“The world looks very different from down here.”

Life

This was said to me by someone we met today, and I can’t get the words out of my head.

A week ago…

Lauren told me of a homeless person on the train that was politely asking for change. She too out her headphones and was apologetic because she didn’t have any change. The lady smiled at her and said “that’s alright love, thanks for smiling and acknowledging me”.

When she told me (and even now as I write this) I had a knot in my stomach, I instantly thought “I’ve got to do something”. “It’s not right and I have to try to help”. 

Honesty

I’ve always felt bad walking past a homeless person, and when I think I have change I’ll sometimes walk past them, check my bag or wallet and if I find some, go back and hand it over. I feel sorry for them every time. And yes, I’ve ignored way more homeless people than I’ve given change to. I’ve kept my head down, put my headphones in and just ignored them, and I feel so sad about it now.

Taking Action

After talking all this out loud with Lauren I decided to make some food the following week, take it into town and hand out what I could to people. But also, if it transpired that way, talk to them about what else they could do with and find out how they got there.

I chose to make a couple of super nutritious sandwiches and buy a tonne of fruit from a farm shop that was “on the turn”, it was SUPER ripe and they always sell those off cheap. I had something like 20 bananas, 9 satsumas a few apples and a peach. The fruit cost me a fiver and the ingredients for the sandwiches probably less. I made 16 sandwiches total which I guess doesn’t sound a lot for the time it took me to make them. I think it’s because I chose particularly difficult fillings (see below, click for recipes):  

Curried Chickpea Sandwich (like Coronation Chicken)
Lentil and Chickpea Mayo (like Egg Mayo)

Never the less, we ventured out this morning into Central London, Charing Cross to give out what we had.

I felt uncomfortable, awkward and nervous.

Who was I to give out fruit homemade sandwiches?

As if that made them any less homeless?

Was I been patronising?

After the giving out the first one to a man who looked in a really bad way, he smiled at me and was so grateful I almost cried.

It’s something so small but it’s more than a banana and a sandwich.

It’s hope.

Hope that there’s good people out there that take notice and make an effort to help. Throughout the morning and early afternoon we dished all but one sandwich (which Lauren is giving to a homeless person near her work tonight). Some of the people we gave to, naturally struck up a conversation with us and we were able to learn more about them and what else they need.

What We Learnt

I’m not going to disclose their stories because that’s not mine to share, but suffice to say that any one of us could end up in their situation and it could happen very quickly, as did for them. I know this sounds really dumb, but they’re no different from us, we just have a roof over our heads and a bed to sleep in at night. They’re human too and for whatever situation they’ve hit rock bottom.

And they know it too.

This is what surprised me, many we spoke were so accepting of their situation, they knew they’d made this situation happen. They knew what they did wrong and what they could have done differently. Some felt it was their “karma”.

As I mentioned at the beginning, one person mentioned to us that the “world looks very differently from down here”. They gained a perspective of what humans are like and what they’re capable of. They even told us they’d been spat at twice, once at the ground right next to them and one time in the face(!). How absolutely unforgivable is that?!

They also mentioned there’s other homeless people around him that they wouldn’t socialise with, the drug addicts and alcoholics as well as people that were a bit “off the rails”. I can’t imagine how crazy that world must be.

I thought probably what you’re thinking too, how can you tell whether they’re going to spend what money you give them on drugs or food or alcohol?

Well, I guess you can’t. So after what I’ve learnt today I would probably ask what food or drink I could get them from the shop. Offering sustenance I think is the only way you’re going to know they’re not going to spend it on other things.

However, another thing I’ve learnt today is that the local shelter near them offers 28 days free accommodation when you first are homeless, after that you have to pay, I think, £16 a night or £25 for 2 nights. You’ll get food, a shower and they’ll wash your clothes.

I’m doing some investigation into what government help is out there because “apparently” there’s benefits for anyone homeless, which sounds like crap from what I can dig up so far.

What I’m Going To Do Next

When we were able to ask what else they could use, they said blankets, sleeping bags and a hot meal. Very often their sleeping bags and things get stolen so just something to keep them warm would help, especially going into winter.

