Springsteen Philosophy – Don’t let the past eat you up.

springsteenAnyone who knows me, knows how much  I admire Bruce. He has record breaking eye sight because every time I’ve been to see him I swear he’s managed to find me in the crowd and sing right at me…

Dreaming aside, the Observer Music Monthly caught my eye in January for featuring an interview with him talking about Bush, Obama and rebuilding the American Dream.  Amidst the politics was the steely Springsteen philosophy I have come to know and love, and it had to do with learning from your past:

“you carry it with you always…You better learn how to live with them, learn the story that they’re telling you. Because they’re whispering your future in your ear, and if you don’t listen, it will be contaminated by the toxicity of your past.”

The idea of the past repeating is one that I find myself mulling over a lot, especially as I have taken a new direction and I want some change in my life. Before leaving my job I wasn’t sure if it would change anything, sometimes a change of surroundings simply moves your problems to a new area. That is, if you yourself don’t change.

drastic change often fails, just look at those unresolved resolutions we set ourselves each year. What we don’t realise is the habits we are trying to changes are just that: habits. They have evolved piece by piece over the years until they are ingrained into our character, and trying to undo those over night often leaves us frustrated, self doubting and giving up on change.

Dr. Dyer suggests that just as we created these habits, to undo them we need to work on them bit by bit, and I strongly recommend anyone who is looking for some inspiration about change and going after your dream to read his fantastic book Your Erroneous Zones. That, along with 2-3 other books and a few heroes like Bruce made me leap into the unknown.

Bruce puts it another way:

“There’s a car, it’s filled with people. The 12-year-old kid’s in the back. So’s the 22-year-old. so it the 40-year-old. So it the 50-year-old guy that’s done pretty well…so’s the 30-year-old guy that wants to get his hands on his wheel and…drive you into a tree…” you carry your past experiences with you wherever you go, even if you change jobs, move to another country, you can’t leave your past behind, but as Bruce says “who’s driving makes a really big difference where the car is going.”

We’ve all had bad experiences, heartbreak, disappointment, humiliation. I think the people who find it harder to move on are those who pretend their past isn’t there until it’s too late, or feel imprisoned by their past because that’s what we feel we deserve. The ones who survive their past seem able to acknowledge these experiences, accept them as parts of who we are, but not as dictators for our future.

Bruce asks:

“How do you manage that thing that’s eating at you, without letting it eat you?”

I don’t think there is a set answer, it’s all part of the journey of discovery. For me it was putting the brakes on a little, stopping my expectations that I could change overnight, and reward the small steps of change. Leaving my job wasn’t actually the first step, there were a number of tiny steps which culminated in the mindset that I could leave and hopefully achieve a fresh start…with all my passengers in the car.

I’d love to know about other people’s experiences of self change, how they’ve managed to do it, if they’ve kept it up and what they learned from acknowledging their own past. Especially any newly freelancing people out there!

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Persistence …and Isaac Asimov

Great science fiction writer and persistor.

In a second hand bookshop I stumbled upon a three book collection of Isaac Asimov’s First Orbits. It’s a collection of his early science fiction works with commentary in between each story with biographical details of how the pieces came to be with an evaluation of each work.  As I began reading, it seemed like the perfect choice over the New Year as it charts his “eleven years of trying” as he attempts to make a living at writing. What struck me was the methodical persistence he set about this task as if he were training to be any other profession. He spent time writing and submitting his work for sale to magazines. If a piece was rejected he would try and sell it elsewhere and if he couldn’t shift it, he moved on to writing a new piece.

There is something refreshing and inspiring reading about someone who didn’t wait for luck to seek him out, but sought opportunities persistently and resiliently. Not each piece he wrote was brilliant or earth shattering, but sometimes they were good enough and someone would buy them.

Asimov did what he loved, but actively promoted himself and his work. Was it just a case of keeping going until something stuck? Or was it his talent alone that saw him as one of the most successful science fiction writers of his time? Or a mixture of both?

Does this also translate to business ventures I wonder. Do you need to be able to produce brilliant and original ideas, or just have the stamina to promote and carry your idea to the paying people?

