Archive for June, 2015

Be Careful Who You Work For…

June 27, 2015

Be Careful Who You Work For…

We all want a decent job, some place we want to be, where we feel valued and part of the team, where we can carve out a career and move up the promotion ladder, and make a difference. Sometimes this isn’t always the way. Sometimes just having a job is enough, is all there is.

That’s not to say we should accept the constant attack on workers, on hard fought conditions, on fairness in the workplace. No, we should not bow to the rich and powerful and let them push us around. We should not accept zero hour contracts, eroding conditions and the worker-boss balance tipping ever further in the boss’ favour. And we most definitely should not, unless we end up in difficult straights, work for those who would screw us over at every opportunity.

This piece is about being careful who you work for, who you agree to spend 8-10 hours of your day with, giving your time, your labour, your energy, your ingenuity, your devotion and passion. Be careful who you give these things to. They should be worthy recipients.


We should, where possible take as much care gathering information about prospective employers as they do about us. They want references, they want qualifications, experience and verification of our worth – which is entirely fair and right. They want interviews, tests, visits, background checks and yes, they do look at your internet presence, so be careful there!

Yet we are not as diligent with our prospective employers. I know, sometimes the euphoria of having a job overwhelms us, especially if we’ve been looking for ages. Sometimes that yes, we’ll have you when we’ve been searching for a while gets in front of our own due diligence. Often the new surface is glossy and pretty and we haven’t scratched it for ourselves, chipped away the perfect paint to see the damage underneath. Often, in the need for the job we overlook things that perhaps we should consider more thoughtfully before we sign on the dotted line.


How do you avoid working for wrong people?

*Research. In this day every company, every employer has a web-site. Read it carefully. While it will be full of spin it should tell you about values, results, give a first impression. It should give you some facts to work with.

*Talk to people who work there. Get the inside view – speak to people who have been there for years, speak to those who have just arrived, what about those who used to work there? People’s stories give you a better idea of the truth of an organization. We know some places suit some better than others, so listen carefully.

*Visit before the interview. Many places offer this option and you should take it. Yes, it will be a surface inspection too but it can give you a better feel for the place, look at what’s happening as you wander around, talk to people, not just managers. Just like parents visit a range of secondary schools on open days to make decisions about their child’s school, so you should too.

*Go on instinct. Too often we ignore our intuition, we think we should be factual and logical but sometimes how we feel about something (especially people) tells us the truth. So don’t over think your response, feel it too.

*Ask questions at interview – this option is part of standard interview practice, yet all too often people skip this, or ask simple questions that don’t really gain any information for them. Think more carefully about this as you prepare for your interview, what is it you need to know to decide to work for them??

*Don’t rush your decision. Allow some time for all the information to sink in. After all, your prospective employer is thinking about you, chatting further. They aren’t making a snap decision. You shouldn’t do the same. Think about what you really want: is this the place for you – for now, forever, until the right one comes along?


london building

Working for the wrong people/company can be as damaging as not having a job. We need to be more wary of prospective employers, just as they are wary of us. We need to be sure that they match our values, our way of doing business, our expectations.

And when things shift, when how you want to do business (of whatever hue) changes and you no longer feel valued and/or feel compromised in your job, or you can’t make those changes yourself, when you are out of step with the mainstream, you need to move on. You need to go before things corrode to such a state that you are damaged beyond recognition. Sadly, the bosses win. They have the superior firepower and the only way to survive is to leave. But leave while you are standing, while you can take a decent reference with you, while your self-worth is strong, so they can’t reach their malicious, evil tentacles into your next job, into your chance to start again.


You are at work for a very long time. You need to make good choices for yourself. Yes, your career matters, but so does your self-respect, your values and your dignity, not to mention your health. Choose your employer wisely. Change them when you need to and remember that you work to live, not live to work. (Images from Private Collection)

The World is a Dark Place, but There Must be Light Too…

June 20, 2015

The World is a Dark Place, but There Must be Light Too…

At the end of some days I really wonder what the point is – what am I doing with my life? Immured in the ignorance and stupidity of others, and not necessarily the young! Some days when lessons go pear shaped, when bills appear out of nowhere, when the news is once more full of man’s inhumanity to man – yes, you, Tony Abbott – how dare you be proud of paying people smugglers – I wonder what the point of existence is. I look at people on buses, in Tesco’s, in the street and wonder about the point of all these trivial, silly lives, including my own. What are we doing, why are we here?

