A walk up Snowdon

Last weekend , I met up with a few of my old school friends, and we went for a walk up Snowdon, as you do!

Now normally we meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, reminisce and get hammered. Not all of us manage to get to these sessions and even when most of us are there we don’t always get the chance to speak to everyone before we all go our separate ways.

Well back in December most of the lads, not me however, met up in Chester, and the idea of spending the weekend together, and hiking up a mountain was formed. All the best ideas are born in a drunken stupor, don’t you think!

Luckily the idea did not fade with the hangover, but actually grew and by late January early February had become a thing, a thing we had all become committed to, both financially and philosophically. Many of us in the group (when I say many, I actually mean myself and possibly Lee) had no idea what the reality of walking up Snowdon was. Thousands of people young and old walk, run and even cycle up Snowdon every year. Colin even did it over Christmas when it was -15 (I will get back to Colin later). So how hard could it be.

So the day came to travel to Chester to meet up with my friends and travel on to the farmhouse we had hired for the weekend (their was 8 of us and it was quite reasonably priced before you think of us as flash gits). I was so excited, it was like Christmas Eve when I was 5.

We stopped off on the way to collect supplies in Colwyn Bay. My advice would be if visiting Colwyn Bay, do your shopping before you get there. This shopping experience however did not dampen my excitement.

When we arrived Colin and Rich Turner (there are 2 Rich’s) decided to test out a route before the main ascent the next day. Like 2 demented fools myself and Lee gleefully volunteered to join them. My glee soon soured as we clambered up a hillside through muddy fields and over styles. I thought my legs were going to fall off and my lungs explode. Rich informed us that this was a trial to see if we could cut across to the trail we would use tomorrow to prevent us from walking along the road for half a mile. When we reached the said trail, I thought to myself how the fuck am I going to walk all the way to the top tomorrow. What had I committed myself too. I had seriously over estimated my level of fitness and ability to walk on slopes. It was like waking up on Christmas morning and discovering that Christmas was in fact just a really long Maths exam. I didn’t want to show myself up too much, however the few of us that had taken on this mini adventure had witnessed my distinct lack of ability on slopes.

Fuck it! I thought, give it a go, and see what happens, I said to myself.

Ian had stayed behind during our recce to cook tea, and what a fantastic tea it was, veggie chilli, and tequila! The rest of the party except Rich J arrived later that evening, and much merriment and laughter ensued.

Throughout the evening and into the night, I grappled with my self 1 telling me to bow out, fake an injury or illness, anything just don’t do it, because at best you will look fat and useless and at worst you might die, self 2 saying, just do it, think of the views, the sense of achievement.

I went with self 2 clearly but resolved that I would go at my own pace, just to keep self 1 happy.

Rich J arrived just after breakfast and we set off. We walked along the road to the Ranger trail, we had decided that was a sensible option.

When we got to the trail, I struggled from the off, and had to stop regularly to release the tension in my back or get my breath. My fitter, and thinner friends were all very understanding and regularly waited for me or walked with me. Colin being super fit, went off ahead (he had already run 7 Miles before we set off). At times the others were grateful to take to wait for me and have a breather. I was determined to finish, to reach the top. To do that I had to go at my slow pace. This walk up Snowdon had turned into a personal battle. My self 1, the cautious me, wanted to stop and go back, my self 2, the spontaneous me, the achieving me wanted to carry on. Throughout my life when it came to physical achievement, and pushing myself, self 1 would nearly always win. This time self 2 was going to win. I used Colin as a focus, to me Colin always appears to let his self 2 take the lead, so during that walk up Snowdon I was allowing Colin to inspire and motivate me. He didn’t know he was doing it, he was doing something he enjoyed. I needed something or someone to focus on and Colin fit the bill. I imagined him waiting for me at the top and that thought pulled me up. Every time I wanted to stop, Colin said to me give it another 5 minutes then see how you are. (Colin never said that Colin was too far ahead to notice me) That got me to the top.

When the summit came into view I cried, in fact I wanted to break down and sob. I didn’t, I managed to hold myself together. I had done it, I had managed to prevent my self 1 from getting me to give up, my self 2 had one. This personally was a landmark moment in my life. That is why I wanted to breakdown and cry, I was so relieved.

Anyway enough sloppiness. When we arrived at the top, it was packed, there was a queue to the summit! Worse still the cafe didn’t open for another week, and it was snowing!

