Members 47. Sean Update

Back in early April, I wrote:

“_Should I share this timetable?_
_ _Why not? After all recruiting members was, at least in part, about commitment and accountability. So – potentially to my eternal regret, the timetable is:_

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Living the Dream – 72. Plotting and Planning

Autumn is for plotting and planning. Ideally, the New Year is when new chapters begin, and to make that happen, I need to get going in November.

Seasons

This is the perfect time to lock myself into the office/cave. The days are getting shorter, the evenings cooler, it’s the perfect time to bury myself in my notebooks. Except, Cyprus weather hasn’t read the script. Having had a try at autumnal, the days have decided to revert to summer. There’s not a cloud in the sky, the temperatures are soaring and the beaches are busy again. This is a problem that I am delighted to have, particularly after the trials of last winter.

Scope

In terms of plotting and planning, I look at several areas. The consulting business, the notebook business, the podcast, this site, the home and myself.

Method

Without getting formal, I put aside time to review the year in each area. What went well, what didn’t. I identify objectives for the next year. Once we get to that funny week between Christmas and New Year, I document all this, but for the moment, I just make notes.

stuartlennon.com

During 2019, I have posted three times a week on the site. Each post being 300-700 words. So, one or two thousand words a week. Work on the novel has been sporadic, to say the least. Hmmm…that needs looking at.

As it happens, my Wednesday posts have just reached the end of a series, “Going Solo”. I’m fairly certain that I am not going to leap straight into another series there – hell, perhaps I could edit 500 words of the novel instead? Now, there’s a revolutionary concept.

The Friday posts, of which this is one, will continue, but perhaps with a wider scope. On Monday’s, I post for Members, and I will continue to do that, perhaps tightening the focus there, moving back towards the novel.

Balance

I love this planning and plotting process. I do have to be careful though, as I have a tendency to forget things. Like the fact that I am married. I recently produced myself a week schedule, that managed to incorporate everything that I wanted to get done on an ongoing basis. It was a seven day schedule, including evenings. I think Mags and I got to spend a couple of waking hours a week together, during a quiz. Whoops.

The schedule

How will my schedule settle? Too early to say. That’s why I start the process in November. One thing for sure, I need to put aside time for writing. If I don’t, then not enough gets written.

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Going Solo 21. Exit

Exit. Sometimes, it’s time to get out. MTI (a company that I co-founded) was running well, making money and growing. However – we were aware that the business environment was changing. Looking ahead, we felt those changes would not be favourable to us and so explored our options for exit. Ultimately, we ended up selling the business. I have no doubt that we sold at the right time – even though it felt very strange at the time.

If you are building a project where the motivation is profit, it’s important to keep the concept of exit at the back of your mind.

Why?

Exit can influence how you set up your project. I keep my projects in completely separate buckets – whether they be legal entities or simpler structures. There are lots of reasons for this – but a key one is that I am able to exit any individual project without having to unpick it from another. There is nothing to stop me running Nero’s Notes from the same company as the anti money laundering and training consultancy, but it would make understanding how each business is performing much harder and if I were looking to sell one or other of the elements, it would be very difficult to agree a value.

Exit should always be an option. When completing a review of a project, all possible outcomes should be considered. From expansion, to continuation, to exit. Time is precious, and it is foolish to keep doing something that is not working.

Failure

There are many well-worn phrases around failure:

“If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything.”

This is my favourite. I have pursued lots of different avenues and projects that turned out to be mistakes. Each of them has taught me something, some of them have been fun.

The key is not to let mistakes go on too long and be too costly. The review process has to be honest and ruthless. If exit is the right course, then decide upon it and take it. Obviously, if you have a saleable asset, things are complicated, but mostly, these miss-steps are simply things that you need to stop doing.

Move on

Measure, think, decide and move on. Some things don’t work out and that’s OK. Try to learn from the experience and see it as a a milestone on the journey

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Members 46. Middle-Age 6. Anxiety

Anxiety. As ever, in matters of philosophy, I turn first to Billy Connolly.

“Nobody told me about that!”

Billy was lamenting the lack of warning that he received about the ageing process. Specifically, he was talking about the discovery of his first grey pubic hair.

Don’t go! I’m not going to talk about pubes.

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Living the Dream – 71. Spitting at the screen

I’m regularly spitting at the screen. My favourite comedian, Billy Connolly referred to his “muesli-covered Radio”, involuntarily pebbledashed each morning, by the outrage he felt at the nonsense being spoken.