In a world full of death, despair, evil, pain and suffering for so many I cannot help but wonder what the point is. It is too easy to spiral into nihilism, to enter a place of existential angst puzzling over the pointlessness of it all. The endless parade of war, rape, torture, inequality, callous disregard of the powerful few for the powerless many. This is our world. We have made it so. Even those of us who suffer at the hands of business and politicians. We have lost our way and we should be ashamed. We are worse than animals, we turn on each other, blame each other and kill each other – in many cases without batting an eye-lid.

dead angel

Is the world worse than it has ever been, or is it the constant stream of news and information from all over the world that makes it seem so? Are incidents of rape more common or simply being reported more often? Is child abuse on the rise or are we more aware of it now and less tolerant and so it seems worse? Is the gap between the haves and have-nots the same as it has ever been but we are simply bombarded with their excess through the media?

The insistence that we live in an Economy instead of a Society has not helped. It has made Money the God of us all. Celebrities and sports stars with their excessive lifestyles and incomes makes a mockery of hard work and ordinary lives lived well. Politicians who have no interest in making society better for all of us, not just their banker or business mates, have screwed ordinary people. Why do so many people need to live on the streets or in squalor when there is so much wealth in the world, especially in countries like the UK, Australia and the USA?


So, how do we find meaning in our own lives in the face of the darkness in the world?

Apparently at the end of our lives we see things as they are, we look at our lives and consider our worth in the world. If you’ve ever been seriously ill, or lost someone you love you’ve also trod this path. Cancer survivors often embrace life with renewed vigor, only too aware of what was nearly lost. But we don’t have to wait until the end to consider our own worth and value. Look around you now, what is it that you bring to the world, that shines some light in the darkness?

Don’t be fooled by money and celebrity. Don’t think that meaning lies in the big things, in doing something ridiculously brave or foolhardy. You don’t have to crusade against the latest infidel. We can’t all change the world but we can in many ways make it better.


Shine your light…

*Be aware of your strengths and how you operate in the world – are you a good friend, are you thoughtful and caring, considerate and fun to be with? Being a good friend is one of the best ways to make the world a better place, so don’t underestimate the gift of friendship.

Pal's pals@GCSE

*Your day job is probably more important than you know. So many jobs are people oriented, and how you interact on a daily basis does make a difference to others. Yes, teachers, nurses and doctors have an edge here. We have the potential to make big differences to people’s lives and we do and sadly that is not accorded the credit it needs. But note, people who make it big never mention their banker or the PM, they usually remember the teacher who made a difference. Yes, their teacher, not the principal or the Education Minister, but the person in the room with them, guiding them, chiding them, giving them knowledge, confidence and care.

*Volunteer – locally, it doesn’t need to be a big look-at-me oversees experience, get involved in clean up programs, charity shops, visit old people. No Australian should be OS helping third world people when the third world lives large and shamefully in our own Outback.

*Help others – it makes them feel better and it helps you. Coaching a team, tutoring others, sharing your skills with the world makes it a better place.

*Protest – if you believe in a cause join an action group, sign petitions, march against corruption, inequality, Austerity and what we are doing to the Boat People; march for the forests, for justice – people power does work, does change things and reminds you that others feel just as you do and renews your faith in your fellow man.

*Be an artist – paint and create beautiful things, the world is sadly in need of beauty. We need to be reminded the world can still be beautiful.

*Be a writer – tell stories to take people away to other worlds, different times, new experiences, to learn about themselves through your magic words. Tell stories that inspire others to action, to make them think. Stories tells the truth and stories of all sorts must continue to be told so we know who we are.

light forest

We all have a light. In this world of darkness and danger we must work harder to find our light and shine it brighter so the world does not become a place of relentless despair and hopelessness. (Images from Private Collection)

Who are Our Heroes Now?

June 13, 2015

Who Are Our Heroes Now?

