La dolce far niente…

It’s Italian for ‘The sweetness of doing nothing.’

It’s what I plan to do for the next two weeks, probably involving a considerable amount of ice cream. Often it’s my favourite choice of weekend activity too… only I never knew what it was called until I finally watched the film ‘Eat, Pray, Love‘ featuring Julia Roberts. She plays a woman healing from a broken relationship in Italy = Eat, India = Pray and Bali = Love.

‘La dolce far niente’ is a seriously underrated pastime. It restores you and enables you to live in the moment, whatever that moment brings. Not worrying about anything or anyone for a sweet period of time.

Photo by Derek Liang on Unsplash

Weirdly if you search for it on the internet, a bunch of gurus from various backgrounds talk about how you do it and/or how you achieve it.  This seems counterintuitive to me.

It’s the art of doing nothing. Simple.

See you in two weeks!

Love Ruth x

Header Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Ruth Goes to Ghana: Expedition 04G

I was prompted to write this by a Raleigh International update, which made me think about my expedition to Ghana and the affect it has had on my life…

It started with the weekend interview and a river crossing, in slippers by one candidate. I got in, personally I think due to my Mum’s training when camping as a child – I actually wiped down the groundsheet to sleep on and had a wooden spoon tucked away in my rucksack!

I raised money through a cash lottery with a weekly email update entitled ‘Ruth Goes to Ghana’ (one friend commented that I wrote like I think, very revealing for her!). The rest I basically just paid for out of my wages, resigned in September 2003, went ski-repping in Switzerland for the Winter and to Ghana in May 2004. They still did paper tickets for the plane back then…

Arriving in Ghana, I was overwhelmed by the constant drumming… It was green, a shock. Hot, not a shock. And everyone there was fascinated by my hair, long and blonde, and my skin, still very white.

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We trained as expedition leaders in Accra. Maybe 30 of us, mostly around 30-ish. That was the easy bit… The Venturers arrived about 5 weeks later. They were 17-25 years old, many from Glasgow, some gap year students, others Ghanaians. I did not understand much of what was said at first – accents (mostly Glaswegian), noise and chaos all contributing to this. Just outside Accra, we did our first trek with the group we would take onto the first Phase of the expedition. There were cobras, dehydrated young people, unbelievable tiredness and relentless heat.

Then I heard by letter that a good friend had been killed on a motorbike. He was 31, he never saw his child. He had emailed me just before I left and I had not replied before heading off to Ghana. As you can imagine, the expedition leader reading this Baz Luhrmann track went straight to my heart:

Sleeping in a tent became normal after 3 months. We cooked on BBQ-like stoves – including making bread from scratch. We sat over a very long pit, the long drop, some with chronic diahorrea… We built a primary school and nursery (making mud bricks from scratch), refurbished a hospital, constructed a toilet block and used machetes to carve a trail for the tourists visiting Bui National Park.

One of my overriding memories is of a young venturer who didn’t thrive in his first placement but subsequently found himself, weirdly through hefting a pickaxe. He changed from being a frustrated individual to being well-rounded, friendly, supportive and a pleasure to be with. As I understand it, he carried this attitude on into his future and I hope I was a little bit to do with that.

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Thinking about the experience of Ghana itself. Of course, there were mosquitos and very itchy, very large nits. There was also malaria and fairly frightening medical facilities… There was poverty but there was sharing the last of your food with someone who had none. There was illness but also people willing to take care of you. There was nothing in terms of material things compared to the UK but there was gratitude for something as simple as a pencil. Deeply inspirational.

I saw hippos in their natural habitat and a massive elephant called Action looked straight into my eyes from 20 yards away… I saw slave trading castles, where the floor in the room where the slaves were ‘stored’ before being transferred to the ship, was a metre higher than the rest of the building floor. Accumulated and compacted human waste.

All things considered my experience in Ghana had a profound impact on my view of life. Some lessons have taken me a while to absorb, others were immediate leaving me with a conviction that Adventures that Matter really matter. Exposure to other cultures and environments really matters. These experineces impact on the traveller, the local inhabitants and positively colour the world for both. They change perceptions, build confidence and create lifelong friendships.

In Ghana, I saw my favourite birthday sunrise. A memory I will hold forever.

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Book your own adventure soon.

Love Ruth x

P.S. Beware the reverse culture shock…

Visual Thinkers

Visual thinkers think in pictures instead of in words. This means we think fast!

It also means we sometimes take in more detail than we realise at first. We jump to the end of a train of thought and forget to explain the steps in the middle. Plus occasionally get overloaded with information and can’t communicate what’s going on, at least temporarily.