Some of them had upset stomachs from the food they ate so a good hearty meal would no doubt do them and their stomachs good.

My next goal is to batch make a chunky soup or chilli (not spicy, because yeah that would do their stomachs good!) and take it into town with paper cups and bread for dipping. Giving out what we can that can warm them up. Also trying to find sleeping bags, coats and blankets that we can take too.

Coming to terms with the reality of their situations today was hard hitting, and not only makes me incredibly grateful for what I have, but also motivates me to do so much more.

I hope that this inspires you to do what you can to help the homeless.

Remember, they’re people too.

Can we actually “switch off”?

Life, Motivation, Well-Being

When do we get a chance to “switch off” from the outside world?

I do my best thinking when I’m driving, and it’s really impractical as I can’t write notes down whilst I’m driving (unless I have a Tesla that can drive itself – just need to find that spare 100k I left lying around). 

I was thinking about when we actually get a chance to switch off from the world. I myself am finding it really hard to shut down “chatter” in my brain recently. Whether it’s work worries, anxiety, money, people, stress – just about anything!

I think one of the problems is with modern technology – the internet, smart phones and social media. We’re training our minds to be kept busy, active and constantly consuming information. Whether it’s mindlessly scrolling through Facebook or watching TV like a zombie, our minds are being always stimulated.

Have you ever tried doing nothing for 10 minutes? Like actually nothing. It’s really hard and man does that time go slowly! But even then, can you quiet the voices in your head? Can you stop the worrying, the stressing and all the things that you wished you could be doing instead of nothing for 10 minutes?!

I think for self employed people it’s worse. Sure there are many advantages to being your own boss but one of the huge disadvantages (IMO anyway) is that you never switch off. Yes you can shut your computer down at 5pm every day, but can you stop working? Can you stop thinking about how your going to get the next sale, whether you can afford to pay yourself this month, or fight the urge to check your emails on your phone at 9pm just in case you have anything urgent to deal with?

It occurred to me that even going on holiday, on a beach somewhere sipping a cocktail, I wouldn’t truly switch off. I couldn’t quiet those voices, those worries.

SO how, if you can’t switch off (like me), can you control it?

Even though I don’t do it often enough, my gut tells me meditation is the key. I strongly believe this is the way to get a handle on our thoughts and anxieties. I’m no expert at all and I’m not writing this from a place of success, far from it, I’m merely chucking thoughts down and putting pen to paper fingers to keyboard.

If we can reach a point in meditation where we can slow our brain waves down to a point where we see what’s going on in our lives from a different perspective, that could truly change the way we think – couldn’t it? Because if we separate ourselves from our thoughts, can’t we get a grip on them?

There’s a phrase “you are what you eat” (i’m totally a pizza) but what about “you are what you think”?

If we think a certain way, with certain thoughts, aren’t we just encouraging that to happen? Putting all our focus and energy into the one outcome that we have in our heads?

It’s food for thought (mmm pizza).

And now I’m hungry, NICE ONE STEVE.

So if you’re finding the noises in your head a little ermm, noisy. Try meditation, I am going to YouTube a quick 10 minute and see what happens. Can’t hurt right? It’s only doing nothing for 10 minutes 😉 

Telling 9th July 2018

Life, Motivation, Telling Yesterday, Well-Being

Take a break!

That’s all.

No just kidding, there’s more to tell. Although it really is that simple.

I heard a great word today that affected me: Permission.

When we give ourselves permission to do something, it means we allow it. There’s no resistance, we’ve accepted that it’s allowed.

Over the weekend just gone I was part of a Dance show which meant that I wasn’t able to work or do the conventional tasks I would normally carry out (majority of these would be work).

What this inadvertently did was to give me a break from work. I still checked emails and replied to urgent issues, but this was such a small part of my day (30 mins – 1 hour max). Yesterday was Monday and I was also out most of the day so I couldn’t spend all day in front of the computer. I spend so long on running a business that I rarely realise how much time I spend on it. Some days it just consumes me.