After some food when started our descent, via another trail, this trail was partly along a ridge that Rich T said was nice and safe. He might have thought that! I was terrified! Looking at some of the pictures the views from the ridge were incredible, I couldn’t see them, I had lost my peripheral vision by this point.

This was harder than the ascent, most of the time we were scrambling down rocks, trying not to slip. Again my athletic prowess meant that I brought up the rear. I was cold, wet and mentally and physically exhausted when I arrived in the pub nearly 6 hours after we set off.

That first pint was the nicest pint I ever had. After another we all went back to the farmhouse for showers and food this time cooked by Rob. We had a selection of curries, That frankly were wonderful.

That evening was a little more subdued, than the evening before and a little less alcohol was drunk, but still a wonderful evening was had nonetheless.

After a fitful sleep and a hearty breakfast we said our goodbyes, with a promise of doing something else in the autumn, perhaps a little less challenging than Snowdon.

After coming back I have felt strange a little subdued, and a little unsure of myself. Whilst writing this I have realised why. That weekend I did something I rarely do, I pushed myself beyond the limits I set myself. I realised that I am really unfit, and I need to do something about that. More importantly I have learned that I can go beyond what I think is my limit, all I have to do is listen to self 2 more. It is easy said in coaching sessions, but doing it is different, now I understand how I can turn my self 1 down. I know I can achieve far more than I think I can.

Being able to use this experience in my coaching will be invaluable. Giving the client the space to explore what their self 1 and self 2 are saying to them, will help them determine who has the stronger voice and who needs to have the stronger voice.

A bit of escapism

I Love to daydream. It takes me to a happy place, when I am feeling a little fed up.

Most days foggy makes an appearance as I have mentioned before. That on the whole is fine, I have come to accept him and his negativity, he is me after all. Some days the things he says are more painful than others, and I find it a little harder to be passive and not try to suppress what he is saying. This is normally when he is highlighting my shortcomings. Paradoxically in the long run him shining a light and exaggerating these failings is useful as it spurs me into action, to at least go some way to addressing them. That is no doubt why they are more painful.

To help me handle the discomfort I will often reach for my music to help distract me, to take me to another world. If I am feeling sad a melancholic I might go through my back catalogue of sad songs to allow me to wallow and enjoy the misery of self pity. Now self pity is a comfortable state to be in as it requires no action. The thing is I want action, I don’t want these shortcomings to be shortcomings I want to turn them into actions. I need to be forward thinking.

I still reach for my music, music creates emotions and changes the way I feel. When I want to be positive and forward thinking I listen to new music, music I have never heard before, sometimes it is brilliant, sometimes it is ok and sometimes it is awful. It is always exciting and creative and optimistic. It makes me feel creative, optimistic and forward thinking.

Now I will not address all my shortcomings because I listened to Father John Misty’s latest song but I might just start working towards some of those neglected goals and remind myself of all the things I have achieved over the last week.

We all find our ways to pull us out of our funk, just remember do the thing that makes you happy and creates optimism, not what you think you should do, or what makes other people happy.

Writing this blog always makes me happy. Sharing playlists makes me happy.

So here’s both my blog, and below is a playlist. An Apple Music one this time. If you want it on Spotify let me know otherwise enjoy my little bit of escapism this month.

My New Music Escapism Playlist

If you want to discuss how you can create an optimistic future for yourself get in touch via Facebook, Twitter or this blog.

Have a great rest of the week and remember we have a rough times, it’s what we do with them that counts.

Memories of my School Days

In a couple weeks I am meeting up with some friends from school.

We try to meet up at least once a year. It’s wonderful to have that connection with the past, and also our or present and future.

We normally meet up in a pub in Chester, have a meal, then sit round getting drunk and generally have a fabulous time. The night always goes too quick and before we know it we are going out separate ways for another year.

This year we decided to do something different, something that lasted longer. So we are walking up Snowdon and spending the weekend in cottage.

I cannot wait, it will be great to see everyone and to have more time to catch up.

In my excitement I started thinking about our time in 6th Form 30 years ago. You know what I found it quite difficult to remember much. What I did remember was the music I was listening to, and that triggered memories of parties, gigs and nights out.

So being predictable and a lover I put together a playlist. It was great fun to put together. My initial playlist was 5 hours long though. I have managed to get it down to just over an hour and half.

It is a bit of a mix of rock, indie and pop, each song though triggered a memory and transported me back to the late 80s, happy times.

