Every few minutes one of the pair would work on their side of my mouth, but as they did so each could not resist a foray into the territory of the other.

It seemed at times as if they were spraying the inside of my mouth with fire hoses, that is when not chizzling away at remaining teeth with angle grinders.

After a while the mother’s own patient arrived and my Dentist and I were alone together once more. “You look very handsome”, she said. I smiled at her forgetting that my mouth was full of rinse, and anyway my lips no longer functioned properly. Blood and water dribbled from my chin soaking my gown, penetrating through to the shirt underneath. I must have looked pathetic, but believed myself to be both brave and resolute. A warm smile was returned because of this.

I was a little concerned because I was due to appear on local television a few days after my appointment, and imagined that I would have to do so without any teeth that would be visible. Imagine my surprise when during the next hour mother and daughter manufactured a set of temporary bridges, which I would wear for the following six weeks.

All too soon it was time to leave. Nearly four hours had passed in the chair. Half of my mouth had even started to function again, and normal speech was restored.

There was blood everywhere. It was on the floor, around the spittoon, on the operating lamp above my head, and of course all over me. But there was something primeval about the experience too. I felt as if I had been involved in a shamanic journey in which, at least for a while, my dentist and I bonded at a deep fundamental level. The blood was part of that, and so perhaps the fact that the mouth is perhaps the second most intimate part of the human body. I could never have felt the same with Dr. Death.

And now, thanks to the loving spirit of my young dentist and the wonderful support of her mother who over the weeks was thrilled to put her fingers into my mouth, I was able to face my fears and overcome them. I count the experience I describe here as a transformation, it has helped me in ways that I cannot fully describe and many of which I’m sure I have yet to discover.

  1. Abridged from ‘Painless Dentistry: A Shamanic Journey’, first published on ‘Blokes Om The Blog’, November 6, 2014
26
Oct

The Power of Positive Thinking

In 1952 Prentice-Hall published the first edition of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’ by the Reverend Dr. Norman Vincent Peale.

The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale
The Rev. Dr. Norman Vincent Peale,
image Library of Congress

It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks, and the book has sold around 5 million copies and been translated into 15 languages. It is Peale’s most popular work, and the one for which he is best known.

It has influenced millions of people, but is not without its critics.

There are claims that the techniques described within the book rely on a kind of a damaging kind of self-hypnosis*. Others that the book is full of anecdotes that are unsubstantiated. Some go as far as stating that Dr. Peale was a con-man.

Whatever the merits of these assertions there can be no doubt that whilst Peale may well have been a showman, for example he hosted live radio broadcasts, he also did good works. Projects such as being one of the founders of 40 Plus, with J. C. Penny founder of J.C. Penney & Co.; Arthur Godfrey, a radio and TV personality; and Thomas J. Watson, President and Founder of IBM, owe much to him. 40 Plus aimed to find work for unemployed executives.

Perhaps the greatest criticism that may be levied against Peale is his habit in later years of supporting, or criticising, various politicians on the basis of their religious conviction. This strikes me as paradoxical behaviour for a positive thinker?

Whatever you may think about Norman Vincent Peale he certainly put ‘psychological positivity’ on the map, and it’s never really been obliterated from the public psyche since the publication of ‘The Power of Positive Thinking’.

Today, Positive Thinking is a much more scientific theory than that contained in Peale’s book. It’s backed by empirical evidence, and no longer espouses repetitive self-hypnosis as a necessary ingredient for change. Barbara Fredrickson, a researcher from the University of North Carolina, wrote a paper titled ‘Open Hearts Build Lives: Positive Emotions, Induced Through Loving-Kindness Meditation, Build Consequential Personal Resources‘. In it she established that: ‘positive emotions, in turn, produced increases in a wide range of personal resources (e.g., increased mindfulness, purpose in life, social support, decreased illness symptoms). In turn, these increments in personal resources predicted increased life satisfaction and reduced depressive symptoms.’