It has certainly given me much food for thought.

Week One out of a job but not out of work

It’s 6pm and I’m still fervently working away, it’s been an upside down week with flat sorting in the day and working on the night.

After selling the bed, last night, my new “office” looked like this:

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We still have to find somewhere in amongst all of this to sleep.

This morning I attended my first LikeMind meeting in Brighton. I was encouraged with how friendly and surprisingly chipper everyone seemed to be for an early Friday morning, and there was no awkwardness I have come to expect from rigid networking events. It was causal, enjoyable and, as I left with business cards and notes of things to look up, incredibly productive.

People seemed to be genuinely interested in other people’s ventures rather than looking for ways to advance their own interests through personal contacts, though I am sure there are many profitable collaborations through such groups as LikeMind.

I’ve no doubt I’m still in the honeymoon period of just leaving my job, but from talking to people who were carving out careers from their passions it was reassuring that many of them were still excited by what they did and I found it difficult to find the traces of cynicism I have found in some of my previous positions from people desperately unhappy by their jobs. It was refreshing and inspiring.

One of my fears about working for myself, aside from myself or my boyfriend ending up in a shallow grave, was the isolation from not working alongside people day in day out, but today’s meeting seemed to be a springboard to a whole host of other events and everyone was keen to promote an event they had been to or heard about.

In fact, there is one this evening, that was recommended to me which is for Skiff, a co-working office space and unfortunately the free tickets had already been sold.

I know networking is only a small aspect of working for yourself, but I enjoyed myself. Today was the first time I was introduced to moo.com for mini business cards and I can’t wait to design and order my own! They were the coolest must have accessory for creative entrepreneurs (that and a battered Moleskine notebook!)

Carving your own path

Tomorrow is my last day of work, most of my jobs have been handed over, and my things packed up and taken home throughout the week. Looking at the contents of the sweet jar on my desk, it’s evident that no one likes butter mintoes.

I’ve had some great offers of contract work here and there when I leave which is encouraging, but I can’t shake the feeling that soon I’ll have to look after myself, no technical team on hand to fix my emails or my phone lines, no steady stream of work handed to me, no office lit and heated just waiting to house me. I remember when I was younger and my archaic laptop died on me. Many of friends had just been bought new laptops from their parents, and as I calculated my money and buried myself in indecipherable research for a new PC I remember thinking how independence seemed pretty rubbish and I would fantasise about a long lost uncle just wanting to give me a top of the range computer. Needless to say, that never happened, but I do remember the sense of pride when my computer arrived, and worked. 4 years later, that computer still exists, I had it rebuilt and gave to my parents so they could join the broadband generation.

I feel much the same today as I hand back the laptop, phone, passwords, start to calculate the pennies, and there is that same feeling that standing on your own two feet can be shaky, cold and hard. But that’s also the beauty of facing difficult things. Once you’ve conquered them, they’re no longer as uncomfortable, and just like a toddler, after all those bumps on the ground, one day your legs hold you and you walk, and then you run. One of the reasons we learn and develop so well when we’re younger is we start with a clean slate. We don’t know of anything to be afraid of, or indeed embarrassed about – quite often those bumps to the ground result in fits of giggles and praise for trying. When you’re older however, the bumps can make us feel bad and we don’t always have someone there to encourage us to take the next step.

Progress cannot be made without the setbacks, and for those who want to break out and try something new, there are plenty of people who take delight in the setback of others. It can be difficult not to let them get under your skin, but try and remember that those who tell you that you can’t, shouldn’t do something are more often than not talking from a standpoint of envy. If you are happy with your life, it is easy to be happy for others, but if there are things you would like to change, and you see someone else changing those things in their life, quite naturally you may harbour resentment.

So if people are knocking you, even though it’s hard to gee yourself up, the chances are you’re doing something right. And even if you’re not, as long as you’re learning, there’s no such thing as failure.

Fear of Failure and Mediocrity

Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin

Pooh Bear and Christopher Robin

It’s my last night at the cottage and I will be very sad to leave. I’ve had a wonderful time walking, reading, writing, napping, catching up on CSI thanks to the wonders of Freeview at the cottage, and discovering a new firm favourite – the Gilmore Girls. Fabulously written, and very well acted – I want to live there!