Give it a listen if you wish.

Memories of My School Days

Personality, Colour Blocks, and Bacon Sarnies

This morning I realised I hadn’t written a blog about my exciting week last week.

I suppose I need to start on Sunday night (last week). I was packing clothes with a sense of excitement, and trepidation as I prepared for 4 days away with work. See I don’t normally get the chance to work away, in fact this is the first time I have worked away from Hull in over 20 years, and then it was an 7 week placement in Scunthorpe, so I’m not sure that counts.

This time I was being sent to Derby with a colleague to become an accredited practitioner of a personality preference evaluation tool.

It sounds very fancy and it is! To be honest I was quite sceptical even though I had, had my profile completed about 18 months ago. My problem was that personality preferences were categorised into colours with descriptions such a fiery red and cool blue, and then people would wear their colour personality as a badge of honour or use it to explain their poor behaviours. I am now however educated and enlightened. In fact I can see how powerful a tool this evaluator can be to help people achieve their goals both individually and collectively. What is needed though is enough people with enough understanding to challenge the stereotypes that can develop if the language of colours is used in isolation. I prefer to say that I prefer to be a supporting helper, but can be a reforming director if needed. If used properly this tool can stretch people’s capabilities.

I am so pleased I went on this 4 day course, it has energised my enthusiasm for coaching ( I didn’t think that was possible either).

It wasn’t just the content of the course that energised me. When you work in a hospital it is easy just to surround yourself with like minded people, generally people that work in public office (healthcare, social care, police, fire service and education). On this course public sector workers were in the minority and I was working alongside people from a wide variety of industries. You know what? They are just like me! We had a great time working with each other and learning so much.

The course was held in a swanky hotel on the outskirts of Derby. Being NHS employees we did not stretch the public purse, so we stayed down the road in Derby in a normal hotel. However lunch, coffee and snacks were part of the course, and oh boy they were lovely, the bacon sarnies were my personal favourite.

You may be wondering what the coloured blocks means in the title. Well when you have your profile done you get coloured blocks that you can put in you order of preference. From now on however I will be using my blocks to demonstrate that the colour code they produce is not fixed and you can and should use all of your personality to benefit yourself and your team.

I will gladly say those 4 days were 4 of the most inspiring and enlightening days I have experienced for a long time.

A shivering March Mix Tape

On this cold and snowy March morning I thought I would share my warming March mix tape. The music that has sat with me through this month of contrasting temperatures and moods.

I put this together based on what has turned up on the radio or in shuffle on my phone. Music that has peaked my interest throughout the month. This music has sat in my ears providing a soundtrack to my commutes and when cooking.

Music is such an important part of my life. Because of that I think it is important to share what is resonating with me. Feel free to dip in and have a listen, you might already know the music, but their might be a song in there that really connects with you and changes everything.

As always the playlist is just the right length to fit on a C60 tape for all of you old enough to remember mixtapes.

Think of this as my monthly gift to you.

My March Mix Tape

A Mixtape to Improve My Mood

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This week has not been the worst or the most challenging week I have ever had but it was challenging all the same.

This week has been a combination of interpersonal challenges, managing my time and workload in relation to being on holiday next week and planning for a busy month, with the addition of an irritating uncomfortable winter virus.

This resulted in me going to work every morning with a cloud of self-pity hanging over me.

To gee me up I turned to my generic fruit based music streaming service, collecting a playlist of songs that take stop me worrying about the past and future and bring me into the present. They may remind of being younger, so do fleetingly take me to the past, but more importantly they create that positive emotion.

That positive emotion intern evokes optimism and creativity setting me up for the day, helping face the challenges set and achieving the actions I had set myself.

I thought I would share some of my current positive share list with you. Each is a link to you tube for you to haveĀ  listen if you wish.

Also sharing my music makes me happy and consequently improves my creativity and wellbeing.

I have shortened the playlist to 6o minutes to replicate the old mix tape style.

So please accept my gift of a virtual mix tape from me to you.