The landscape of factual, sensory and intuitive information we use in decisions is not always obvious as a result to those around us. The reflection process can be all encompassing as there is so much data to process and this can mean there’s a delay when answering a question or explaining the reason for a decision. In fact, sometimes it is very hard to voice in words the process going on in our heads. Think TV without the sound!

Photo by Amanda Dalbjörn on Unsplash

Cheri Florance of eBrain Engineering Labs has spent a substantial part of her life studying visual thinkers, as a result of her son being non-verbal as a child. She now helps adult and child visual thinkers to understand their brain and adapt to expected social behaviour. A visual thinker’s behaviour can seem odd to verbal thinkers, as they can experience anxiety in situations where there is effectively just too much information. Verbal thinkers may not see the thought patterns seen by the visual thinker so may just see someone withdraw. In many ways, to the outside world this behaviour may seem similar to autism.  Visual thinkers though are well adapted socially, most of the time.

I found this list of things we may do differently to a verbal thinker, which may help verbal thinkers understand the process we follow better: https://www.lifehack.org/275993/7-things-only-visual-thinkers-will-understand

If you’re scratching your head wondering who among your family and friends are visual thinkers. Here are a few indicators:

“1. Many visual thinkers are naturally original.  Since visual thinkers often think in pictures without realizing it, they may often create mental movies and are day dreamers. This triggers more innovative and imaginative thinking. In turn, they are rewarded with the ability to visualize things from multiple perspectives, making them creative and fascinated with large ideas that may not seem realistic to others.

2. They may not excel when trying to understand topics piece by piece.  Don’t get me wrong, they are talented in witnessing connections between things. Although, they may get frustrated if they cannot see the bigger picture or the “why” in the “what” to begin with. Piece by piece thinkers can see ideas in a linear way. In contrast, a visual thinker will try to see all of the parts at once and how they interact with each other. A good way to take this into account is to imagine a 3D map of thoughts.

3. They are constantly taking in new things.  Due to this 3D way of thinking, they have the tendency to notice and experience more of their surroundings. This can express itself from being aware of the wind blowing outside to the kid tapping his pencil in the back of the room and back to the teacher’s explanation of logarithmic differentiation. Many visual thinkers are easily distracted, but can also feel more immersed in their atmosphere, making them great explorers.

4. They have the potential to remember more or have a photographic memory.  Feeling more connected with their surroundings may cause an emotional attachment to what has happened in their presence. This makes them more susceptible to remembering the details of each moment in their life that would usually be overlooked by most people. Similar to the idea of mental movies that was mentioned earlier, they will visualize memories in a picture or scene exactly how they saw it at the time.

5. They may have trouble putting thoughts into words.  Lots of people have trouble explaining how they feel or even putting their ideas into words. If this is you, consider the possibility that it’s because you think partly, or mainly, in pictures. Often, a person will simply label themselves as a poor communicator. In reality, it’s not the fault of the person, but the way that their brain makes sense of information. I mean, how does one put a visual scenario into words without working harder than most to say it out loud?”

by Alexis Thomas, https://www.theodysseyonline.com/5-signs-visual-thinker

Photo by Rob Schreckhise on Unsplash

“The best indicator is your job, as visual brains lead to visual professions – engineer, doctor, pilot, computer expert, graphic designer, artist, dentist.”

Cheri Florance

Often surgeons are also visual thinkers and respond better to a video of a procedure to learn than a verbal explanation. This may help explain the difficulties visual thinkers have in comprehension. My daughter certainly finds this tricky and in all honesty, it only just occurred to me that this may be the cause… her obsession with YouTube and emojis finally explained!

Hope this was interesting!

Love Ruth x

Aloneness 😞

What is more important? Personal privacy or feeling alone in your community? The advantage of a small place is that you are usually supported and known pretty well. The disadvantage is that many people know the details of your life! Good or bad.

I met someone last month, on the bus as it happens, and we started talking about the weather, travelling, living in cities versus villages and ultimately the sense of community you do or don’t have. The sense of connectedness or not. And the feeling of being supported by that community or literally being an invisible resident.

Photo by Thomas Charters on Unsplash

I feel sad at the level of aloneness in our communities. This is not the same as loneliness. It’s more about not seeing people at all. It’s a kind of social isolation. It seems to happen to the older generation, especially when their partners die (Age UK run a befriending service if of interest), to those confined to their home for multiple reasons and in my experience when you move to a new place and have a new baby!

I was particularly touched by the story of a blind woman, I suspect it was linked to a charity campaign but honestly can’t remember which one, who literally spent every day on her own, all week, with only the radio and story tapes for company. Horrendous. She then received a guide dog to help her get around, and suddenly her life was transformed. She could go out, meet people, talk. Guide dogs are precious in this situation, it’s hard to train them and not every dog has the inherent skills to succeed, but you can support them in trying to through sponsoring a puppy with Guide Dogs for the Blind.