Being in the middle of A.A Milne country I have seen the Pooh bear bridge, went to piglet’s house – but he wasn’t in and also got to see the enchanted place, which was beautiful and peaceful. I had bought a Winnie the Pooh book to read whilst I was up here, and the story that stayed with me was the last one called “The Enchanted Place”. It’s here where Pooh and Christopher Robin leave each other, presumably for Christopher to go to school, and there is a moment between them:

“Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh’s paw.

“Pooh,” Said Christopher Robin earnestly, “if I – if I’m not quite -” he stopped and tried again – “Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won’t you?””

My week here has made me excited about soon being able to have the time to pursue my own interests, but there is a doubt that I might not be able to achieve whatever I think it is I want. I’ve often felt this, and shied away from putting myself in a position where I really have to test myself. That time is now running out. I have three more weeks of job security and then I suppose the real fun begins!

My boyfriend is picking me up tomorrow morning, I have spent all day writing and working on my short stories so tonight I’m packing up my laptop and relaxing. I have a can of Dr Pepper, a pork pie, some Twiglets and a Muller yoghurt that I ironically ran 5 miles this morning to buy…

Be your own fan

One of the biggest influencing factors preventing us from acting the way we want to, is worrying about what other people think and how they will react to you. You’ve had a bad day at work, your boss was unreasonable and embarrassed you in front of your colleagues. After work in the pub you tell your friends all the things you should have said – but why didn’t you? Because you don’t want to upset your boss, and ruin your chance for that promotion, so you keep quiet, and continue to let him treat you in the same way.

The danger comes when we start to believe that other’s opinions are a reflection on who we are as a person. That might sound obvious, and you don’t have to be timid to be under the influence of other people’s opinions. If we feel guilty for not wanting to go to a party, but go anyway because we’re expected to, we’re compromising our own needs to keep other people happy. If making other people happy is more important to you, then there’s no need to change, but if you’re feeling as though you’re suppressing a part of you to fit in, then it might be time to become your own number one fan.

Have you ever been with a group of people and just felt as though you don’t quite fit in, but you continue to spend time with them because what’s the alternative? It might be the habit of drinking on a Friday night with work mates, when you’d be happier staying in, but you can’t do that because it’s Friday and, well, everyone’s going for a drink. Or perhaps your friends have been able to make you feel bad about something you did – leaving a party early, not calling often enough, drinking too much or not enough. If you have experienced this then you have given people the power to choose how you should feel and act when really, the only person with all the information to make the best choices for you is…well, you.

Other people are at their most powerful to influence us when we care about their opinion, but if you place stock in what others think and say about you, you inhibit your ability to grow freely as you develop with one eye on someone else’s reaction.

If everyone is your customer…then no one is your customer

It is impossible to please everyone, and why should we even try? Take for example a controversial figure like Amy Winehouse. Some people can’t stand her and think she is a talentless waste, good only for car crash tabloid exposure. On the other hand, some people love her and think she has a genius talent and gift for music. So who is right? I’ve no doubt even you might have an opinion, but for all these debates about her talent going back and forth, they don’t actually affect who she is…unless she lets them. If she never reads an article about herself again she will continue to exist, live breathe, get hungry, cry at what she finds upsetting, laugh at what amuses her, and possibly make music that she enjoys. It is the same for us. Have you ever noticed that different people react to you differently even when you stay the same? Some people like you more than others, and some people can’t stand you. I think the key is to not want to find out. The more honest you are with yourself about who you are and what you are interested in, the more you will attract people who reflect that. It is not about right or wrong, it is about differences. We would never expect an apple to taste like an orange, and yet we sometimes expect our friends to support us or act in a way we want them to because that’s what “friends do”, and likewise, they may expect that from us.