I’m doing the same, but at various digital screens.

Politics

Obviously, I don’t live in the UK anymore. However, I’m still British and therefore interested in events there.

Brexit, or rather non-Brexit has gone beyond farce. This isn’t a piece supporting one side of the argument or the other, but whatever side one is, the school playground antics of the last few months have been maddening. Now, an election has been called, with each side certain that they will triumph and be able to force through their own agenda.

I can’t be the only person who has worked out that the campaign will be all about Brexit. Putting aside the blind optimism of zealots on either side, a single issue campaign might result, again, in a split roughly down the middle. Poor old British tax payers will spend millions on an election to get us back to the exact same spot in which we currently languish.

IT

Exhausted with the lunacy of politics, I retreat to work. I sit, surrounded by my beautiful designed, recently updated Apple hardware. Over recent years, Apple has been telling us that the future is in the cloud. Everything that we value, photos, media, and data will live in the loving care of Apple who will protect and cherish it. We will access these treasured resources through any and all of our sleek, expensive devices.

Sign me up!

They did, and I pay them each month for all manner of things. Yet, my data is not syncing. My photos are different on different devices. Applications that used to work, don’t work any more. Apple maintains a dignified silence on these things. All its utterances are passed through a “liability” filter, so at no point will they acknowledge specific issues. Mostly, they tell me to “turn it off and turn it on again”. Again, I find myself spitting at the screen.

The specific issues are not the point. I can cope that my Mac and my iPad have different versions of a note. I can copy them both elsewhere to ensure that I don’t lose anything. However, what else is Apple looking after for me? Oh. Wait. A lot. Really a lot. Copies of important documents, photos, scans, passwords…Apple has a hand in all of them.

What gets me spitting though, is that while users complain of errors in Catalina and IOS, Apple is reporting huge revenues, and launching new and exciting headphones. The CEO is almost certainly spouting some sanctimonious crap about privacy somewhere.

When did mediocrity become OK for Apple?

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Going Solo 20. Balance

Balance is important. I sometimes get the impression that people perceive Going Solo as a way of filling every waking hour with work.

Loving Mondays

For me, it’s the opposite. I want to choose how I spend my time, entirely. How do you feel about Monday mornings? I love mine. Absolutely adore them. In fact, I love Monday from start to finish. Usually, people hear this and it confirms their first impression that I am completely nuts. Nobody sane likes Mondays. The weekend is over. Fun stuff has stopped, it’s time to work again. So, why do I love that?

Why?

Simple. I don’t do it. I wake up on Monday morning and go play golf. That’s how I get away from the “back to work” feeling. I don’t go back to work. Initially, my intention was to play golf, then get going into the work-day. Doesn’t work. Why? Two reasons.

1. How I begin my day dictates my mode. I find it difficult to switch from golf to any type of creative work.
2. Fatigue. It’s hot here. I walk the golf course. When I have finished, I want a cold drink, something to eat and a nap. In that order.

Planning

Therefore, I have adjusted my Monday routine. I golf, come home with Mags (she golfs on a Monday too), have lunch and then a nap. I wake, swim and then do an hour or two’s work. Nothing too heavy, mostly planning, catching up – mapping out my week. Then, Mags, Spice and I get in the car and go out for supper and a quiz night with friends.

That’s why I love Mondays. By making most of it a leisure day, but still including some work, it allows me to break into the week gently. I don’t feel guilty about it, because I do plenty of work outside of office hours. For example I record 1857 from 8pm on a Wednesday evening and often work at the weekends.

Balance

Part of Going Solo is being able to choose when I work and to integrate my work with the rest of my life.

Work to live, don’t live to work.

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Members 45. Middle-Age 5. Posh drinking

I’m getting into posh drinking. I wrote last week about alcohol.

Last night, I was out for dinner and had two beers and a cocktail. By my standards, that’s very light. I was sober and good company. I felt fine this morning.

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Living the Dream – 70. Water, water, everywhere.

Winter 2019-2020:

“So – last winter was the worst in 109 years? Hold my beer.”

Storms

The sky shook, sheets of lightning lit the room again and again. Mediterranean storms are quite the show. Spice’s formative months were during the long, wet, nights of last year, and I think we both have fond memories of house training by storm-light. Storms don’t bother us.

Mags, on the other hand, is unnerved by electrical storms. Once, in Sicily, she saw lightning flash through the window, striking the light fitting in the dining room. Experience is a great tutor and she has a perfectly rational preference to stay well away from storms.