You Can Improve Your Health by
Writing Positively For Just Two Minutes Every Day

Chad M Burtona, and Laura A King, from Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri, established that people who are instructed to write, and do write even if just for two minutes, about positive subjects perform better across a bank of health, personality, and psychological indices after three months than writers who chose their own topics and styles, (published in The Journal of Research in Personality).

A host of other research material is cited in these two papers that attests to the power of thinking positively.

When I practiced as a psychotherapist many I met became happier simply by stopping listening to the news on their radios first thing each morning.

Thinking optimistically is not to be confused with ‘The Law of Attraction’, which is a philosophy based upon the theory that like attracts like, and that focusing upon some object or goal is likely to bring it to fruition. Bold claims have been made for ‘The Law of Attraction’, but unfortunately many who are devotees of it still are to be found living in reduced circumstances. Whilst some have become disillusioned with ‘The Law’ others consider that it is they who lack sufficient focus to bring their desires to fruition.

This tautological way of thinking can only be associated with suffering. I know, ultimately, that the world cannot be other than how it is as it surrenders itself to you and I. For this reason it’s misguided to blame either self, or, others, for creating particular dreams of separation and the associated pains experienced because of them.

So why am I writing on this topic here? Quite simply I am prompted by a video I was sent by the noted Internet Millionaire, and also New York Times Best Selling Author, Jeff Walker. I detect within it a hint that he found himself working hard recently during one of his Mastermind Groups in Durango. The cause of his discomfort was a particularly negative member of the group who constantly dismissed the suggestions of Jeff, and other group members, as irrelevant.

I too have experienced negativity when presenting ideas to people, especially when speaking to those from a different country, or culture, from the one I was born into. Perhaps, not remarkably, when people have followed my suggestions their businesses seem to have benefited. I have even seen people who were openly hostile to my suggestions later come to adopt them when presented by members of their own communities.

At what stage do we withdraw ourselves from negative people and focus on those who are easier to help? Good business sense suggests that just as it’s best to sell to people who have an appetite for what we have to offer – so it’s best to counsel those who are positive about what we have to say.

In my model of the world, however, pragmatism also needs to be tempered with compassion. After all, the research shows that raising the moral and thought patterns of a negative individual may not only lead them into happiness, but also enable them to be healthier, wealthier people.

Compassion and acceptance play together as twins. When we attempt to change others we are doomed to failure because doing so reinforces our own dream of separateness. Acceptance of the world is a form of surrender from within which creativity reveals itself.

*Nothing herein should be taken to imply that self hypnosis is harmful. Critics, in particular psychiatrist R. C. Murphy, assert that Peale’s suggested method of repeated hypnosis defeats an individual’s self-motivation, self-knowledge, unique sense of self, sense of reality, and ability to think critically.

10
Mar

Becoming A Manager

You do not become a manager overnight, nor will training, or books make you one, but they may help.

My wife discovered that she can no longer run her online psychology business without help. I’ve been telling her that for years, but she needed to discover this for herself.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s always been good at working with others on joint ventures. Her difficulty has been that she’s always attempted to do all the practical ‘grunt’ work herself. You can’t do that and also get into the creative projects you’ve got in your head.

The problem is that when you’re used to doing your own thing, like Mrs. Bray, it’s difficult to jump straight in to managing other people’s foibles, talents and time. For this reason she asked me to jump in and manage her new staff and business strategies.

manager, or servant leader?

One of the difficulties business owners face when taking on staff is knowing enough about the tasks expected of people to know that they’re doing their jobs, but at the same enabling people to self-manage themselves so that they can exercise their skills and creativity.

David Ogilvy, founder and Chairman of the advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather was well aware of these difficulties. This is why he created his famous advert for Trumpeter Swans. Ogilvy was a great believer in employing people whose talents exceeded his own, but he was a talented all-rounder and a good judge of people’s strengths and weaknesses.

Frankly, I find the challenge both exciting and intimidating. It’s been some time since I was a hands on manager, rather than a management consultant, which is a different animal. You see a consultant stands outside of your organization and views what’s happening dispassionately. She, or he, can see your strengths and weaknesses, as well as problems with your processes. A consultant detects and helps you with things in your business, and personal life, that you cannot see or do not know yourself.