My first experience of really being myself was after university. I had some good friends at university but often felt like a square peg in a round hole and would continually try to reinvent the way I acted, forcing myself much to my own misery to fit in with people I felt I should be spending time with. After university I went to Canada on my own with a group of other travellers through BUNAC. On the first night in the hostel I had that same sinking feeling that I wasn’t going to fit in. Everyone was excited and bustling around and the two self appointed leaders of the group were telling everyone to drink up our drinks and all head out for a meal together. I felt like I was back at university and the popular clique had already managed to carve itself out. And then I spotted a boy and a girl looking with bemusement at the rest of the group as they were told to “drink up”. They had a pitcher or beer between the two of them and looked like they had no intention to hurry and didn’t care what anyone else thought. I smiled. Something told me these were my people. Over many more beers we ended up living together that year and for the first time in a long time I was completely myself and they liked me for it. This gave me confidence to trust that in an abundance of people out there, the more I am myself, the more I will meet people like myself, and spend less time with people I don’t enjoy. For the most part this has worked.

It doesn’t mean I don’t have friends who aren’t completely different from me, but I don’t expect them to change as they don’t expect me to act in a way I don’t want to. It also doesn’t mean I never accept another point of view, or someone else’s advice on something. Sometimes others can be a positive influence on us, make us try things we enjoy but ultimately, the choice is yours. IT’s the same for criticism, it only counts if you believe it and if you believe it, use it to improve.

Next time someone disagrees with something you’ve done remind yourself that for every argument there is a counter argument- be your own number one fan. If you’re happy with your actions, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. If you’re not happy with your actions, don’t regret, them seem them as an opportunity to learn. You don’t need to tell that person, but you can tell yourself and as long as you agree with yourself nothing else much matters

On a side note – I’m wondering how long this optimism is going to last.

Dare to be Different Sunday 26th Oct 99 days without alcohol

Phil Spector

Phil Spector

Last night whilst surfing the five channels remaining since the death of our digi-box (another contributory to me giving up my job may also have been the cutback of television and denial of my CSI marathon evenings) I stumbled on the documentary “The Agony and Ecstasy of Phil Spector”by Anthony Wall and Vikram Jayanti. I knew very little about Phil Spector, except that he was a music producer and had been on trial for murder. The court scenes, music and eccentricity of the man hooked me into watching the complete film.

Trial aside, I was mesmerised by the interviews with Mr. Spector, as he likened himself to Da Vinci and Gallileo in his work. His confidence wasn’t that of bravado, but a more powerful unwavering belief in his own talents. Whilst he admitted that he never expected positive receptions from other people, he didn’t feel this was a reflection on his own talents but compared himself to Galileo trying to convince people the world wasn’t flat. I don’t doubt this impermeable self-belief has contributed greatly to his success. He expected criticism as part of creating art, but I get the distinct feeling that he was perhaps his hardest critic and not influenced by other people’s thoughts. In response to Paul McCartney reworking the “Let it Be” album and removing all of Spector’s arrangements he calmly stated “he got me mixed up with somebody who gives a shit.” And I’m inclined to believe him.

Talking about his time in high school, he mentioned that the graduating theme was “Dare to be different” and he believes only he challenged anything and actually achieved this. It is evident that Mr. Spector carved out his own path and was himself whether others liked him or not. His reputation for violence, tantrums and manipulation has earned him a reputation for being very difficult. He dismisses claims that he is difficult and explains he actually likes to be left alone, and if he is left alone he can’t be difficult with anyone, can he?

I think many people don’t dare to be different, or do so only within the realms of acceptability and how often do we hold our tongue for the sake of diplomacy and tact? I’ve often envied those who can speak their mind and stand by their convictions regardless of who agrees with them. Often, the discomfort of disapproval keeps us in line. This makes interactions on a daily basis amiable but in the long term fear of discomfort often inhibits us from getting in touch with our true desires.

I don’t want to deliberately upset anyone for the sake of it, and I’m not sure I have the self confidence of Mr. Spector, but I was inspired at his ability to strip away the world around him and focus on his pursuits and achieve. I wonder if I will be able to find more confidence in what I do by pursuing ventures of my own interest or if I will get feasted on and deterred by others? Can I be mentor, critic and friend when it comes to my work and can I eventually live my life impervious to the opinions of everyone else around me? I suppose only time will tell.