Photo by Rob Wingate on Unsplash

As some of you know I’m an intermittent church goer and happened to go last Sunday to the local family service. The vicar spoke of the importance of not labelling people and asked us to make a badge. On the front we wrote ‘Loved by God’, our name, then VIP. For the back we were asked to think of someone we disliked, had labelled negatively or simply didn’t notice at all in our life. Then on the back we wrote ‘Loved by God’, their name (or a symbol to represent them) and VIP, and then we were asked to pin the badge on our left side, over our heart. I won’t tell you who I put on the back of my badge, just that it was a pretty difficult process to see that person as ‘Loved by God’! However, it did make me think.

Last week I also (in the spirit of talking to whoever is I front of you) found two great prospects for potential sales, without ever expecting those conversations to offer that possibility. I think watching the film ‘Legally Blonde 2‘ helped! Weirdly, it reminded me that opportunity, help and support come from the most unlikely places.

Have a great weekend!

Love Ruth x

No Filters.

Yes, I’m talking about the power of honesty in work, relationships and play. Relationships being the key. Or I recently started to think of this type of honesty as No Filters.

‘No Filters’ means saying what’s in your mind without thinking how it will be received.

Not many people do this. Not many people are completely themselves. It’s rare, so it’s powerful. It’s rare, because it can be hard.

Photo by Vladislav Klapin on Unsplash

There are loads of training courses, books, blogs, videos out there that can help everyone be who they are. Sounds weird in a way, as why would you need a training course to be yourself. However, especially in the UK, we are trained from our early years to have a socialised presence in the world and that makes adults behave unnaturally, having a layer of pretence if you like. One simple question asked every day, shows this:

How are you?” You’ve had an awful day so far, woke late, rushed to work after dealing with a grumpy child at home, arrived to find someone’s added a high pressure meeting at the last minute, forgot your lunch, more importantly forgot your child’s lunch… anyhow you get the gist of the situation.

I’m fine thanks, how are you?” leaves your mouth without a second thought. Moving swiftly off the subject of you, onto something safer… and never admitting how you really feel.

So here are the things that I’ve found to move back towards the ‘no filters’ toddler you once were, albeit with a level of adulthood these days (clearly in some situations no filters is not appropriate, but…):

1. Mindfulness and Meditation

Many of you may have come across the dreaded raisin. You eat it really slowly, feeling the texture, tasting every flavour, chewing slowly… etc. The idea is to be mindful, really watching and engaging in every moment, making yourself more aware of your surroundings and immediate experience. As a result you live in the now. Not tomorrow, not yesterday.

Mindfulness kind of works for me but I have to concentrate hard. Quite alot. And I have a tendency to feel a bit bored, if I’m honest.

Meditation, I prefer. Especially walking meditation. Essentially, it’s breathing and walking, focussing on what’s around you, maybe reflecting on a particular problem, but gently. I was introduced to the idea by a lovely Swedish, ex-naval marine and subsequently a hypnotherapist, unfortunately now deceased, who helped me in a time of need. Try it, it helps!

2. ‘The Happiness Project‘ by Gretchen Rubin

This project is very simple. Do what makes you happy every day for a year. After this, Gretchen wrote a book and shares her thoughts now in an email every day. They are short, insightful and spark a thought for the day! Inspiring.

3. Tiny Buddha

The founder who runs Tiny Buddha is Lori Deschene. She’s young, but wise and emails inspirational and thoughtful, sometimes really helpful, timely blogs to your inbox every day. Some are written by herself, some by invited contributors. They are always interesting and have given me insight into how to deal with everyday problems, as well as tricky longer term ones.

4. The Landmark Forum

This is a full on, nearly three day course and not for the faint hearted or those currently struggling with mental health issues. It’s about the power of authenticity and possibility. I can’t tell you more as I promised not to. No spoilers here.

The Landmark organisation has received mixed feelings in the press, accused of being a cult for example. I don’t believe that, but please Google it and make up your own mind! I’m just letting you know what’s out there and what’s possible…

5. Dale Carnegie

An author and businessman, best known for his book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’; Dale Carnegie was a brilliant man. He reflected on his experience in the 1930s and distilled his advice for those who struggle to harness their emotional intelligence and those who just want to improve their interactions with other people. He came up with practical, understandable steps to take which help you live, work and build friendships with others.

My main learning point was to be always kind and open to others, as you just don’t know where it will lead at the beginning of a relationship.

I have done their course in Human Relations three times! Once as a participant, twice as a helper. Amazing. Learnt and retained more every time.

https://www.dalecarnegie.com/en-gb/courses/effective-communications

6. Hypnotherapy

Its a powerful tool, brilliant for a uncovering hidden and possibly uncomfortable truths and guiding future decisions. Just find a good practitioner! It needs to be done carefully, with love, empathy and compassion in order to be successful. The National Hypnotherapy Society can help you with your search. Good luck!