Limassol, our nearest big city, took a hammering. The castle square flash flooded, temporarily closing several of our favourite restaurants.

Everybody is remembering last year and the endless-feeling rains. Surely it can’t happen again? Can it?

Swimming

Contrarian that I am, I am determined not to let the weather affect me and have been swimming in the rain. Last year, when Nero was attacked, I stopped using the pool. My heart wasn’t in it. This year, I’m still swimming most days. My fellow residents consider me a lunatic for this. The pool isn’t heated, but even in the depth of winter, it stays comfortably in double figures centigrade. I have watched hardy Irish women bathe in the Irish Sea off Dublin in January. They’d probably regard our pool as a hot bath.

Golf

This week, we got caught in the rain on the golf course. For twenty minutes or so, it was decidedly unpleasant. Then, the sun came out, and by the end, I was dry and warm. Interestingly, of the 24 of us that started, only we 4 finished. Expats from the UK, Italy and Sweden felt the first rain drops and packed up and went home. Strange isn’t it? Mostly, people who have moved here say things like “I didn’t move here to play golf in the rain”. Presumably, they leave the golf course and drive home saying this to each other.

I’ve never understood that. Once I’m out, I’m out. If I get rained on, then, I’m wet. Wet is an absolute isn’t it? One is either wet or not wet. As a wet thing, more wet doesn’t make any difference. We played on and declared ourselves the winners by default.

Greek

As winter settles in, we are debating whether to pick up our learning-Greek careers. First, we were told that lessons would be on Friday from 1930 to 2100. I texted back that there was no way that I would be at night school on a Friday night. Lessons were moved back to Wednesday nights. Still, 1930 to 2100. I record 1857 on a Wednesday night, and frankly, I’m not overly enthusiastic about Greek level 2. Margaret is considering how much she wants to go – if she signs up, then I will. If she decides she has better things to do on a Wednesday evening, then our Greek will remain stubbornly level 1.

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Going Solo 19. Isolation and Anxiety

Isolation and anxiety is not an issue for everybody who is going solo, but it is for many more than you might imagine. The clue is in the name “Solo”.

I love being alone. Some of the time. I can indulge my interests, get stuff done without interruption or interference. However, I am also gregarious, outgoing and needy. I love being in company. It’s all too easy to lock myself into my office, start working on projects and become entirely subsumed in my own world of isolation. This, in turn seems to promote anxiety.

I, typically, am not an anxious person. Most find me very laid-back. Recently however, I have discovered all sorts of things to make me anxious.

Anxiety

Podcasts. I listen to lots of podcasts. If I am travelling, or entertaining, then I get less time to listen to my favourite shows. A glimpse of my podcast queue can give me palpitations. What nonsense! I have a big queue, because I have been out with friends, laughing and having a good time. How is that worse that listening to a recorded show, which while fun, is frankly a voyeuristic experience? It’s crazy, but it’s real.

I am incredibly fortunate, in that I work from a dedicated space beneath my house. It’s my space, set up exclusively for me. I have a great view of the garden, a dog bed in the corner and if the weather gets hot, an air-conditioner. No traffic or commute. No stress. It’s perfectly possible for me to complete a productive week without setting eyes on another human being, or even hearing a human voice. I can communicate through the various electronic means, “hang out” on social media and still get stuff done. In fact, I get to the point where I dread actually interacting with people. I was only half-joking when I titled an 1857 episode “Becoming a sociopath and other Self-Improvements.”

Rules

I find that I have to have rules to combat this.

1. Face to face. I build some contact into my day. At the very least, Facetime or similar.
2. Speak to a friend. Call someone.
3. Get out. Walk in nature. I start each day with a walk.
4. Limits. I stop myself working. At 6pm, I stop and I leave the office.

It has taken me a long time to learn that sometimes, the most productive thing to do is to stop working.

Anxiety, isolation and mental health are very real things. Be self-aware. If you are feeling isolated – talk to someone about it. If necessary get help. Recognising that you are struggling is not weak, it is a sign of strength, a sign that you are on the ball.

Members 44. Middle-Age 4. How much is too much?

Alcohol is the root of all evil.

No. It isn’t.

However it is dangerous stuff. I drink too much. That said, in comparison to what I used to drink, I’m a complete lightweight. That’s progress, of a sort, I guess.

My writing is supported by people like you. The remainder of this post is reserved for Members. Membership costs £12 per year. For this princely sum, you will get access to subscriber only posts, direct access to a members chatroom , and a digital copy of any and all work that I publish in the year. Become a member.