A great manager is able to also do this for the staff for whom they are accountable. Indeed a manager is best when they are Servant Leaders who develop their people both in skills as well as in character.

When I looked on my hard drive I discovered a number of resources, that I had authored some years ago, to help me make a start. Here’s one of them:

A Pocket Book on Leadership by Stephen Bray

Right click on the image to download ‘A Pocket Book on Leadership’

04
Mar

The Unpublished David Ogilvy

David Ogilvy isn’t unpublished at all is he? His book Ogilvy on Advertising should be required reading for business owners, even today.

Ogilvy is one of the acclaimed Marketing Hall of Fame. In 1982 Jean Louis Servan-Scheibrieber’s magazine, ‘Expansion’, devoted to the Industrial Revolution listed 30 men who had contributed to it. Ogilvy was on it. Other notables were: Thomas Eddison, Albert Einstein, John Maynard Keynes, Alfred Krupp, Lenin, Karl Marx, Louis Pasteur, James de Rothschild, Adam Smith and Thomas Watson Jnr.

The Unpublished David Ogilvy is a lesser known work Edited by Joel Raphaelson, for the occasion of David Ogilvy’s 75th birthday. It contains lots of his aphorisms, and provides anecdotes and examples of a leadership style that took Ogilvy and Mather from modest beginnings the being a leading advertising agency.

David Ogilvy's Trumpeter_SwansWhether it’s good to be placed among this pantheon is debatable, but certainly many copywriters hold that David Ogilvy is not only one of their number, but was also, in his day, the Pope. But where would he stand today?

Ogilvy was far more than a Madison Avenue type, although he did found an advertising agency that is located there as well as today in most corners of the globe.

He was a college drop-out, (Oxford); a gourmet chef, (Paris), a door to door salesman, (Aga); a researcher, (Gallup); Intelligence Officer, (British); copywriter, (sometimes moonlighting); and the founder of Ogilvy, Benson, and Mather.

His real strength, to my mind, is as someone who recognized how important it is employ and work with those who are more talented than you. The danger of this approach, as so many small business people and paranoid executives know, is that it’s possible that you will be usurped by someone whom you have hired. This happened to Steve Jobs during his first tenure at Apple when Jobs lured John Sculley away from Pepsi-Cola to serve as Apple’s CEO.

The Apple Board subsequently told Sculley to limit Job’s influence and in a heated boardroom discussion Jobs was outed. Of course he came back in 1996 and the rest is history.

You must have ‘balls’ to hire people with greater talent, and you probably have to be ruthless sometimes  too. Running a business, even a small one, is no job for the timid, or people who have their values mixed up. Indeed to have soft, or purely self-interested values is to court business disaster.

Ogilvy is famous for writing an advertisement for Rolls Royce with the headline ‘At 60 Miles Per Hour The Loudest Noise In This New Rolls Royce Comes From The Electric Clock’. Ogilvy admitted that the line was gleaned from reading both the technical manual and also an article written nearly twenty years previously in a motoring journal.

This is an example of the writer doing his homework. He knew he needed to emphasize something exceptional about the product.

My favorite David Ogilvy advertisement is reproduced above. To my mind it sums up his business philosophy. Ogilvy included his home address, and also signed the advertisement.

‘Trumpeter Swans’ differs from the previous example, for the Rolls Royce, because it’s not about research but instead recalling something read off-topic, and then adding the concept with his customer’s, (in this case his own agency), requirements in order to create an unusual combination in words. Photographer and art director Henry Wolf  frequently did something similar graphically.

Ogilvy was wise enough to appreciate that talent and a university education are not always synonymous. One gifted applicant, who was also a graduate, started a letter of introduction when applying for employment like this.

My father was in charge of the men’s lavatory at the Ritz Hotel. My mother was a chambermaid at the same hotel. I was educated at the London School of Economics.

Ray Taylor,
former Ogilvy and Mather copywriter.