I hope this blog leads you to think about being yourself. Remember, No Filters. It was inspired by a close friend.

Photo by Sam Operchuck on Unsplash

Please let me know of any other courses, blogs, books you’re aware of and have found useful that I may have missed.

Love Ruth x

Diversity Strategy? Now include, please.

I started this blog thinking about hierarchy in the workplace and how to incorporate younger people in board level decisions. It seems to me that the over forties need guidance from the digital generation to enable their business to succeed in the rapidly changing online world. How can this be made to happen?

The current age related pattern of progression and influence may no longer work when the under 30s understand and use more stuff in this territory. A Walkman (seen below!) is no longer cutting edge and, even with the retro revival, just can’t keep up!

Photo by Florian Pérennès on Unsplash

The other week saw the publication of an article in The Guardian on current opinions relating to women in the boardroom. Apparently, we women cannot cope with the culture…

“I don’t think women fit comfortably into the board environment”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/may/31/pitiful-views-on-women-in-boardrooms-permeate-ftse-firms

To say I’m annoyed is an understatement. Perhaps the boardroom culture just needs to change.

I guess I am a feminist, I just never called it that as I didn’t think it necessary anymore… (not since the late eighties anyway 😧). It seems that this is not the case. As I have a nine year old daughter, I hope her experience is different. However, some indications say not.  Such as the slogans on children’s clothes – ‘Hero‘ for boys, ‘Princess‘ or ‘Pretty‘ for girls – it’s been slightly changed by a recent campaign by Sarah Young, though unfortunately not that much (see https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/tesco-mothercare-sexist-marketing-childrens-let-clothes-be-airtred-boy-shoes-girls-a7881291.html).

For the next generation going into work and the millennials entering the workplace now, isn’t it important to eliminate even the subtle, seemingly discriminatory practice at a senior level? Simon Sinek published a video earlier in the year on what millennials are primed to need in their career – it’s not the same as the baby-boomers or the yuppie generation due to their education style, upbringing and just their experience of the world. This is not surprising and kind of a relief:

Simon Sinek on Millennials in the Workplace: https://youtu.be/hER0Qp6QJNU

Discrimination takes place, that’s a reality, whether due to race, gender, age, disability (physical or mental) and sexuality. As a result, many companies are introducing training for hiring managers to reduce unconscious bias and it will be interesting to see how long it will be until this takes effect, and indeed if it will be effective. Let’s hope so.

Photo by Debashis Biswas on Unsplash

I heard Chris Davies speak the other week, purely by accident. He made it to the final of The Big Painting Challenge on BBC1 this year. It’s amazing as he can only see clearly approximately 2 m ahead and after that just sees colours. (Here is the link to the final on iPlayer: http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0b2n3g1)

Chris’ talk touched me as he explained that although he did a degree in design, he was unable to find a job in this field when leaving university. He has invested himself instead in painting and has started to showcase his work on this website:

https://www.chrisdaviesart.co.uk

I guess I’m wondering why he could not find an employer at the time who could accommodate his sight impairment in his chosen area. He has a job now but not one that reflects his intelligence and skill. In the world of web accessibility, wouldn’t he have an advantage over everyone else in defining what sight-impaired individuals need?

I for one am hoping that the inherent biases from entry level up to the boardroom are sorted out by the time this kid reaches working age… I get the impression he will have a pretty strong opinion on it!

Photo by Atlas Green on Unsplash

Have a fabulous week! Hopefully you can change something for someone out there.

Love Ruth x

To Puppy or Not to Puppy? A Tricky Question.

We have been thinking about getting a dog for about six months. I planned to make a decision in July 2018 and coincidentally the lovely BBC have put this series on:

Choose the Right Puppy for You

Such perfect timing!

So we have been putting together a list of pros and cons, planning logistics and laughing at the afros on the Bichon Frise’s! We selected this breed using the Kennel Club selection tool, which is pretty helpful if you want a dog but have no idea which will suit your family:

https://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/findabreed/Default.aspx

There’s something great about picking a dog that matches the owner – my daughter has the Bichon Frise hair!

To be serious I am very aware that my daughter, as an only child, does not have an automatic friend in a brother or sister. So while a dog cannot fulfil all the things a sibling can offer, it can provide unconditional love, and I figure everyone needs alot of that… as well as being an always available playmate and friend.

The logistics are my worry. So here’s a summary of the positives and ‘why nots’ for us:

We’ll let you know what we decide! Please let me know if you have any suggestions or advice.

Love Ruth x