Adore-Savages

Aerials-System of a Down

Queen of California-John Mayer

The Wrong Year-The Decemberists

The One I Love-REM

Pain-The War on Drugs

Ubu-Methyl Ethel

Working Man-Rush

White Riot-The Clash

LSF-Kasabian

Reckoner-Radiohead

Introducing The Wonders of Coaching and Reverend and The Makers

At the beginning of the week I had 2 wonderful telephone meetings with the coach that will be delivering the taught aspect of the coaching qualification we are hosting in March. I will be working alongside him getting a feel for delivering the course sometime in the future. As always a conversation with Anthony always leaves me motivated and positive. A large part of the second meeting was a mini coaching conversation concentrating on my feelings about my role in the teaching sessions and my role as lead coach. We examined where I see myself and what presence I want to have in both sessions, and what mindset I need to have to create a comfort in that presence. As with all successful coaching conversations they go beyond the meeting and continue internally throughout the rest of the day and evening. The next day I was due to co-deliver a one day manager as a coach training session. The questions and challenges posed by Anthony sat with me in the evening before asking me to exam my approach to delivering the content alongside the author.

I met up with Lucy the author of the training day before the session. Lucy is my manager for the 2 Coaching lead days I work. She is however more than my boss. She is a fellow coach and is responsible for me becoming a coach and doing the role I do. So she is my sponsor, mentor and coach. Because we have this relationship I feel comfortable discussing my feelings and insecurities about teaching alongside her. When you co-deliver a training session that provokes discussion it is important to learn how work in harmony. I like to think of it as a dance. When you first dance with someone new you sometimes step on each other’s toes. The key to becoming seamless is to accept that this will happen and check in with each other during the day. I love working with Lucy in these days, we have a lot of fun and I learn so much from her.

The training day itself was a success. The candidates played their part and contributed to the day, creating an energy in the room. The best training sessions is where the session is not dominated by one voice, but everyone contributes and we all learn something, that certainly was happening on Thursday. The most successful aspect was that there are now 7 more leaders that have realised the power of high quality questions and hopefully have the confidence in trying them out.

On Friday I was on my own giving a brief half day introduction into coaching. This was the first time I had delivered it. I spent Thursday evening and Friday morning wondering how I was going to get all the information needed to introduce coaching into a three and a half hour teaching session. In the end it was simple really, have a coaching conversation and discuss it. That is essentially what I did and then we ended with everyone practicing a coaching conversation. I was coached by one of the participants and found that 10 minute conversation so powerful that I felt quite emotional. That is how powerful a simple short coaching conversation can be. Some one who at the beginning of the morning who did not think they could coach someone and when faced with coaching me looked terrified, was able to raise my awareness on my career progression to such an extent that I felt quite emotional. All she did was ask 4 high quality questions. Granted she had a list of questions that she could use to help her, however she chose the 4 questions that she thought would help me raise my own awareness. It was quite incredible.

As you can see I have had another inspiring week at work. Personally it has been a little more frustrating. The pain in my heel is still preventing me from running and I cannot motivate myself to find an alternative exercise regime. I have found myself concentrating on work so have not put any thought into any other action plans. We will see over the next week or so how that pans out. I feel that fitness will rise up my priority list soon, as I am on holiday in a couple of weeks.

Last night we went to see Reverend and The Makers at Northpoint Shopping Centre! Yes you read it correctly as part of the UK City of Culture, bands and other acts are invited to perform in venues throughout the city that would not normally be used for arts.

If I am honest I did not fancy going. They are not really my thing, I was tired and my foot was hurting after being on my feet most of the day. I went thinking they would be entertaining, it would distract me, I might end up liking them more and Lisa really wanted to go. I went along not really feeling it, but trying my best to be positive and open minded. The wait for the band coming on seemed to me to be forever. It was an hour and half. For some reason there was no support act. I am sure there are plenty of local bands that would have been happy to play for free, to get the exposure. We were not so lucky, instead we were subjected to a very strange Indie disco in a shopping centre with no heating, with around a thousand drunk and getting more drunk by the minute middle aged couples (we were sober, that is myself, Lisa and our friend Paula). The band came on at 9pm, by this point I was cold, tired and pissed off. They were going to have to be amazing to win me over now. Unfortunately they fell short of amazing for me. They started ok, then they had some technical issues with a guitar. They started to lose the crowd and for a short while you could sense that this could go south quite quickly, especially after they tried to soldier on and destroyed their most famous song. They did however manage to turn it round and won quite a few people over and the bouncing recommenced. I wasn’t one of them I am afraid, they were alright but I was cold and tired and wanted to be at home. God that sounds so middle aged. If they had, had a decent warm up act I may have felt different, but I fear they needed to have been a different band.

Oh well you cannot have everything and on balance this week has been very positive,

Here is a picture of last night, as I said those in front appeared to be enjoying it.