What I like about Ogilvy’s ‘Trumpeter Swan’ advertisement is that it expresses exactly the kind of person who should apply, but in very few words. It causes people who are thinking of applying to examine themselves, and to peacefully disqualify themselves if they can’t meet the required standard. It does this without being cold, or unfriendly in any way, indeed any member of the public coming by chance upon the advertisement would think Ogilvy & Mather a congenial place in which to work.

The main headline is original. The lead in is the word ‘Wanted’, which is a proven attention grabber, and then our attention jumps over the name of the agency to the words ‘Trumpeter Swans’ in large block text. ‘Wanted’ and ‘Trumpeter Swans’ together form an unusual combination designed to pique our curiosity thus those with appropriate levels of awareness to consider applying for the post of copywriter.

27
Feb

Michael Eldridge: Creativity in Le Marche.

Stephen Bray and Michael Eldridge in Italy>/br>image Liliana Pivato

Stephen Bray and Michael Eldridge in Italy – image Liliana Pivato

Few understand photography better than Michael Eldridge. He was Director of Post Graduate Studies in Photography at The Arts University, Bournemouth for more years than most would care to admit. Today his heart is in the beautiful Sibilini Mountains in the Le Marche Region of Italy, where we plan projects together.

Michael believes we all have creativity locked within us. The problem for many employed in the arts and media is that the river of genius which once was strong, under pressure, becomes polluted or stagnant.

This is why time and time again people in the commercial world find themselves lacking in imagination and lost for inspiration. Too much attention to material concerns and, frequently broken, promises inevitably disconnects the flowing river from the source. Michael teaches Creativity Workshops that help people restore their connection, and there are few better places to do so than in Italy, where he lives.

It’s years since he painted scenery for the Earl of Snowdon, and worked for Sue Mann’s agency following her departure from British Vogue, where she was Art Director, but his eye is as fresh as ever.
 

22
Feb

Wiki, Democracy, Branding, and Social Media.

The Wiki is an endearing, but flawed concept. It is the idea that the majority is always right and the written more valuable than the verbal. Yet the Wiki, with its ability to democratize history and shopping may sometimes be wrong. High school students frequently discover this to their cost when quoting from Wikipedia believing everything written there to be accurate.

Wikipedia® is the prime embodiment of the Wiki in action. ‘Experts’ write stuff, and then others edit and augment it. Peculiar comments are highlighted in yellow by ‘moderators’, suggesting that an article needs references, or padding out, or substantiating in some way. That’s all well and good, but brand democratization doesn’t have this safety net.

Brand Democratization

Brand Democratization refers to the ways that customers define brands based upon their requirements, and experience as customers. Like Wikipedia the feedback is instant. Upset a customer and they will be on a forum, or be blogging, complaining about your company, product, or service. There are even specialist review websites that encourage this. Trip Adviser is a popular one where customers provide their reviews and rate holiday experiences.

Businesses can “position” themselves ‘whatever’, but unless they can deliver on their promise their wiki-status will implode overnight. Today everything is transparent, truly, no X-Ray specs needed.

The TED Wordmark signifies a Wiki of talks of sustainability

Large companies sometimes sponsor philanthropic causes in order to demonstrate that they are socially responsible!

This trend has resulted in a rethink by a number of prominent brands, notably McDonalds. Larry Light, McDonalds’ Chief Global Marketing officer says: “Identifying one brand position, communicating it in a repetitive manner is old-fashioned, out of date, out of touch.”

But wait a minute, if you don’t position your company how do people know who you are? If you don’t possess a brand how can people identify with you? If you can’t put your toe in the water how will you create ripples?

Well, of course, you do tell your story. You do create a logo, even if it has to be one of those airy fairy ones made with colored smoke and children’s crayons. You create products, you blog, but most of all you behave decently and you deliver on your promises.

When Ernst & Young and McKinsey & Co. announced that the number of branding failures, many based on positioning exceeded 90% back in 2005 people were wrong to conclude that positioning kills brands.

The Internet has succeeded where, ‘Which’ the British consumer magazine struggled, by capturing imagination and led to a rise in consumer emancipation as far as knowing what products to buy, and what brands to trust. It’s good, isn’t it, that cigarette manufacturers can’t provide us with bogus research that claims that more doctors smoke this brand than the other fellow’s, or that shoe companies will no longer get away with producing premium priced products in galvanized iron sheds somewhere over the blue horizon?

But that doesn’t mean that companies shouldn’t make meaningful brand statements, or have a logo that is recognizable, or write advertisements exhorting the uniqueness of their offer. It simply means that they must be able to deliver.

Wikification

Wikification is a godsend to intelligent business-people. It provides fast feedback on how products are perceived and how services are recognized. Improve your products and services based upon what customers say and your profitability will soar. It’s as simple as that.

Be the business that listens most to what customers are saying 😉

This light-hearted video discusses Wiki,
Democracy, Branding, and Social Media 🙂

17
Feb

How To Write Your Elevator Pitch

ACCORDING TO GEOFFREY JAMES, AUTHOR OF  BUSINESS WITHOUT THE BULLSH*T what you think is an elevator pitch may actually alienate customers.

Writing on Inc.com James asserts that no one listens to sales pitches, and a three minute sales pitch is likely to turn most customers off.

The term ‘elevator pitch’ originates in the idea that some chance encounter traps you in a space, the elevator, with a potential customer. The problem is, of course, that you have no idea who they are, what they want to buy, or how you may help them.

These difficulties aren’t reasons to avoid developing your elevator pitch. The truth is that in business we all need to know who we are, what we can do for others, how we do it, and what it costs.

Without this vital knowledge you’re lost, but many, if not most small business owners have no idea about what they really do. Those in larger corporations are frequently indoctrinated with slogans and mission statements that seem irrelevant.

Time for your elevator pitch

Could You Help A Stranger Out In A Bar?

Copywriter John Carlton is on the mark when he writes about overhearing a conversation. The scenario is that you’re in a bar and you hear someone discussing a particular business problem. It happens that you have the solution to the stranger’s problem. How do you aproach them and make it clear that you have something important to offer?

Jordan Belfort, the infamous Wolf of Wall Street, who is now a motivational speaker and sales coach, is very clear that you will need three attributes.

You must be:

  • Enthusiastic as hell, which suggests that you have something great to offer.
  • You’re sharp as a tack, because no-one wants to receive brain surgery, or anything else important, from a dim-wit.
  • You’re an authority figure and someone to be reckoned with. We’re conditioned from an early age to recognize and follow such people.

You may not like Belfort. The film made based upon his life, in which Leonardo DiCaprio played him, may horrify you – but he knows how to sell better than most. That’s why I think you’re well advised to take notice of what he has to say.

In fact if you’re not enthusiastic about your work, intelligent about every aspect of your business, and an authority in your field it’s unlikely that your business can survive.

Before you start elevating your pitch to others it’s essential that what you say, and how you act are congruent with who you are, and how you want to be.

This concept is central to what Internet Marketer Frank Kern refers to as your ‘Core Identity‘. He claims that speaking from your true self to the essential selves of prospects is what leads to interest, sales conversions, and ultimately advocates for what you offer.

The problem, for most, is that we have been conditioned to project an image of ourselves, which emphasizes how our teachers, parents, and employers want us to be, whilst denying things we like to think and do, which they don’t care for.

Fraser Hay, Founder of Grow Your Business Club believes that the first step to creating an elevator script is to have a story that is exclusively yours. He says this: ‘Is the foundation of your belief and commitment to your product or service.”

You need to know how you got into your business, what has caused you to stay there and why you are enthusiastic about what you do. If you’re not enthusiastic then something is wrong. You might benefit from some professional advice, career coaching, or even a holiday in which to gain a fresh perspective, Fraser claims.

Customers have various personality types, and you can’t be expected to know who will hit upon your web site. Yet frequently it is upon your web site that people will first investigate your strengths and weaknesses. People buy from people, so rather than attempting to desperately cater for all people all of the time it’s best for your elevator pitch to appeal to people who are similar to you in disposition, and whom you can work with and help. The key is in knowing your own beliefs and then your ideal customers will be those resonate with you.

Why do You Get Out Of Bed In The morning And Why Should I Care?