Recently there’s been a spate of fallen heroes. Sepp Blatter, Alberto Salazar, Lance Armstrong, Tiger Woods. Notice that they’re all from sport and all tainted by cheating and corruption. Yet these men have been held up as heroes, as role models for others. There are others of course but sport seems to spawn an inordinate amount of cheating fallen heroes. Other areas are as guilty, entertainment has been tainted by the abusive and predatory Jimmy Savile and Rolf Harris, and politics is not a place we find anyone to admire any more – Joe Hockey, anyone? David Cameron, Tony Abbott?

There are a range of issues with expecting too much from people, with expecting perfection and goodness, with not allowing for human failure, with having heroes. But those mentioned have knowingly and wantonly cheated for their own good, have abused their positions of trust and exultation and in many cases are criminals.

Something in the human psyche needs someone to look up to, to revere, admire and emulate. Apparently Alexander the Great’s hero was Achilles, assassin supreme of myth and legend.


What makes a hero – or a heroine? What traits do we look for in those we admire? Think about this collection of positive characteristics:

Tenacious – they don’t give up, despite set backs, rejections and disappointments

Self-belief – they know they have something to offer, something worthy about themselves

Gifted – heroes tend to have a gift, a natural talent of some sort – Achilles and Alexander were gifted warriors; Richard Branson is a gifted businessman; Jimmy Page is an extraordinary guitarist/writer; Cate Blanchet is a talented and mesmeric actress; Dawn Fraser was the first woman to swim 100 metres in under a minute; Angela Merckel is a fierce and powerful politician. Heroes go beyond the ordinary, in who they are and what they do.

Dedication – these people work at their gift, they develop and refine it, use it and make themselves the best they can in their field. This is why we admire sports heroes – we know how many hours go into being the best, into winning. We admire skill and talent, we know we can’t do it and how hard it is, so their talent becomes super-human, as does the effort to become that good.

Achievement – true heroes leave their mark. The world knows they have been here – they have done something, not just made money or ripped things apart. Alexander built an empire; Shakespeare left an extraordinary body of work; Columbus went where no man had gone before. Agatha Christie wrote the best collection of crime fiction there is.

Something extra, something special – there is a sort of ‘it’ quality to heroes, something that sets them apart. They aren’t necessarily nice people, driven people often aren’t. They can be selfish and narcissistic, impervious to the needs of others but this single minded determination is admirable. People admire Steve Jobs but it’s clear he wasn’t the nicest person to be around. Elizabeth I was a great queen but mercurial and dangerous to cross. Still, we admire these two for their achievements and their presence on the world stage.


Why do we need heroes/heroines?

It seems we need people to look up to, to give us a clue about how to live a better life, be a better person. There’s no harm in hero worship. How many of us had walls plastered with the heroes of our youth – rock stars, film stars, sports stars? We could look at them and dream about being like them. Their benign presence in our bedrooms made us feel less alone in the world, and knowing that many of them had come from humble backgrounds and/or fought their way to the top was useful in the moments when you felt useless and unloved. David Bowie, Freddie Mercury and Mark Spitz helped me through many tumultuous teenage traumas.

mark spitz

Perhaps the point is that we should be more careful about who we admire, who we elevate to hero status. It is so easy in a celebrity saturated culture to be elevated beyond your talents, beyond your means. Too many such fabricated ‘heroes’ are fools with feet of clay, who should not be on any pedestal or strutting on any stage. (Enough clichés there?) Too easy for us to be duped into admiring what is not worth a second glance.

Look away from vacuous greedy celebrities and corrupt cheating sports stars. They bring nothing of worth to the greater good of mankind. Look to those who achieve, who make a difference, the ordinary heroes all around us; nurses, doctors, teachers, librarians, firemen, policemen. Don’t over-look them when searching for people who do great things every day.

By all means have a hero. But choose wisely. Look to real achievement, to characteristics that are worth admiring: look to the past, look beyond pretty faces and keep well away from sport.


Remember, too, you can be a hero too – as Mr Bowie said, we can be heroes, if just for one day. Worth a try, I’d think – look to yourself as well as to others. (Images from Google Images & Private Collection).

Just Be Kind

June 6, 2015

It is such a simple thing – kindness. And such a powerful thing. But there is so little of it about. Think on this: are you a kind person? Could you do better?

As we look around our world kindness and compassion seem to be in short supply. The news and FB feeds are full of cruelty to homeless people, refugees, animals, each other: stories of rape and war, death and casual indifference to suffering (especially you, Tony Abbott and David Cameron). Perhaps in this increasingly divided world where the rich and powerful and violent are increasingly holding sway it is time for the rest of us, the majority of us, to proceed in kindness, to see if we can make a difference.


