Just before my blog …
Don’t miss out! We are at a crucial moment in history for right-brain thinking.
Here at the top – so that you see it! – just one week to go for the early bird rate for my Masterclass, Coaching and the HeART of Conversation on 17 October.
Don’t miss out on this event of the year! It’s going to be amazing… You don’t need to be a coach, but you do need to be interested in how we communicate with each other. Booking and more detail here.
The Masterclass will include material from my new book, REAL COMMUNICATION – Conversation That Matters in a World of Small Talk to be published by Capstone.
You will learn:
How to engage the attention of the right hemisphere of your brain to pick up subtleties of communication
How to catch deeper insights within the unpredictability and spontaneity of a coaching (or any) conversation
How to connect with wholehearted empathy without being sucked into the other person’s troubles
and much more.
And now, here’s my blog
It was early autumn, hint of chill in the air, a time of restarting, schools back, I was in my late 20’s, and after several years studying singing in Italy, I returned to the UK …
— and no job.
I wanted to be singing, but work in music was not coming. In the end I took a job driving a minibus with a London coach and tour company (I should have called this piece “From Coach to Coach”…). They helped me pass my Public Service Vehicle test as a coach driver, and also supported me in training to become an official Blue Badge London Tour Guide.
I wanted to be singing; I felt frustrated and disappointed. I didn’t want to be a bus driver – or even a tour guide.
However, I wasn’t bored: far from it. Every day was really different. Let me give you a flavour:
- I drove disabled or excluded children to school, and teams to football matches.
- I did endless day tours of London, Windsor and Hampton Court, driving and then guiding my visitors around the famous buildings. I did day trips to Stratford-upon-Avon, Oxford and Cambridge, Stonehenge and Canterbury, giving tourists the history of the places. I ran art tours around the British Museum and the National Gallery.
- I swabbed down my minibus in the early morning with other coach drivers and then went down to the Greasy Spoon for breakfast.
- I led weeklong holidays to Wales, Yorkshire, Cornwall and other parts of the UK, including a Scottish study-tour with American musicologists featuring harp making and a Presbyterian fire-and-brimstone sermon in Gaelic. At the end of the day, I’d get out my watercolours and find a landscape to paint. I guided a group from the congregation of President George Bush’s church in Midland, Texas on a tour of Ireland.
- I did Italian language tours everywhere, and once lost (and found) an Italian in Stratford.
- I drove film entourages to days of filming — John Cleese one day and Cliff Richard another. I ate non-stop for a day from film set catering while a company recorded an advertisement. I went to Phil Collins’ house for a recording day, plus a day of filming, mostly Beetles-like on a pedestrian crossing, with the Kings Singers.
- I drove foreign diplomats around for the Government’s Central Office of Information to meetings with British companies – and parked my minibus once in the forecourt of Buckingham Palace.
- I drove architects to look at new towns, businessmen to visit cement works, public servants to look at state-of-the-art rubbish recycling plants.
- I sat waiting for hours in the minibus and learned my music scores.
At the time, I sometimes felt frustrated that I wasn’t doing what I wanted to be doing. I certainly didn’t see the work as anything useful, and I doubt whether family and friends did either. A friend disparagingly referred to us both as “under-achievers”.
Now, however, I look back and see what a wonderful apprenticeship it was for what I do now. As Steve Jobs famously said – it’s impossible to join up the dots forwards; they only make sense looking backwards. I realise now that those four or so years in my twenties gave me much that I appreciate every day today. It’s as if pieces of the jigsaw have come together and now make sense.
Let me count some of the ways:
- I met a wide cross-section of people of different ages, cultures and interests, which taught me about connection and broadened my awareness of the world.
- I had loads of experience in public speaking, and became very good at adlibbing to groups – especially in long traffic jams in central London!
- I discovered what humour hit its mark with a group. I also learned that people are endlessly hilarious.
- I learned many facts – that well-educated people are not always intelligent and that manual workers often are; that you can lug heavy cases onto the roof of a minibus and still retain your dignity (just); that the world is full of amazing things, including cement factories and an arsenal of ordnance underneath Salisbury Plain; that the King of Jordan is not tall (I stood next to him) and that Iona has the most beautiful empty beach in the world when you catch it on a sunny evening in May.
So, in this season of new starts, maybe you are setting off to start something new or maybe you’re stuck with what you don’t want to do. I’d say, whatever it is, don’t knock it – there’s gold there somewhere. The aforementioned Steve Jobs told Stanford graduates that it was a random course in calligraphy after he had officially dropped out of university that provided the foundation for Apple computers’ gorgeous graphics later. Joining up the dots …
A woman who does valuable work in psychotherapy told me that her brutal early start in life provided the foundation for the good things she does now. You wouldn’t wish Nelson Mandela 27 years in prison; nor young Malala Yousafzai the assassination attempt; nor Oprah Winfrey her early sexual abuse – but nor can you separate who they became or are becoming from what happened in their past. The corollary is that you suddenly realise that a charmed childhood followed by Eton and Oxford with bed-makers and grand-dinner-providers and a political adviser position and a seat in Parliament isn’t in fact charmed at all. Where’s the breadth in that? Of course, (oh, dear) charmed childhood, high school and university describe me too …
Which is why I want to suggest:
– that single focus and narrow experience is seldom a blessing;
– and that experiences of any sort, good, bad and indifferent, can be valuable and
motivating in later life, if you can integrate them sufficiently to use their gold.
How do you do that?
You work to release blame, not fair and poor me, and ask yourself instead, “Yes, okay, rubbish, boring, brutal, unconscionable, I’d rather it hadn’t happened – any of which may be true – but:
How are these experiences part of my becoming the best of me – now?”
PS Did I remind you about the fabulous Masterclass, Coaching and the HeART of Conversation on 17 October – early bird only till this week-end? Oh, I did? Go for it!