I realised that I need to give myself permission in future to take a break, not wait for something to force me into not working. Of course realising something and then doing it are two very different things. But a realisation is a step closer to change, even if it doesn’t happen right away.

Today I tell yesterday to give permission, permission to take breaks, to write, to draw, to sing, to laugh, to rest.

Going Waste Free – is it really that difficult?

Life, Veganism

Me and my girlfriend made one the best decisions of our lives back in January (2017).

We adopted a plant-based diet.

We’ve never felt better and it really opened our eyes to the suffering of other beings.

It’s safe to say my compassion and love of animals has grown much stronger since we made the switch. Appreciating and respecting all animals desire to live a happy, healthy life is both empowering and life-changing. Recently, we’ve found that this desire to do good for the planet has expanded into other avenues.

Firstly we’re in the process of making all our products Cruelty free, it takes time to research and find products you love as much as the old ones but so did switching diets. Plus, once you’ve found these products and the places to buy them, you don’t have to do the work again. AND you can teach others that want to do the same thing.

Secondly, and this is a more recent realisation, we are investigating the possibility of transitioning to as many ‘waste-free’ products as possible.

What is ‘waste-free’?

As I understand it, being waste free means that you do not buy any products that have packaging that can’t be reused, recycled or isn’t bio degradable. Basically anything that contributes to the mass waste we have on this planet.

How difficult is it?

Well, I imagine living a completely waste free life at this stage is going to be difficult, there’s a lot to learn. However 3 things that we’re going to do here sound like a great place to start.

1. Switching to Re-fillable Products

What do I mean by this? Well, near us I recently discovered a health foods store that also sold a bunch of cleaning products. You take along a container (or buy one from the shop) and fill it up. You only pay for what you need. Then when you run out, bring in your bottle and refill it! It sounds simple and for us it’s one of the first steps we’re going to take.

waste free cleaning products

2. Buy foods that require no packaging

Shop at your local markets and chuck the food into your own bags or Tupperware! Places like Holland and Barrett have whole foods such as nuts which you can just pick up what you want. No pre-packaging necessary!

Holland and Barrett fruit and nuts.jpg

3. Make that bag last for life

Invest in one of those expensive cheap hemp bags for life and USE it every time you shop!

tesco-ladybird-juco-jute-b_Main.jpg

Summary

I guess choosing to eat a plant-based diet has switched out mindset to a more compassionate one and we not only care for the animals now, but for the earth itself. It’s a living being too. We choose to shy away from the damage we do to animals and our planet, which is what we’re accustomed to. But I don’t think there’s any excuse now (saying this to myself too) with the internet and the wealth of information we have available, to not make changes. Whether it’s all-in, or a step at a time. We can all do our part.

x

The 1 Major Downside To Working From Home

Life

I went self employed in January 2009, it was a scary time and I honestly didn’t know if it would work out. I had amassed a fair bit of savings to keep me going for a few months if I didn’t make any money.

I would say I was lucky because I landed on my feet within those first few months, I was earning nearly the same amount each month that I was earning in my previous job. As you hear all the time “it’s who you know” and one contact’s business led me onto another and then another.

My business has changed quite drastically in 8 years but one thing has remained the same – I still work from my home ‘office’.

Now please don’t think I’m complaining in this article, I know I have a great gig here. I am SO grateful that I don’t have to do a job I hate travelling long distances to get there and I did work my bum off to be in this situation. This is simply a word of warning to anyone considering going down this road.

First, let’s hit up the benefits of running a business from home:

  • (In my case) get up when you want in the afternoon morning
  • Having time to make breakfast, lunch and dinner there and then – YES FRESH HOT FOOD
  • Listening to any Spotify playlist you want (and then singing along)
  • Midday Netflix breaks
  • Shopping Breaks (we live a stones-throw from Lakeside, I’ve definitely ditched work to go to Zara)
  • Working in your pants (perhaps the most beneficial)

So yes, the benefits are MANY and they DO outweigh the negatives. However there’s one thing I struggle with and that’s:

GOING CRAZY

“Why would you go crazy?” I hear you say…

Well, there’s something not normal about being home alone all day every day by yourself working away with only the CAT to talk to. I used to be a bit nutty before but since we got a cat I’ve reached new levels.

Running my business requires no leaving the house to visit clients and no phone calls. If I was to do a full week of work, my only social interactions would be the post office 3 times a week (I use drop and go so I literally say HI and BYE), waiting anxiously at the door for my girlfriend to get home from work and oh yes – the cat.

You might be thinking “But Steve, just go outside and meet up with someone…. anyone?”

And this is just what I need to do, the difficulty is that being at home becomes, after a while, sooo comfortable, too comfortable.

Have you ever just loved being at home so much that you didn’t want to bother leaving the house? Well, now that work is at home with me, I hardly ever HAVE to leave the house, and that, is sending me crazy.

So, a word of warning if any of you out there are/or thinking of working from home. It can send you crazy after a short while. Venture into the outside world as much as you can, see people, talk to them. Avoid becoming too wrapped up in home/work life.

If you already work from home, are you also crazy like me? Let me know in the comments.

In the meantime, here’s Harley, being helpful as always:

FullSizeRender.jpg

Time Is Currency And How You Spend It Matters

Life, Well-Being

If there’s one thing I love doing, it’s finding the quickest way of accomplishing a task. Sad as it may be, I get actually get a kick out of it!

Over the years of working with computers and websites, I’ve had to do loads of mundane tasks, some the require the same strokes or actions to be repeated over and over. I love finding out keyboard shortcuts or upping the sensitivity of my mouse so that I can get things done quicker.

When I was self employed and fixing people’s computers, I would often be done in 15-20 minutes (of a 1 hour callout) because I worked so fast at fixing all their problems. I then felt bad about charging for the hour and had to ask if they needed any help with their other tech – phones, ipads etc just so I could justify my fee!

I’m not saying this to brag, I’m saying this because I love being efficient and getting time back from a job that could possibly take hours.

How I spend my time really matters to me, and, as I get older, it’s starting to matter more.

The difference between money and time is that you can always get more money, with time, once it’s gone it’s gone.

Workaholic

More recently I’ve started to become super aware of how I’m spending my time. Up until a couple of months ago, I was working at least 12 hours a day most days of the week trying to grow the business that I run from home.

But why was I trying to grow the business? To get more money.

Why was I trying to get more money? Apart from the materialistic things, it was to have enough money without having to work all the time.

In other words, time.

I was trying to work for my free time (potentially years down the line) where I could enjoy life.

To me it seemed a bit crazy: Spend time doing something I don’t want to do in order to get time doing what I do want to do?

The problem was, I didn’t know when that would even happen. Would spending 12 hours a day every day working on my business guarantee freedom in 5 years? 10 years? 20 years?

It was completely unknown.

The same with working for your retirement. Not to be too morbid but you could work all your life and then finally reach retirement age and yep, ‘kick the bucket’ a year later.

You often hear that when a person is diagnosed with terminal cancer, they change. They do as much as they can in the time that they have left. In other words, they have been told they have a certain amount of time to “spend” and they want to spend it on things they love doing.

The difference with those people and us is that we don’t know how much we have left to spend, so we often waste it.

Don’t Quit Your Job (unless you want to)

Now I’m not saying don’t work, unfortunately due to current way of the world, we need money to survive. You might also LOVE your job and working 12 hours a day. That’s amazing – you’re already spending your time doing something that you love to do. For me, I wasn’t, and I’m trying to change that.

What I am saying is that we can spend our time on doing more things that we love to do, things that stretch us, excite us and give us stories to tell.

You never know, whatever that thing is, you might end up earning money from it and one day quit your day job.

Have More Fun

I’ll leave you with this, be aware of how you’re spending your time. Don’t feel guilty or judge yourself for binging a Netflix show occasionally. But do find something you love to do, and do as much of it as you can. Find things that you can do with friends or loved ones. Create experiences and play games. Most of all, try to have fun!

Untethering from my iPhone

Life, Well-Being

Me and my iPhone need to break up (or at least see each other less).

On Wednesday (28/6/17) I went along to a monthly Creator’s Club where the guest speaker was discussing Futurism and the rapid increase in computing power and emerging automated technologies. The talk itself was mind blowing, to have it put into perspective just how much technology is going to change the world and everyone’s lives is both terrifying and exciting.

I will talk more on my opinions on this subject (the increase use of technology to automate human tasks). But for this article I wanted to focus more on a discussion I was having with people after the talk.

The Addiction

Me and a few others were talking about how addicted we’ve all become to our phones and more worryingly, only just realised this.

I shared a story about how I went out to the shops and accidentally left my phone at home. By the time I realised I was already driving and couldn’t be bothered to turn around. The reaction from the others was literally “WOW! What was that like?”, quickly followed by laughter when we realised that the shock of this was utterly ridiculous.

But it’s kinda true though. When was the last time you went out without your phone? When did you last not check WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram for an ENTIRE DAY.

Now, I was only out a short period of time (an hour or so – WOW big deal) but I can tell you that being without my phone felt AMAZING. It sounds crazy but I felt free! Free from having to think “has anyone messaged me?” or kill time walking between shops by refreshing my Facebook feed.

We underestimate the scenarios when we check our phones. One time I even caught myself checking it when I was waiting for my receipt at a shop. In literally the shortest wait time, I had my phone out and avoided any kind of conversation with the cashier.

And because we check our phones so often, it becomes muscle memory, we load apps, refresh feeds, without thinking.

You might not even think you’re that addicted to checking your phone but I bet if you asked someone that doesn’t own a smart phone, they would disagree. I know some people that don’t have an iPhone and they get SO frustrated with people around them always being on them. It’s been pointed out to me and I honestly thought I wasn’t on it much.

Consuming vs Creating

I think part of the problem is there’s so much activity going on throughout the internet, we don’t want to miss out. We crave to consume more. More information about each other’s lives, about what’s going on in the world (mostly negative – what do you think that does for us?), about health, or any subject that we’re passionate about. When all that information is effectively on tap, why wouldn’t you indulge yourself all day every day?

Let’s put it another way, when was the last time you created something? And I don’t mean a Facebook post about what happened on Eastenders last night. Something that really got your juices flowing – drawing, painting, writing, journalling, singing, photography, i.e. made something, anything that challenged your creative mind! We’re more consumers than creators nowadays and that, I believe, is an issue.

Baby Steps

For me, I’ve tried to take steps to stop being distracted by my iPhone, reduce the temptation of looking. The process is gradual but here’s what I did/am doing:

1. Turned off MOST notifications

This took a little time as I needed to do it for each individual app. But it was worth it! The only notifications I get are if I receive a text/iMessage or if I receive a phone call. The great thing is most people I know use WhatsApp and now I can choose when to check the app for new messages.

Not having my phone buzz or ping all the time massively helped reduce the temptation to look at my phone.

2. Deleted Apps

This is a biggy.

Try deleting the Social media apps from your phone. Then you’ll really suffer withdrawals. Why not? If you really want to check you can either load up the internet on your phone and login, or check on a computer.

3. GO OUT WITHOUT YOUR PHONE

Yep, just leave that puppy right at home.

4. Leave it in another room

Find yourself carrying your phone with you all around the house? Yep, me too. Leave it in a room you barely go in. Better yet, overnight leave it to charge in any room apart from the Bedroom. You can get an alarm clock for £3 on Amazon.

Give those a go and see what difference it makes to your daily life.

Cold Turkey?

I can’t see me completely getting rid of my smart phone, although I know that’s what others have done and feel amazing (Ed Sheeran famously got rid of his phone). I run a business after all and aside from carrying a laptop around everywhere, a phone is a good mobile computer to interact with customers if there’s a problem.

I think it’s time we took control back from our tech. It seems to control us right now without us realising it. Technology/Social Media definitely has a use, but distracting us from going about our lives and being creators, is not it.

That’s my thoughts on the subject! Feel free to post yours below 🙂