Kindness to strangers

Why not drop a coin or two in the homeless person’s cup – why not take the time to say hello to them? Don’t assume they are so very different to you.

Stand up for someone on the train, tube or bus. Let someone go in front of you in the queue in the supermarket, let someone else have the better parking space. Open the door for someone.

Smile at random strangers for no reason. Pay someone a compliment if there is something about them that you find pleasing. I can tell you when people tell me they love my hair it makes me smile and feel better about the world.

Say thank you to the bus driver, the shop assistant – they may be doing their job but it’s a nice to show some appreciation.

Remember, you don’t know what their lives are like, a random act of kindness may make all the difference to them.


Kindness to colleagues

We spend a great deal of our lives at work, often years with other people, more time with them than our families it seems. So surely it’s not so hard to be pleasant, to be thoughtful and considerate in the work-place? Yet increasingly it’s become an adversarial environment, more like Game of Thrones, where it’s every man/woman for him/herself, with increasing levels of treachery and cunning. Where did this culture come from? Why are so many people only out for themselves, or wanting to cut others down?

I find it amazing in my profession, where we are meant to care for the kids, that so many up the food chain, patently do not. They say they do, but in the way they treat colleagues and manage matters it is clear that they have no care or compassion for anyone, so what are they doing in Education?

I won’t even mention the current Education Secretary, who is another in a long line of idiots who persistently crap on teachers, instead of praising and appreciating the dedication of most of us.

Why are so many teachers dropping from stress? Why do so many young graduates not stay in the profession? Because it is not a kind profession, because compassion and caring for your team, your colleagues, is not seen as the way forward. Because if you falter, fail in any way, you are seen as weak – you are the problem and you must go.

In fact, if you are working in such a place then you should go – find a place where management care about their team, their staff and you will feel valued and perform so much better and won’t that be the best thing for the kids, or the clients, or the business you work for?


Kindness to family & friends

This should be so obvious I need not mention it. But recent events remind me that we are often more careless with those closest to us. Kindness is not a given in family or with friends.

Being close means we see each other’s faults and over time and during intense events – such as holidays or weddings, funerals or moving across the world – we see the faults more clearly and sometimes we react badly. Sometimes we expect too much from others. Sometimes we need to think about what we are doing in a relationship – what does this friendship mean; why is this family member so important to me?

Patience is an essential part of kindness and is crucial in close relationships, as is forgiveness. People are foolish (as a wise child once told their granddad) and say and do foolish things. They are also thoughtless. But if we react in the same way, especially when we know better, how does that help anyone?



Kindness to animals (and other desperate creatures)

I do not want to see pictures of damaged and brutalized animals on my FB feed. I care not that many of these stories end well, I am upset by these images. Yes, like many, these pictures have a greater impact on me than boatloads of desperate refugees. I am aghast at what is happening to refugees and could not imagine the horrors of their plight but there is something about dumb animals, creatures that are dependent on us to look after them and do the right thing that cuts to the heart.

I loved Zanz (my GSD) with all my heart. I do not understand why anyone would knowingly and wantonly be cruel to an animal. It seems indicative of a much larger problem in our society, where cruelty, not kindness rules the planet.

It’s simple – don’t have an animal if you are not going to treat it correctly. And if you come across strays or animals suffering then don’t ignore them. You could even rescue a puppy yourself.


Kindness to yourself

Not last because it is least, but because this is important. Kindness comes from feeling strong yourself, from feeling good about who you are and your place in the world. Kindness to yourself recognizes your own humanity, your own infinite ability to fuck things up, but to let it go, forgive yourself. You cannot be kind to others, if you cannot be kind to yourself.

Kindness is about forgiveness, about recognizing that the world is a harsh and often brutal place, but we don’t have to embrace that. Kindness should be the new black, the new cool. Kindness to others makes them feel better and you know what, it makes you feel better too. It’s a simple thing but oh, so effective.


As Glen Campbell told us years ago –

You got to try a little kindness, yes show a little kindness

Just shine your light for everyone to see

And if you try a little kindness then you’ll overlook the blindness

Of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets